I judged you. You were pregnant, you were depressed. You were anxious. I judged you.
I thought you were ‘supposed’ to be happy during this time of life. After-all, you had a baby growing in your womb, how much worse could it get? You wanted this baby. Many people long for a baby, and can’t get pregnant. So why are you so down… so miserable… so depressed?
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Before falling pregnant with my firstborn, saying that I was ignorant about pregnancy and all that follows was an understatement. I was more than ignorant, I was utterly clueless. I romanticized what building a family meant. I thought it was what people aspired to have, and once they had it, everything was perfect. A family of their own, 2.5 kids, with a white picket fence and a golden retriever. And I dreamed of having my own little perfect fat baby with chubby rolls on her thighs, I even picked out a name for her when I was 12. Indigo. She was all that I dreamed of and more.
And then I got pregnant. And a deep depression came in, it crept in slowly like the nighttime fog. It closed in around me, and before I knew it, I couldn’t think clearly. I was anxious, I quit my job, my perfect little life with the white picket fence that I had dreamed up felt like it was left half smudged on a whiteboard.
I would cry on the way to each OBGYN visit, anticipating the prelude of pokes, prods, and questions. My doctor would check-in and ask me how I felt, and before the question would leave her mouth, I’d burst into a roaring flood of tears. Don’t get me wrong, I was in love with my baby. I longed for her. But, something was off, I couldn’t put my finger on it, I didn’t know that a woman could have prenatal depression. Unfortunately for me, my doctor couldn’t put her finger on it either, and I was left undiagnosed throughout the pregnancy. Left grappling to understand what was wrong with me.
It was a long and lonely pregnancy. Each little comment about how lucky and blessed I was, felt like salt being rubbed in a wound. It stung because I knew that they were right, and I didn’t understand why I was feeling this way. I’d never heard of antenatal ( perinatal) depression, I never knew it was a thing. So sadly I sank deeper, feeling selfish, feeling alone.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Perinatal Depression impacts 15 to 20% of pregnant and postpartum mothers. But depression too often goes untreated because it can be so hard for the mothers who are suffering to stand up and ask for help.
To the momma who I judged. I am so sorry. If I could go back through time, I would give you a big hug and tell you it will all be ok. I would ask you how I can help you. I would be a friend, and not just a good friend, a great friend. I would encourage you that there will be a day when the fog rolls out, and the sun shines bright when it feels warm again, and the air is clear. But most importantly. I would tell you that I am here for you.
My little Indigo did finally arrive. 7pounds and 14ounces of pure perfection, with rosebud skin, and cherry red lips. And the fog lifted and everything felt right again.
Prenatal depression impacts way more mothers than people realize. It’s estimated more than 400,000 babies are born to depressed mothers each year. In addition, about one in nine new moms in America experience postpartum depression symptoms, according to the U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So the next time you see an anxious pregnant momma. Please do her a favor. Don’t assume that she is ok because she has been gifted the miracle of life. Ask her if she is ok, and graciously be tender with her if she is not. Do it for me, and do it for the pregnant momma who I judged.