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.
Awe, hang in there mama. I believe I had it too. It wasn’t diagnosed and I treated my (occasional) panic attacks with benadryl. Mine was an unexpected (for me) pregnancy from someone who was moving (and wanted to take me with him). I was in shock. Numb. And definitely in denial. I just rolled through the motions and posted belly pics too. Even when she was born, there was a minor complication (of course, only me) and I didn’t hold her for hours; I got to see her and her complication for a second (I was strapped to a c-section table).
I could go on and on but I will cut to the chase. We didnt bond the first day or two but I fell in love. Hard. (I even did the whole mommy thing willingly again).
I am a mommy. I wasn’t sure I was ever going to be a mommy but I am. And I love it and happen to be pretty darn good at it. I suspect you will be too. Best wishes to you♡
Wow. You’re story mirrors mine so precisely. I want to tell you you’re not alone, that I experienced what you are experiencing. I took sertraline for depression prior to getting pregnant and also took the lowest possible dose I could tolerate during pregnancy. I am a single parent also and tried to conceive for years, finally succeeding at 41. After so many years of trying to get pregnant, just shortly after becoming pregnant I was terrified and remained that way for most of the pregnancy. I hated being a child and experienced abuse. The idea of having (forever) a child of my own made me feel trapped. I also fantasized about giving him up for adoption. After my son was born (he is now almost 13), the fear and the depression continued for many years. I finally realized about three years ago that I wasn’t a bad mom and an unloving mother. I was a depressed and afraid mother. Parenting is a spiritual path. It split me open like nothing else has. I hope you will be less condemning of yourself than I was and less resistant to the process. And please know your feelings are valid and OK. I hope you will feel compassion for yourself to the enth degree. And know this child was meant to come through you or you would not have been so driven to become pregnant. In spite of my perceived failures my son has turned out to be an incredible person. I’m still adjusting to motherhood after all these years. As soon as your child comes out, he or she will start teaching you. Be gentle with yourself.
I hope you update after your baby is born. I am a 40 year old single woman who has recently made the decision to become a single mother by choice. I’m just starting into the process of trying to conceive but know that it may be a long road. I also have dealt with depression for most of my adult life and have been on meds the majority of that time. I really don’t believe it’s a good idea for me to go off of them so now it’s dealing with the guilt of being on a Category C drug throughout the pregnancy. I’m anxious about basically everything you brought up and am very curious to hear how things turn out for you once you have the baby and are no longer pregnant. Hopefully you will be head over heels with your little one!
Life can be so hard – for everyone. We each have our own baggage to carry that manifest in so many ways, and it has a way of making us feel along even though there can be many people around us. Often we put on a face and try to fool people because we know they really don’t want to know because they are busy dealing with their own shit. But WE know what we’re going through and sometimes that is enough. People who say, “I understand,” don’t but they don’t know anything else to say. Writing is such a good way to get it out. Then we can see it like the world sees it. But the only one who can be honest with it and work to change it is ourselves. No one else can. We have to stay focused and determined to find the meaning in it, learn whatever lesson we need to learn, so we don’t have to repeat it again.
Thank you for sharing your story.
My prayers for you is that it will pass and you will be able to feel the joy and enjoy the shore.
Hello anonymous, I’m not a mum or mom as you call them, however I am so proud you wrote it how it is for you, no frills. Yes, social media is great for showing what we want to show, then I have felt envious of all those happy faces in the pics, but we don’t see the sad ones, no one wants to see or hear about them, just the glossies. Only you know how you are feeling deep down in the place where you go when sad, where you wake up and think, “do I have to get out of bed today? Can I get out of bed or maybe it’s just too hard, cos the blackness is here (again)”. If you can, (says non mummy me, how would I know & sorry if I sound bossy) stay with your gut and heart feelings and do what is best just for you. As you say, if you are happy, the baby has more chance of happiness too. As one who has had periods of long term depression, I understand your need to do what you need to do. If sertraline helps, you stick with it anonymous. Great writing and best wishes for your happiness with your new life and your baby, but first up, remember you and to breathe. Your breath shows you where you are, be gentle with you and your breath.