My Experience with Antenatal Depression
Woah, it has been a while and lot has changed. I started graduate school, and a month later, I GOT PREGNANT! The latter of which has rocked my world more than anything. I learned I was pregnant because I started to randomly throw up and the nausea was overbearing. I thought the nausea would come and go, be worse around some foods or simply ease off after a few days but I was wrong as my symptoms got progressively worse for weeks at a time. During those first 16 weeks I was nauseous all day, threw up at least 4-5 times a day (with a record of 13 times in one day), couldn’t eat anything other than applesauce and crackers, was extremely tired, and felt very VERY SAD.
We were extremely excited to learn we were pregnant! Everything appeared to be lining up… but the excitement on my end wore off in less than a day. I went from feeling ecstatic to feeling completely miserable in what seemed like hours. During those 13 weeks I felt as if I was not able to do anything. My whole routine and life changed, and it felt like I had to put everything on pause. I left my job and most days I could barely get out of bed. The little energy I had I used in completing my graduate school work. I quit cooking, cleaning, driving, blogging and doing any other daily living task than what is required for survival. I felt useless and very sick. It took about 2-3 weeks of feeling this way before I noticed that beyond physically ill I was also starting to feel mentally off.
It is hard to say if I started to feel depressed because of the way I physically felt, or as a result of the hormonal imbalance in my body though they are not mutually exclusive. I was trying to stay positive, but eventually this depression felt bigger than myself and out of my control. I noticed that I no longer found joy in most of the things that normally brought me joy such as watching my favorite TV shows, thrifting, meeting with friends, blogging, social media, taking pictures…etc. I spent most of my days in a state of frustration, anger, resentment, confusion, hopelessness, and exhaustion. I was mad that I could not just shake this feeling off, frustrated that nothing seemed to help, and angry wondering why this was happening to me. Though people were kind and understanding it felt almost impossible to believe that I ‘this too shall pass.’ I kept thinking to myself, ‘this is no way to live,’ and ‘there is no way I could raise a baby feeling this way.’ I had a hard time believing that my depression would ever leave…
Though most days it felt like nothing was helping, there were some things that though they did not magically make me feel better, they did help me get through. Here are few of the things that I tried, and that I know helped me in some way or another during this time:
Being open about my feelings with others.
There is this weird period of time that is sort of expected of expecting mothers, which is to keep your pregnancy secret until “it’s safe” (until the first trimester is over). I think this societal expectation is what actually made me feel sort of worse. I am the kind of person who doesn’t like keeping secrets, and is open about most everything. Keeping the pregnancy a secret was hard, but what was harder was to pretend that I felt okay - when I didn't. From my experience I learned that keeping our feelings and struggles to ourselves only increases the loneliness and misery we are already experiencing. If I was to do it again, I wouldn’t wait as long as I did to share about my pregnancy with some people, and especially local people because they can be of so much help!
Taking a vacation.
There came a point in which the way I was feeling was so strange and so off, that I knew I needed to hit some form of “restart” button. I wasn’t sure what that looked like, but I knew that since I was no longer working, I had the freedom and time to go to the other side of the USA and visit sunny California, plus some of the sweetest and most encouraging people I know live there and it was about time I go visit them.
Researching the topic.
I knew I couldn’t be the first person to feel this way, so I jumped on the internet and did some digging. The more I learned, the more normal I felt. I found some extremely powerful videos and blogs of mothers who had gone through far worse than what I was going through. The truth is that everyone’s depression is experienced a little different, but getting to learn from those who have overcome their hurdles and are on the other side really helps. It was relatable, informational, helpful and simply relieving to know that I was not alone in this struggle. Here are a few videos that helped me, please be **CAUTIONED FOR POSSIBLE TRIGGERS!
Vitamin C, D, B & Magnesium.
I wasn't the greatest at taking my prenatal supplements because I simply couldn't keep anything down. There were various times I threw up my prenatal vitamins so I was extra careful when I took supplements that it was on a “good day.” However, I would immediately notice a different when I did - especially with vitamin B as it eased off my nausea and gave me some much needed energy. Another thing that I used to help ease off the nausea was alkaline water.
If I am going to be totally honest with you, my prayer life before the pregnancy was not exactly very hot. I was focused on achieving so many other goals that I put my relationship with God on the back burner. I got distracted and carried away from my spiritual priorities. However, like most people do, when I needed help and nothing else seemed to work - I turned to God. I went through what felt the 5 stages of grief as I rekindled my relationship with God. At first I was in denial that God would do anything about it, then I was angry that he didn’t just make me feel better fast, then I was unsure how to find meaning in my experience and started to reach out to others, then I was depressed that neither God nor anything else was helping me, and finally I came to a point of acceptance in my circumstance. I accepted that I was going through this specific circumstance, that I needed to stop fighting it and learn to make the best I could from what I was experiencing. God taking away my symptoms or not didn’t make God any less credible, powerful, or good. I learned to lean on Him instead of complain and demand from Him. Looking back, going through such a rough moment where I felt completely helpless helped me reconnect with God!
As a counseling major I was very aware that the last thing I needed to do was be alone. As much as I desired to see absolutely no one, to stop going to church, to stop going out with friends, to stop going on dates with my husband… I tried not to. My husband was great at helping me stay connected to the world, he would make sure to take me out of the house on his days off even if it was for a short walk around the mall or park and believe me that was so helpful! When my close friends would invite me out for lunch or dinner as much as I wanted to say no, I went. On Sunday mornings, no matter how bad the nausea got - I still went to church. I did not let my sickness and depression keep me from showing up. It is a hard battle, but when you stop showing up it gets harder and harder to show up. And as much as you want to be alone, it is not good to spend all your time isolated and disconnected. Do whatever it takes to show up, and if you need an extra push ask your friends and your family to help you get out even on the days you are not feeling so good.
I have been through rough moments in my life, but none had affected or impacted my mental health as much as prenatal depression has. I am now finally able to share with you that most of those feelings are past me. After week 17 I started feeling much better, though not perfect. There are both good and bad days, but I am definitely past the roughest part and for that I am grateful. I thank you for sharing in my experience, and if you are or know someone who is going through the same situation remember, it will pass! Keep going, and take it one day at a time, it does get better.