Pregnancy stories aren’t something I thought I’d ever find myself blogging. In part because pregnancy is just so not my thing. The other part is that how I feel about my own pregnancy isn’t the way society thinks I should feel. Society wants me to run around glowing like my life is perfect, or at least pretend it is. I should be posting bump photos all over the internet and counting down the days until the arrival of my “little one” or “LO” (in case you wanted to know about acronyms used by internet moms). Instead, you can find me posting sarcastic pregnancy humor to my social media accounts and doing what I can to get by, despite a rare comment here or there about how I must be so “fd up.” When people started asking for photos of my bump, I shared a series of photos of President Obama giving people fist-bumps.
So, I thought I’d tell you all the news in this update. It turns out I am “fd up” as some thought. I’m one of many women who suffer from pre-partum depression. Don’t mistake that for post-partum. They’re two different things, but they can be related. I pretty much haven’t felt like myself since April. I’m a very happy person. I love to laugh. I have an amazing spouse. Seriously amazing, he makes other people’s truly wonderful spouses look like uncaring bums. We got pregnant easily and when we wanted to. I am lucky enough to have successfully run not just one, but several businesses over the last decade. I even got a second job this year not because I needed to, but because I wanted to and believe women should be able to follow not just one passion, but many. Four days a week I get to be the lucky teacher of 16 fun third graders. I’m learning so much about the inside of the teaching profession and just how many ways teachers are taken advantage of that go completely unsaid. It’s hard, but I love being able to use my degree, and I forgot over the last several years how much I enjoyed working with kids. This is just my highlight reel though, and I believe that despite all the great things in someone’s life, there’s also crappy things too. When it comes to pregnancy and pre-partum depression (also called antenatal depression), it just tends to be swept under the rug. It’s as if you’re not supposed to talk about it. If I’m not glowing – there must be something seriously wrong with me that nobody wants to touch, even with a ten foot pole.
We often hear about post-partum depression, which happens after birth. We haven’t heard as much about pre-partum depression which is depression during pregnancy. A study in 2010 found that 11% of pregnant women experience depression symptoms bad enough to seek treatment. It’s far more common than you think. However, there have been suggestions that number could be higher than 1 in 10 women since society’s push to feel thrilled, happy, and glowing puts a lot of pressure on women to hide how they feel. We’ve created a society where women are ashamed of how they feel when they suffer from depression during pregnancy. I can’t say I’m not ashamed. I feel guilty all the time. I look at other women happily posting bump photos and talking about their thrill and excitement and wish I had those feelings too, but instead I’m here and I know I’m suffering from a temporary illness that prevents me from feeling that way.
I read a great quote in an article about pregnancy depression, “Much of the stigma around maternal depression — antenatal and postpartum — seems to focus on women who fail at joy, often suggesting that such women are heartless. How can anyone not be swept up by the momentousness of producing a child who will give her life purpose? The myth of the pregnant mother who is high on hormones has had considerable staying power. Something sentimental in us likes the notion that the physical discomfort of pregnancy is outweighed by the thrill of nurturing a new life within your own body.” This quote resonates with me a lot. It’s the pushback I received when I announced my pregnancy and the pushback I’ve received from people via social media too. I’ve was told I should just shut up and be grateful and that I seem bitter and heartless. The author of this article goes on to express his surprise that during a time when mental illness is less stigmatized, where feminism is pushing to the forefront, when some women’s choices to not have children are validated, and when the LGBTQ+ community has pushed to be parents themselves that we’re still struggling with this old-school perception of pregnancy and not taking it seriously.
I hope that by writing about my own experiences, that it normalizes it for others who experience the same feelings. I won’t go into my feelings here – it would be just, well…too depressing. I am excited to be a parent, but that excitement feels different than how movies, media and the world portray it. My excitement is going to look different than someone else’s. I do just want to say that if you know a pregnant woman who may be suffering from pre-partum depression do the best you can to be there with them and check in. Depression often hides, so it can still look like the photo here. I am so glad I have such a supportive partner in my husband. He could not have made this an easier journey, and I’m confident his support afterward will help me get through that too (us antenatal depressive folks are also likely to get post-partum depression too). I’ve also had some wonderful mom friends who have done such a great job (even from long distances) to soothe my anxieties, answer my questions and make me feel like my feelings are valid and not uncommon. There’s lots of relief in knowing you are not alone. I’m thankful for being able to teach, as it’s kept my mind occupied and helped me set some goals. I think if I had just continued to run my business from home with lots of extra time alone editing photos – I may have been coping a lot worse, but seeing my student’s excitement for my baby also helps my own. Last, if you have or are suffering from pre-partum depression – it’s important to talk about it. There are healing powers in being open about your feelings and experiences. Plus it helps the people around you not say those insensitive things frequently said to pregnant women that might add a whole extra level of feelings for you.
I’m always on a mission to normalize experiences women have. There are so many different battles that come with pregnancy, and it’s different for each woman. I hope as a society we can learn to respect each of those experiences as unique, valid and important instead of putting one type of experience above others. Changing the narrative around the struggles of being a woman by including all women’s experiences of the world is one way to help take feminism another step forward.
Here are a few more articles about antenatal/pre-partum depression for reading:
- Antenatal depression: When your bump brings the blues
- Prenatal depression may be the most severe form of maternal depression
- Prenatal Depression: What It’s Like to have Serious Anxiety During Your Pregnancy
- Antenatal Depression and Antenatal Anxiety: Jen’s Story