My Story of Prenatal Depression: What It’s Really Like
My husband and I were married for many years before trying to have children. I had a great teaching career in a desert city that I loved. We had a life full of adventures, travel, hobbies, friends, and fun. We were very involved in our church. I had just run my first half-marathon and was training for a sprint triathlon. Then, God changed our hearts, and we decided that we wanted to grow our family. Thankfully, we were blessed with pregnancy right away. We were excited and could not wait to meet our new baby.
Soon after our happy news was discovered, I developed morning sickness, or as I called it, all day and all night sickness. I felt horrible with no relief. At the same time, we decided to move back to my home state of Oklahoma. This was really exciting, but it meant I was leaving the teaching career that I loved, the city that I loved, the church we loved, friends we loved, and everything we had become accustomed to. I was so sick that I could not exercise or train as usual. We moved right when the weather in Phoenix was reaching perfection and moved to a state where winter was just beginning. The gloomier days of Oklahoma were a stark contrast to the bright sunny days of Phoenix.
We were renting a house in Oklahoma City until we knew where we wanted to purchase a home. We were trying to save every penny to put into a house purchase so I was hesitant to even go to a movie or spend any money on something to distract me. Although my husband transferred with the same company, he had five weeks of training out of town. He was gone a lot, and I was left alone for days. Even when he wasn’t out of town, he worked long hours, and I found myself very lonely without much to do. No matter how hard I tried, the listless, melancholy feelings were difficult to shake. With the move and complete change of lifestyle, I suddenly found myself lonely, without any activities or friends, and everything I had known in my life had changed. I wasn’t as sick as I had been, but the changes were overwhelming. I was thrilled to have my baby growing inside, but my world turned gray and murky. Nothing seemed fun. I enjoy sewing, so I sewed and sewed, and I took long walks and went to the bookstore, but really everything just had a sense of “blah” to it.
Even though I was experiencing these feelings, and I knew that my joy and happiness was lacking, I did not realize that there was actually a name for what I was going through. I just endured it. I never mentioned it to my doctor. In addition, my back hurt constantly, and I was so uncomfortable as is a normal part of pregnancy. My only joy was preparing for the baby, but since we were renting and planning to move in the next couple of months, there wasn’t a lot to do.
The months, weeks, and days passed until my due date came and went. At this point, I entered an entirely different sort of humanity. I knew realistically that the baby would not stay inside me forever, but my mental state was not believing reality. I thought I would never deliver my baby. Due to my doctor not wanting to induce for a week after my due date and then Easter weekend falling during that time frame, I went 10 days past my due date. After what seemed an eternity, I went to the hospital for delivery. When the nurses started working on me, it started to get real for me, and I truly enjoyed the entire process of delivering our daughter. It was so long awaited. I finally had a meaningful job to do, and it was wonderful.
When they handed me my newborn baby girl, the lonely, listless feelings instantly left me. Life was no longer gray and murky. My heart was full of joy, happiness, and excitement. I felt a rush of feelings that I had not felt in months. I call her my rainbow girl not because she came after a loss, but because she brought the color back into my life. I had a purpose again, a new little friend, and a reason for being here. My life was suddenly full, and everything was bright and happy and full of delight.
I absolutely loved every minute of being in the hospital, coming home, and newborn life. I would go to bed thanking God for another day of being her mom and wake up (even multiple times in the middle of the night) thinking, “Yay, I get to do this again!” I lived in a blissful bubble of happiness.
The complete change in my mind, heart, and life was astounding.
After awhile, sometime long after our daughter was born, I heard the term – prenatal depression. The Mayo Clinic defines depression as “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest” and claims that “about 7% of pregnant women experience depression during pregnancy.” I realized that I most likely experienced a mild version of this although I was never officially diagnosed by a doctor. The risk factors, signs, and symptoms vary. Thankfully, I never experienced many of the harsher signs and symptoms of depression such as anger about the baby, suicidal tendencies, or hurtful activities. On the reverse side, I was overly anxious, very careful, and clingy to my husband. I had wonderful family support, and I never ever considered ending the pregnancy. In fact feeling the baby moving inside me, singing to her, planning and prepping for her, going to doctor appointments, and attending baby showers were almost my only source of joy and happiness in that time.
I’m very thankful that God saw me through my pregnancy, and that I did have a support system, a wonderful doctor, great care, and a very wanted pregnancy. What my experience showed me, however, is that if a support system and prenatal care is not available, this could be a much more severe struggle. It was hard enough for me. Research shows that this is not as prevalent as postpartum depression, but it is something that does happen. Please do not give up if you are experiencing any type of depression symptoms. I encourage you to realize that you might be going through this type of depression and seek help. Places like the Journey House in Enid, OK are available and able to help walk with you through tough times that pregnancy can cause. Not all pregnancies are easy, but all babies are gifts from the Lord. It is important to seek help in order to keep from making any type of regrettable decision.
This was my experience with my first pregnancy. My second and fourth pregnancies were free of any type of depression, but I did experience a similar depression during my third pregnancy. I am so glad I did not allow the feelings of my first and third pregnancy influence our decision to have more children. Being a mother to my girls is a delight and a God-given gift as well as my new favorite job.
By Hayley Abbott
*Quotes in this are from Mayoclinic.com. Depression During Pregnancy: You’re Not Alone by Mayo Clinic Staff
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