Something you will start to hear about all the time after you give birth is the oddly phrased “Baby Blues”. I have been asked about the BB’s by every health care professional that I have encountered in the four weeks since I delivered WW. The nurse at his pediatrician’s office, the lab techs at my OB’s office – they all want to know how I am feeling, if I have the “baby blues”.
You would think this sort of constant asking would bend towards annoying, but to be honest every time someone asks I feel really relieved.
I have only very recently come to terms with the fact that depression is just going to be a part of my life. It has affected pretty much everyone in my family for as long as I can remember. I managed to delay an actual diagnosis of it until I was fully ensconced in my care giving role for my Grandmother. Then it hit me pretty hard.
We had just moved to Florida and I was dealing with sorrow over my infertility, moving away from good friends, generic malaise over being single in my 30’s, and mostly drained from the tedium of taking care of GM. I was crying daily and for no obvious reason. I had no desire to leave the house, meet new people, or even change my clothes.
It took a lot of strength to realize that I needed help. When I finally made an appointment to sit down with my stoic family doctor I knew I would not make it through coherently. So I sat down and wrote down everything that I felt was going wrong and how ill equipped, emotionally, I felt to deal with things. Ten minutes into my appointment my doctor had diagnosed me with something called Caregiver’s Depression. The diagnosis came with medication, which I consumed for two months until all of my emotions were numb. Then I stopped taking them.
A year or so later I was again swallowed up by depression. This time I felt pretty aware about the cause- a miscarriage. A miscarriage after an IVF that I had saved and saved for. So with the bleeding came this horrible doom and gloom feeling that I could never afford to try again, that I would never become a Mother. I went back to the doctors (this time a new one) and after listening to me we started a dialogue about depression. We also discussed depression and hereditary- which was oddly calming. This doctor felt that I could possibly determine what medication would be most effective for me based on the medication that other members of my family were on.
So I went on a different medication and within a month I started to feel like I could breathe again. I was still sad, but the sadness was not taking over every moment of my day. I felt like I could make it through. I continued taking the medication (with my doctor’s approval) through my next round of fertility treatments (a frozen embryo transfer).
But once I found out I was pregnant I felt like I needed to stop the medication. Not because someone told me I should, but because I had a desire to make my body as free from medicine as possible.
And I did pretty well for the first and second trimester. I was a bit anxious about all things related to the pregnancy, but it felt like a normal kind of anxious. And then I landed in my third trimester and everything became unhinged. I felt like I was going to be the worst mother ever. I felt like everything was a mistake. I felt like my entire world was out of my control. (This also coincided with Grandmother’s health seriously declining- so I was stressed from all sides of life)
At a routine OB visit around 28 weeks I “confessed” to my doctor that I was feeling really anxious and that I was worried that I would have post partum depression big time. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find any joy in the baby or life as a Mother. I worried about everything. So we talked about the medication that I had been on before and we decided that it might be best to go back on the meds. (The meds are on a safe list for meds to take through pregnancy and breastfeeding)
And again, within a month, I was back to feeling better. I no longer felt like my world was caving in and I felt better equipped to face the changes that were just around the corner.
But once I gave birth I felt like a countdown clock began ticking. Every morning I wake up wondering if it will be the day that severe post partum depression will find me.
I was surprised to discover that my 23andMe genetic analysis did not show a genetic predisposition for depression. Knowing that it is something that I have in common not only with Grandmother, but Mother as well makes me wonder if there is a marker there that just hasn’t been, well, marked.
I am still waiting for post partum depression to find me. I know that it can, even as I arm myself with medication. But in a way I am not as afraid of it as I feared I might be. In every other circumstance depression has blindsided me. Now I feel like I have a well-lit flashlight at the ready to keep the darkness at bay.
But I wonder about other women that have a family history of depression. How do they make it through their pregnancy? Are they just as anxious about post partum depression? I also look forward to 23andMe doing more research on depression and pregnancy. For now I don’t feel blue. It’s more of a turquoise.