No one quite prepares you for the ups and downs pregnancy can bring. Growing up we are led to believe that for 9 months we will live in a joyful, blissful state of constant gratitude while our little buns cooks in the oven. But let’s get real. Pregnancy is not a walk in the park; it is the ultimate state of vulnerability and strength all wrapped into one.
In my case, this is my second pregnancy so I was in no way anticipating a fairy tale ride. However, I was not expecting the dramatic mood swings and occasional depression… yes, that’s right, depression. This pregnancy has made me face demons and fears I had never wanted to confront again.
You see, shortly after my first son was born (almost nine years ago) I became terrified of ever conceiving or giving birth again—not as an aftermath of the pregnancy or birthing experience—but from the fact that I associated having a child with the dissolution of my nuclear family.
Healing the Traumas from my Past
I separated from my ex-husband when my first-born was a mere 5 months and 3 weeks old. And in case you may be asking yourself, the answer is no. In no way was it an amicable or pleasant separation. On the contrary, my separation from my ex was extremely traumatic for me. Picture this: one day I am happily breast-feeding my son and the next day not a drop of milk is left in my breasts—probably a positive thing considering we apparently transfer all of our emotions through our breast milk onto our babies. They say you take at least a week to wean; my breasts were the Sahara dessert in less than 24 hours.
This was followed by a two-year custody and financial battle in the courts so intense that I developed symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, lost too much weight (I have the pictures to prove my anorexic-looking phase), and fell into a deep depression that lasted about a year and a half. And while I was defending myself in the courts, the real war I was fighting was an internal one. The whole ordeal had left me without self-esteem, without a sense of self-worth and without an ounce of a feeling of any remaining purpose for my life.
I could write a Lifetime movie but this is the trailer: woman thinks she is in a happy marriage, life going well, very financially secure and all the mumbo jumbo. Then, sister in law tells woman her husband has been having an affair with an employee, woman starts to investigate and ends up discovering in a matter of a month that her husband is a compulsive liar who has a sex addiction and blablabla. The cherry on top is that when woman tells man she wants a divorce, he threatens her, starts to deplete the mutual bank accounts and the lawyers and forensic accountants have a two-year party in court.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20. I now see my divorce as the best thing that ever happened to me—a pure blessing in disguise. Thank God, time heals all things and real personal growth and strength unbeknownst to man can come from the worst of tragedies. We’ve all heard the inspiring Oprah stories—stories of personal triumph that far exceed my own. Anyways, all this to tell you that my past came back to haunt me with a fucking vengeance pretty much as soon as I discovered I was pregnant.
Confession: this pregnancy came as a bit of a surprise. Yes it’s true, my now husband and I had stopped being so careful—a combination of the fact that several of my close girlfriends were undergoing artificial insemination, in-vitro and the fact that we were contemplating getting pregnant in say a year from now—but hell we were avoiding the “fertile” days so we were both shocked to see the little blue line appear in the First-Step stick.
Surprise Turns Into Panic
Shock turned quickly into joy for the both of us that night but then the next day it hit me. “Oh my God, what if my now husband turns out to be a psychopath too and now I’m left to raise two children on my own!” Panic, anxiety and fear came zooming towards me in a freight train and seemed to park itself in my house ready to sound the sirens at the mere suggestion or remote clue of my current marriage breaking apart. Any trivial disagreement or slight argument with my husband was enough to give me insomnia for an entire week at a time or have me break down in crying sessions during the day. The worst part is that on the most critical days—when the depression would hit the most—I isolated myself even more from both my husband and the rest of my inner circle. Go figure.
This was the pattern for most of my first and second trimester. One day I was happy and chirping like a cricket. The next day I was desperate on Google searching “How to overcome depression during pregnancy.”
Isolation, Social Media and Appearances
Of course on social media, on the days I was feeling optimistic—half of them approximately—I would post a happy picture. So even my closest friends seemed to think I was living on cloud nine.
How do you tell people you’re depressed because you’re pregnant? You feel too guilty to want to admit it, even to yourself. How do you tell the people you love most that you’ve started to hang out with Mr. Self-Loathing and Mrs. Self-Blame again? Oh happy day, all the enemies back for a reunion party. Hooray! Or rather, Boohoo!
My only consolation was on the rare occasion when I would open up to my girlfriends who have experienced pregnancy. When I would be slightly frank and admit, “this is hard” or “my hormones are going haywire” most responded compassionately with something to the effect of “Oh honey, I hated being pregnant. I know exactly what you mean”. Those words, trite as they may seem, gave me a sense of relief, made me feel less alone and had me realize that maybe I wasn’t the only pregnant woman to experience all the contradicting feelings of joy and gratitude mixed with absolute panic, fear and guilt.
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“Pregnancy is a process that invites you to surrender to the unseen force behind all life.”- Judy Ford #pregnancy https://ctt.ec/GJBbl+
The Third Trimester… Heavier but Kinder
Luckily, the third semester has been a bit kinder so far. The panic train seems to have departed from my home and I pray it doesn’t return. Moreover, the pregnancy blues have come with a surprising perk. It has forced my husband and I to communicate at a deeper level. As a result, we have come to a greater understanding and appreciation for one another. It has also propelled me to connect more profoundly with God. It has made me come back to prayer and faith, which in turn make my inner dialogue more compassionate and loving towards myself.
I am now going on 33 weeks. On the days I feel down, I force myself to get my blood pumping by going to the gym or taking a dance class. Movement and dedicating time to things I am passionate about have always been my magic anti-depressants. I discovered this during my battle with depression while I was going thru my divorce.
After a year of declining taking any anti-depressives at the suggestion from my therapist at the time, I finally gave in. I took them for several months until a Fairy Godmother appeared. This Fairy Godmother came in the form of a director who hired me to perform in his production of Guys and Dolls. The weeks of rehearsal I was so distracted doing what I loved that I stopped taking them altogether. I simply forgot about my depression. Turns out all I ever needed was dance and theatre to recover my sense of self, joy and purpose. I am by no means suggesting that anybody stop anti-depressives cold turkey like I did under any circumstance. Instead, I am suggesting that incorporating activities that you love can bring on miracles and change your mood dramatically.
Personal Conclusion… SuperWoman encounters her Vulnerabilities
Don’t be surprised if all your insecurities come in the form of a Tsumani during pregnancy. You’ll be reminded you are vulnerable and SuperWoman all at the same time, although you may feel only one or the other on any given day. Pregnancy is awesome but it also sucks. It’s awesome and sucky for a million different reasons and for completely different reasons for each woman who is fortunate enough to experience it. While I am aware that it is in fact a blessing, I won’t hide behind a rock any longer and pretend it’s a vacation in paradise either.
So if you are facing the pregnancy blues at the moment I say, “Mamacita, I hear you. It’s not what they make it out to be. Laugh, cry and know you are not alone.” I hear Michael Jackson’s infamous song starting to play.
Are you or anybody you know experiencing the pregnancy blues? What helps you get by on the most difficult days? What advice would you give someone going thru the same thing? Share this post with a friend that might need it and leave us your comments below.
Lots of love from my #babybump to yours,
Valentina a.k.a. the #inspiredmamacita
P.S. If you know you’re feeling more than just the occasional temporary depression, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Women with a history of depression have a higher risk for depression during and post-pregnancy.