We hear a lot about postpartum depression. In my first pregnancy it was talked about frequently. We were told about it by our doctors and in our prenatal classes. When the baby was born, a postpartum depression assessment questionnaire for me was even a routine part of the baby’s public health visits. But we were never told or asked about feelings of depression before the baby comes. And at 40+ weeks with my second babe, I still haven’t heard any mention of it, in any public health campaign, by any other pregnant woman, or even by our wonderfully helpful midwives. But I know it exists, because for 40+ weeks I’ve had it.
I worried about postpartum depression when I was pregnant with Little Man because depression is by no means foreign to me. There’s a family history and I have had several depressive periods of my own since elementary school. Mr Fair and I talked about it a lot, so he would know what to be watchful of, but thankfully it never materialized. So I let my guard down. And since I loved every minute of my pregnancy with Little Man (that is, every minute that wasn’t being overshadowed by the Debbie Downer that is the modern obstetric system), I assumed it would be the same this time around. By all accounts, I probably should be happier this time than last time. I have supportive prenatal care! I have the go-ahead to birth at home – a dream I honestly thought would never come true for me. I have possibly the most freaking adorabletoddler on the face of the planet, a female replica of whom I assume I’m gestating right now. What is there to be depressed about?
It might not be the onions making a pregnant woman cry...
Saying that I am depressed actually makes me feel ashamed. It took me until only a few weeks ago to even say it out loud to my husband, although I’m pretty sure it’s been there since about the day we conceived. He told me he already knew but had been afraid of pointing it out in case it made me feel even worse. But let’s face it, when the very idea of chopping vegetables for supper makes you feel so overwhelmed that you burst into tears, there’s no tiptoeing around it.
Like I said, I’ve been here before and it always follows the same triggers. This time is no different. Major life changes led simultaneously to stress, isolation and feeling a loss of control. We moved from Calgary to Toronto only a few months after Little Man was born. It was a long-planned move, and my desire to go to midwifery school was the impetus. But still it was a big change. Especially since we left behind a really strong network of parenting resources and new-parent friends. Moving also meant I had no job to go back to. I probably would have decided to stay home longer anyway, but the fact that I had little choice made it feel different. And after all of that, I didn’t even get into midwifery school. My alternate career plan for this scenario was to get trained and start working as a doula until I could get accepted the following year, but when I sat down to plan a doula business, I realized that it would be a financial drain until after the new baby was old enough for me to go full time. Limbo, the final stressor.
The thing that is so infuriating about depression, for me, is that it is so self-perpetuating. The isolation cycle is my nemesis. One of the first ways I react when I’m depressed is to withdraw. You’ll note the dearth of blog posts over the last 9 or so months. (Of course, that also has a lot to do with the fact that I can rarely organize my thoughts well enough to write a post from start to finish. Instead I have a stack of unfinished tid-bits.) It’s the same in real life, too. I stop replying to emails and phone calls from friends and family. When I would like to get back in touch, the feeling of guilt over my absenteeism and the need to explain it away becomes overwhelming, so I don’t reach out. The longer it goes, the worse it gets. I get more isolated because I push everyone away and the more isolated I am, the fewer resources I have to cope with my feelings, so the feelings get worse. Vicious, vicious cycle.
So now that I’ve admitted it, what do I do about it? For the moment, I wait. I know that, for me, this illness tends to remit and recur rather than setting up permanent camp in my brain. Hubby and I are keeping our eyes peeled for signs that it’s getting worse and we’ll be especially vigilant after the baby comes. We’ve got plans to get me back to professionally fulfilling work as soon as the baby can handle the separation and hopefully that will remove the triggers that keep fueling the negative feelings. And of course, we’re waiting out the hormone roller coaster that is building and birthing a human being. I don’t have any answers, I just needed to put it out there.
*For anyone looking for actual answers and information, here’s a starting point
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