I don’t think I was particularly good at keeping healthy during pregnancy and I do feel extremely lucky and blessed to have had two full term pregnancies and to have two healthy daughters. However, depression is something I have experience of and I hope my story might help others to look for help when they need it.
Warning: Potentially upsetting content, depressed thoughts during pregnancy.
When my eldest daughter was 18 months old, my husband and I were blessed with another pregnancy. Except I felt far from blessed. On seeing the word “pregnant” on the test (it would be a digital, no squinting for a line here) I burst into tears, and they weren’t tears of happiness. I was taking fluoxetine for depression as it was (for the past 11 months) so I went straight to see my GP. “Take one every other day for 2 weeks and then stop taking them” she said…
So I dutifully did. I bought folic acid. I tried to feel happy. I was too tired to feel anything really. Inside my head these little thoughts kept appearing “It will go wrong, I won’t have to have it.” The baby was always “it”. I vomited daily from 6 weeks pregnant, just as in my first pregnancy. This time with added all day nausea.
At my booking in, my BMI was 40 so my midwife put me down as consultant led and gave me Slimming World vouchers. I never used them, I didn’t care. I never went to the consultant appointments, what was the point? At my 12 week scan, there it was: a little jumping bean. “Lots of movement, good strong heartbeat” said the sonographer and gave us scan pictures. On the way home, I burst into tears, I had been hoping that I had a missed miscarriage.
To the outside world, I faked it. I showed the scan pictures, I talked about potential names, I talked about gender guesses. Inside I just hated “it”. At 17 weeks the sickness and all day nausea were more than unbearable. I went to the GP and begged for something to make it go away. She gave me blurb about how it could harm the baby but prescribed something because she knew what it was like. I didn’t care what it could do to “it”. I didn’t want “it”.
Every day I thought about terminating “it”. I talked to my husband about the 20 week scan: If there’s anything wrong with it, we won’t keep it? I got him to agree. I hoped there was a problem. There wasn’t, it was a perfect 20 week scan. There were more scan pictures, an actual baby looking creature in black and white. I still felt nothing but despair.
At 24 weeks all the thoughts and feelings were just too much. I planned to go to my GP and beg for a late termination. I couldn’t have this thing. I couldn’t love it. I couldn’t keep it.
I went to my GP. I asked to go back on the fluoxetine because of how I was feeling. I was referred to see a psychologist because of the risks of anti-depressants in pregnancy. I had to manage another week trying to keep a vague grasp on sanity. I was missing so many work days from sickness I only just scraped missing a disciplinary (I found this out a long time later, the fact I was pregnant was a mitigating factor.)
Almost as soon as I started back on anti-depressants, the thoughts of terminating “it” faded. I still feel so much guilt for those feelings. I can never forgive myself, although I know it was the depression, it was the illness, it wasn’t really me.
And where were the health professionals during all of this? My midwife had an operation so I saw her at 12 weeks and 38+ weeks of pregnancy only, in between was a different cover midwife every time. My GP was on a sabatical so I saw a different GP every time. The psychologist approved my anti-depressants but didn’t think the fact I wanted to kill my unborn child was an issue, I’d get over it…
Although the anti-depressants removed my thoughts of termination, I still didn’t want “it”. I looked up how to put “it” up for adoption (not an option, both parents have to agree). I’d talk to my toddler daughter about how much I loved her, how we’d feed baby and keep it alive and well when it was born but wouldn’t love it. I loved my eldest with an intensity bordering on obsessiveness, focussing all the love I wasn’t feeling for my unborn child onto her.
At 26 weeks, the sickness and nausea finally stopped (the same as with my first pregnancy) and something amazing happened: I met my lovely health visitor.
It was my eldest daughter’s two-year check and the first time I met this health visitor as she was new to my surgery. We talked about eldest’s development (fine) and she asked about the baby, saying she’d probably be my health visitor. And it all came flooding out…
Surprised that I’d been feeling like that for so long she suggested she visited me for “talking therapy”. And she did. Before my second daughter was born, after she was born, months later when she heard my mum had been admitted to hospital for an emergency heart operation… Sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly, she would visit and we would chat. About families, about raising children, about what her children were doing or had done, about anything and everything. I can never thank her enough for that time. I didn’t know I needed it but that small amount of time and those uncritical chats were the most valuable health care I’ve ever had.
Tommy’s 5 Point Pregnancy Plan – Make a difference
This is part of a blog hop started by Merry from Patch of Puddles. She says: “I joined up with Tommy’s Baby charity and Bounty UK to help them launch their new 5 Point Plan for healthy pregnancy. This is a plan aimed at empowering women to make small changes to improve the health of themselves and their baby. It’s about making thoughtful choices and making a difference. Too often women feel there is nothing they can do once they are pregnant to keep themselves healthy and that all the ‘inevitable damage’ that they do during pregnancy can be fixed afterwards. This campaign is about supporting women to make good health choices, small changes that can make big differences.
The 5 Point Pregnancy Plan
Tommy’s and Bounty UK are encouraging women and health carers to address 5 areas of wellbeing:-
Women have a right to good information and supportive assistance in these areas, whether it is help to know what foods they should eat, or managing stress, which can contribute to pre-term labour, finding a gentle exercise programme to suit them or giving up smoking. 17% of pregnant mothers still smoke. 1 in 5 pregnant mothers are obese. There are common misconceptions surrounding ‘dieting’ as opposed to nutritional and healthy food and how safe exercise is during pregnancy. Tommy’s and Bounty UK aim to help women get easy access to this information by placing an information card in all new pregnancy packs given to expectant mothers.”
How You Can Help
Join in the blog hop hosted at Patch of Puddles. I can’t add a linky, please click for the original post, there’s an incentive for joining in – not that you need one, do you? 🙂 Use the #healthypregnancy hash tag on twitter to spread the word.