Saturday, February 12, 2011

Expecting and Unenthusiastic (Orig Post Date 5/7/10)

What do you do when you’re pregnant and unhappy about it? What do you say to people when they say “Congratulations!” “I’m so happy for you!” “How exciting!” or my personal favorite: “You must be so thrilled/excited/happy about the new baby!” Why? Why must I be so thrilled/excited/happy? Can’t I be sad/depressed/ambivalent? Where is it written that pregnancy and happiness go hand in hand? I try to be a trouper, to smile when I want to roll my eyes and snarl. My closest friends know how I really feel about the situation, but every day it gets that much harder to keep the mask in place.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder. Am I the only one who feels this way? There have to be other women out there who are pregnant, and not happy about it. There is no way that I’m the only one who’s not just absolutely bursting at the seams with joy at the thought of another mouth to feed and bottom to wipe. Why are we so afraid to admit that we’re not happy?

Does it go back to the hard wiring in our brains that make us subconsciously yearn for another baby, even though we have decided that we really are happy with what we have? Or is it guilt - that ever present specter that haunts every decision, thought and feeling a mother has?

My money is on the guilt. We are told over and over by society and the media that having a baby is a happy and wonderful time, but for many women, it is the opposite.

Postpartum depression, baby blues, whatever you call it, is a serious medical condition that can quickly deepen to something more. Approximately 13% of women suffer from some sort of depression during pregnancy or after delivery. Several factors can cause an onset of depression, and if a woman has a personal or family history of past depression, then her chances of becoming depressed during pregnancy increase. Also, if a woman is depressed during pregnancy, then her risk of suffering from postpartum depression is increased after delivery.

There are many important things to keep in mind if you think you may be depressed, but I think the most important ones are:

  1. Depression is not your fault. You did nothing to bring this on yourself, and you are not to blame for what is happening.
  2. There is help out there, closer than you may even realize. Don’t be afraid to reach out for the help and support you need. You don’t have to do it all. Really, you don’t. All you have to do is breathe, feed your baby (however you want: breast or bottle), and keep that precious baby in clean diapers. Everything else will work itself out.
  3. This is for the people around a pregnant woman or new mother: BE SUPPORTIVE, NOT JUDGMENTAL. Watch for signs of depression, ask her how she is feeling and allow her to be honest with you. Offer to help her out and follow through. Think before you speak. The last thing a new mom or mom-to-be needs is more guilt over her decisions.
All of this, I know, is easier said than done, but I still think it needs to be said and said often. It would be even better if it were practiced, and still better yet if it were practiced often.

Now, having written all of that, am I any happier about being pregnant at this point in my life? No. Am I aware of the risk factors I face for depression now and once this baby is born? Yes. Am I still feeling guilty over my ambivalence about the life growing inside me? Yes.

Why? Because I know that there are women out there that have tried for years to have a baby with no success. I know that there are people out there that would love to share their lives with a child, but for one reason or another, they are unable to do so. Meanwhile, here I am with one child already, and another on the way, and I have days where I wish I had no children at all.

I love my daughter. I love her more than anything else in existence. She is living, breathing proof of the love my husband and I share, and the rational side of my brain knows that this second child will be yet another physical reminder and display of that love. But that is the rational side of my brain, and as I have said before, so often the rational side and emotional side have problems playing well together.

The emotional side is afraid. It’s afraid of so many things; if I listed them all, this post may never end. The biggest fears are based in what I see as past failures as a mother and wife. Failures that my husband has assured me were not failures at all, but again, there is that barrier between the rational and emotional.

I hope that this time, I will be better equipped to ask for the help that I just didn’t know I needed so desperately, or was so close at hand.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love feedback from my readers. Thank you for taking the time to leave me a comment!!