“Depression, it creeps up on you and puts its claws into you when you least expect it. I for one never thought it would happen to me.
Was there such a thing as antenatal depression? I had never heard of it before.
I knew others that had suffered varying types of depression but I didn’t know much about how to help them.
When my fourth pregnancy became an unexpected surprise I became sad and detached from the pregnancy. I berated myself everyday how much of a bad mother I was to feel so numb towards my unborn child.
While the surprise seemed to be welcomed by my husband, I couldn’t warm to it. I tried so hard, that I’d tell myself when I saw the baby at the 12-week scan my feelings would change. The next 12 weeks were the longest weeks I felt to that day. Being hopeful was all I could hold onto.
Seeing that ultrasound of such a sweet little thing squirming around the wand trying to capture photos, I felt nothing. Tears silently trickled down my cheeks. That little me person that sits on your shoulder, that tries to be your conscious, your inner critic, yeah I was getting the biggest lecture of my life.
Every day I denied and suppressed my thoughts and feelings until the 16 week mark, my two good friends begged me to see someone. Family also started to pick up on my silence. Here I was obviously showing signs of a well-developed belly and everyone gushing over me but I avoided talking baby stuff or about the pregnancy. It would only set off tears that I didn’t want to explain, so I smiled the best fake smile I could and diverted the conversations.
That’s why I tried to excuse myself from going to such social gatherings. Crowds overwhelmed me and I felt anxious about everyone looking at me – like they could read my mind and frown at me once they realised I was such a poor mother.
As time went on it became harder and harder to leave the house and then difficult to even look after myself. Autopilot kicked in so I was just doing the basics for my other young child that I was still breastfeeding.
Keeping up with making meals ended up being the only thing I could handle along with putting my youngest son to bed. Getting up during the night to resettle my son and feeling constantly ill of all day all night morning sickness was taking its toll.
I got to the point where I felt I could not take it anymore and I picked up the phone and dialed a depression clinic. I happen to talk to someone in Queensland and blurted out everything through tears. My energy was spent, there was nothing to give my other children and that broke my heart. We spoke for an hour on the phone and then rang my GP to make an appointment.
I started seeing a psychologist around 17 weeks gestation and we talked about positive things and ways to turn what I saw as negative to positive. What I should be looking forward to next was my 20-week ultrasound, the chance to know the sex of this baby that was tumbling inside of me. I became anxious and worried so I opted for a 3D-scan to find out for sure. This scan confirmed a girl as did the 20-week scan at the hospital.
Bittersweet tears fell again and more harsh words followed as my mind badgered me again about my numb feelings. Questions after questions of why am I not happy, I have a healthy baby girl on the way that her three older brothers will adore. Hanging my head in shame I walked to my car, tears still trickling down my cheeks. When I returned to my psychologist I unfolded the disappointment in myself that I had failed yet again to feel that unconditional love I had for my boys.
By now I couldn’t deny that I had antenatal depression. It scared me, I felt I was just drifting and would lose my footing at a moment’s notice. I feared telling my midwife and friend who had become a midwife in training. Fear that my birthing options would change dramatically so I closed off every time we had a check-up. All my hopes and dreams seemed to vanish because I wasn’t coping like I did with the boys during pregnancy and after. Why was it so hard now? I felt alone, trapped in this unfamiliar cage I had now put myself in. Blocking others from discovering how I was really feeling behind closed doors and to protect myself from those that didn’t understand.
Things slowly improved as I continued to see my psychologist regularly. By the time my waters broke at home there was no time to think anymore but I had the most amazing and surprisingly short birth. I had made it to the birth centre at Flinders with only moments to spare. I gave birth to my daughter in the bath as I had wanted to with my youngest son but couldn’t.
I had a little girl – another thing I had only dreamed about but previously resigned myself that was not to be until she defied what would’ve been a remote although not impossible chance of conceiving. Tears streamed down my face with her in my arms and my husband beside me stroking her face.
A little glowing moment but I knew I still had a long way to go and learning to love and accept her, myself and the obstacles I still faced was going to be my biggest challenge in the next phase of healing myself and feeling that unconditional love return. My daughter is a little girl now and I love her to bits. She was a gift I was meant to have and I treasure her every day.
I know now that antenatal depression is not a myth, it’s real. It’s debilitating and horrible. It can be life changing in ways you never expected. It’s a harsh lesson to learn to go easy on yourself you’re not going crazy. Reach out, speak up it’s a lot less bumpy if you do.”
Where to get information and support
1300 22 4636
Post and Antenatal Depression Association Inc (PANDA)
1300 726 306 (Mon – Fri 9am – 7:30pm EST)
– by Lea Adcock.
For more information on anxiety and depression in pregnancy and parenthood
visit our perinatal and postnatal depression and anxiety info hub