07 August 2012

Pre-Natal Depression? What's this you speak of? Guest post by Sarah Payne

Recently a fellow military spouse who is a friend of mine, saw a link I had posted to an article about Pre-ntatal Depression and mentioned that it's a battle she's fighting right now. I asked if she'd like to do a guest post and this is what she sent me. Thank you Sarah Payne for your post and your courage in speaking up about your struggles.

Being pregnant is supposed to be a joyful time in your adult life, or so it's been said. I personally have heard it over and over from about a million different people. “Pregnancy is so awesome.” “You'll love being pregnant.” “I could be pregnant forever.” are just some of the statements I got when I revealed that my husband and I were thinking about having a baby.
A little about myself before I begin: I am a licensed counselor. I have dealt with all kinds of psychological issues with my family and with strangers in my career. I knew how to recognize the signs of depression, anxiety, and a myriad of other issues. Also, before we decided to conceive, I had only been on an anti-depressant medication very briefly (less than 6 months) quite a few years ago when my husband first deployed to the Middle East. I never sought therapy with someone during this time, only the medication. I also started my Master's degree at this time so it gave me something to focus on while waiting for him to get home. I have had no other psychological issues in my past other than normal, everyday ups and downs.

In late 2011 I stopped taking my birth control pills that I had been on since I was seventeen. Needless to say, I had been on the pill for 10 years, give or take, and never ever had a problem with them other than remembering to take them, but we all do that, right? We tried and tried and tried to get pregnant. Trying was the fun part. Seeing my period show up month after month was not. I had been warned in the past that since I had some scarring in my uterus due to a birth defect that conception might be difficult and I might experience some miscarriages or I might even need a fertility specialist. This idea frightened me but we went ahead anyway. After about 6 months of practice I finally had a positive pregnancy test. The moment was bittersweet though as the day after we found out I was pregnant my wonderful husband deployed, yet again, to the Middle East. His deployment was scheduled for 100 days. As anyone who has ever been in the military or a military spouse can tell you, that was never going to happen. At this point, he's been gone for almost 5 months and still has not been given a proper return date.

I started to notice at about 7 weeks that I was feeling funky. I had started my internship to finish my degree requirements but found myself struggling to get up in the morning for work. I didn't care one bit how I looked when I arrived or what kind of attitude I gave to my co-workers. I flip-flopped between periods of not being able to sleep for days to sleeping for 18 or 19 hours at a time. I also wasn't eating, keeping up on my homework, taking care of my home, or providing basic care for my dogs aside from feeding them and opening the door so they could do their business. This was definitely not me. Around 11 weeks all of the symptoms listed above got worse and I even contemplated having an abortion at times. I thought, if I can't handle being pregnant how in the world am I going to handle a newborn? What was I thinking? I felt so incredibly guilty and I couldn't tell anyone.

One night, when I was about 13 weeks or so, I was on the phone with my husband trying my best to pretend that everything was just fine and that things were going along as planned. I gave him nothing but good news about the dogs, prenatal appointments, and my progress at work. He knew though that something was wrong with me. I don't know how he knew but he did. I am so glad that he did and that he confronted me on it. He was so supportive and understanding when I finally told him what was going on in my head. He also said, you're a therapist, you know better than that. Go get help right now. I sat down that night and started looking up information on prenatal depression. While there is some information out there, I don't feel like it's enough, nor is it ever talked about. I've purchased several of the popular books about “expecting” and whatnot. None of them, none, ever mentioned anything about being depressed or anything but “glowing” while pregnant. Some of them spoke about the depression after a birth but that was about it.

 Since I was actively in an internship situation I went and spoke to my internship supervisor about it who said that he had noticed a rapid change in me just in the short time he had been working with me and suggested that maybe a trip to my doctor was a good idea. I made an appointment with my OB and talked to him about it. He gave me a little battery of tests that I knew all too well but took anyway. We both came to the conclusion that I was experiencing some depression and he suggested medication that had a low chance of birth defects. I was very reluctant to take medication. I felt guilty that I couldn't handle my symptoms on my own. I was a therapist for goodness sakes. I should be able to self-help. I waited a few more weeks and hunkered down with my library of books on depression before I came to the conclusion that I needed more help that my own brain and books could provide. I went back to the doctor and he wrote me out the prescription for an anti-depressant. I noticed a difference in about 4 days. I was sleeping better and was able to stay awake during the day. I wasn't as irritable and short with people I worked with. I cared more about my appearance and the appearance of my home.

I still have doubts sometimes but I'm sure every new expectant mother does. Only difference is, this time, I am able to function despite my fear. 


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