I’ve been hesitant to write about this because writing about it seems unfair, ungrateful and careless. It’s unfair to my unborn son and to all those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. It’s careless because certain thoughts don’t belong online. I know this. I am so aware of this. But I’m going against my better judgment here. And I’m going to write.
For the first several weeks of this pregnancy, I spent hours (and I mean hours!) googling phrases like: “depressed during pregnancy”, “morning sickness and depression”, “pregnant all I want to do sleep all day and night”, and “pregnant can’t take care of my kids”. I found a few personal (and therefore reassuring) stories. But not all that many. I found a great deal of articles about postpartum depression, but not all that many about depression during pregnancy. That’s probably because most women don’t discuss it online (or elsewhere) because it’s not kosher to complain about something that’s supposed to be one of the most joyous times of a woman’s life.
I want to chock it up to hormones, because it just doesn’t make sense otherwise. And this next bit is going to come off sounding crass and ignorant to all those dealing with chemical depression. I understand what chemical depression is, but very rarely have I experienced it firsthand. Most of the time, whenever I’m feeling depressed, I can shake it off. There have only been a couple of times in my life where things have become unmanageable—something I couldn’t work through, shake off, or wait out. And each time I knew this to be the case because whenever I searched for joy, I came up empty. I can almost always find joy.
I assume my funk has a great deal to do with being sick all day long, every day, for weeks on end. I assume that it was made worse because I was taking Unisom for nausea, and Unisom is known to cause depression. I assume it’s also because this pregnancy was unplanned and that I’m terrified of having three kids. (What does one do with three of kids when two kids run them into the ground every day?) I’m going to be 40 in a few months. I will spend my 40th birthday fat, sick, bloated and cranky.
I was supposed to run a marathon this year—my first one! And I can’t even run a mile right now. I had to give up my spot. And every Saturday, whenever I glance at the family calendar in the kitchen, the one where I planned my mileage all the way up until November, I feel sad. And I know that’s entirely selfish, but it eats me up. I should be training for a marathon, not becoming fat and immobile. I see runners out on their long-distance, weekend runs and I feel nothing but jealousy and envy toward them. (Much like the jealousy I had toward pregnant bellies not three years ago.) I am sincerely jealous of joggers! What the hell is wrong with me? Who have I become? I’m not proud of this person. I am not even sure I like her.
Guys, I’m sad. And I’m not supposed to be and that’s making me even sadder. And I’m having a great deal of trouble digging for joy. I keep trying! Every day, I get up and I try. And I see glimpses of it here and there. I experience glimpses of joy lighting candles at dusk, or buying flowers at Trader Joe’s. I see it occasionally while reading to my kids, when I’m not winded from getting the words out. I feel a bit of joy knowing Homeland starts again tonight.
But I don’t bake anymore, and I love baking. I keep buying the ingredients to bake amazing things, things I once LOVED to share with people. But now I don’t see the point because eating makes me feel terribly sick. I have a nonstop case of metal mouth, which is exasperated by even the tiniest amount of food in my stomach, sugar and carbs being the worst of all. Eating is a chore I have to do to stay alive. Who wants to bake and eat a slice of pumpkin pie if that slice of pie is going to make them sick? What’s the point?
I keep reading that some women start to feel better at 20 weeks. And I’m hoping that since week 14 didn’t bring me much in the way of relief, week 20 will. And maybe by then I’ll start to see joy again. Maybe I’m just exhausted and sick of being sick. I don’t know. But I want to feel normal, not that I’m sure what normal is anymore. It’s been that long.
After I miscarried and went through months and months of fertility treatments, I spent a great deal of time searching for stories like my own. But I did so silently. And I have regretted that ever since. Because I think if I wrote about it many of you could have made me feel better. At the very least, I think you would have made me feel less alone.
So, I’m going to publish my thoughts today, even though I am truly aware of how selfish and careless it is to do so. I need to know that this is temporary and that one day I will be myself again. I used to have so much energy! I spent a great deal of my time creating things. Now? I get tired thinking about it. I am so lazy. I don’t see the point to doing most things I once enjoyed. And that’s so unlike me.
“I’m blue, like Pantone 292.”
I just want to feel normal again.
You are not alone, and thank you for writing about this. I’ve been horribly depressed this pregnancy, and I’m sad to say it hasn’t gone away – I’m at 35 weeks now.
