Every time I start to write the story of Adelynn's arrival, I remember that very few people know the story of the months leading up to her birth. It's a story I kept myself from writing because I couldn't think of a good way to tell it. Even now, I'm not sure that I'll tell it well, and wouldn't tell it at all except that it helps put today and tomorrow and the past 19 days in perspective.
When I found out back in January that I was pregnant, my first emotion was overwhelming relief. Relief that we were finally going to finishing up our family, and relief that all those boxes of baby stuff would finally be making their way out of our house. I was woven from the same cloth as my grandma: I love getting rid of stuff. It makes me happy. And, yes, having a baby was exciting too.
I was nervous, though, about being pregnant again. Even though all pregnant women experience some kind of emotional surge when they're pregnant, my emotions don't so much surge as they engulf me like a hundred foot wave. When I saw the positive pregnancy test, I knew the wave was coming, I just didn't know how big the wave would be.
It was, in fact, bigger than anything I had ever experienced.
I knew it was going to be rough before I even got pregnant. For one thing, I would be starting out already emotionally depleted. Jason was unemployed. We were not building our house. In anticipation of being pregnant, I had stopped taking anti-depressants. I had suddenly lost both my grandmas only weeks before. And the sun had disappeared into the gray skies not to be seen for months. I'm not speaking metaphorically here. We had an unbelievable amount of gray skies this year.
Despite terrible morning sickness and exhaustion the first trimester, it wasn't until the end of March that I started feeling really low. I came back from my road trip to Colorado, and almost overnight I fell apart.
People love to quote platitudes about how you are as happy as you make up your mind to be, and depression is only an unwillingness to be content, but I can tell you--as a usually glass-half-full kind of girl--it's not so easy to fix as making up your mind to be happy. In the best of times, I get through depression by knowing that this too shall pass. I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel even if I can't see it, and that's enough to carry me through.
This time was different, though. I was sure there wasn't a light at the end of the tunnel. I cried. Endlessly. I spent hours laying in bed (made possible by Jason's open work schedule). I had to cancel one of my classes because I couldn't make the 70-mile drive. I was short-tempered with Jason and the girls, and every night I looked into my future of parenting 3 children and saw myself sleep deprived, exhausted, and failing.
How could I possibly handle 3 kids when I couldn't even take care of two? Why on Earth had I allowed myself to be talked into have another baby? No baby is worth this misery, I said to Jason. If I had known what I know now then I never would have gotten pregnant again.
Somewhere, deep deep inside me, I thought it might get better. I knew the baby would come and I would love her and it would be okay and the pre-natal depression would go away. But no matter how much I told myself that, I never could feel hopeful.
I felt like I couldn't talk to anyone about what I was feeling, particularly because I wasn't going along with the traditional pregnancy narrative. I stopped writing. I deleted my Twitter account. I considered deleting my blog and my Facebook account, but knew I would regret it. Jules would ask me every day, "Are you feeling better today, Mom?" Not yet, I told her. "I'll keep praying for you," she said. And my heart broke.
It's a hard road to travel when you wake up every day feeling hopeless. It's hard on you, and it's hard on your family.
A few friends recommended getting a Verilux HappyLight, which did help some but not enough. I started taking extra Vitamin D. Extra iron. Extra B-12. Extra Omega-3. I ate blueberries. I spent time praying and breathing deeply. I made an effort to go out to lunch with friends, got pedicures, spent time in the sun, read a good book, planned a fabulous birthday party for Sydney.
I did everything you're supposed to do when you're feeling depressed: eat better, sleep better, do things you enjoy doing, spend time with friends.
And yet two days after Sydney's birthday party, I was--according to Jason--the worst I'd ever been.
So I emailed my doctor, and she referred me to a therapist as well as wrote me a prescription for an anti-depressant.
I did not want to take anti-depressants. I would happily take them as soon as the baby was born, but not while I was pregnant. I did my research, though, and it turns out that experiencing severe pre-natal depression is more toxic for your baby than the medication that can help fix it. Ideally, I wouldn't have to take medication. But I was way past "ideally."
My therapist helped put it in perspective for me. "If you had high blood pressure, we would treat it with medication. If you had diabetes, we would treat it with medication. If you had any number of medical problems, we would treat it with medication. Depression is harder to quantify than high blood pressure or diabetes, but it appears to me that you've gone past the point of being able to manage your depression."
The day I started the third trimester, I started taking anti-depressants.
Two weeks later, I got through an entire day without crying. I woke up one morning and thought, "It's going to get better. I'm going to be okay."
"A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love." --Henri B. Stendhal
On this side of pregnancy, I can tell you that it did get better. The best part of the story is one I still have to write. But in order to get to that story, I had to tell this story, the one about being in the worst emotional place possible and wishing I wasn't pregnant.
I made the choice that I didn't think I would make. I got help, and getting help got me better. And getting better got me to where I am today: holding the sweetest little baby in the world, listening to her contented little hums as she nurses. She and I went through quite a storm.
But we made it out, and today the skies are blue, the breeze is warm, and Hope is steering the course.