My depression story: During pregnancy, I mourned my old life

My depression story: During pregnancy, I mourned my old life

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"I felt like I was losing my identity, losing my old life – like I was dying."

Nothing described the mourning I felt

Ten weeks into my pregnancy, I had an ultrasound. It was exciting to see our baby, but later that same day I got a phone call: The doctor had noticed a thickened nuchal fold, which can be an indicator of high risk for a trisomy [such as Down syndrome] or severe heart defect.

The next six weeks were a blur of research, visits to online forums, and more testing. In the end, nothing was wrong. My baby, they told us, was a healthy girl. Finally, I was free to enjoy my pregnancy and attach to my growing baby girl. But I didn't. Instead, I fell into a deep depression.

I suffered from depression as a teenager, so I recognized it immediately: feeling hopeless and alone. But what made my depression while pregnant different was that I felt like I was losing my identity, losing my old life – like I was dying. I would just sit around the house and cry, unable to do anything.

I spent a lot of time online looking for a name for what I was feeling. I found lots of information about postpartum depression, but nothing I read described the deep sense of mourning I was experiencing during pregnancy.

The constant stream of attention the bump and growing baby received only reminded me of the great disconnect between how I was feeling and how everyone else seemed to feel about my pregnancy.

My husband tried his best to be supportive – but I could tell I was hurting his feelings by being so down about this new chapter of our lives.

I didn't tell my doctor about the depression. It's ironic, because I'm a medical student, so you’d think I would know better. But I didn't want to take any medication, for fear it might harm the baby. I was afraid my doctor would just label me "high risk" and insist that I take an antidepressant, and then pester me with questions about whether I had feelings about harming my baby.

The only other treatment for depression available was therapy, which I attempted. But I didn't like my therapist. She didn't seem to grasp how I felt, and I didn't have the time or money to keep cycling through therapists until I felt a connection.

I felt guilty – because even at my saddest, I understood that my baby had done nothing to deserve this. I owed it to her to be a good mom, and I didn't feel like a very good mom while doing all this moping and crying.

What helped me when I was depressed

When my water finally broke, I was shocked but also incredibly excited. In the hospital, though, I couldn't get over how awful and uncomfortable everything was until I had an epidural and finally fell asleep.

The next morning – 18 hours after my water broke – I pushed twice and there she was. It happened so fast after waking up that it took me a little while to process that it was over and my daughter was here.

Suddenly, I didn't care about anything else. I just stared at the beautiful little thing and already felt my depression starting to lift.

Sure, I was overwhelmed and scared in the beginning – sometimes being a mom seemed daunting. But the dread, moping, and sadness that dominated my pregnancy went away as I bonded with my baby.

What I wish other moms knew

It's okay to be happy about having a baby and still mourn your life before children. I regret that I couldn't enjoy my pregnancy more. In some ways, I feel like my pregnancy was stolen from me, by both that nuchal translucency screening and then the very isolating depression.

We're biologically programmed to protect babies, so it's natural for any pregnancy to become all about the baby. But we need to recognize the sacrifices women make by having children.

Part of the journey can feel like a grieving process and when a pregnant woman experiences that, we need to be there for her. If you're in a similar situation, talk about it, write your feelings down, and seek out the support you need.

Read more moms' stories about depression during pregnancy.

As many as 1 in 10 pregnant women suffers from depression. Many women don't get help because they dismiss their feelings as normal pregnancy moodiness.

If you experience symptoms of depression, tell your doctor and ask for a referral to a mental health professional. Or contact Postpartum Support International at (800) 944-4773 for free, confidential advice and help finding a therapist or support group in your area.

Watch the video: My Depression Saved Me - A Patient Story (December 2022).

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