Because of my history of major depression and hospitalization for it, I was terrified of battling depression when I was pregnant with Julian, and felt incredibly lucky to avoid it. I felt calm and centered and really great throughout. It was a very positive experience, so when we decided to go for #2, I hoped I’d have a similarly easy time.
To my surprise, considering my age (41) and how long it took for us to even get pregnant the first time around, I conceived on the first try. And as excited as I was about that, and as grateful, I just never felt the way I did the first time. I could barely eat more than crackers and a little cheese for months. I have been exhausted all along, and battling joint pain, nerve problems, severe skin rashes (we’re talking weeping and bleeding rashes, on top of itchiness and pain – unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before). I haven’t been able to sleep through the night in months, and knowing how close I am to the days of caring for a cluster-feeding newborn, I’m getting more than a little freaked out.
And making me feel more like a monster, is that I wasn’t 100% over-the-moon joyful when I found out we were having a girl. I kind of had my heart set on another boy, and I have no idea how I’m going to raise a little girl to be strong and awesome and happy, when I haven’t even managed those things for myself.
And I don’t talk about it, because I don’t have a single person I feel I *can* talk about it with. It feels like whining, complaining, and I hate myself for it, which as you know, just feeds the beast.
I know this is the last time I will ever do this, the last time I will ever feel a little sprog wiggling around in my belly, and I’m trying so hard to appreciate that in these last few weeks, but it’s so. hard.
I was sitting on the couch this morning eating a plate of cold breakfast after getting Mike and J out the door to the park, and I actually thought to myself, “maybe I’ll die in childbirth. That would be good.” I’ve had more of those thoughts than I really care to admit. And then I saw your tweet, and that led me to your post. And I’m crying as I type this, and I want you to know that you’re not alone. I hope we both get to feel normal again, and happy with ourselves and our lives and these beautiful, amazing kids we are and will be so blessed with.
Oh, Jen. Thank you for sharing this. And I’m so very sorry you’re feeling this way as well. These dark thoughts… they are awful and consuming and I’m so sorry. I am here for you if you want to talk.
Kate: thanks for that. I also read that one is more likely to feel depressed the more kids they have to care for. And, so yeah. It’s factor. They’re exhausting. And I feel like I fail daily.
I think your depression is absolutely normal given your circumstances! You had moved on psychologically from desiring more children and taking care of 2 little boys *is* exhausting. I barely enjoyed my second pregnancy because my first son was so demanding–I can’t even imagine getting pregnant now (we’re the same age) and taking care of those crazies at the same time. Feeling ill every single day makes non-pregnant people with fewer responsibilities start to feel pretty crappy about their lives. And missing running and the seratonin bump it gives you is a very real thing and I fully understand it. You will do your marathon–you just have to wait. :) Power on, sister. This crumminess is temporary. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself.
You are so not alone on this – when I got pregnant with my third, I had just been accepted into law school. It never occurred to me that I could get pregnant on my own and I felt so much pressure to be grateful that I had. But, at that time, I wasn’t trying to get pregnant and I didn’t want to be pregnant. I spent every day until he was born feeling depressed and then feeling guilty about being depressed. It was a horrible cycle. I worried endlessly that when he was born I would just…not feel anything. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. I hope you find your way out soon.
Did you read the comments on Amy’s post about prenatal depression from earlier this month? http://alphamom.com/pregnancy/prenatal-depression/
There are some smart cookies out there.
I was really fortunate not to get pre/postnatal depression (my family history is FULL of mental illness, so not getting sick was almost surprising), but I know that it’s REALLY common – know that you’re not alone!
I so rarely comment on posts (I even got up off my chair and opened the computer), but I had to speak up. This was totally me my third pregnancy. I was just so sad and could not find joy in anything. I too was sick almost the entire time. It eery how familiar your story is – couldn’t tolerate any sugar, terrible taste in my mouth, winded reading the kids books, etc. I felt terrible and it took such a toll on my husband who was pretty much a single father. On some level I knew it was there, but never asked for help and never talked about it. After my third was born and i felt better, could eat anything i wanted, my husband and I talked about it and agreed it was definitely depressed. Never in my life have i dealt with any depression whatsoever, but it is definitely what happened. I honestly don’t have any real advice, just commiseration. I will say this – you can do it. You can get through the pregnancy, day by day. That is all i did -each day at a time. And, 3 kids is totally crazy and exhausting, but you can do it. If i can do it, you can too! My youngest is 15 months – I am back to my normal weight, running three times a week (unfortunately 2 are at 5am;() and my marriage is back to normal. There will be absolutely no more babies in our life (husband took care of that!) and that also helped me during my pregnancy…just keep telling yourself that!
