news item: “Not Just the Baby Blues”

The article and topic for today’s discussion was submitted to us by mandski of Chhoto Pakhi (formerly AS of Mira’s Mama):

It seems that a lot of PAIL members have experienced prenatal or postpartum depression and/or anxiety, usually unexpectedly. I was lucky enough to have support (regular meetings with a psychotherapist and a prenatal psychiatrist available), and I still ended up afraid to get on the subway when I was pregnant (among other anxiety-related fears). In some ways, perhaps infertility exacerbates this experience. This article in Slate doesn’t talk about infertility, but I thought it was interesting since it’s a common topic of conversation here, and it’s not so commonly talked about in the mass media. The author talks about her mother saying that her doctor brushed off her concerns about depression, saying this should be the happiest time of her life. How many of us heard that?

*Raises hand*

In the last few days, I have been thinking a lot about pregnancy after IF/loss. Specifically, the unrelenting anxiety I felt during my pregnancy with HGB and how this was compounded by platitudes (variations of “just relax” continue after the BFP too!) or a general lack of support and understanding. And, in my case, some pretty blatant invalidation of my feelings. The situation surrounding my pregnancy left me very depressed, and I experienced a terrible bout of PPD after our son was born. Recently, I was asked for my advice and some resources to help someone with this very issue (prenatal anxiety), and it really struck me how differently I feel this time. How much clearer I am able to think about not only this pregnancy, but to really shine a light on my last one. It was a very bad time, and I did not begin to enjoy it until the very end. And I still feel guilty about that.

In her article for Slate, writer Jessica Grose details her struggle with prenatal depression, finding support, and coming to terms with it:

Neither the psychologist nor the psychiatrist mentioned prenatal depression. In fact, I had never heard the term before I started plunging into a clinical melancholy so deep that my Google history from that period is a darkly hilarious trail of cries for help. I entered many permutations of the terms “pregnancy depression” and “pregnancy can’t stop crying” and discovered that prenatal depression is just as common as postpartum depression—it affects between 10 and 15 percent of women. Despite these stats, prenatal depression is still relatively under the radar, and many obstetricians are not well-trained in its complexities

Speaking from my own experience, my doctor did ask about this a few times, and I lied. What if they knew how I was feeling and decided I was a terrible mother? What if they tell me all the horrible ways my feelings are harming my child in utero and confirm all the crazy shit Dr. Google has told me about? I’ll just hide it and feel even worse. Not my best logic.

Grose goes on to talk about the guilt that inevitably arises from these feels of anxiety and depression, and perhaps ever so slightly touches on the experience of pregnancy after infertility and loss (emphasis mine):

Compounding the obsessive thoughts was an overwhelming sense of guilt. We had wanted and planned for this child. I was supposed to be thrilled, cooing at strange babies in the street and gleefully learning how to knit tiny hats. This should have been something that brought my husband and me closer together. Instead, I was scared and sick and sloppy, and my husband was increasingly terrified.

Taking all the information and statistics provided in the article (and part two) with a grain of salt, I wish I read this 2 years ago. We all know that being in the ALI spectrum can cause significant stress and anxiety, often resulting in bouts of depression. I know that *I* hoped, nay, expected that to all go away when I got pregnant. Instead, it got worse. And I was extremely reluctant to talk about that people after being essentially ordered to “just be happy.”  It took me a long, long time and a lot of hard work to get to where I am today.

But here is the kicker: I went through this time without blogging – without seeing my experience mirrored anywhere. I wonder if it would have been different if I had been writing about this. I wonder if it would have helped me or hurt me to discuss those feelings here. Would commenters have been supportive? From reading blogs, I have come across very few in this community that discuss these feelings (particularly with respect to prenatal depression) openly and honestly. And I wonder, is it not happening, am I not reading the right blogs, or are we not talking about it?

*****

Did you experience (or are you now experiencing) anxiety and/or depression during your pregnancy? If you have adopted your child, did you experience similar emotions while waiting for your child to come home?

If so, did you blog about these experiences? What was that like for you? 

Do you think there is a reluctance to discuss this issue in the ALI community? Why or why not?

How can we encourage each other to seek out support if this happens to us or someone in the community we care about?

