My Twin Pregnancy Journey with Perinatal Depression
If you’ve followed me for the last 9+ months, then you know how little I’ve been present online. Of course, finding out we were pregnant was the highlight of our 2022 year but it didn’t come as wonderful as I hoped it would be. I had the presumption that by the second trimester I would get all the things pregnancy “promises” an expecting mother – the glow, the energy, the excitement.
Instead, I got Perinatal Depression.
As I’m writing this now one month postpartum, I’m beyond happier. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that I’m no longer pregnant. My hormones have been surprisingly level and I’m willingly on my feet moving & grooving like I didn’t spend the last 6 months paralyzed on the couch or in bed. But don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot I remember of that dark mental place I was in and I’m glad it hasn’t disappeared from my immediate memory. Because if there’s anyone here reading this that currently feels or felt the same, I want them to know it does in fact get better and everything will be ok – even if it’s impossible to see outside of the thick fog at the moment. There’s nothing I can relate to more.
With pregnancy, you’re sort of conditioned to refer to it as the greatest blessing and talk with endless amounts of gratitude for it. The thing is, you can totally feel those emotions deep down and still be miserable as f*ck on the surface. I never anticipated my journey to getting pregnant would happen so quickly, let alone with spontaneous twins. I was given a 50% chance of conceiving naturally, after 3 ovarian cyst & endometriosis surgeries and 15+ years of strong birth control to manage the symptoms and slow/halt the growth of endometrial tissue. The goal was to always *try to get pregnant* in 2022 once I got my IUD out, with the expectation that it would probably take time or not happen at all; then we’d pivot and seek medical assistance in 2023 while I’m still “geriatrically young.” Although we reached our goal within a month of the IUD removal and were beyond excited, I had no idea what was in store for me & my mental health in the months leading to my due date.
A lot changed fast. I was growing at an exponential rate during the first trimester and began to outgrow my clothing weekly. Since I was considered “high risk” my doctors encouraged me to halt my high intensity workouts during the first trimester and stick to literally just walking. I wasn’t even allowed to do squats! Even though I felt like moderate shit those first 3 months anyway (like an endless hangover), I wish I’d had been able to continue working out like I was prior to getting pregnant. The limit of activity and my rapidly-changing body were the first of several things that began to feel stripped away from me before I was ready to surrender them. My mood soon followed with a downhill plunge as a result.
I was anxiously awaiting that energy boost by the time my second trimester arrived. Unfortunately, I never got it. And having that desired hope for it, only to be disappointed, sent me spiraling. Soon began the days where I spent more time in bed and on the couch, still in my pajamas with hair unbrushed. The things that once made me happy – walking Levi, taking care of my plants, keeping up with work – were slipping away from my mental priority. You could say hormones were making me cry daily, but it was stemming more from the feeling of being paralyzed in physical & mental place with no solution in near sight. I was entering a very depressive state and it terrified me.
By the end of my pregnancy, I had gained ~90lbs and actively avoided mirrors. My face was so swollen that even my smile looked like someone stretched it like play-doh. Taking photos at my Baby Shower was emotionally painful, because I hated how I looked/felt despite having my hair and makeup done. Nothing in my closet fit me except for these amazing pregnancy leggings and two 3XL sweatshirts that became my daily outfit rotation, because I was too tired and discouraged to get myself dressed at this point. I took hot showers sometimes twice a day because it was the only time I felt some relief from the physical discomfort of carrying 20+lbs of baby. Yet whenever I got out, I was reminded of how I couldn’t dry my body off properly due to my rock solid belly being in the way and simultaneously gasping for air as I attempted to put my wet hair up in a towel. Everything felt like it took so much effort or it was physically painful to accomplish, which led me to remain in place a lot more often. There’s nothing I despise more than sitting still…
I don’t have many photos of myself during this time, for obvious reasons. But I managed to find these two taken by Thomas/myself – the first was in July 2022, about 2 months pregnant and the second is from December 2022, one month before giving birth. These were moments where I felt my absolute lowest at two very different times of my pregnancy. I remember feeling so much emotional pain and wondering if things would continue this route once the girls arrived. I was so scared to be feeling this negative and unhappy.
