I jolted awake, in a cold sweat and gasping for air.
I was midway through my much-wanted, much-anticipated pregnancy with our second child, and in retrospect, I can say with some certainty that I was experiencing antenatal depression (depression during pregnancy). Little did I know, depression during pregnancy is actually pretty common — up to a quarter of women may experience it. But at the time, I felt hopeless. I knew I wanted this baby, but the depression led me to fear that the pregnancy was a mistake. To wake from a dream about this baby not making it into the world, just to dream it, left me feeling certain that I didn’t deserve to be a mom.
Depression can rear its head for any number of reasons, and I don’t know that I could have prevented it, but I do know that I wasn’t taking good care of myself.
Mercifully, during the pregnancy, my hormones shifted again and the darkness passed. (Though my depression passed, it doesn’t always, so contacting a health care professional can be essential.) And not long after, my little girl was born, and all those feelings of fear and hopelessness felt so distant that they didn’t seem real. I was so glad to have her. I felt so fortunate that she was mine.
Now, finding myself at the beginning of a third pregnancy, I’m excited but also a little nervous that prenatal depression could creep back in down the road.
I didn’t experience depression during my first pregnancy, and I don’t know what my third will hold. But during this pregnancy, I’m determined to make self-care a priority. Because my emotional health matters.
Not only to me and my husband, but also to my children and most definitely to the little one growing inside me. What I’m enduring matters.
What everyone needs is different, and there are many places to start — from easy things like taking a walk around the block to ones that take more of a commitment, like learning how to say no (check out this list over at the HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® Program). I’m starting with daily meditation, deep breathing when I’m feeling overwhelmed, and a determination to have more girl time with my friends.
It wasn’t an easy lesson to learn, but now I know that sometimes it’s more than just “crazy pregnancy hormones.” Sometimes my feelings are telling me something important. I’m finally ready to listen.
We don’t talk much about depression during pregnancy — isn’t it supposed to be a time of bonding and nesting and anticipation after all?
But according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, experiencing depression during that time isn’t exactly rare. Between 14% and 23% of women are reported to face some depression symptoms during pregnancy — but I have to wonder if those numbers would be higher if we weren’t so squeamish about the topic.
Your feelings are a big deal, but treating depression doesn’t have to be. There are lots of approaches available for depression or anxiety that are safe for you and baby. And you shouldn’t feel like you have to do it alone — doctors and therapists are there to help.
I’m a busy working mom, and we are in the middle of trying to sell our house. I know how hard it can be for us moms to find time for ourselves.
And when I leave the kids with my husband to have lunch with a friend, part of me feels guilty to even take a couple of hours for myself. But I know that by prioritizing self-care, I am investing in the well-being of my entire family. None of us likes the distracted and impatient mom I am when I’m burned out and overwhelmed, so I take some time for myself to make my time with my family so much better.
By Upworthy contributor Sarah Kovac.