Over the past month life has been pretty stressful, and not just because it was Christmas, I turned 25, and busy-ness seems to follow me. I started getting low.
Now when I noticed that my moods, motivation and outlook were not normal (for me) I was around 34 weeks pregnant. I am now 38 weeks along and I thought I’d explain a little of what was happening in my head because I still feel it is important to be open about depression.
Since I have suffered from depression before, I was particularly careful in watching myself during pregnancy. I knew that rapid changes in hormones can be hard to handle at the best of times and sometimes it only takes something small to push someone over the edge into the dangerous position of being depressed pre- or post-birth. As I struggled with bonding and accepting my pregnancy for awhile due to my two previous miscarriages I knew it was particularly important that I get help as and when I noticed something out of the ordinary.
I also have certain coping mechanisms that I have utilised in stressful situations. I plan big decisions in advance, I attempt to take things slowly and plan buffers in time and money to be safe. I list out what I need to do so that I feel achieved with each piece completed. I write, I research, and I watch my own internal balance of being busy or bored.
It noticed something was wrong when these stopped working as they should.
Before Christmas I was making decorations; I enjoy craft and loved the idea of gifting homemade long-lasting pieces rather than a voucher or box of chocolates. But when a small part of the process went wrong, and I suddenly felt like a failure, trapped, out of control, and overwhelmed, something needed to shift. The problem was I didn’t know how to fix this.
My situation was full of doubts and questions over what my life should look like, what it would be, whether I could do anything at all, frustrations at not feeling myself, completing tasks well enough, being good enough, expectations and judgements as to whether I would be a good mother, whether I was being a good wife, daughter, sister, friend, feminist, person. I felt I couldn’t lean on anyone either because they wouldn’t be interested or because they were stressed enough. I pushed my body to unhealthy limits by attempting to fix problems with space, furniture, cleaning, and all whilst knowing this wasn’t good for me. I felt guilty for asking for help, for refusing help, for accepting love, and because I felt I didn’t deserve or understand it.
One particular decision had me going round in circles: an unexpected, and almost surprise, baby shower that some lovely people from my church wanted to host for me. I panicked. I didn’t know how to take this expression of love and care, didn’t feel I deserved it, felt guilty for giving them something to do, and didn’t know if I could even handle a social situation like that. Now, it is important to mention that no-one made me feel like this, nothing was said or suggested, and the idea was purely a show of love. But I couldn’t seem to shake the panic..
The night of the baby shower I burst into tears and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to let people down who had obviously attempted to do something lovely for me. I didn’t know how to cope with people (which sounds ridiculous but it’s true) even if it was just talking and joking around. I didn’t know how I could ever suggest postponing/cancelling it and didn’t know if that was even what I wanted. I was stuck in a circle of my own depressing thoughts and in the end Bear had to call to cancel.
The response was lovely: they told us to be selfish. That is not something I’ve ever really heard and hardly something you hear from the pulpit, but they understood immediately that this was important and that whatever I needed was what should happen. They offered talks, love and prayer but on our terms, in our time and however was best.
I realised that a lot of my issues came from an inability to accept love, low self esteem, and that a lot of my dark thoughts were completely unfounded. Even so that didn’t mean I could just wish them away.
The next time we saw the midwife I explained that things had been hard. I also saw two GPs and although neither wanted to put me on medication, eventually the idea became simply to try and keep and eye out and provide more support. I also saw Nana (part of the NHS midwifery/mental health/etc team) who took everything I was saying, explained that I wasn’t just bat-s**t crazy and that hormones can affect all sorts of nastiness. She wanted to create a plan of support (every other day if needed once baby arrived) to make sure I did not feel alone, and that there was always someone checking if I was OK rather than just focusing on Cub. She also spoke directly to Bear, explaining what many women go through, why it happens and why it was important that he attempt to support this particularly vulnerable version of his wife.
It is amazing how freeing it is just to be taken seriously, be listened to, and for someone to say they can try to help.
So, I’m being watched, not due to some idea that I will fail, but simply to encourage me. There is a plan in place, and I am not on medication. It could be far worse but thankfully it’s not. Part of my new year is to try and look after myself and actually to accept love. There are some incredible people around and the truth is that they care about me. Whether or not I understand it, accepting it is part of the process that will help me build up my self-esteem and help me teach confidence to my child in the long run.
If you are going through this, or notice something not quite right in a pregnant woman or mother (or father!) do try and get help. The NHS are wonderful in many ways and there are more support networks than I could ever list here. We live in a crazy culture of expectations and being a parent is hard work; it would be great if we could all encourage each other in it, just because, with no judgements or expectations. Life is tough, but we have love.