Pregnancy Depression Was Like Running A Marathon With A Broken Leg

pregnancy depression, antenatal depression, prenatal depressionToday’s Warrior Mom is Lindsay H.  She was and still is very frustrated that there’s so little information out there about pregnancy depression, also called antenatal depression or prenatal depression.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when my world was turned upside down by pregnancy depression and anxiety. Somewhere between the not-so-pleasant thoughts of aborting my baby and the suffocating panic attacks I realized that this was not your average pregnancy. Something was definitely wrong, but wait, I was STILL PREGNANT. There was nothing postpartum about it. Everything I had read about depression or anxiety related to having babies talked about feelings after the birth, not during what was supposed to be a euphoric time of prenatal massages and glowing skin.

Pregnancy depression, also known as antenatal depression, is like trying to run a marathon with a broken leg. I felt like I had ruined my life by getting pregnant again and that I would never be the same. I just didn’t understand. I had always wanted a second child, but as soon as I saw that extra blue line, I panicked. Tears flowed like rivers and anxiety struck me like lightning. My hopes of feeling better dwindled every time I saw a new doctor who didn’t know what to do with me. I couldn’t find anyone who specialized in antenatal depression and was therefore lumped  in with everyone else, being prescribed antidepressants as if taking medication during pregnancy was supposed to help relieve my anxieties. Were they kidding? 

I was told to exercise and keep busy, not an easy feat when your belly is expanding and you  can’t walk twenty feet without your back aching. Doctors kept assuring me that my condition was temporary, but that prognosis made me feel like no one really understood what I was going through. I felt there was no way this condition was temporary. As far as I was concerned, it was my new reality and I couldn’t bear to live in it. After trying medication with no success, I was convinced that my baby was going to suffer for the rest of his life because I wasn’t healthy enough to provide a good start for him. Suicidal thoughts poked their ugly little head in every now and then, with my husband hiding sharp objects when he went to work and calling me constantly throughout the day to make sure I was still breathing.

Trying to hide my condition was as exhausting as dealing with the problem itself. Our friends and family knew something wasn’t right but I was able to chalk it up to mood swings and fatigue. “Just relax and take a nap,” is all anyone knew to say. Little did they know that sleep was something I had lost along with my mind, and relaxation was just a muddy pool for my negative thoughts to swim in. I felt hopeless and alone and terrified.

When the day arrived for “it” to be born, I had mixed emotions. I was incredibly relieved  that my nightmare of a pregnancy was going to be over, but incredibly nervous that I would not connect with this thing that had spent months inside of me. I prayed for a happy ending to a miserable story, but I didn’t get it. The day the baby was born, I was overcome with unexpected joy and thought I had finally crossed the finish line, about to get my medal, but a week later I fell once again into the deep, dark depths of depression and anxiety and realized that  having the baby was only a pit stop along the path.

My baby felt like a stranger who I couldn’t wait to pass on to someone else. I didn’t want him, which initiated an immense feeling of guilt and sadness. I kept wanting to run away from a life that I used to love.  My desperation grew by the day and I didn’t believe I would ever get better … until I did.

With the help of medication, therapy and time, I began to realize that my baby was not the problem. What I had was pregnancy depression, a real medical condition that, although still scarcely understood, is treatable. My tears began to dry up and the tools I was given in therapy finally started to make sense. I can now look at Kyle (yes, he has a name … no longer an “it”) and know that he and I will forever be bonded by the tumultuous journey we endured together. I truly believe he is meant to be here with me. His smile melts my heart and his chubby little fingers wrap around mine as if we are connected for life. And  while I still sometimes feel sadness toward my pregnancy and Kyle’s early days, I can find comfort in knowing that Kyle is a beautiful, healthy little boy who fought his way into my heart.

As far as the marathon goes, we are getting closer and closer to the finish line, broken leg and all.

~ Lindsay Hays

Photo credit: © Bianca de Blok – Fotolia.com

For more stories on pregnancy depression, try:

On How It Feels to Be Depressed During Pregnancy

The Black Hole of Antenatal Depression

On Being Depressed & Pregnant

Robbed of the Joy of Pregnancy

About Katherine Stone

is the founder of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the top 20 Social Media Moms by Working Mother magazine. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

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Comments

  1. I was surprised how much it effected me. I never had severe PPD & I bet I was teetering on the edge of baby blues & very mild PPD…but it did effect me. So much happens so fast…it’s just hard to handle it all {a lot of the time}.

