To explain to people that don’t understand depression, to me it’s like being in a nightmare that you can’t wake up from. You can’t just make the feelings go away. It’s real and it’s frightening. It’s that monster that is running to get me and I can’t run fast enough to get away from it. It gets me and it holds me down. I have a long history with depression, anxiety and OCD. Because of my history I knew there was a chance I would get postpartum depression. What I didn’t know was that I also could suffer from depression while I was pregnant.
This is my story….
My husband and I decided to take a last big trip to Italy before we had children. It was going to be our last adventure together, just the two of us for a long time. I found out I was pregnant right before we left for our trip. We thought about canceling the trip but ultimately decided to go as I had not suffered from morning sickness that I had heard so much about. Unfortunately everything changed when we arrived in Rome. I didn’t feel like the same person that had just left LA. I was sick. I was so sick. Every tourist stop, restaurant bathroom and the lovely villa we were staying in all witnessed how sick I was. Forget the rich Italian food and the crepes. I couldn’t eat any of it. I was also scared and I began to panic. There I was in a foreign country, sick and literally freaking out that I was going to have a baby.
After a few days in Italy I felt defeated. Besides being physically sick, my mind was screaming non stop lies in my ear. I couldn’t escape from the torture and I panicked. I called my father and told him I’m not ready to be a mom! I don’t know how to take care of a baby! I don’t want to be pregnant anymore! After spending lots of time crying while lying on the cold bathroom floor I begged whoever was listening to help me not be pregnant anymore. I kept saying “I want a do-over. I’m not ready and lets try this again another time!” I walked into the room where our friends were. I knew they wanted to have a baby soon. I told them to wait. That it’s very hard to be pregnant and to enjoy life. What I was experiencing I later found out was antepartum anxiety. I had heard about postpartum depression but never heard about antepartum anxiety.
There I was, five weeks along and I already sounded like a woman who had been through a long and tedious pregnancy. Needless to say, we left Italy early and went back to LA where I spent the rest of my pregnancy in misery.
At home, my anxiety and OCD went to the next level. I had intrusive thoughts that to me seemed so real. Did I really think that because I didn’t feel my baby move every hour that something was wrong with him? Did I need to call my OBGYN multiple times a day to see if I should rush to the hospital to make sure my baby was ok? Probably not, but it felt real to me. I remember eating a big cookie and going up to my room to just sit and feel the baby move. When I ate sugar he liked to move around. That was how I got my fix for the moment. I needed to feel him in there. I did not count but I believe I had about 15 ultrasounds while I was pregnant. I literally could not function unless I knew the baby was ok.
When I was pregnant I was very tired. I did not want to do anything but rest. I would fall asleep so easily and stay asleep for hours each day. I think partly because I was so tired and partly because if I slept I wouldn’t have to listen to my worries all day.
By seven months, I had gotten fairly big and was very uncomfortable. I could not sleep because of the sciatica pain. Why didn’t anyone tell me about sciatica pain?! I used one of those body pillows but it didn’t do much. Besides I’d wake up and my husband was lying on it. I also decorated the nursery and I shopped for the cutest baby boy clothes, obsessively. The excitement of all the new baby stuff kept me going but it did not take away the intrusive thoughts that scared me to the core.
They say that when you are getting ready for a new baby it is supposed to be the most exciting time in your life. A new mom, a new family, a new beginning. The excitement I read about never happened for me. I suffered from Antepartum depression and anxiety; which turns out is very common.
According to Postpartum Support International; Approximately 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety. Sometimes they experience anxiety alone, and sometimes they experience it in addition to depression. Symptoms include:
- Constant worry
- Feeling that something bad is going to happen
- Racing thoughts
- Disturbances of sleep and appetite
- Inability to sit still
- Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea
Unfortunately I suffered from all of these symptoms and it prevented me from having any joy while I was carrying my son. What I did not know then was that women who experience antepartum depression are at a higher risk for postpartum depression. This is what happened to me after my son was born. I was overcome with severe Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum OCD and PTSD from a traumatic delivery and struggled for six years.
I did not want my families pain to be in vain so I decided to share my story and along with Jamielyn Lippman and Tanya Newbould produced When The Bough Breaks-a documentary about postpartum depression. The film is directed by Jamielyn Lippman and Narrated and Executive Produced by Brooke Shields. It is available on Netflix, iTunes and most VOD platforms in 70 countries. The film is educates, breaks the stigma surrounding maternal mental health and helps those struggling know they are not alone. I encourage everyone, whether your a new mother or not, to watch this film. What you learn may just save someones life.
If you or a loved one is affected by postpartum depression or other postpartum disorders and need help, you can call Postpartum Support International’s hotline at 1-800-944-4773.