I have been asked to speak at an event tomorrow for
Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week.
I've been asked to talk about my own personal struggle, and this is what I plan to say...
I loved my first pregnancy.
I loved my body and the way I looked, I felt amazing and worked right up until I was 38 weeks.
I went to swimming and yoga, ate what I wanted and had no anxieties outside of the norm.
I birthed a perfectly healthy baby girl, and I felt like my body was absolutely made for it.
My second pregnancy was similar – until it wasn’t.
At a routine check up, at 15 weeks, I had no care in the world. My husband never came to my appointments and I had my little girl in tow. No concerns.
But, after taking much longer than usual, my obstetrician told me that he couldn’t find my babies heartbeat.
Life after a miscarriage is hard, pregnancy after a miscarriage is even harder.
It was such a weird feeling to find out we were pregnant again. What had previously been an amazing moment, filled with happiness, had forever changed. Instead of struggling to keep it a secret because I was bursting to let everyone know, I really had no desire to tell people.
I waited for ages to go to my GP, and I wasn’t ready to see my obstetrician again in a hurry. I knew I could no longer control ANYTHING about my pregnancy, so the little things I could control, I held onto.
After my initial appointments, I don’t care to admit how many times I showed up unannounced at my Obstetricians rooms – and I certainly didn’t let anyone around me know at the time.
I even guiltily admitted to my Psychologist that I didn't want this baby - I wanted my last baby back. I knew that baby, this baby wasn't the same.
When we did eventually tell people, everyone was so excited for us. “It must feel SO good to be pregnant again after what you’ve been through” – except it didn’t. I felt so exhausted with worry and my usually very rational brain didn’t work. I felt guilty for not being happy, sad that I was too scared to connect with this baby, and fake because every time I told someone new that we were pregnant, I felt like I had to be happy about it.
And I couldn’t unknow what I knew. 12 weeks no longer felt ‘safe’.
I allowed myself to be worried until 15 weeks, I assumed that as time went on, I would worry less.
But things got worse.
I remember going into my Obstetricians office at 16 weeks desperate for a scan or sorts. I needed to hear a heartbeat, needed to know that things were ok. With our previous loss, my baby had passed away 3 weeks previous to us finding out, so I no longer trusted my body.
They did a scan, there was a heartbeat. But I didn’t feel any relief.
I remember getting back into my car and just crying. I wanted to know when I would stop feeling this way, why I wasn’t relieved, why my brain was telling me one thing but my heart refused to listen. I felt broken, and at this point I knew that as time went on, things would not get better.
The following day I called my GP and made an appointment – we spoke about going on anti-depressants. I finally felt relieved. There was something that might help, and someone who I trusted was saying that this was ok. He gave me the script on the spot, knowing what I had been through, but I let him know that I wanted to speak to my husband first (and Obstetrician and Psychologist while we were at it).
Initially my husband wasn’t keen – he didn’t want the drugs to harm the baby, and of course I had been trying my best to hide how anxious I was, so he didn’t think I needed them. We decided that he would come to my next Obstetric appointment, but this wasn’t for a few weeks. I wasn’t making an extra appointment either, obviously, because this would have confirmed my anxiety.
This put me back a bit, I felt like I was making the right decision, but then I started to doubt it. Besides, it’s not like I knew my body well anymore anyway.
In the mean time, I kept up appearances of the happily pregnant woman, with my belly starting to show and my baby starting to kick. I analysed EVERY SINGLE KICK and drove myself insane wondering how long it had been since the last one.
Finally – my next appointment happened. And straight away my Obstetrician asked if I’d considered anti-depressants. I instantly felt my anxiety go down. My husband was onboard too, and I had put the script in my handbag *just in case*.
To be honest, I think at that point, a placebo would have worked. I really believe I just needed my craziness to be validated by everyone around me. I say this because I had only been on meds for a few days when we had our 20 week scan, and I remember taking in every single second of that scan - for the right reasons. It was the first time I had fully allowed myself to bond with my baby, and it felt amazing.
In a weird way, I owe my quick recovery from Perinatal Anxiety to my miscarriage. I think if my GP, Psychologist and Obstetrician weren’t all aware of my past, I might have been able to either hide my anxiety – or it may have taken longer for them to pick up on it and diagnose me.
So despite everything, I’m glad to say that things got much better for me once I was diagnosed. I was able to enjoy the rest of my pregnancy and birthed a perfectly happy and healthy baby boy. I had my ‘team’ check in with my after the birth, and I remember telling all of them that the birth had been really healing for me – which is not something I ever thought I’d say, but there was no other word to describe it.
I'm not sure what I hope to get out of sharing my story - maybe others will relate, maybe they won't. But if it helps one person reach out for help and change the course of their pregnancy, then it's all worth it.
And if you're that person, I hope you know it can get better.
If you're struggling with Perinatal Depression and Anxiety - please reach out for help.
You can call PANDA on 1300726306 Monday to Friday between 9am and 7.30pm
click on their website and go to ---> Info&support--->Support--->Support Groups to find information about local support.
You can also contact your GP, your local hospital, or Lifeline.
Lifeline offer a 24 hour phone service on 131114 and an online chat service here.
And lastly, if you're in Bendigo and want to attend tomorrow's event - register here