My pregnancy was healthy until I wasn’t
I had work to ensure mine and my family’s health was put first
The day I found out I was pregnant was one of the greatest days of my life. I spent the first trimester in a whirlwind, picking out clothes, buying a car seat, and creating my birth plan. Everything was exciting and new, but then one day a switch in my brain flipped. I was constantly on edge, every day felt worse than the last. I felt trapped in a hole with no end in sight. From that point on I could only focus on the negative points of my life, I was jobless, my birth provider denied me my birth plan and my partner and I could not seem to get along.
I couldn’t function.
I didn’t want to function.
Friends and family would reach out, but I would lie and say everything was fine. Everything was not fine. There is a specific memory of resting on the couch in complete silence while my baby kicked fervently inside of me. Regret was all I kept thinking about, regret that I had created this child out of love knowing that I could never be the mother they deserved. I hated myself for selfishly bringing my child into a world to be raised by an angry and sick mother.
As a person, who lives with depression and anxiety I knew postpartum depression would come for me. I felt I was prepared, I thought I would know what to do when the time came, but nothing prepared me for the depression that came during my pregnancy. Existing felt like a chore. I began having stress dreams about the people around me hurting my unborn child. With the dreams came a lack of sleep.
I couldn’t live like this.
I didn’t want to live like this.
Reaching out for help when I needed it for my mental health
Finally, I reached out to my partner and told him about the thoughts I had been having, the dreams, everything. We both broke down into tears. For so long I had suffered alone and now that I shared the load I could begin the road to health. I went to therapy for the remainder of my pregnancy and the sessions helped tremendously. I didn’t feel back to myself completely, but I was functional. Shortly, after my sessions began I gave birth.
Becoming the full time caregiver to my child took priority over my mental health. I found myself slipping into unhealthy habits once again, but this time my partner caught the signs and was prepared. He gently asked me to speak to someone, it took a few months of reminders, but I finally made the appointment. However, I didn’t go. Anxiety got the better of me and I cancelled last minute. A few days later, I remade the appointment and made a promise to myself that I would go.
Caring for your mental health is a practice
Opening myself up to my primary doctor, whom I had only seen once before, had to be one of the scariest experiences I have ever had. I breastfed my daughter while explaining to my doctor how anxiety ridden and depressed I had been since I was 6 months pregnant.
She was professional, kind, and answered all of my questions regarding my options, and gave me her best medical advice. She didn’t tell me what I “needed” to do, she gave me options; medicine, therapy, and or both. It was my choice. She told me the medicine route would not be a ‘cure all’. “Think of it as a splint. It will help, but you still have to work on your physical therapy.” I took her advice to heart and a month later I returned for my follow-up.
I felt like myself again and could finally enjoy motherhood. While I still got frustrated or felt overwhelmed, I was able to take myself out of these situations to regulate my emotions. I could finally be the mother I always wanted to be.
You don’t have to suffer alone, reach out for help with your health
If you are currently experiencing these types of feelings I urge you to say something. Whether it be to your healthcare provider, partner, family member, or a friend. Speaking out is the first step to getting help. Your healthcare provider will be able to provide you with the resources you need to prioritize your mental health. As with anything there will be people who tell you what you’re feeling is “wrong”, but it’s not. Everything you are feeling is normal. Your body goes through so many changes when you carry a child. We focus so much on the physical changes, the stretch marks, the breasts leaking, the back aches, and lack of sleep. We forget that our hormones are also going through a whirlwind. You are not alone, so be gentle with yourself, and speak up when you feel like you need to.
Leah Saliter is the mother of one and the creator of the horror podcast Gomorrah. In between changing diapers, she researches, writes, and produces as a Black woman looking to uplift others.