It’s beginning again, just like I remember. Tears come uninvited, streaming down my face. My voice rises; my patience with my kids dwindles. It has become easier to yell at my children ever since depression opened the door and sat next to me, whispering lies that seep into my heart.
My husband stares at me, barely recognizing the person in front of him. “What is going on with you?” he says.
“You don’t understand,” I shout at him. “It’s all so much harder than I thought it would be. I’m just not OK.”
We stare at each other as I try my best to quiet this overwhelming sadness. In the back of my mind reason chimes in, trying to be heard over the deafening whispers of depression. You know what is wrong. Just tell him. He may not understand—he can’t understand the way you want him to—but if you tell him, at least he’ll know something. It’s not your fault. It’s a gentle nudge. Reason tends to be gentle with me.
But I’m still afraid. I can’t, not right now, I gently whisper back.
This doesn’t feel normal to me. I am not usually like this. Emotions spring from me easily, usually without warning. But this . . . this feels different. This makes me feel out of control. I can easily blame it on pregnancy hormones. I can easily say, as I ease into my second trimester, that my hormones are out of whack. Growing a baby is hard, trying, exhausting.
But I know it isn’t the whole truth.
I silently beg for alone time as much as possible, afraid that if I say the words out loud it’ll confirm what a horrible mother I have become.
The constant touching and talking; the loud and playful noises that escape from my children; it’s too much.
I become overwhelmed by the sounds of childhood: basketballs being dribbled down the hallway, stories being told by my 5-year-old, the incessant cry for me by my 2-year-old, who is usually attached to my side. I just want quiet. I just want to be alone. I am an introvert, whether depression is by my side or not.
Right now, I want to run away, leave everything behind, wander in solitude. If I could just have enough time alone, I could cure myself. Be better.
The guilt that arises from these thoughts is something I cannot control. Aren’t I supposed to be happy when I’m pregnant? It is a miracle and a gift and a wonderful thing. I am supposed to be happy, grateful. Look at those beautiful human beings I helped create. How can it be so easy to yell at them? How could I want time away from them?
You don’t deserve them, a voice inside of me whispers. And I believe it.
This is not pregnancy hormones. This is something bigger.
Hormones feel like a cruel joke during pregnancy or postpartum. They are there to serve a purpose—to aid my body in growing, birthing, and nourishing a baby. But there are times when it seems their only purpose is to make me think I am losing my mind. They make me think there is something terribly wrong with me. I am at the mercy of my hormones for nine months, susceptible to all of the emotions they bring.
I am pregnant with my third child. This is not the first time I have been vulnerable, yet I can’t remember these feelings being this extreme. This time, depression lurks in the background and makes me anxious. It doesn’t care, it only has one purpose: to make me turn on myself and those around me I love. That is what’s happening to me now.
I don’t want to cry, but I have no control over the tears. I don’t want to yell, but my voice has a mind of its own. I don’t want to be angry, emotional, or depressed but I have lost all control now.
I am at the mercy of my hormones.
During my first pregnancy, I had never heard of prenatal depression. I was the woman who loved being pregnant. I savored the moments when I felt the baby kick. I became enamored when my belly grew and I lost sight of my feet. The feelings of euphoria lasted long after my son was placed in my arms. Every ache and pain, the long recovery—it was the most beautiful time of my entire life.
During my second pregnancy, I treasured those moments up until a few months before my daughter was born. Toward the end, something felt off, though I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I was flooded with emotions, provoked to tears over nothing. I was irritable, which can be normal when you are 34 weeks pregnant. It was heavier, though. I, the woman who thinks about having another baby while still in the hospital, didn’t want to be pregnant anymore. I wasn’t sure I wanted the baby growing inside of me, either.
I suffered from postpartum depression for nearly a year after my daughter was born. As I was filling out the new mother survey at my 6-week check up, I realized many of the symptoms I felt—not laughing easily or as often, crying more—were the same ones I felt toward the end of my pregnancy.
Prenatal depression was a thing—and now a part of my story.
I had high hopes for this third pregnancy, that I would go through nine months of growing this beautiful girl and come out unscathed, whole and happy, that those feelings would continue into the postpartum season.
This isn’t how the story goes.
Fear stalks me, whispering that all of this will continue once my baby girl is born. It tells me I will feel the same things I felt with her sister—empty, angry. I doubt my ability to be stronger than these emotions. I doubt my ability to be happy ever again. I thought if I could get through this pregnancy, have it feel as euphoric as my first, that I would be cured of the depression that has lingered on and off for two years.
The tears come fast and furious almost every day. Tears fall from my eyes like a waterfall, usually around bedtime. Please just go to sleep, I beg as I wrangle two kids to bed. Most of the time, my voice is loud, demanding. Both kids fight sleep until they become exhausted and succumb. By the time they fall asleep, the tears—mine and theirs—have stained our cheeks. I replay the last hour in my head as I watch them sleep peacefully, regret and shame hovering over me.
My husband asks why I cry so often one night after the kids are finally asleep. I can’t get the word depression out of my mouth. Instead, I cry harder as he holds me tight.
“It all feels so hard,” I stammer through the sobs. “Being pregnant, taking care of two kids. I’m not any good at it. I don’t know how to control my temper or my emotions.” I can no longer talk; the dam is breaking and I feel myself drowning.
My husband holds me tighter. He doesn’t know what to say. I don’t want him to say anything, I just need someone to lean on when it all feels heavy, someone to help lessen the load.
Once I can breathe again I add, “I hate that they are seeing me like this . . . crying all the time, angry all the time. I don’t want them to remember me this broken. But I don’t know how to be happy.”
He leaves our room without saying a word once I have calmed down, just a gentle kiss on the forehead. I feel relief wash over me, having—momentarily—released this burden that threatens to bury me.
All I can do now is soak in some quiet time alone in my room, a chance to gather my thoughts, quiet my mind, remove the dirt from the day and hope for a better tomorrow. I try to build up strength I’m not sure I have. I never know what the next day will bring.