As I idly looked at the prescription bottle of sertraline, I realized that one of the light blue warning boxes on the label read: Third trimester use can cause health problems. Discuss with your doctor or pharmacist. My third trimester started yesterday.
Since adolescence, depression has been a presence in my life. When I say depression, I’m talking about the kind that is clinically significant enough to warrant a low dose of antidepressants, but never interfered with my life to ruin a job or school. When I am overwhelmed with responsibilities or work, I take on more. And fulfill all of my obligations. Well, I might add. But when I got the news about my fertility last January, I went off my antidepressant, thinking I would get my body as “healthy” as possible for conception.
I made the decision to become a single mother by choice after getting the news that my ovarian reserve was very, very low. This pregnancy was planned meticulously. I had always wanted to be a mother, fiercely and desperately.
Things went well, until I started progesterone for the second half of my cycle every month for a luteal phase defect. The progesterone caused dark moods, irritability, and depression. Then Clomid gave me mood swings. When I got pregnant, I had to take an even higher dose of progesterone, twice a day, for the first 13 weeks, in order to improve my chances of keeping the pregnancy. That, along with the stress of not knowing how my family would respond, caused me agonizing, crippling anxiety and depression. Constant nausea and bone-crushing fatigue beginning at 6 weeks only added to my depression.
Arriving at my 20 week ultrasound and OB appointment by myself, the tech exclaimed, “All alone?” I said yes, and climbed up on the table. I was more interested in the actual fetal anatomy than any cute pictures – which, to be honest, I didn’t fawn over, nor did I think were cute. In the waiting room, another patient was there, along with her husband, her parents, his parents, and various brothers and sisters, poring over their ultrasound pictures. My pictures were folded up in my bag, and all I wanted to do was go home and sleep.
At 25 weeks pregnant, I posted a “bump” picture to my Instagram and Facebook. My hair was exceptionally good that day, the filters were great, and my bump was just the perfect size – I guess you could say I might have peaked that week. Everyone commented on how happy and great I looked, and one friend said that she hasn’t seen me look this happy in a long time.
The reality? I was crying every night. Not sure if I even wanted this baby anymore. Toying with the idea of giving him up for adoption, which I first mentioned to my therapist around 6 or 7 weeks. Huge financial anxiety, despite knowing that people do it with a lot less. I hated feeling any fetal movements, because it reminded me of how much I was giving up by having this kid. Even now, I write “this kid,” and not “baby.” Baby feels too…emotionally attached. Soft.
I always envisioned myself being Zen Mama – reading to my belly, loving my pregnant body, talking to my fetus, etc. The reality has been much different. I never touch my belly, never rest my hands on it. I don’t like my body, and resent what pregnancy has done to it. Most times I don’t even think about it or the fetus. I don’t feel overly protective of my belly; most times, I find it an annoyance. I have read to my belly maybe 3 or 4 times. I don’t really talk to it. I don’t ever daydream about my kid or imagine what he might be like. I don’t coo over outfits or get excited about baby stuff. I didn’t even want a shower, because I didn’t feel much like celebrating. Knowing that I would have to pretend for hours to be excited about things exhausted me. The baby clothes that I do have right now sit in a drawer, because I can’t stand to look at them. All I feel is a crushing sense of dread and obligation when I think about parenting.
Through all of this, I post weekly bump pictures on Instagram. I don’t know why I do it; no one really gives a shit about the size of anyone else’s bump. But I do. And everyone tells me I look happy. That I’m glowing. My family tells me I look happy. I begin to realize just how easy it is to lie on social media, and how people see what they want to, especially in the narratives about motherhood and pregnancy. No one likes hearing that a woman hates being pregnant. Or is ambivalent about motherhood.
I started to realize just how easy it is to disappear, in full view of others.
I am fading away, yet all anyone can say is how fucking happy I look.
In my mid-thirties, single, with shitty fertility, I know that this is likely the only chance I will have to be a mother. Every single day, when I think about having to take my kid home from the hospital, I am filled with dread. And this makes me feel like a monster; a horrible woman and mother, because what woman with a planned pregnancy thinks like this?
A woman with prenatal depression, that’s who.
I am almost 29 weeks, and have been on Zoloft for 2 weeks now. I don’t cry every day – maybe now only a few times a week. I don’t hate fetal movement; I’m merely indifferent to it. I’ve done my research; I know what the “health problems” are that the prescription label is referring to. But I also know that without the Zoloft, the darkness that surrounds me is devastating and unhealthy – for me and my child.
A happy mom is crucial for a happy baby. And if that means I need to be on medication, so be it. I finally made a healthy choice and talked with my doctor, who put me on Zoloft. I plan to stay on this afterward, as well, since the risk of postpartum depression is increased for women with prenatal depression. I’m not regretting it one bit. This is what self-care looks like. It’s not ideal. I had to stop seeing my therapist because my insurance no longer covers out of network benefits, and she’s too expensive to see out of pocket – and I have one of the “good” insurances. Ha. I’ve seen her for years, and cannot fathom finding someone new at this point in time. But I’m hoping that the medication is a step in the right direction.
I want to enjoy this pregnancy. I want to enjoy motherhood. Depression has hijacked all of it.
Depression is drowning me, but I’m searching for shore.