Let me paint a picture for you. I'm 7-months pregnant, my legs are excessively swollen, my ankles as wide as my swollen thighs. Every step I take is a struggle, my legs feel like they weigh a ton. Forget getting up or sitting down without assistance due to the excruciating pain in my knees. Any kind of movement causes me to become overheated (crocheting, brushing my teeth, etc.) I'm worn out and so tired. You're probably thinking, "Yeah AND? You feel just like every other women that's gone through pregnancy."
Okay fine, I'll give that one to you but that's far from the truth. Creating a life in your belly is hard work, women have dealt with it for thousands of years. Now what if you take all pregnancy related issues that I've described above along with every other shrugged off pregnancy related problem and add depression and anxiety to the equation? I bet you don't have a quick comeback now do you? Now let's take it a little further. According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), between 14-23% of women will struggle with some symptoms of depression during pregnancy. Hmm, now that sounds like a problem doesn't it?
Just like clock work antenatal depression (also known as prenatal depression) reared it's ugly head when I was 7-months pregnant. Symptoms surfaced literally while I slept. One minute I'm cozy in bed sleeping, only to be abruptly awoken to a living nightmarish hell. I felt as if someone had flipped the "Fight or Flight" switch inside me and set it on repeat. I had an intense, unpleasant energy running through my entire body making it impossible to sit still, which was also accompanied by intense anxiety and worry for no apparent reason. It felt like I was suffocating. No matter how hard I tried, I could not take in a full-filling breath. I had a heaviness baring down on my chest which felt like someone had thrown acid on my heart; leaving it to feel burning and raw. If I tried sitting or laying down, my body involuntarily got back up. That night, I literally paced the halls of my home for three hours before I decided to wake my husband up for help.
My husband ended up calling the OB on-call that night and was advised to give me Benadryl, being that it was the only medication that I could safely take being pregnant. I took the Benadryl with all the hope in my heart that it would provide some relief and rest. Unfortunately, Benadryl had the complete opposite effect on me; intensifying my agitation and anxiety. My husband called the OB again and was advised to call the doctors office in the morning to schedule an appointment for me and that's just what he did. Unfortunately, they couldn't schedule me in until 4:00 in the afternoon.
4:00 AM-4:00 PM
Now if you thought the idea of pacing the halls for three hours straight was insane, what if I told you that I paced my home the entire time between 4:00 AM and 3:00 PM, with the exception of 20 minutes to take a shower? Unbelievable huh? Trust me, I know.
How unfair is it to have this intense anxiety, this feeling of melancholy and you don't even have a clue as to why? It's like trying to think of an answer to the meaning of life, round and around and around you go. I kept thinking, "Isn't it enough that I'm pregnant and utterly exhausted and now I have this shit slapped in my face!?" It's a very scary feeling, not knowing what is going on with your body and wondering if it will affect your baby.
You know the saying, "Take it one day at a time"? Well, I took that saying to a literal extreme; I was taking it one second at a time in order to make it through the day and to my doctors appointment. At one point, I made an attempt to sit in my husbands lap, wrapping my arms around him and buried my face into his neck crying like a little child. I kept sobbing, "PLEASE HELP ME! PLEASE I NEED HELP!" There have been extremely few occasions when I have seen my cry and this was one of them.
4:00 PM-4:30 PM
By the time of my appointment, I was utterly exhausted and a sweaty hot mess. Much to my disappointment, to be honest my OB was not much help, didn't ease my mind or even attempt to provide some guidance. The doctor ended up prescribing me a sleeping pill which was not the answer that I wanted, and exasperated my already horrible anxiety. I didn't even like the idea of taking the Benadryl, now a sleeping pill!? My doctor assured me up and down that the medication was completely safe for the baby and was absolutely necessary so I could get some sleep. As ashamed as I was, I had no other choice, I was desperate at this point, so I accepted his offering and went home.
It took a half an hour of coaxing on my husbands part, to get me to take the sleeping medicine. My mind was racing, "what if the doctor is wrong and it hurts the baby? "What if I die in my sleep?" Finally I caved in and took the damn pill and to my surprise, I was out like a light.
I was suddenly awoken with the sudden urge to vomit and barely made it to the bathroom. Now I was groggy, exhausted and back to square one. Once again my husband was back on the phone calling my OB. He was advised to give me another pill and if I were to vomit again, to discontinue use. I ended up getting three hours of sleep with the help of the second pill and was back up for round two.
The Next Day
My husband called the doctors office that morning to let the OB know that I was only able to get three hours of sleep with the medication. I was then prescribed a different sleep medication (yes, of course I made sure it was safe for the baby), which ended up working well and gave me the sleep that I needed. Even with getting sleep, it made no difference to the other symptoms that I was still having.
3 Weeks Later
For weeks to follow, every second that I was awake was torture. I couldn't be alone or even stand the thought of being alone, it was unbearable. My husband and I own a plumbing company so fortunately I started tagging along with him to work so that I didn't have to be at home by myself. At this point, if the doctor would have given me the option to be put into an induced coma, I would have jumped at the offer right away; "Wake me up doc once it's all over!" Instead I trudged through my days no longer interested in any of the things that once made me happy: shopping, drawing, photography, crocheting...finishing the nursery. I just didn't care, it didn't matter...the darkness was beginning to swallow me whole. All I wanted was to feel better for the baby and myself.
Unfortunately, the prenatal depression lasted the rest of my pregnancy and I also ended up developing preeclampsia. To my frustration, after going to the ER, talking to my OB several times, not once was prenatal depression mentioned, therefore absolutely nothing was done or suggested to help support me through this horrible journey. Had I known it was prenatal depression, maybe I could have had a more positive end to my pregnancy. I may have, but thanks to my OB, that is something that unfortunately I'll never know.