Unexpected resiliency: How depression prepared me for pregnancy.


I want a grandchild but…


“I’m really looking forward to being a grandfather.”

Our eyes locked. This was going to be a serious conversation.

My almost-father-in-law was leaning forward slightly; as if attempting to create intimate space between us while keeping a safe distance.

I was at the head of one rounded end of their long grainy wooden dining table seated across my almost-mother-in-law. Her eyes peeking over the rims of her glasses which had slid down two-thirds of her nose.

My almost-father-in-law sat to my right. His long, thin, white forearms folded on the table.

He started again, “I’m really looking forward to being a grandfather.”

His tone was more of earnestness than exaltation.

“I want a grandkid…”

….

“…and I’m worried about your depression.”

Silence.

My innards sank. I could feel my face getting hot. My heartbeat quickening.

…..Am I hearing this right???

My ex-fiance sat between his parents. His chair rolled back a little. Fear on his face. His eyes barely visible through his glasses which sat two-thirds down the bridge of his nose. His body language told me he’d rather not participate in this inevitably awkward conversation.

I was on an emotional island. This was a talk (or intervention) they had planned together.

At the time, I was feeling confident. I had the energy and spunk to retort. My soapbox was out and ready to hold me up. I was able to regulate my mood enough to think before speaking. Process before responding defensively. I wasn’t in the middle of a depressive dip.

“I feel like you’re discriminating against me because I have depression,” I said.

And he was. My ability to be a parent was in question because of my history with depression and it felt horrible.

The abilities and capabilities of people living with depression are questioned all the time. When it’s questioned by family (or almost-family), it cuts deep.

I don’t recall specifics of the conversation after that but my main response was that we would have support. We would make it work because we have support.

How does one get through any difficult life event?

Why was my desire to be a parent being questioned instead of supported?


Can you live with depression and be a good parent?


Admittedly, I’ve questioned my ability to be a “good parent” because of my depression. It’s one of depression’s charming symptoms — incessant, paralyzing self-doubt.

What none of us knew at the time was that living with chronic depression for over twenty years has, actually, helped me through my first trimester of pregnancy.

How? Many of the typical pregnancy symptoms are similar to depression: feeling tired all the time, sleeping a lot, eating a lot or not enough, nausea and erratic mood changes.

In my first three months of pregnancy, I was like a mama-bear in hibernation. Dealing with the brain fog and pseudo-fugue state after lengthy bouts of sleep felt familiar – it’s a regular recovery process with depression.

Lady A
23 weeks: On a walk with Fuzz in our neighborhood.

Some days have been difficult to get anything down and other days I inhale a lot of whatever I and the baby are craving.

Same goes for depression. Some folks lose their appetite and don’t eat, and some folks shovel food down their gullet.

Sure, my moods have been swinging like a feather on the breeze but, after 25 years living with chronic frequently-cycling depression, what’s new?

This is not to say that the first trimester was easy. It was exhausting and taxing in every way.

This is also not to say that I don’t think it’s totally worth the temporary discomfort and frustration that being pregnant can be. It is so worth it!

Growing a human inside your body is amazing. It’s a miracle and a privilege to bring a soul into the world.

Self-care in pregnancy means that much more because you’re living life for you and your unborn child. It’s more like selves-care.

I am so glad that I haven’t let the voice of depression snuff out my motivation to dream and go forth in faith that all is and will be OK, especially when it doesn’t feel like it.

Don’t let the voices of those who are deluded or misinformed about the abilities of people living with depression sway you from your aspirations.

If you’re worried about how your mental health might impact your ability as a parent, do what you can to garner support and seek out resources that are there to help you. Take care of yourself first.


Self-care for the pregnant and depressed.


Self-care, whether living with depression or without, is pretty much the same. As I think about my 24 weeks and 5 days of pregnancy, there are certain behaviors and habits that float to the top in my mind.

They’re tips that seem obvious but it’s important to really think about what they mean and how important they are in the context of dealing with a brain illness, and in the context of being pregnant.

Self-care in pregnancy means that much more because you’re living life for you and your unborn child. It’s more like selves-care.

Keeping this in mind has helped me stay motivated when I feel down. It’s encouraged me to rest and take it easy when I’m exhausted, and my mind is telling me I’m not doing enough. It’s inspired me to face fears and insecurities that have long haunted me.


In my next post, I’ll cover the tips that have helped me and share resources, including informational, supportive and silly social media accounts.



In the meantime, I’d love to know…

What’s your experience with depression and pregnancy, as a mother or father?
What helps/helped you get through the depressive dips?
What do/did you find challenging about juggling pregnancy and depression?


There is no judgment here.

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