Pregnant With a History of Depression
Once pregnant, with every book that you read, class that you take and appointment that you go to; you will hear all about risk factors for postpartum depression. If you have a history of depression this message comes across boldly and causes anxiety and depression of its own. I am so impressed with how proactive society has become in educating the community about this common condition; they certainly lay it on thick. It is so important when you become pregnant that you and your partner are aware of the risk factors and signs of PPD and are assured that it is ok to admit that you need help.
When I was finally able to celebrate seeing those happy, two pink lines on a pregnancy test, a million emotions and thoughts ran through my mind. One of which was how I would cope with fluctuating hormones and my high risk for PPD. My husband had seen from personal family experiences how PPD can tear apart a marriage and change the dynamic of a family - not to mention how it can affect your ability to be a good mother. We had so many open and honest conversations about our fears and how we would monitor the situation. Luckily I had a close friend with a similar mental health history who was slightly further along in her pregnancy. She was able to give me real life examples of the differences she felt between those first couple week of “baby blues” and stronger emotions related to PPD.
When you imagine your life post-baby, you don’t expect to have negative feelings and when that happens it seems like it must be a sign of PPD. In reality being a mom is just really hard and quite the adjustment for everyone. I think the best advice that I was given was that love, attachment and happiness aren’t necessarily synonymous with motherhood from the start and it is an individual experience. Just because everyone you talk to says that they experienced “love at first sight”, that doesn’t mean that you have to feel that way and it also doesn’t mean that you won’t in time. Let your experience be unique and understand that there’s a difference between adjusting to a new lifestyle and shutting down in response to a new lifestyle.
When my daughter was born I felt my own unique mix of emotions and was incredibly critical of myself in hopes of identifying whether I was experiencing any hint of PPD. I gave myself anxiety from self-analyzing more than from being a new mom. I would cry and my husband would panic and question my mental state and ability to cope. Everything I said was scrutinized and concerns were raised if I expressed negative emotions. It wasn’t meant to be harsh, it was just our intense way of managing my high risk factors. It was overkill but it made us feel in control and proactive.
In the end (not that the journey is over), I was able to get past the “baby blues” stage and find a peaceful, happy life waiting on the other side. Knowing what depression feels like, it’s easier to identify a healthy, happy mental state. If women with little experience with mental illness could partner with those who have been through depression/anxiety, they would feel so much more prepared. It’s such a shame that depression is such a lonely disease and most people are too shameful to share their stories. It is important to me personally that I make an effort to contribute to change here. The more we share our stories, the less lonely this disease will be.