Week 17 ~ October 2 - 8, 2005
~ Pre-Partum Depression - The Insanity Strikes
Man oh man. I have a feeling that this entry is going to be a LOT longer than usual. At first, I felt really self-indulgent writing about this topic, but in the end, I think it's kind of important. (At the very least, it's important for ME to get it out of my crazy brains!) I've been working on this entry for over a week now, and believe me it hasn't been easy. Anyway, here goes...
I've read a lot of books, articles, etc. about the alleged "pregnancy insanity." It was something I had given some thought to ahead of time, in light of my pre-existing spastic weirdness, and I had hoped I was prepared for it. When the hormonal surge hit me around week 10 or 11, and the hysterical weeping started, I thought that this would be all of it. Sure, it's annoying, but I can handle the occasional random freak-out. I went about my (sometimes weepy) business, and had no clue what was about to hit: complete and total despair.
As far as I have found, these are the topics covered most about pregnancy and your mental/emotional stability. 1. There's the random passer-by woman who feels the need to butt into your conversation and glowingly tell you how wonderful pregnancy and motherhood is. She will tell you that it was the very best time of her entire life. Lies! This woman has obviously experienced some form of senility that has her brainwashed. Pregnancy is hard. Yes, it's a wonderful, amazing thing, and yes, your baby will also be wonderful and amazing, but that does not negate the basic fact that pregnancy is hard. It's hard physically, it's hard emotionally, socially, financially... it's hard! 2. Everything you will read about "Pregnancy Insanity" will come across as being much more light and comical than it actually is. I've read countless stories about the crazy pregnant woman throwing a shoe at her husband because he made a comment that she misconstrued to be about her growing, enormous feet. I have yet to find anything that documents the darker side of the insanity, and the really difficult times that some of us may face. In fact, I have yet to find anything that even slightly prepares a woman for how these changes can potentially affect you. If anyone knows of any real, serious readings, please, let me know. 3. Post-partum depression. A very serious and important topic to be schooled in. Research I have done on this documents the depression brought on by the dramatic reduction of hormones produced by a woman's body after she has given birth. Again, it is my belief that no matter how Tom Cruise may feel about it, every pregnant woman should be aware of the potential changes after giving birth, that they are natural and not uncommon, and know her options for working through it. My mother experienced it after having had me, and it's an experience that she has been very anxious to share with me. Still, it has not prepared me for these strong feelings of sadness and helplessness I'm experiencing mid-pregnancy.
Basically, it comes down to this: I feel bad. I feel bad about everything. Physically, I hurt, my back is killing me and my long gone problems with chronic tension headache are starting to come back. I don't really like the way I look, which really cannot be helped. Sure, everyone else may think I'm soo cute, but what I see is too much weight gained, grey hairs and stretch marks. Emotionally, I'm so out of control that being emotional in and of itself is bringing on more emotional turmoil than anything else (irony?). I feel like my home is dirty and unorganized, which means that I am a bad homemaker, and will probably be a bad mother. I feel cumbersome, slow, and uninteresting to friends that formally knew me as the witty, intellectual smart-ass of the group. The most difficult thing to reconcile about this newfound complete and total lack of self-esteem is that I feel really awful about my relationship with Aaron. Not that I love him any less than before, it's just that with all my needing, needing, needing, I feel like I'm no longer GIVING anything back. I don't treat him as well as I think I should, I'm always upset, I get cranky with him, and yet I expect him to be around any and every time I need him. It's not fair to him, and all this emotion makes me paranoid that I'm going to lose him because I just don't know how to make him understand how helpless I am to its overwhelming grip. He doesn't even have the benefit (benefit?) of having experienced PMS for some frame of reference!
It's a matter of mood swings, and I've not yet figured out exactly what it is that will set me off. The whole experience is absolutely maddening in light of my usual inflated sense of self-confidence. Sure, there has always been something I could find in my life that I wasn't happy with, but then again, there were always lots of other things about myself that I loved. Now, I feel like every single aspect of my life is horribly awry. This feeling sad thing... it's exhausting!
What makes everything so damn hard to deal with, more than just feeling out of control, is the feeling I get when I am once again my normal, rational self: guilt. I feel guilty that I am creating such a tumult in my home, I feel guilty because I don't always feel like I like the baby as much as I should, because I'm always preoccupied how bad I've been feeling myself. It's that whole "I love you, but I don't have to like you right now" mentality. I feel guilty that I seem to need so much now. And then, of course, I feel guilty that I am becoming so self-absorbed in the first place. Without any girlfriends that are or have been pregnant to talk to, I've been scrambling to find some source of wisdom that will tell me that it really IS ok to think about yourself while pregnant. It's hard to shake the stigma of being selfish and conceited when you've been told your whole life to consider others first.
