Here is my story about life, pregnancy and early motherhood with depression. I’m lucky to be in a very happy place right now, 7 months into this parenting gig, but it’s taken me quite a long time to get here and I’ve had a few setbacks along the way. I want anyone reading this to know that you are not alone, there are so many women out there facing the same struggles that you are. I know taking anti-depressants and feeling depressed can make you feel like a bad mother, like you are doing something wrong by your baby and there were times I really felt like I’d failed her before her life had even begun. But I know that this was a totally irrational thought; a healthy mama is best for both mum and baby, so please just do what is right for you. My baby girl is thriving now, so I know that she hasn’t had any negative side effects and having her mama be happy and enjoying life was the most important thing. If you think it will help you, please read my story and know that you are amazing and you are doing everything right.
I was diagnosed with depression just over two and a half years ago. I had just gotten married to my amazing husband, had a good job, a nice house and a loving family, but it still hit. I felt hopeless and endlessly sad and would spend everyday crying, with a big, dark cloud hanging over every waking minute of my life. My husband took me to the doctor and so started my long journey with anti-depressants. I wish we had easier access to alternative treatments for depression here – I feel like I’d have really benefited from cognitive behavioural therapy, but I knew I wouldn’t have received it in the timeframe I needed, so I felt like I had no choice but to start medication.
I had four different doses of the medication I was on for the longest, having it increased when it wasn’t effective at keeping the darkness at bay. I was signed off work for 8 months and eventually quit that job because of a horrible manager and an organisation that didn’t seem to care about me and my mental health. I went back to working with my sister, as I knew that I was supported there and was getting on well about a year after I was first diagnosed. It was at this point that I was considering coming off the medication, however I fell pregnant in July 2016. I was going to talk to my doctor and midwife about the options of coming off the antidepressants but then I miscarried in the September. For a while the darkness came back and I knew I couldn’t come off the medication then, it would take me a while to work through my grief and feel happy again.
Within a couple of months I was pregnant again. I was incredibly anxious going into this pregnancy having experienced a loss and so figured out the best way to manage my mental health during those important months. Research into taking anti-depressants while pregnant is confusing and contradictory, but decided that it was best for me and the baby if I was well, so changed the medication I was on to one which was deemed safer. I attended a mindful pregnancy course and read some mindful motherhood books. Towards the end of my pregnancy I changed my medication again, to one that was deemed best for breastfeeding. I was so scared of post-natal depression that I didn’t entertain the idea of coming off the medication until after the baby was born. I was under the care of a consultant and felt well placed and guided in making this decision.
My fears of post natal depression rearing its head were unfounded, either because it didn’t affect me, or the medication kept it away, but I was super thankful for that. When I had the inevitable ‘baby blues’ a few days after baby was born and I felt low, drained and emotional, I worried a little about my feelings, but they subsided and I haven’t been affected since. Five months into motherhood was when I finally made the decision to come off my anti-depressants and I haven’t looked back. I am content, happy and confident in my role as a new mum and am reminding myself everyday that this baby girl I have is the only reason I need to keep myself well.
I know not all mums who suffer with depression are able to survive away from their medication and that is fine, better to have a mum whose mental health is kept stable using anti-depressants than a despondent mum who feels sad and hopeless all the time. I know depression might make its way back into my life, but I can’t live with that thought in the front of my mind, so I simply do what I can to stay well and moving forward.
I really hope that this post has shed some light on what it is like to go into pregnancy as someone who has suffered with depression and the thoughts and feelings that come with it. Whether you yourself have been affected or you have a loved one in this position I hope you feel some positivity reading about my experience. Motherhood is a tough enough gig as it is without battling depression and women need all the support they can get. Look after each other.