What Depression During and After Pregnancy Taught Me


My journey to motherhood wasn’t easy. In fact, it was difficult at nearly every turn – from fertility issues and miscarriages, to a scary labor with a very rare condition, HELLP syndrome.

But the hardest part was suffering with anxiety and depression during the latter half of my pregnancy and weeks following my sweet baby Luke’s arrival.

I’m sharing this because we so often share our highlight reels, but leave out the behind-the-scenes moments. But, those behind-the-scenes moments are where we learn the most. These are the lessons that we can share with others – the lessons that teach us that we are not alone.

I’ve learned that perinatal mood disorders – mood and anxiety symptoms that occur during pregnancy or up to one year postpartum – are very common. In fact, women are most likely to face depression during the childbearing years of their lives (a cruel trick of biology if you ask me). Postpartum Progress, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting women with perinatal mood disorders, estimates that around 1.3 million women experience perinatal mood disorders and anxiety each year. That’s more than the number of women who will face diabetes, stroke or breast cancer.

Although I’d heard of postpartum depression, and believe even more can be done to spread awareness of this issue, I’ve learned that anxiety and depression during pregnancy are just as common. Those same hormonal fluctuations that lead to postpartum depression and anxiety can also cause those symptoms during pregnancy, even if you very much wanted, prayed for and have the resources for your pregnancy and baby.

I’ve always believed that we are responsible for our own happiness, and I still believe that. But I’ve learned that being happy can be more difficult during certain times than others, due to hormonal, biochemical and physical changes, trauma, loss or significant life events. And I’ve learned that we won’t, nor can we possibly, always be happy. I’d like to think that most people know me as a happy, positive and fun person – the first on the dance floor, to offer a smile, make a wisecrack and hopefully, a light to others. So being in this altered state was very difficult, and I felt ashamed and embarrassed of what I was going through.

I’ve learned it’s OK to ask for help, and that you must ask for help if you’re dealing with a perinatal mood disorder. These are temporary, treatable conditions. It’s hard to see it when you’re going through them, but you will find the light. I promise: You will find the light again.

I’ve learned I have an amazing group of supportive family and friends who helped me through this journey. I can’t even begin to properly thank those who knew about my ordeal for their support, prayers, kind words and love. My husband, Zach, truly kept our vows of loving “in good times and in bad,” although I never anticipated dealing with the “bad.”

I’ve learned a lot about my reproductive and mental health and have a great care team in place now. But finding these experts was difficult, even for someone who grew up in a family of health care providers and has always worked around health care. In a previous job, I’ve advocated for more mental health funding, but now I know firsthand how vital these services are. I am lucky to have the means to get the care I needed, but others aren’t.

I’ve learned life doesn’t always go as we’ve planned. Sometimes it will be hard. Although I feel much better now, I still feel my pregnancy and postpartum period were marred by my perinatal mood disorder. Things didn’t go like the little movie script in my mind, and it was scary that my brain was telling me to feel things I had no intent, or even right, to feel. It’s hard for me to accept I can’t control or plan every aspect of my life, but I am slowly making peace with that reality.

I’ve learned others cannot be the measuring sticks for our lives. We will each have our own trials and tribulations, even if they are behind the scenes.

Most importantly, I’ve learned I could love a human being so much more than I thought I could. My love for Luke is the reason I fought so hard at every turn. I hope he will be proud of me someday. I hope our bond is stronger because of everything we went through together. I hope he knows I would do anything for him. I did not choose this fight (Trust me: no one would), but I hope this will make me a better mother – a mother who knows life can be challenging at times, but the dark times make the bright times that much brighter.

If you think a woman in your life is dealing with a perinatal mood disorder, please help her and offer your support. It’s hard to understand, since these disorders often don’t make sense, but she really needs you.

unnamed-45

A version of this post originally appeared on Hello Belly Goodbye Feet.

Want to end the stigma around mental illness? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Depression

If You Have Special Needs and Are Looking for a Job, This Chart May Help

As of May 2015, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities in the United States is just over 10 percent. That’s nearly double the unemployment rate for people without disabilities, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Of course, many factors contribute to this statistic, but The Mighty wanted to learn about what programs are already available that [...]

When I Understood What ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ Really Means

“‘Til death do us part.” When I said those words at the end of our marriage vows, I wasn’t thinking about death. I was thinking about living and loving as long as I could. Our rabbi reminded me of them a few weeks ago, and the idea that the vows I had made were not [...]

One of the Best Things You Can Do for Someone With a Severe Mental Illness

Having an episode of psychosis or mania is hard. Trying to put the pieces of my life back together afterward is brutal. But the things society says to me every day chip away pieces of myself, even when I should be repairing the damage. Once a psychotic episode is over and I can think rationally, the [...]

A Letter to My Husband: Thank You for Being a Loving Special Needs Dad

Dear Ralph, I couldn’t have known when we married what a wonderful father you would become. I couldn’t have known we would have a medically fragile boy who would test our faith. I couldn’t have known your inquiring mind and ability to think outside the box would be such a blessing in raising our son. [...]