It Is Okay To Not Be Okay During Pregnancy

pregnancy depression, antenatal depression, depression during pregnancyDear mama,

I wanted to word vomit all over our Facebook group when I saw how quickly you backpedaled about not enjoying pregnancy.  I wanted so badly to share my story, but I knew it was not the time or place.  I am writing this open letter to you and all other mamas who do not like pregnancy.  It is okay to not be okay during pregnancy.  I struggled physically and emotionally with my second pregnancy.  In hindsight I clearly had undiagnosed antenatal depression and anxiety, a revelation that my therapist and I discussed.  I had so many warning signs.

I worried about everything constantly.  I was irritable, and it wasn’t just the hormones.  My irritability was a precursor to my postpartum rage.  I lost weight initially, partly due to the restrictive meal plan for my gestational diabetes.  I could not sit still at all which was also a precursor to my severe postpartum anxiety.  I was making lists of all the tasks that had to be done and completed by the time the baby was born.  List-making made me feel like I was in control.

Society does pregnant women a disservice by showing us these photos of airbrushed women who blissfully smile down at their baby bumps.  I rarely smiled or laughed when I was pregnant.  Besides the gestational diabetes, I suffered from sciatica and an umbilical hernia.  I had to wear a postpartum support girdle which alleviated some of the strain on my back.  I have had friends valiantly struggle with sciatica, symphysis pubic dysfunction, pre-eclampsia, irritable uterus and days and weeks of contractions.  Until we change the conversation about how demanding physically, mentally and emotionally pregnancy can be, we will continue to feel like we have to put on the mask.  I very much wanted and planned for my darling baby girl, but I would tell anyone and everyone who would listen that this was my last pregnancy.

People used to laugh like I was a hormonal pregnant woman who should be pitied.  I felt like people thought I was exaggerating my level of stress and discomfort with my last pregnancy.  Those feelings made my rage and irritability even greater.  Do not condescend to pregnant women.  We are adult women who are growing another human(s).  We deserve care that recognizes our entire selves, not just as an incubator for the baby that we are carrying.  My feelings, my emotions, and my health were just as vital and important as that of my unborn child.  I struggled with undiagnosed antenatal depression and anxiety even though I had a supportive medical team that included my ob/gyn, my certified diabetes educator, and my endocrinologist.

Mama, I wish I could learn more about your story.  I have so many questions for you.  Did you struggle too?  Would you like to know more about my story?  Can we get together for coffee and really talk about how difficult pregnancy can be?  Can we stop trying to pretend that it is all sunshine and rainbows?  It is okay to not be okay.  It is okay to admit that you hate pregnancy and that you are miserable.  This does not mean that you do not love your child.  You are brave for reaching out and asking for help.  If you are struggling, please know that you are NOT alone.  Many mamas, including myself, have been in your shoes.  Talk to your therapist, to your partner, and to your doctor.  Check out the resources available here along with testimonies from other Warrior Moms who have struggled with antenatal depression and made it through to the other side.  It does get better, I promise you.

Love,

Jen Gaskell

About Jen Gaskell

Wife, mom, business professional, writer, singer, dancer, runner, and yogi. Survivor of Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety. Co-producer of Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee. Stretching beyond my comfort zone.

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  1. Thank you, Jen! Such an important, honest letter that I hope every mama will take the time to read. Will share. Love your voice and what you’re doing to help other moms. xoxo

    • Jenn, thank you so much! I felt like that message is not shared out there enough. We always preface our complaints about difficulties during pregnancy with, “I shouldn’t complain, but”. Why not? Let’s change that conversation.

  2. All I can say is YES – this is what it was like for both of my pregnancies. Yes, it’s a beautiful thing, but also trying.

  3. I often find myself saying things like “I wasn’t high risk, but” before stating how much I disliked and struggled through pregnancy. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I have waited longer than average to try for another child, as well as one reason behind looking into adoption. And I can tell that if breastfeeding was less important to me and/or I felt that lactation medication was a option for me, I would be looking much harder at adoption.

    • Huge hugs that you felt like you had to qualify your experience of pregnancy. We need to keep having these conversations. Wishing you lots of luck as you work through your options for another child.

  4. Thank you for this post. This is such a necessary and important conversation that needs to be happening more than it does.

    • Thank you so much Esther! My goal now is to be that safe person that others can confide in about how much pregnancy is difficult. I try to provide a judgement free zone.

  5. Jaime Pickett says:

    Love this. Well said.

  6. Raging hormones, 6 months of morning sickness, severe spd, some days it is enough to make me cry. I decided not to lie about how I am feeling but, at the same time, I truly love the outcome enough to do it again. I wish more people would understand that, for some, pregnancy isnt all butterflies and roses.

    • Huge hugs Tessa. Morning sickness and SPD is simply brutal. Yes. We are not all wandering around with a beautiful glow, smiling blissfully down at our baby bump. Pregnancy is like a marathon. The physical changes combined with the hormonal changes take a toll on the body.

  7. My psychiatrist says that pp-anything often starts during the pregnancy but goes unrecognized and untreated because people think they just feel terrible since they are pregnant (which is often an uncomfortable state in and of itself) and think that the birth of the baby, the beautiful birthing experience, the brand-new newborn! (who doesn’t sleep, eats endlessly, and often cries) will fix everything. And then it doesn’t. It’s mentioned that society airbrushes pregnancy and the postpartum experience and suggests we should all have active and happy pregnancies where we only gain just enough weight and should obviously be nothing but overjoyed by our newborn baby. And in our pre-pregnancy jeans of course. I really wish that people would commit to giving women a more realistic expectation of what to expect during pregnancy (without using the scare tactics currently used by the What to Expect franchise) and the postpartum period. If women have more reasonable expectations (and knowledge of signs of needing help) of what to expect it might be easier to deal with the daunting realities of a newborn. If you knew pregnancy was hard and scary and that losing control over your body is terrifying (and depression at times), if you knew that a newborn is mostly exhaustion and fear followed by exhaustion and anxiety, and if you knew that was normal it would be much easier to deal with it. This is NOT a suggestion that this attitude would prevent PPD/etc. or anything like that but it might help people get help sooner and it would make it much easier to reach out to others.

  8. Yes. I could not agree more, Wendy. We need to find that balance of education versus fear. If we had realistic expectations of both pregnancy and the postpartum period, I think that we would be able to detect when antenatal depression and postpartum mood disorders have overtaken us.

  9. THANK YOU!!!! I wish I had seen this 10 years ago when I was pregnant with my first. 🙂 Just had my 4th and final babe, and it was not fun. But this was great to read. I think some of my guilt just left, and that is a great blessing.

  10. Thank you. This is so helpful. My unplanned pregnancy is so miserable and I have a pathological fear of childbirth. If I hear one more congratulations for the most miserable experience of my life, I will scream. It’s nice to hear from others who can speak honestly about their experiences that were also less than sunshine and rainbows.

  11. Thank you Jen that is exactly how I feel right now. I am so hesistant to tell people that I am pregnant because I am not as excited as I feel I should be.