Molly Shalz: On How It Feels To Be Depressed During Pregnancy

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postpartum depression mother's day rallyDear new mom:

I remember seeing the blue plus sign on the pregnancy test. It was positive. I waited for the happiness. It didn’t come. Instead of happy tears I had a panic attack right there in the bathroom. The sting from the guilt that I felt in that moment has never really gone away.

My first son had just turned one. I had just quit my job two days before. I was on birth control! We wanted another child but the timing. Oh, the timing. Why couldn’t it have happened later when things were more settled? When we were ready? When we could celebrate it and not be riddled with worry about our finances and future?

I will never have those answers. I didn’t choose my son. But that’s okay. He chose me. I know that now.

If you are one of those soon-to-be-moms who stands in the bathroom holding a positive pregnancy test wondering how in the hell you and your tiny impending bundle are going to get through this, let me be the first to tell you … you will.

As a woman who has faced severe depressive episodes due to bipolar II disorder for all of her adult life, I often wondered if the pregnancy hormones and then postpartum depression would push me into my worst mood episode yet.

So I was pleasantly surprised with how truly happy I was during my first pregnancy. Comfortable? No. But happy? Yes, gloriously so.

With my second, I waited for those happy feelings. The first trimester went by and my anxiety grew. The second trimester came and the worries and depressed thoughts took over my brain like flies swarm over food in the heat.

I tried to force happiness. When you’re pregnant and your belly reaches the point where it’s obvious to everyone else that a baby will be coming out of you, that’s when everyone starts talking to you about it.

“When are you due?”

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

“Any names in mind?”

I would fake a smile, rub my round belly in that natural motherly way, and answer all their questions. It was my hope that as I heard my own voice it would conjure up that nervous and excitable anticipation that all mothers are supposed to feel. But what came was nothing of the sort.

What all those strangers and friends alike didn’t know was that I was terrified. Terrified of this baby. Terrified of another traumatic birth experience like the one with my first. Terrified by a future that was uncertain for many reasons. Job and income loss. House sitting stale on the market. Husband working six days a week so we didn’t lose everything.

It was all too much. I was mentally and physically exhausted. And not the normal type of pregnancy exhaustion. I wanted to pull the covers over my head and sleep. Sleep through the first, second and third trimester. Sleep through the birth. Sleep through the first month and while we’re at it, maybe the first year.

That’s when I realized . . . I am not just pregnant. I am pregnant and depressed.

True depression. Sadness. Hopelessness. The things no mother-to-be should feel. That was me. I was so ashamed. I kept thinking to myself, Do you know how many women would do anything to be pregnant like you are? Snap out of it!

But now I realize that a pregnant woman who is suffering with depression can no more “snap out of it” than someone who isn’t pregnant and suffering with depression.

That’s when I high-tailed it to my OB’s office and proceeded to break down in tears, unable to muster the courage to talk. The shame of what I was saying enveloped my own words.

“I want to be happy,” I sobbed. “I love my baby and I want so much not to feel like this anymore.”

My doctor looked at me with caring eyes and explained that I am not the first pregnant woman to be depressed. “I see cases of antenatal depression all the time,” she said.

There it was. A miserable diagnosis at a miserable time.

I had been keeping this dirty secret all to myself so as not to offend other people, and come to find out there are other depressed pregnant women out there! All this time I had felt so alone. All this time I had hidden my sadness and there was no reason for it.

My doctor prescribed a very low dosage of medication and talked me through her experience with this drug as it relates to pregnancy and birth. She had seen excellent results in mothers and I trusted her word.

Within three weeks of taking the medication as well as starting up weekly therapy again I started to feel better. I started talking about my baby, thinking about my baby, preparing for the birth. A funny thing happened on the way to wellness and stability. I finally fell in love with the little baby boy inside of me. It’s not that I didn’t love him all along. It just took me awhile to accurately feel those feelings because they were weighed down by depression.

My second son, Brigham Douglas, was born on May 2nd, nearly one year ago as I write this letter. I will never forget the instantaneous bond we shared as our eyes first met. There he was, only seconds old. But he had already taught me more about patience and trust than anyone living on this earth.

If you are pregnant and think you might be depressed, please know you are not alone. Talk to your doctor and trust your instincts. Your baby’s birth day can be joyful too.

Molly Shalzis a working mama to two beautiful boys born 21 months apart. Trying to manage a busy life with two kids under the age of three while also struggling with bipolar disorder. Married to a man made of glue who helps her hold it together. Writer. Traveler. Dreamer. Trying not to trip over tonka trucks. Her blog is called A Day In Mollywood.



Donations to Postpartum Progress can be made here: http://postpartumprogress.org/donate-postpartum-depression-2/

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About Katherine Stone

is the founder & editor of Postpartum Progress. She was named one of the ten most influential mom bloggers of 2011, a WebMD Health Hero and one of the top 25 parent bloggers using social media for social good. She also writes the Fierce Blog, and a parenting column for Disney's Babble.com.

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Comments

  1. Oh Molly! Look how far you've come in the past year! Thank you for speaking out about antenatal depression!

  2. I am SOOO glad you wrote this. My depression started with my first pregnancy because I too, got pregnant on bc. and then I lost that pregnancy. And the next one. The whole time blaming myself and getting deeper into depression. After my son was born? PPD hit me like a semi and i tried to be "better" than it.
    thank you for sharing this!

  3. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    It's so important to talk about this, Molly, because as you and I have discussed in the past, if we think people don't know much about PPD they CERTAINLY don't know much about antenatal depression. Women are as likely to be depressed during pregnancy as they are to be in the year after childbirth. I'm so proud of you and glad you are here today!
    - K

  4. i love how this story ends. beautiful. :)

  5. Thank you, Katie. I read your blog and adore how you write about PPD. Your words inspire me, always.

  6. Thank you, dear. It's not an easy subject to write about. I think we're all brave women, don't you =)

  7. Katherine, I hope you know how truly grateful I am to you for your constant work in this worthwhile mission. PP mood disorders as well as antenatal depression MUST be recognized, discussed and studied. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your time and efforts.
    You're one of my favorites.

  8. I wish someone would have had the wisdom to see that I was depressed while pregnant. I loved the idea of a baby, but it had no connection to the alien parasite that had taken up residence in my abdomen. I never bonded with him in utero, and it took a long time after he was born to begin to form that bond — a lot of time lost in between.

  9. I so needed this letter. I've gone from feeling joyful when I wrote my letter for the Rally to being depressed at 6 weeks pregnant (a surprise baby). I feel completely blindsided. I thought I'd at least have until the baby was born until I had to even think of the PPD again. I'm on the right track this time – already talking to my doctors and seeing a specialist next week. But I keep coming back here to read your letter and find hope.
    I'm really struggling with the idea of taking medication. My gut tells me it is ultimately the best decision for me, my family, and this baby-to-be to take the meds. So why does it feel like such a hard decision?

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