My goodness do I love you fine people. Rachel: so much thanks for opening that computer. It has helped me. Knowing others are on the other side, and feel normal again after feeling this way, well, I can’t read that enough. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I got very depressed when I was on bedrest for similar reasons to what you are experiencing – I couldn’t do any of the things I wanted to do, like run or even go to Target – and my doctors warned me that “post-partum” depression can start while you are still pregnant. It’s a bitch and it’s unfair, but it’s totally normal. If it was me, I would tell my doctor because there are safe things you can do to feel better now – and head off the post-partum depression that will likely stick around once baby #3 arrives.
And don’t feel bad about sharing these things. This is your blog. I admit I would love to be pregnant right now and I know it’s not going to happen, but that doesn’t mean it can’t suck for you. You’re not ungrateful -you’re sick and feeling crappy.
I wish I had some sage advice, but I don’t.
I do, however, know how hard it is to take care of three children (three boys, too). And it is hard. And some days I go to sleep feeling so defeated, so unavailable, so unqualified to be doing this. Like, who gave me the right to have three beautiful, healthy children? There are days when I feel like I’m squandering the luxury of being a mom. There are others more deserving.
But then I see them together, these brothers, and they love one another, they love me, they love their father, fiercely. And you’ll find your joy there in those moments. Sometimes the moments are fleeting and covered in baby shit. But sometimes they are long and slow and quiet and all of the life you’ve lost comes rushing back.
I promise you won’t feel this way forever.
This blogger also was depressed during pregnancy. She doesn’t exactly mention it in this post but she does discuss the depression. She is normally a pretty cheerful person so thispost really stuck with me. She actually reminds me a lot of you, Mihow – passionate about fixing inequality and about social justice, runner and biker…on the opposite coast, though.
This other blogger talks here about fish oil for mood: http://swistle.blogspot.com/2009/01/wallowing.html
I love your honesty and complete candor. It’s completely understandable that you are feeling depressed. Life in this society is so damn hard anyway. There is no space created by this culture for a person to express true feelings and emotions. It’s something I’ve had an issue with all my life as I am a very emotional and sensitive person to begin with. Somehow over the years I just became more and more of an introvert, afraid of getting hurt if I told my truth. I’d like to change that. My point being I think that hiding who you really are out of shame can fuel depression.
I am 40 and the mother of a 3 yr old son and 17 month old daughter. I met my husband in my early 30s and never though about kids until I was 36. It was almost too easy for us to get pregnant, which was such a surprise
My first pregnancy was so easy from start to finish. My second, not so much. It’s SO much harder to be pregnant while caring for a little one, I can only imagine how difficult it is caring for 2. I had every symptom that I missed out on the first time around. I even had to see a colorectal surgeon to evaluate the hemorrhoids from hell (inoperable). I felt awful and angry and sad and overwhelmed the entire time. So you are not alone.
Thank you for this! I’ve been thinking a great deal about how I want to start writing about my experiences and tell the truth. You inspire me.
You have every right to express your feelings. I do not see them as callus or ungrateful. I see them as an honest expression of your current experience. I am sorry this sucks for you. I hope relief comes soon.
Michele, you can do this. I can’t be the only one who noticed the similarities between baby #3 and your desire to train for a marathon. Yep, this is your marathon. I’ve never run a marathon but I used to run many, many years ago and what would get me through it was one step at a time. I’d have no idea if that idea helps you but can you try to appeal to the athlete in you and take this one day at a time? Knowing that you have an inner strength and mental strength to want to run one, so why wouldn’t you be able to do this too?
With my second pregnancy I felt awful for a time and A actually had to have a conversation with me about the fact that I wasn’t being very nice. I believe my retort was something like: “Well, if you felt hungover every single day all day long, you’d not be nice either!” For me, it lifted around the 14-week mark and it was mostly tiredness and nausea. Also, I had the sinking feeling that caring for 2 kids under 2 would be insane given that my first was already nuts having walked at 9 months old.