    I just had a second baby & have been more ‘aware’ of the possibility this time around. It’s helpful to read articles & sites like these just to understand that it’s real, everyone experiences it differently & no one is immune. It just happens. Thanks for this site & great article!

  2. ….brings tears to my eyes. thank you for sharing. you write so beautifully. God bless all of us who are so willing and open to share our terrifying experiences. Much love from an ongoing PPD/PPA survivor…recovering…daily. xoxo

  3. You just shared my story….for real. I also did not receive a diagnosis. I had been sailing through my surprise pregnancy, but then was treated with disdain by my doctors when things took a sudden turn. I had never heard of antenatal depression either, until it happened to me of course. I was left to fend for myself and had to do all of the scary research on my own. It was awful beyond words. I’d never felt so alone, hopeless and terrified either. But I also have a beautiful little gift that found her way into my heart. I am so thankful to have made it through that unbelievably dark time and I’m so thankful that you did too. Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. Lindsay – there are many of us out here! I too suffered from the moment I discovered I was pregnant with my third child (who I had also ‘always wanted’). My husband begged me to talk to the OB before I scheduled an abortion. I’m glad I did, though I still did not believe that I would ever feel better. After a big thumbs up from my children’s pediatrician, who happened to be very well studied on current on ante- and postnatal medications, I began anti-depressants in week 6 of my pregnancy. The next 6 weeks were the longest of my life – my overriding memory of it now is me in the fetal position while several members of my family took charge of my two girls, then 5 and 2. I finally began to feel better in week 12, and then started therapy which continued until my delivery date. I remained on medication in hopes of avoiding postpartum depression, and found I was better able to handle a newborn and able to sleep at night between nursings. It was easily my best newborn experience, and I was fully able to love and enjoy my baby boy. He is now a healthy, happy 8 year-old, so much so that we jokingly called him the ‘serotonin baby’. I’m so grateful for my husband for persuading (dragging) me to the doctor for help. I frequently think about the fact that I almost missed having him – and that has helped me appreciate all of my children more, even during the crazy bad days that can happen with three kids. I now spend some time volunteering for my local PSI warmline, and am helping with a support group nearby (I am the ‘after’ person :). I always emphasize that depression can happen ANYTIME, pregnancy, or post-pregnancy, and everyone can get better with help. Thank you for sharing your story!!

