A few weeks ago, my husband and I discovered I was pregnant with our third child. We. Were. Thrilled. After two healthy babies born in 2009 and 2013, we experienced a miscarriage in 2015 and it nearly broke us both. I haven’t been on birth control since before our second daughter was conceived in 2012, and after our angel got its wings, I was convinced another pregnancy wouldn’t be an option for my hostile uterus. Then the stick showed ‘pregnant’ in early July and I was in utter disbelief.
By all accounts, this current pregnancy is going well. I’ve already made it further than I did with angel baby, and two vaginal ultrasounds have shown a strong, healthy heartbeat, and our little kumquat dancing wildly to the beat of its own personal soundtrack.
So why do I feel depression hovering over me like a bank of dark clouds? Why does it feel like the body I’m walking around in belongs to someone else? Why do I feel a desolation that is completely foreign to me slowly creeping into my psyche and quashing who I am, who I have always been?
Depression is not something I’ve ever experienced in my life and, to be fair, I have not been clinically diagnosed with it now. But I know what it looks like. I know what my loved ones who are haunted by their own minds and body chemistry have experienced, and I recognize the look I’ve seen in their eyes when I finally force myself to meet my own in the mirror.
With these new struggles comes a crippling guilt the likes of which I’ve never known and, as previously mentioned, I already have children. Any even moderately competent parent knows that unceasing guilt is all part and parcel for birthing and raising humans. The depression makes me feel guilt, and the guilt makes me feel even more depressed. It is a vicious, miserable, unending cycle.
My rational mind knows that I should be feeling happy and grateful right now, to the point where I’m insufferable to be around. I’ve never been one of those glow-y pregnant women who wants everyone to touch her belly and revels in the miracle of the life growing within her; but I truly believed that, were I fortunate enough to get pregnant again, I would be so thankful that all of the other unpleasant side effects that are intrinsically linked to the creation of life would seem trivial and wouldn’t bother me so much. I was wrong.
And because I’m not feeling what I think I SHOULD be feeling, the guilt continues to spiral out of control. Guilt because I know first hand how many families out there would go bankrupt to be in my position right now. Guilt because this tiny, innocent life inside of me deserves a mommy that is celebrating and planning for its arrival, rather than turning into a shell of her former self that can barely force herself out of bed every morning. Guilt because the way I feel not only impacts me, but everyone I love. My children feel it, they know something is not right with me. They are young, but they are brilliant, intuitive little girls. My husband, who will undoubtedly be sainted after his death, feels it. He looks at me with concern and tenderness trying to figure out what to do with me, while also taking care of literally all of our household and parental duties without complaint.
To be honest, I think a lot of the problem may be the shift I’m working right now. Back in April, I switched from your typical 8am-5pm to 1pm-10pm. I am missing everything. I drop my kids off in the morning or on my way to work, and they are asleep before I’m home. I miss soccer practice and volleyball tryouts and talking about our days over dinner and have replaced it with a job I hate on a shift I hate eating dinner in my car or at my desk. Would a change back to normal daylight hours fix my problems? Maybe, maybe not. I feel as though they run deeper than my current vampiric lifestyle, but man I’d sure love to find out.
Combine all of that with the constant discomfort, nausea, sore breasts, and uncertainty that accompany many pregnancies, and the atrocities committed in my country these past few weeks, and you get one seriously unstable pregnant woman.
I’ve been reluctant to post this publicly for a while now. I know that I do not come out of this story smelling like a rose, and painting an unflattering picture of oneself is never easy. But I have to believe that, if I’m feeling like this, other women have, do, and will feel like this, too. And while I’ve read multiple accounts of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, I don’t recall seeing much about women experiencing these frustrating and terrifying emotions DURING pregnancy.
Creating life is a scary thing. Your body and mind go through so many changes so rapidly that it can be overwhelming. Not to mention that thing that comes at the end of it… you know, a human person that you’re solely responsible for keeping alive. But I refuse to be ashamed of the things I am feeling, because that only perpetuates the madness within. Truthfully, letting them finally spill out has already made me feel lighter, and we cannot possibly hope to heal if we cannot first forgive ourselves for our afflictions.
This is my first step to forgiveness. My first step to forgiving my brain and body for betraying me. My first step to allowing myself to believe that this is not something a can-do attitude can fix this time. The first time in two months that I have truly believed that, no matter how dark or bleak the road may look, I will get through this, one way or another.
I deserve the same unconditional love that I extend to everyone else, and that has been my hardest lesson of all.
Dani Strehle, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder, is hoping to reshape the narrative to leave behind a better world for her daughters, so that they may sustain, rather than battle and rebuild.