The best thing I have read so far has been an article called Nurturing Yourself During Pregnancy this very website. Pretty much, what I'm gathering is that, no matter how light "pregnancy insanity" may be portrayed, all across the board it needs to be understood that every pregnant woman will go through her own individual ups, downs, and everything in between. During this time, it is also important to understand that she will have special needs that must be met. Apparently, my new validation tells me, that, with my entire body devoting itself to the production and protection of another, it simply is ok to have a few extra needs for yourself as well. It's not selfish. Everything is changing, I'm changing, and some things in life will need to change as well to further help in the baby's and my happiness and comfort. What REALLY made me feel better is that there was an actual LIST on the page of various needs that have been pieced together by other pregnant women. Hurrah, other women have needs too! It's not just me after all! I'm going to list a few (ok, several) of my very favourites.
- I need my partner to know that no matter what I say or do, I will always, always love him and our family. (Very important, as it might not seem that way sometimes when I'm ranting and raving...)
- I need to know that my home is clean and organized. I need to nest and have everything in my home as comfortable for me as possible. I need to be surrounded by my own favourite and beloved belongings. (It's remarkable the difference it makes in my stress and crazy levels now that we've got the house somewhat organized. Yes, we did finally unpack.)
- I need help eating right. I need dinner to be made for me every once in a while. I need to not eat out as much. (Good tips for my general health and relaxation.)
- I need to sleep when I feel tired. I need everyone to know that if I say I am tired, hurting or uncomfortable, I am not exaggerating it. (Not that I think people don't believe me, it's just that they might not understand how much so I am feeling tired, hurt, or uncomfortable.)
- I need to not worry about finances and money (ha). I need reassurance that we WILL make it through whatever comes our way. (Self-explanatory. Stupid money.)
- I need reassurance that my partner will not leave me. I need to be supported throughout whatever it is that I might be feeling, all my concerns and worries, no matter how irrational they may seem. I need my partner to always listen to me. I need to be allowed to cry. (Multiple points all leading to the same basic conclusion - I'm not crazy, so support me, listen to me, reassure me!)
- I need to know that I still look good to my partner, and that I am not actually as unattractive as I may feel. I need to be touched and cuddled often. I need to be complimented occasionally for no reason at all. I need to have sex on a regular basis, and I need to feel that my partner still wants to have sex with me. (More basic self-esteem boosters that can make any old day seem wonderful.)
- I need it to be understood that even a slow day at work is hard on me. I need to relax after work.
- I need not to drive. I need it to be understood that the accident has made me nervous about being in the car with my baby. (Big point for me as, for years, I've ALWAYS been the driver. Driving is very tiring, especially now. I quit!)
- I need to talk about the baby. I need to be able to talk frankly about the ups AND downs of pregnancy. (Please try to be enthusiastic when I talk about the baby, and on the other hand, don't be horrified when I talk about the hard things with the baby. The baby is BIG news; I need to talk/vent about all of it.)
- I need to NOT talk about the baby if I don't want to. I need to feel like my own person apart from the baby. (Just because I'm having a baby doesn't mean that I have BECOME the baby. I'm still me, just fatter...)
- I need my partner to know that when I do complain about the hard stuff, that I am not overlooking all the good things you do for me. (The reason I love you is for the good things you do for me. They are what keep me afloat most of the time.)
- I need to spend time with my friends. I need to play as much as I can before the baby's born. I need to spend A LOT of time with my partner. (Pregnancy, I find, is kind of a lonely, bewildering experience. I need lots of support from my community of friends and family to make me feel like I'm still me, still wanted, and still fun!)
- I need to grieve the changes in my life. (I don't think it's humanly possible for ANY woman to be 100% prepared for how much she is going to be giving up from her old life to welcome this new one. If she is, then she's a freak of nature and should be studied. Myself, I've lost a lot of what used to make up me. I had to give up art for baby sake, as the fumes from the pens, inks and oils I use can harm the baby. Yes, it's only for nine months, but still, I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree! 9 months is a long time for me to give up my working portfolio! Everyone sacrifices time with friends, and some of their independence, just inherently in our need to nest at home, not to mention the fact we feel so icky. Others, may be losing their alone time with other children, or have to cut back on work, etc. And did I mention giving up half the bed to your partner when you're suddenly so huge? I think that it's ok to be sad for the things you're leaving behind, but always remember that you're also gaining a whole exciting new life.)
Turns out, making a list is a good thing. Just writing up the physical list, and getting all these concerns out of my head and onto paper, made me feel three million times better. If you're brave (and I think it's important that you are on this matter), share the list with your partner too, as a roadmap of the places where he should and should not tread. My favourite points are the first and the last, actually, and I think they're especially pertinent points for everyone in my family. If nothing else, I hope Aaron can understand these two points. I am grieving some hard changes in my life. It will pass, and I will not always be like this, so please be patient. And, I will always love you (even when you forget to do the dishes.)
And one final bit of good advice, from Insane Jennifer (actually this comes from my very good friend El Jefe Grande, whose girlfriend gave birth to their daughter a month and a half ago, so he's been on the receiving end of the pregnancy insanity) to anyone who wants it... It's ok that you get upset, it's ok that you're feeling crazy, it's ok that you're moody and needy. I don't understand what you're feeling, but I understand that changes are happening to your body. It's ok that you sometimes need to vent (scream) at me. Just always remember to say that you're sorry and that you love me, and I will be ok.