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Comments

  1. I think it’s a taboo topic in the IF world. Because so many of our sisters are still in the trenches, and would give ANYTHING to be pregnant… we feel even more guilty about our feelings, even more unable to speak about our difficulties in pregnancy and parenting. I mean, could you even imagine how smug and asinine it would seem to someone who has been ttc for several years to go to a “success story” blog, and be pummelled with complaints about finally getting to the other side? And it’s not, really it’s not. We have EVERY right to struggle and be afraid and be depressed, because this shit is hard! But I think that as an IF community, we are almost completely stifled in this area, out of respect/fear of our friends, and losing/offending readers. And I think that’s a bad thing. I mean, of course, we need to be sensitive… but not so sensitive as to hush it up and isolate ourselves, and be alone with the overwhelming pain again. And that is the biggest reason that I’m glad there is now PAIL!!! Because here, we all get it… the whole stinking thing…. and I think we are allowed to be more open and honest about the struggles that face us, on the other side of the trench. So glad to have you ladies around!!! 🙂

    • “I think that as an IF community, we are almost completely stifled in this area, out of respect/fear of our friends, and losing/offending readers.”

      I understand this completely. I can totally understand how it happens. And the flip side as well – not wanting to seem too happy. It is a very difficult line to walk and many bloggers struggle deeply with it. I know that for me at least, seeing how I was feeling mirrored somewhere, anywhere might have really saved me. I think it is so important to have a realistic view of pregnancy and parenting after all this shit so that you don’t feel so ashamed if it isn’t the rainbows and unicorn farts you had hoped and prayed it would be. I just wish I knew how to make it safe and okay to talk about more openly, but ultimately I can only speak for myself.

  2. As a side note, my sister just got to her 1 year mark after an international adoption, and there are things in that world which are totally hushed up too… this isn’t my sister’s blog, but it describes her experiences perfectly. Just if anyone is interested. http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2012/08/21/the-truth-about-adoption-one-year-later#.UDQWqj1m3ux.facebook

    • Ooh, definitely going to check out that entry when I get the babies down for a nap, thanks for the link! I’ve been on the lookout for adoption blogs lately since I don’t have many in my reader.

    • THAT POST. IS AMAZING. I did not know anything about any of this before and now, at least, I know that I don’t know. I want to read it fifteen times. Thank you!

  3. If blogging about IF and loss is taboo, and blogging about pregnancy after IF and loss is even more taboo, then blogging about PPD (and even just the normal, difficult early days of parenting a newborn) is far and away untouchable. We in the ALI community would probably all agree that we deserve the full range of parenting experiences and emotions just like anyone else, regardless of our journey to being parents, yet it’s still hard for some of us to suppress judgment about people who, after “all of that,” don’t seem to enjoy their children. I think it’s particularly difficult to separate our overflowing emotions about our own infertility from others’ stories– when IF and loss consumes your life, it seeps into everything else.

    A lot of this also stems from people somehow forgetting that PPD is an actual THING– a hormone imbalance and physical condition, not a personality. And I’m sorry you went through what you did. This time around I hope it doesn’t happen, but either way, you will have support!

  4. Huh. Maybe this is what’s going on, that I’m wandering toward depression. It would make sense. I’ve been anxious this entire pregnancy (so that’s about 2 months now), been anxious about pregnancy even beforehand, and I’m moving more and more toward sitting on the couch doing very little. Some of that, yeah, it’s bad morning sickness and vertigo, but a chunk of that is that I’m not really taking care of myself either. Fixing food seems like a lot of work so I snack. Hmm. I would certainly say that I’m much more fretful after infertility and loss than I was when I magically got pregnant with the kid with zero effort. There’s a lot more emotion tied up in a baby now after the emotional roller coaster of TTC and failing and we didn’t even spend vast sums of money on it. I agree that we need to be talking about the hard parts as well as the parts that are fun or exciting. It is an experience we share, and it’s good to talk about it so nobody is alone. This is a scary gig, being parents and knowing just how tenuous that can be more completely than many people. So, taboo or not, let’s keep having the conversation.

  5. First of all, thank you for this article.

    I just wrote this post: http://violettamargarita.blogspot.com/2012/08/frazzled-fried.html about some of the emotional issues that I am struggling with, and yes, I’ll admit, I feared offending some of my still TTC readers. But first and foremost, my blog is for me to deal with what’s on my mind. It is extremely difficult to have spent nearly three years ttc, and then to face moments in my pregnancy when I am just. not. happy. I know this might not seem right to some, but I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression for over a decade, and spent about 8 years on meds. It’s chemical. It’s hormonal. It’s not always a choice to just “be happy.”

    Like the author of the article, I went off in anticipation of ttc, 3.5 years before we actually succeeded. Some days were easy. Others, not so much. Especially when I was on Clomid. I thought I was literally loosing my mind. My RE did state that she felt anxiety and depression are under-diagnosed in women who are struggle with infertility, and that I should not feel badly should I need to go back on something. I’ve managed to stay off, but I have a constant dialogue running in my head to keep myself sane, and thankfully lots of support from this great community that reminds me that I’m not a lone. And trust me when I say I will be watching very closely for signs on PPD.

