I’ve only met Becky Harks — known all over the blogosphere as Aunt Becky from the blog Mommy Wants Vodka — virtually, but I’m a big fan and can’t wait for the opportunity to meet her in person. She’s raucous and side-splittingly funny, with a wide following she calls her band of “Merry Pranksters”. She also created an amazing site called Band Back Together, where people who’ve struggled through everything from bullying, miscarriage or divorce to postpartum depression or having children with special needs can come together and find support. Below, Becky shares her story of experiencing depression during pregnancy, also called antepartum or antenatal depression. I’m so VERY PLEASED to have her as a guest here today.
The only thing I’d wanted was another baby. So when, after meeting a good guy, marrying him and buying a house in the suburbs with a yard (like I was Suzie-freaking-Homemaker), I found myself knocked up once again just like I’d wanted, I couldn’t begin to understand why I was so miserable. After living through my first pregnancy — something that can only be described through a particularly bad country song — raising an autistic child, escaping my alcoholic parents and finally having another baby, this time the way I thought it was “supposed to be,” my feelings were beyond bizarre to me.
Certainly, my life was stressful. But my life has always been stressful. I’d had to quit my job and money was tight, something my new husband worried about often and loudly. When we’d moved to the ‘burbs, we’d left behind our friends so my support system of single friends was gone. We’d occasionally talk on the phone but it became more and more obvious that we were no longer on the same page. It stung more than I’d thought it would.
Day after day during this pregnancy I sat alone on the couch, or praying to the porcelain gods, while my husband worked 14-hour days. My distant son, never a source of emotional comfort anyway, was in school all day. These were the days before I’d adopted the internet as Your Aunt Becky, so I was Becky, As Herself. I had no one to confide in, no Band of Merry Pranksters to confess my feelings to, and now neatly severed from all of my support systems, I floundered.
I’d been depressed before, but the feelings I was experiencing were new. I felt like I was mired in quicksand, rooted in one spot, unable to move forward. Always a social beast, I could barely leave my house. A simple phone call became too much to handle. The isolation bred isolation and now a trip to the store exhausted me for days beforehand and afterward. It was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning.
Sleep was an elusive mistress. Night after night, as my son churned in my belly, I tossed and turned, unable to ever fall into that deep REM sleep that the doctors insist we need to survive. I remembered that sleep deprivation was a technique that soldiers used on POW’s to drive them slowly insane, which was precisely what was happening to me. Each morning, I dragged myself out of bed, unrefreshed and sad, filled with a sense of impending doom.
Finally, untrusting of my OB, I turned to Dr. Google for advice. While I wasn’t yet Your Aunt Becky, I was a blogger and I knew that the beauty (and horror) of the internet is that there’s always one soul that no matter how depraved you’re feeling, can sympathize with you. Setting my search to “antepartum depression,” I was confident that I would find something.
Nothing came up. Well, okay, there were a couple of things, but mostly with “antepartum” and “depression” mentioned in the same article.
Not exactly helpful, Dr. Google.
Fine, I thought. I’m a freak.
Ben, my first, had been born after Andrea Yates had her bout with postpartum psychosis, so I’d had no end of pamphlets shoved at me to help me combat any urges to hurt myself or someone else after he was born. We’d studied the spectrum of postpartum mood disorders in nursing school as well. But antepartum depression was a big question mark.
So what did I do? NOTHING. I wore a groove on the couch where I sat miserable and sad until my second son, Alex, was born squalling and healthy. Almost instantly, my mood improved.
When I got pregnant with my daughter, I expected the antepartum depression to return and it did. By this time, I had become Your Aunt Becky and shared my troubles with my Pranksters. Many stepped up and said that they, too, had experienced the same types of feelings. It was wonderful to feel less alone; less like a circus freak. I went onto an SSRI in my second trimester to try to combat the antepartum depression, but even with that on board I didn’t feel much better. Pregnancy, it seems, doesn’t agree with me.
What shattered me was after I shared my experiences about antepartum depression, the usual search terms that brought people to my blog (boring things, aunt becky sucks, mommy wants a vodka) were replaced by these: “antepartum depression,” “depression during pregnancy,” and “sadness in pregnancy.” Knowing that there were other women sitting on their own couches struggling the way I had broke my tiny black heart into a billion pieces.
The isolation I experienced was devastating and while I ended up walking away from the experience with only a little darkness on my back, I hate to imagine others out there suffering the way that I did. I’m thrilled that postpartum depression has gotten so much support. It should get all that it does and more. Women supporting other women is beautiful. I want antepartum depression, which they now call antenatal depression apparently, to get some of that support, too.
I hope that for the next pregnant woman who sits on her couch, crying and feeling as desperately alone as I did, I hope that she can find the light. Because there is light. And it is so, so good.