Why we need to start talking about prenatal anxietySeptember 20, 2016
I can write about this now, I can think about this now, because I’m feeling better. Not amazing, but better.
A few weeks ago, despite being pregnant with a much-wanted baby, I couldn’t stop crying. We’d just been given the all clear from the NIPT test for chromosome disorders, but I just wasn’t happy, or myself.
This pregnancy has been so different to the first, and that’s the sense I get from other mums too. You’re distracted, with another child to look after, you’re more tired. And I’m more worried. What if I don’t love this baby as much as my first? How will it disrupt our (relatively) stable lives? What if something goes wrong? What if I can’t cope?
Instead of impatiently waiting for the the ‘your baby is the size of a grapefruit’ emails, I’m forgetting how many weeks I am, or that I’m pregnant at all, at times. I’m just not… excited. And unfortunately, when you’re pregnant, people ask how you are all the time. So you fake it.
Of course, then comes the guilt. That we were lucky enough to get pregnant, that the baby is healthy, that we haven’t had to go through the emotional – and financial – strains of fertility treatment that so many do. How dare I not be excited about this child? How ungrateful. And so the cycle goes.
Worried I was getting into prenantal depression territory, I made an appointment with my GP (who’s also pregnant, super sensible and has a good sense of humour to boot) and it helped. A lot. I cried, we shared concerns about our unborn children, and she explained that it’s normal for mums to feel overwhelmed, and worried, and scared. It’s just that – wait for it – no-one talks about it. That we conform to this ideal of the glowing, beaming, pregnant woman.
So I’m talking about it. That I’m overwhelmed, worried, and scared. And not very excited about this grapesuit-sized baby inside me. And feeling guilty as hell about it. Guilty that I should be glowing, and beaming, and cooing over tiny clothes, because that’s what I think should be doing. Guilty that this child will pick up on my anxiety, guilty that I’m pregnant when so many long to be.
In search of further reassurance, I saw Helen Williams at Lifeworks, a woman I have turned to at tough times over the years. She listened to me, eyes twinkling, knowing I wasn’t saying anything she hasn’t heard countless times from other women.
When I explained that I don’t know how I can love another child as much as I love our daughter, that I can’t even imagine having another baby, or knowing how to mother it, Helen nodded along. She said that for every child we have, we become another mother, who will give it everything it needs. That a new mother is born when a new baby is born. That I’ll look back and wonder how I ever doubted myself, or the endless reserve of love we all have for our children, no matter how many we have. And again I cried, but this time because it’s such a beautiful truth, and it filled me with hope.
Since seeing Helen I’ve been feeling brighter, and much more optimistic about welcoming this little one to the world, and I’m so relieved that the low feeling has pretty much passed, but for many women prenatal depression is a very real, very destructive issue, whether it’s their first pregnancy or not.
It’s estimated at one in ten women will suffer from the illness (it IS an illness), and the reasons are many and complex. If you have a history of depression you may be more susceptible, especially in the first trimester. Even if you have never had mental health problems, unfortunately hormones, social pressures and feelings of isolation can contribute to feelings of anxiety and despair. Sadly, there’s still something of a stigma attached to depression during pregnancy that many women fear voicing their concerns or getting help. But they must.
If you’re worried about prenatal or postnatal depression you can get more information from MIND and if you’re based in Dubai I highly recommend contacting Out Of The Blues for support from other women, as well as UAE experts.
And know that you’re certainly not alone. And it’s not your fault.