Guest Blogger: Annonymous
For me, it began two hours after I saw two distinctive lines on a pregnancy test and left slowly but surely in the months after my little boy entered the world. Antenatal depression is experiencing depression and anxiety during pregnancy. It doesn’t have as much publicity surrounding it as postnatal depression but a 2015 study by Growing Up New Zealand discovered that one in eight New Zealand women suffer from depression symptoms while pregnant.
Antenatal depression can potentially have significant effects on the health of both the mother and her unborn child. Mothers who suffer from depression during pregnancy can struggle with taking care of their own health and wellbeing, which in turn can slow the foetus’ growth, increase the risk of a premature birth and delay the child’s motor and emotional development.
For me it began while my husband and I were living in Virginia, USA. The pregnancy was planned. Perhaps too well planned, we’d be discussing, stressing and worrying over the looming question of children since I’d turned 30. Now 34 and one and half years into our “later in life O.E” we had seven months till we returned home to New Zealand and we thought now was the time.
The reality of it hit me like a ton of bricks. I literally doubled over while out jogging when I realised my whole life was about to change yet again.
If I could summarise my state of mind during that time it would be: “The Fear of the Unknown.” It manifested into months of constant worrying: How much weight would I gain? Would I get my body back? Will I ever play sport again? How will I continue to have a career? What will people think of me if I do? How will I cope being a stay at home mum? Will we still have a social life? How will we ever travel or buy a house without me working? Will I still be depressed when the baby arrives? Will I ever be happy again? And even bizzarely…..how will our dog cope, will he have to be given away?
A certain amount of fear and anxiety is healthy when facing a big life change but mine was so overwhelming I couldn’t sleep, eat or focus on anything.
As well as the “Fear of the Unknown,” pregnancy was taking away all I enjoyed in life.
It began by robbing me of social contact because the constant morning sickness (until 22 weeks) meant I couldn’t eat, and no drinking meant no fun either. Dinner with friends became too difficult to be around food without throwing up, at it’s worst I couldn’t even go into the supermarket. I’m a hugely social person so this left me feeling so isolated and alone.
It robbed me of wearing my favourite clothes and feeling good about my body, something I’ve always struggled with, but as my boobs and belly got bigger, my self-confidence got smaller and smaller. It robbed me of my beloved daily gym routine and playing my favourite sport (golf), I couldn’t do many workouts due to the nausea and constantly being surrounded by healthy fit people in lycra while I got bigger messed with my head too much. I cried the day I stopped going. I never loved my pregnant belly, I hated it with a passion and my body image issues were worse than ever.
Sometimes I would lash out- at work colleagues, my husband and my parents when they came to visit us in Virginia. Probably the worst feeling of all was feeling so disconnected from my baby, I didn’t feel any love, just fear that this thing inside me was already making my life miserable and it would soon get worse. I never bought a single toy or piece of baby clothes during the entire pregnancy.
Finishing up at work was devastating. Being a primary school teacher was a huge part of my identity and without it I felt lost and useless. By this time we had completed the logistical nightmare of bringing ourselves, golf clubs, tent, cat and dog back to New Zealand from Virginia (a process that I’m sure didn’t help my state of mind though my husband took care of most of it) and I was working at a wonderful school till the summer holidays. Without a job I was bored and irritable, and not in the mood to hear for the 100th time: “Get some sleep, you’ll need it before the baby comes!”
You know you can’t bank up sleep to use later right?!
Because I have experienced depression twice before in my life, I was able to be proactive about my situation. In Virginia I was prescribed antidepressants by my doctor and began seeing a counsellor. Upon returning home I had a great midwife who referred me to Auckland Maternal Mental Health who were proactive in getting me further counselling, a support group and anti-anxiety medication to help me sleep.
I also made the decision to cut off things that weren’t good for my mental health, I stopped reading “mummy bloggers” as all the doom and gloom about sleepless nights and mummy tummies was too much for me and distanced myself from certain people who were too keen to press their own opinions on what I should and shouldn’t do when the baby arrived.
Are you pregnant and recognise these or other symptoms of depression or anxiety?
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