All of these defeating moments were rarely replaced with positive ones, and they stuck with me until the very end. I know it sounds superficial to an extent – like I was just having body appearance issues – but it was much deeper than that. I had to watch/feel my body & mind undergo change I couldn’t control. What was happening on the inside, a beautiful thing called pregnancy, didn’t reflect the same on the outside.
My doctor gave me the option to consider antidepressants and I was very close to taking them. But for some reason, I never got the script filled. Looking back, I wonder if things would’ve been better for me in the short term had I gone that route. Why was it that I would prefer to stay miserable without medication? Especially considering I wasn’t able to leave the house or find joy in anything that once did it for me.
When it comes down to it, something in my gut kept me from filling the script. I think I was scared of myself becoming dependent on them & the potential side effects of medication that alters my own brain chemistry would potentially have on the twins’ developing brains in-utero. Remember that I wasn’t even allowed to workout the way I was all pre-pregnancy, because everything was risky. I was under the impression that things had been developing and growing well, why take the chance? But at the same time, why didn’t I ask my doctor further questions with each appointment I continued to feel miserable at? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking medication to feel & be your best self. And plenty of pregnant and breastfeeding women take antidepressants safely without any issues. Why couldn’t I help myself out more? These are clearly still questions unanswered in my brain now in the postpartum.
Looking back, I never want to revisit those months ever again and it has given me an entirely new perspective of how awful and debilitating of a disease Depression is. I’ve never been able to understand it until now, and part of me feels guilty that I’ve been able to “overcome” it in the interim. But I do wonder if it has the potential to come back on its own, whether or not I’m pregnant. All this being said, my heart hurts on another level for those suffering from Depression every single day. The mental/physical/emotional strength it takes to show up in any format cannot be fathomed, and I’m so sorry for anyone that feels pushed to their limit just to do so. Please know I see you and hear you; and if you feel like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, I encourage you to seek help and tell someone. I promise you the people in your life need you in theirs.
I’m One Month Postpartum Today and Couldn’t Be Happier
My Perinatal Depression had me on high alert that my PPD/PPA could also be a challenge, but I’m delightfully thrilled to be feeling better than ever before. Of course I know this can change at any time but for right now, I’m doing so well. Someone told me that the worse the pregnancy, the better the postpartum – maybe as a way to cope with how I was feeling at the time and to give me something to hopefully look forward to. In this circumstance, I’m very fortunate to have it come true.
We have to continue to talk about mental health importance, there’s no shame in any of it. And maternal mental health for that matter, as the mother’s life is just as important as the infant growing inside. There were many instances where I felt like everything I was doing had to be what was best for the babies, and I kept wondering why it wasn’t what’s best for me in some circumstances? Shouldn’t the mom be equally as important to care for as the fetus her body is carrying to term? Without the mom, there’s no baby.
Sadly, a lot of people (doctors, acquaintances, strangers) can make you feel like you take a backseat as the pregnant person, and it’s often felt worse once baby is born. However, I’ve been overwhelmed in gratitude over the amount of friends that texted me to check-in during my entire pregnancy, as well as genuinely ask how I’m doing now in postpartum. I didn’t realize how much I needed that then & now, and I’m so thankful for everyone who took the time to shoot me a message of encouragement. It really goes to show that words of affirmation, or just feeling understood/cared about externally, can play a major role in someone’s recovery.
If you know someone who just had a baby, or currently pregnant, be sure to reach out and ask how they’re doing – not just how the baby is doing. They might not even know they’re allowed to vent/talk about how they’re feeling from a place other than “everything’s fine!” Sure, some people can be reserved with sharing true thoughts and others might be loving every moment of what they’re experiencing – but still be that friend to ask them, as it’ll always be appreciated as well as remembered.
I know this post is written as somewhat of a ramble, but I hope the message I’m trying to get across resonates. You’re not a bad person if you hate being pregnant, despite wanting it for so long. You’re not selfish if you take medication to benefit your well-being, your baby needs you to be at your emotional/mental best. It’s ok that you’re miserable, just make sure you talk to someone about it whom you can trust. Take it from me, someone who didn’t think she’d see through the dark fog and felt so incredibly sad & lonely – it does get better.