I know you can do it, because you have mommy power! Remember how having 2 seemed a little insane and you figured it out? You did figure it out. Well, I’m going to go with the same idea for 3.
I suffered with PPD after having my son. I felt bad about feeling that way since I had a close friend who lost her son in childbirth the same week. Hormones can do strange and horrible things to your body.
Another friend was hospitalized for PPD after her second. Her roommate at the hospital was pregnant at the time.
It’s scary and uncomfortable and can make you feel powerless. You’re not alone. If it doesn’t subside at 20 weeks get help.
Hugs to you.
I obviously don’t know a thing about pregnancy and luckily I’ve never experienced the kind of depression you describe. From reading your blog I feel that you are a great mom. My heart goes out to you, knowing that you are struggling with this illness and depression.
I was mildly depressed while expecting my third child and I felt so guilty because this was a much wanted pregnancy following an early miscarriage. I really, really wanted three kids, but all of a sudden, I was overwhelmed by the reality of it all. I was pretty sick for the first trimester and didn’t eat much for the rest of the pregnancy (I think I gained 15 lbs, including gaining back the weight I lost the first 15 weeks). And of course, I was scared I would lose the baby again.
But worse than the mild depression was the anxiety, which was sometimes crippling, as in crying in my bed to my husband over my fear of dying during childbirth. I felt so guilty and selfish for “putting my life at risk” (I know!!) when I had two gorgeous kids already. Every twinge and pain and BH contraction meant I had cancer or was going into premature labor.
I probably did have some PPD once my daughter was born, but as soon as I admitted it to myself, it seemed to go away. But the anxiety and doubts continued for about 6 months. I loved my daughter to pieces, but I did at times regret having her. But it wasn’t as if I could take her back for a refund. So, I got on with it, and at 6 months, something clicked. Now she is three years old and the light of our lives. We are all obsessed with her, and I can’t imagine life without three kids. It’s everything I ever wanted.
Michele, I have two kids close in age to your two (just turned 3 and 6) and I can tell you without a doubt that if I accidentally got knocked up now I would be depressed. It’s not that we wouldn’t welcome a third child once he/she was here, but I have some personal goals I’d like to meet and I am ready to put the baby part of my life firmly in the past (even if I do still occasionally swoon over friends’ babies). I think you have nothing to feel guilty for. So you had trouble getting pregnant the second time–wanting a second child and having trouble conceiving THAT child doesn’t mean you are entitled to be joyous at all future unplanned pregnancies. Nor does it mean you will be a bad mother once your third one arrives. It just means you had other plans and you are grieving them. I think it is normal and healthy to grieve the future you saw for yourself so that you can move on to the one that’s in store for you. While it’s true that you are gaining another child, you are also giving something up. I think it’s OK to feel both ways and you should not try to censor your feelings.
Also, I often feel really depressed during the first trimester. It’s the very worst one in my opinion–you’re sick but you’re not showing, and often not telling people, so you aren’t getting the special treatment you get in the third trimester when people are falling all over themselves to open doors for you etc. You have other little people to take care of, and you can’t remember feeling normal. Go easy on yourself. This pregnancy will end and you will have a lovely baby to show for it and he will get the mama the other two did.
Take care, lady!
Thanks again, everyone. Your comments have really helped a great deal. Molly: thanks for you kind words.
Meredith: as I was writing this, it did occur to me that this is sort of like running a marathon. It’s going to take a great deal of work and diligence to not want to just cry. hahah! I have to remain headstrong and determined. (It’d be A LOT easier if I didn’t have this disgusting case of metal mouth/saliva grossness, but whatever). I am going to make this my marathon and the hopefully next year I’ll be able to train for the real one. Assuming I find childcare! Oh my goodness, I don’t even want to think about having three kids to take care of and finding ANY semblance of free time. This alone makes me want to sob into my saltwater gurgle.
OK, enough. Thank you, everyone for helping me through this and not feel even more horrible for feeling this way. Thank you.
Hang in there. I felt a bit depressed toward the end of my second pregnancy. It only got worse after his birth, though I figured two kids under 3.5 was the culprit. About two months after he was born, I talked to my doctor about an antidepressant. It was a big step for me, and one that I am so glad I took. Keep your chin up and talk to your doctor. It will be okay, I promise.