  5. I know this article is a few years old now, but I have to comment because it resonated so much with me. I am devastated, having lost my only 2 pregnancies I’ve ever had, within the last year. I have no other children. I had a miscarriage at 6.5 weeks last summer, which was just awful. It never occurred to me that this could happen. I was never the same after that miscarriage. So sad, depressed, and out of my mind with grief. Luckily, I got pregnant again no too long after. I was ecstatic! I was FINALLY going to have my long awaited baby. Around the 8 week mark, I began to realize something was wrong. At first I chalked it up to my all day (not just morning) sickness. Fatigue, not being able to sleep…having to stay with my parents because I was in between apartments at the time was also very stressful. Because of the sickness I was unable to eat anything other than plain pasta or maybe cereal. Thats it. Everything else made me ill. Almost all smells made me extremely ill. I thought maybe all this was normal, but then at around 9 weeks, I became emotionally unstable. I began feeling like my life was over and I wanted to kill myself. I began secretly googling about abortion. What?! I never, ever believed in abortion my whole entire life, it didn’t make sense. I had JUST had a miscarriage I was so devastated by only a few months before. This was my dream coming true! It didn’t make sense! Then my relationship (which was never ideal, lots of red flags everywhere even before pregnancy) went even further downhill. My bf would spray his cologne all the time, even though I told him it made me sick. When I visited him during my 9th week, he didn’t bother to make sure I was eating anything not even the pasta and cheerios that were my staple at the time. He would leave me home to go to work all day w/o making sure there was food in the apartment (I had a mishap with my paycheck right before this and couldn’t access my money for another several weeks). He promised he’d take care of things financially but he didn’t. So, most days I literally starved and was ill, by myself, in that apartment. The following week, I had what I can only describe as a complete mental breakdown. I heard voices telling me to kill myself. My bf and I argued badly over the phone one night and he hung up on me. Days went by and I didn’t hear from him at all. I kept hearing voices telling me to not have this baby. All my years of longing for a baby, crying to my close girlfriends and my family about being in my 30s and not yet being a mom, the endless nights of sadness over not having a child yet, of going on my hands and knees and BEGGING God for a child, the numerous vision boards I created hoping to manifest a baby…this all went completely out the window. In my state of suicidal depressiveness, I remembered none of that. The only thing I could hear was this voice telling me not to go through with the pregnancy and to kill myself too. I made an appointment for the following tuesday. Monday came and I cancelled it. My bf called again and we fought I cried for 2 days. I rescheduled the appointment for friday. I went through with it on that awful friday. I was so hopped up and numb from drugs that I fell asleep once home. I woke up the next morning and as soon as I saw my father I screamed from the deepest part of my soul and collapsed to the floor. I felt like some kind of fog had been lifted from me and it was only now that I could think straight; the voices and things had disappeared, leaving me wondering what the hell did i just do? What the hell happened to me? The voices and the psychosis had gone, and left me holding the bag, having committed something so heinous!! How could I have done this? This was my dream baby that I have been wanting since I was a baby myself. So here I am, with no babies. My sweet baby is gone. I live with this grief every minute of every day. I call the suicide hotlines daily to keep my head above water. If I don’t, I very likely WILL kill myself. I have been seeing a counselor who has told me she has seen this exact scenario happen before, and that extreme antenatal depression is real. Why does noone ever warn women about this??? It takes you out of your right mind. I NEVER believed in abortion ever! I was completely and totally out of my mind. I wish I didn’t live in a country where it is free and so easily available. TOO easily available! Especially to people who are so hormonally vulnerable and in some cases (like mine) nowhere near in a position to be making this kind of decision! I sit here day after day paralyzed with grief. I had to stop working. I am in complete disbelief that this happened. I feel like some evil force is off somewhere in the corner, laughing at me for agreeing to let it take my baby. I am so angry that I never knew about the possibility of depression/suicidal during pregnancy. I did not have a history of any of these things prior to pregnancy. I hate myself for what I’ve done. I hate myself for not getting help, for not realizing I needed help, to go to the doctor, to the hospital – something! Anything but this. I’ve started ttc again, perhaps foolishly. But I am getting older and I desperately want a child. This time when I get pregnant I will make sure to be under very close medical supervision. Its been a few cycles and I’m not pregnant yet, after having been successful within one month of trying both times before. I’m scared to death that this is a punishment…I pray that I will be able to have a baby and do the right thing this time. Most importantly I pray every night and day for forgiveness from God and from my poor sweet baby who I loved more than my own life and wanted with every fiber of my being. Something just went so awfully wrong. I haven’t yet been able to find it in my heart to forgive myself. I hope that the word gets out about antenatal depression. It is real and it can happen to anyone. Anyone.

  6. Thank you so much for this! I know it has been years since this was posted, but I really needed it today. I had prenatal depression with my first baby and am currently in the throes of a case 100x worse with my second. After my first was born, it evaporated instantaneously, but it was never THIS bad. I can’t get anyone to care or acknowledge that I am suffering either (aside from my husband – whoo boy does he acknowledge it. He has no choice). My midwife suggested I should maybe “meet with a therapist just once or twice, to establish a safety net — just in case you get postpartum depression” – one of the most dismissive pieces of advice I’ve ever received. She doesn’t believe I could possibly be REALLY depressed right now. How does is the fact that I am CURRENTLY suicidal not a factor? Why does it not matter how I feel today? I’ve also had two miscarriages. Pregnancy loss is a common trigger for depression and anxiety in subsequent pregnancies, but I have received zero acknowledgement of the soul-crushing fears and doubts pregnancy after loss can be. So many things need to change about the way pregnancy is handled. I am terrified that I will end up rejecting this baby – I have so many bad thoughts about her – but the way you described it almost as a shared battle, a fight that bonds you together for life, is a beautiful concept I can maybe get some mileage out of while running my own crappy marathon. Thank you again!

    • Heather King says:

      We get so frustrated along with you, mama. Hearing these stories of terrible advice and so little REAL help is mind-blowing. There is good help out there, mama. I don’t know if you checked our list of providers, but in case you did not see it, you may find a psychiatrist and/or therapist near you who can be your REAL net. You do need help, professional help, and that’s okay and it is valid and it can and will get better with good help, and time. Here is the link for you – http://www.postpartumprogress.com/womens-mental-health-treatment-programs-specialists-us-canada-australia

      If there is no one near you on that list, send me an email at help@postpartumprogress.org because we can often reach out to warrior mom ambassadors who know of providers that don’t happen to be on our list yet.

      Thank you for your story, your honesty. We would really like to help you more!