There has been a lot of talk recently about Post- Natal Depression. Thankfully I did not suffer with this even though I was a prime candidate. In fact since the birth of Phoenix I have felt only elation - he is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
What I did suffer with, was depression while I was actually pregnant (prenatal or antenatal) and even though this type of depression is rarely discussed, it actually effects 7-20% of women. There are even counselling midwives to take care of women suffering from it. The hospitals main fear with antenatal depression seems to be that it will lead to post-natal depression. I was told on a number of occasions to start taking Prozac again - but I'd read so much about the adverse effects this can have on babies in the womb, that I was determined that I didn't want to and that I must find an alternative way to get through it. I did get through it and at least Phoenix is safe but I had some awfully dark moments during my pregnancy when I truly understood the saying, 'The straw that broke the camels back.'
It seems to me that post-natal depression is taken a bit more seriously and certainly in my case they seemed more worried that my antenatal depression would lead to this. Personally I think they should be worried about both equally and there needs to be more awareness for antenatal depression because I definitely feel that it caused both me and Phoenix to suffer while I was pregnant with him and it certainly affected his birth weight.
First of all it's important for me to tell you that I wasn't depressed because I didn't want a child, on the contrary, I wanted my child to be safe so badly it caused me to have massive anxiety attacks, paranoia and made me so weak that I sometimes felt like if one more thing went wrong, I would collapse in a heap. I was so anxious that I shouldn't be getting anxious because it might be affecting my baby, that i was actually doubling my anxiety levels. It was a catch 22 situation.
While I was pregnant my love for the baby inside me was so strong already, I simply couldn't understand why no one else felt as protective for him as I did. When things went wrong I felt like everyone around me should wrap me in a duvet and take over all the bad stuff for me, I didn't care what happened to me I just wanted them to help me protect my baby. Of course as I amazing as my husband and family are, I felt no one did and this would send me in to a spiral of anger and anxiety.
The last five years have placed a great deal of stress on me anyway but while I was pregnant these stress levels went through the roof. I remember one day I was trying to close down a bank account and I didn't have the right details with me. The pressure of trying to sort this one thing out on top of everything else, actually caused me to collapse in the bank. It sounds super dramatic doesn't it but everything went black and I keeled over. I'd already been shaking all morning from a letter and this was just too much for me to take. I'm usually so strong but with so much on my shoulders and a baby to protect I was just a mess.
Now don't get me wrong, some of the things I was actually going through at the time were horrendous and pregnant or not I think most people would have collapsed under the strain I was carrying.
However, I'm certain that being pregnant heightened my emotions and reactions to everything simply because I just wanted it all to be OK, so that my baby would have the best chance of survival.
Of course happily Phoenix did arrive safely and it is a happy ending but the things that happened during my pregnancy coupled with my natural instincts to protect caused me to stop gaining weight from 20 weeks, which meant that I had to be scanned every other week to make sure that Phoenix was growing properly. When he was born he was only 6 pound 1 ounce and I know that was down to the depression that outside pressures in my life had caused.
I also had to see a counsellor mid-wife. She was very sweet and understood why I was so anxious. She agreed that no one in their right mind could deal with what I was having to deal with, let alone a hormonal pregnant woman.
I don't think anyone truly understood just how close to the edge I actually felt during my pregnancy though. I remember I felt like I was constantly battling with everyone, trying to get them to see how depressed I was so they would help me and therefore help my baby. I remember feeling so desperate and pleading with people to make all the stress go away, which of course they couldn't. I simply could not understand why they weren't more concerned for me and my baby. Why didn't they realise I was falling apart in front of their very eyes?
Of course looking back now, I can see it all more clearly. They did care but there was very little they could do and what my husband could do he certainly did. It was a tremendously stressful time and it seemed that only problems came our way and piled on top of that was the anxiety and grief that having a mis-carriage had left behind, I can see why I lost the plot so badly and just grateful that everyone did stand by me.
It's such a shame because I truly didn't enjoy that pregnancy and who knows if I'll be blessed with another. I was anxious, superstitious, most of the time I shook and I often felt as though my knees would collapse from underneath me. All I wanted was for my baby to be OK and for other people to help me protect him just as much as I was trying to protect him.
I don't know if that's how other pregnant ladies feel. It does seem that often when couples are waiting to have a baby that many of life's stresses befall them. I know that they say that a woman becomes a mum as soon as she is pregnant, whereas a man becomes a dad once the baby is in his arms. Maybe that is why women keel over the edge - because they are already in love and a parent to a stranger. The sense of responsibility a pregnancy brings to all women is universal but it is still a journey we must face alone with our babies.
I know it was my hormones heightening everything but the sheer desperation I felt made it hard to breath some days. I knew that all the stress was bad for my baby and I really think that's what made me so sad. I felt like I was failing him. I was in such a dark pit with my unborn child and no one seem to notice I'd fallen in. Didn't they love him like I did? Couldn't they see he was in danger and that they needed to protect me for his sake?
Thankfully these days, I could not be happier and I still have some of those same stresses and more. Today, I can cope with anything because of Phoenix.
I'd love to know what other women experienced while they were pregnant. Were you full of fear? Did you find everything hard to deal with? Did you wish that the world and all the problems it brought you would just go away so you could do your job of protecting your unborn child? Were your anxiety levels higher than ever before and did you feel depressed and if so why?
Even while i am writing this I shudder at how much I had to endure in those 9 months but it really is no more than I am facing right now. The only difference is that it's OK for me to feel stressed out now because it only effects me. I truly think that my depression came from feeling like the world was trying to hurt me and in doing so it was hurting my un-born baby. Even though I've known physical abuse in past relationships, I've never felt so vulnerable and afraid and all because of a loving bond I had already made with a child I had yet to meet.
Please let me know your experience of pregnancy on Facebook, especially if you had a lot of stress or even depression. I think it's important to talk and raise awareness so other pregnant women don't feel so alone. Being pregnant is a walk to happiness but it can be a lonely road in getting there.