    I came across another interesting article this week on a related topic. Ducky posted it. (http://justduckii.blogspot.com/2012/08/better-today.html) It’s about how infertile women are at risk for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (the link is supper long, and not showing right here, but Ducky has a link on the post I referenced above). It makes me wonder that if we’re more prone to PTSD, are we more prone to prenatal and post-partum depression as well? A long struggle with IF really wears on one’s psyche, that is for sure.

    And I do think that we are reluctant to talk about it in the IF community. I have seen pregnant and parenting bloggers bashed by others for not struggling enough, or for daring to complain about making it successfully to the other side. It is very upsetting to see that happen in a community which is usually so supportive. What I have tried to do with my own blog is to share the realities of my experience. Both the good and the bad. Infertility is hard. Pregnancy is hard. Parenting is hard. Life is just plain hard. Anxiety and depression are a fact of life for many people in different phases of life. If I can make someone feel less alone because I choose to “complain” about the struggles of pregnancy in an honest manner on my blog, than I consider my blog to be a success.

    And I’m very grateful to be a part of the PAIL community which is encouraging discussion on thought provoking and important topics.

    • Jen – thank you for this awesome, and very honest comment. I will save my comments on your post for your post!

      I appreciate that you put “complain” in quotation marks, and rightly so. Discussing not only the real challenges of pregnancy and parenting, but of serious mental health issues openly and honestly is not “complaining” – not by a long shot. They are valid, and they are serious, especially if hidden, undiagnosed, and untreated. I do believe that by hiding my anxiety and depression (with varying degrees of success) during pregnancy, I put myself at greater risk for PPD. I was diagnosed with PTSD at the same time as PPD. Finally having the courage to discuss it within the supportive network that I have built after the fact in this community is something I credit with having a much different experience so far with this pregnancy.

  6. I have seen blogs lately from women who’ve just had their babies and are *wondering* if they have PPD. I have yet to see another blogger talk about actually having it (well, until I read the comments! I’ll be reading those shortly).

    This is why I’ve mentioned having PPD a couple of times on my blog. If it’s as common as mentioned above then I can’t be the only one with it. I think it’s even more taboo than loss, IF or not. The ALI community helped me feel less ashamed about the feelings I felt during my pregnancy after my loss. I’d love to read more about those who are going through PPD/PPA as well. To feel less alone.

    When I have more time I have the intention to write in more depth the “black hole” I was in the first two months of Baby G’s life. I’m on meds which has helped but I’m having to ween off them now to see if my body has sorted itself out. I’m terrified of going backwards. I have suffered with depression and anxiety before, but those two months were the darkest I’ve ever experienced.

  7. There is a huge reluctance to blog about it and I wonder if this is why some bloggers stop blogging? The exact reasons you highlighted and because there are those still trying and you feel awful for not admitted that is the utopia we dreamed of. My pregnancy was like that. I really didn’t enjoy being pregnant and I felt awful for feeling this way. I made light of it with everyone but it was no picnic for me I felt fat and gross for 9 months but on our ALI TTC world it is the ultimate insult.

    On the other hand I love being a mum and if I was still in my old space i would feel guilty admitting that as well like i was rubbing their nose in it.

  8. So many good comments, I’m really at a loss to add anything else very valuable. I just relate so much, as someone who had *something* going on throughout her pregnancy and definitely postpartum that looked like two parts anxiety and one part crazy. I lied to my doctor, my husband, and myself about what was going on with me until one day the cloud lifted, I began to feel “normal” again and for the first time really realized something had been very wrong for quite a while. It’s clearly a topic many people don’t want to discuss… and just as clearly one that *should* be discussed.

  9. Awesome post, SRB, as evidenced by the many varied and thoughtful comments. I am so thankful that I didn’t struggle with this, but as one of the commenters above mentioned, it was hard to even mention that I hated being pregnant out of fear for sounding ungrateful. It’s a thin line we toe in the ALI world, for better or worse. At the core of it all though, I think it’s better to be honest about our feelings instead of bottling it all up inside. Great article!

Trackbacks

  1. […] crippling anxiety and depression, coupled with an unbearable interpersonal situation, made my experience of pregnancy almost […]

  2. […] also to being on the lookout for The Very Bad Time – Part 2. I have written here before that I lied to my HCP about feeling depressed during pregnancy. So as I read this over and over this morning, I can’t help thinking that normalizing mental […]

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