When John was about two, Jay and I got the silly idea that having kids is blissfully easy. A few months later, a digital pregnancy test revealed the word I had been hoping and praying for: pregnant. We told a handful of family members and a few other mom friends, very aware of the stigma of the early announcement. We had officially announced with John when we were close to the end of the first trimester, after his heartbeat had been detected with a doppler. I was nauseous, something that I hadn’t experienced with John, and this was a great comfort. I had already had one drama-free pregnancy; I wasn’t (as) worried about this one.
We went in to my OB office, where the policy is to do an early ultrasound to confirm dates. I figured I was about seven weeks, but the ultrasound said six. We saw our tiny little human, and heard his tiny heartbeat, which wasn’t extremely fast, but the tech told us not to worry. It will speed up soon; it probably just started beating. Either way, we scheduled another ultrasound a week later to confirm her suspicions. I was thrilled! I saw my little baby once, and I would get to see him again. I was not prepared to go into that appointment a week later to find that there was no longer a heartbeat; I was no longer pregnant.
But this post isn’t about that.
This is about a journey that started four months later, when that digital test once again read pregnant. This pregnancy ended with an adorable and healthy Ev, but at the time I did not know that. I was excited, but very guarded. Every time I had an appointment, I went in expecting the worst, something I covered with jokes and shrugs. And every appointment, Ev proved my expectations wrong, occasionally so active he would kick the doppler and squirm away. And then, one morning in May, he burst onto the scene, wrinkly and pink and crying. He was healthy, he was strong. As ready as I was to relax, to enjoy not being pregnant, not having to worry… I couldn’t.
I had read about postpartum depression. I was convinced I would experience it when John was born. I made Jay promise to watch for signs and tell me the second he noticed anything, but there were never any issues. I knew the extreme signs of PPD, and I never had any harmful feelings about Ev. I fed him, bathed him, clothed him, took a million pictures of him. I smiled when I talked about him, about how complete our family was.
But I think I regretted him.
I worried the whole time I was pregnant with him that he wouldn’t get here. The whole time he was here, I was worried he’d leave. Why did we get pregnant again? Wasn’t John enough? Why did I tempt fate, bring another child into a world filled with such random, frequent darkness? This isn’t a thought I mention lightly, given current events.
I noticed that, even though Ev was a good sleeper early on, I would never feel rested. I was very aware that every time John said “mama!” my shoulders would tense. I wasn’t sad, but I wasn’t happy. I was in a fog. Jay gently encouraged calling the doctor, but I was stubborn. I was fine. I was adjusting.
I prayed daily to feel better. I prayed that the days wouldn’t be so hard. I prayed and prayed and heard nothing. One morning in July, I turned on Barenaked Ladies’ Born on a Pirate Ship album, and the first song I heard was “This is Where it Ends.” Steven Page, one of the lead singers at the time, has always been open about his struggles with depression. He sang the lines, “I have faith in medication/I believe in the prozac nation,” and I stopped.
I prayed, God?
I very clearly heard it’s time to call the doctor.
Fast forward two or three weeks later, and I was back. I had a prescription for anti-depressants that worked. I happily (or at least not grudgingly) answered John’s many questions. I genuinely fell in love with Ev. The most important discovery, however, is that life could be easy again. It wasn’t a struggle to think, to act. I could be present. I wanted to be present.
If your life is harder than it needs to be, I can’t express enough how much I think you should place a call to your doctor. It might end in a prescription, and it might not. It isn’t something you need to fix on your own. Don’t blame the situation, don’t blame the season, don’t blame yourself. Depression is never a result of personal weakness. Ev will be 18 months in a couple of weeks, and I’ve increased the dosage of my meds once since I started taking them. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again if it ever becomes necessary.
Please realize there are lots of different medications available, and not every one will work for you. Be honest with how you feel. You aren’t a burden to your doctor if you ask for something different. There can be a certain amount of trial and error.
If you are against this kind of medication, I cannot convince you to change your mind with facts and figures. That is not my area of expertise. All I can share are my experiences, and the sweet possibility that life may not have to be so hard after all.