For many years I’ve been on anti-depressants. I’ve gone off them a few times and find that I just do better on them. I’ve never been suicidal – my symptoms generally manifest themselves into lethargy, low energy, and an unwillingness to go anywhere or do anything. I cry easy, am more easily affected by things that happen to me and have increased anxiety. It’s something my friends and family are all aware of and love me just the same even if they don’t totally understand it.
I stopped my meds about a month before trying to get pregnant. I knew that anti-depressants weren’t recommended or considered safe while pregnant so we knew that it might be a struggle but it was something necessary in order to try and have children. I did ok for the most part except for the first two months that I ended up not pregnant. The first month was the hardest and I cried bitterly off and on for a few days. The second month I fared a little better but still spent several hours crying in bed. I don’t tell this to many people because I’ve found people judge you very harshly when it comes to your emotional reactions to situations in general but trying to conceive and pregnancy specifically. Someone always has it worse and you should never complain or be upset. This is what I’ve found being on pregnancy blogs and boards. We got pregnant the third month but I still had a high anxiety level and worried a lot those first 12 weeks. But I fared emotionally very well until the situation happened at work and I fell into a deep dark hole that I couldn’t climb out of. That, coupled with the fact that I was disappointed about not seeing my family for the holidays, caused my husband and I to wonder if I needed some help.
The final event that sealed the debate was the ultrasound that showed us we were having a boy. I tried not to, but I had my heart set on a girl first. I knew from the beginning of the ultrasound that it was a boy – I had “seen” and spent the rest of the time trying to keep myself together. When she confirmed it was a boy, I teared up. After that I just couldn’t stay composed. When the doctor asked me a little bit later how I was doing, I broke down. That’s when she suggested I try going back on the anti-depressants. I had held off and debated and told myself I could be ok; that things would get better and I’d find my way out of the hole. But the rest of my evening was spent mostly in tears. The floodgates had opened and I couldn’t shut them. Please don’t get me wrong – I love my little man already and I will never love him less than I would have a girl – I had my hopes set on a girl and my emotionally worn out brain just couldn’t let go. That combined with everything else I had been feeling the previous weeks was more than I could manage. It was literally the straw that broke the camel’s back. If I thought of myself as a camel.
I made the grave mistake that night of writing a post on a pregnancy/baby-based board about my disappointment and how I was feeling. I suppose in my less than stellar state I forgot how hateful, judgmental, and downright nasty people are. I know, really? How could I have forgotten that? The responses I got back were just short of verbal stonings. I was called every name in the book and basically made out to be a disgusting person who shouldn’t be allowed to procreate. I also took for granted that my depression would be understood and my already damaged emotional state taken into consideration. But often, those who don’t understand, judge. This, dear friends, did not help me feel any better. I thought that these women, who were all in the same position I was in, would understand another woman’s fears and feelings. I was, unfortunately, very wrong. It took me a lot longer than I like to admit to get over their hateful responses.
What’s interesting is people ask all the time “what do you want?” in reference to the baby’s gender. This is disguised as a real question, as though the asker truly wants to hear what you have to say. What’s even better is when you tell them what you ARE having and they ask you if that’s what you wanted. Then you’re REALLY in trouble. But apparently though the politically correct mommy response is “Oh, we just want(ed) a healthy baby!” Then you win the good mommy-to-be award and you get a cookie and a pony. Ok, not really – you just don’t get publicly flogged. Now, I’m pretty sure no one has ever answered that they want an unhealthy baby. People just don’t do that. And I understand not having a preference. But why is it so bad if you do have one? You can prefer dark chocolate over white, paper over plastic, trucks over cars, but you most definitely cannot prefer to have a girl child over a boy child (or vice versa). Shame on you for thinking of it.
So back to my mental state. I started a very low dose of Zoloft that night and have been on it since. The first few days were rough as I was dealing with the fallout from my online verbal diarrhea, continuing hatred for my job, and the typical anxiety that comes from starting new anti-depressants. I also had some internal struggles as, like I mentioned earlier, anti-depressants during pregnancy aren’t proven to be 100% safe. My family was also concerned and I struggled with that as well, feeling like I was disappointing everyone and risking hurting my baby. But the medicine helped – is helping. There are risks either way as stress hormones can cross the placenta and also harm the baby. I’m entering my third trimester now and I am weaning off as everything I have read shows that the main risk is during the third trimester and near birth. I am now on half a dose and am doing ok. I’m praying I will continue to do well after I am completely go off of them.
Depression isn’t something a lot of people talk about or understand. You hear about postpartum depression a lot but you don’t hear about the depression that happens during pregnancy very often. It’s like one of those things about pregnancy no one ever tells you until you are in the middle of it, but worse. You must be happy you are pregnant and happy you’re having a healthy baby and you cannot have bad thoughts or wish things were different, because, dang it, YOU ARE BLESSED. Ok, so that might be a slight exaggeration, but it’s close. Pregnancy makes you extra emotional to begin with, so determining what is “normal” and what is “too much” is not an easy thing to do. It’s also not an easy decision on how to deal with it. I think I’ve done the best I can do for my little boy and me. So now I will foray into the third (and thankfully, final) trimester med-free. I have an appointment tomorrow and plan to find out the final weaning steps. Keep us in your thoughts, and more importantly, your prayers. I’m sure we’ll need them.