Today I am officially 21 weeks pregnant which means I’ve been rolling this post around in my head for approximately 17 weeks now.
Three years ago I was sitting in a hospital psychiatric ward scowling at a very nice lady. We were setting goals.
“What would you like to be doing in two years?” She asked.
I really hated that question.
I mumbled a few things, one of which was maybe start a family. It seemed ludicrous at the time. I couldn’t even take care of myself. How on earth was I going to take care of a baby? I’d gone through many different opinions on having a family in the (then) six years I’d been married. Those opinions ranged from I can’t wait to have a baby to there’s no way in hell I’m ever having kids. We’d been very careful in those six years to avoid getting pregnant, and we continued to be very careful for the next three years to come. Everyone says that if you wait for the right time to have a family, you’ll be waiting forever. In some ways, that’s true. In other ways, it’s completely false. It was not the right time for me. I knew that, but it didn’t make me feel better. It was easier to go back to never wanting kids because I wasn’t sure if I could survive the hope that maybe someday I’d be ready.
Three years of medication and therapy, lots of therapy, and slowly that hope grew. There were still many obstacles, but this time I had a support team. I talked to my psychiatrist first. Could I stay on my medication? What were the risks? Thankfully, I was able to stay on my anti-depressants, but I had to stop my anti-anxiety meds. I talked to my obgyn doctor next, and she confirmed my psychiatrist’s recommendations. I was living under the assumption that I would have to stop taking all of my meds before getting pregnant. And if that had been the case, I probably never would have. Hearing both my psychiatrist and doctor tell me that my health and safety was just as important as the health and safety of my potential baby changed everything.
Obviously every person is different. I know women who have stopped all their meds before getting pregnant. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But I knew that I couldn’t. For a long time I didn’t want to be dependent on medication, but now I know better. Taking anti-depressants is my battle armor. They don’t “cure” or “fix” me. They are simply tools to help. And with those tools, I am strong enough to back away from the edge that I teetered on for so long.
Growing up in a conservative Christian culture, I feel the need to say this: if you suffer from depression and/or any other mental illness and you’ve been told that you just have to pray harder or that you need to have stronger faith, let me be the first to tell you that is complete and utter bullshit. I don’t know how or when mental illness became synonymous with sin, but it is one of the most harmful beliefs that exists. You should never feel ashamed for having a mental illness. It’s not your fault. And there’s nothing shameful about seeking help. Pills and therapy do not mean you’re weak. I hated it when people told me this, but I’m saying it anyways: getting help is one of the bravest things you will ever do. And it probably won’t feel that way. I know it didn’t for me, but it is. Driving myself to the hospital and checking myself into a psychiatric emergency room was the bravest thing I have ever done.
So three years later, Aaron and I made the decision to try to get pregnant. And I was terrified. I told myself that at least it’d probably take a while. I told myself there was a good chance I would have trouble conceiving. I told myself there was the possibility that I’d never be able to bear a child.
And then I got pregnant immediately.
Hello deep end.
I was prepared for the worst. Fluctuating hormones is never fun, but for me they can be downright dangerous. My support team was on high alert, ready to help. Then something rather unexpected happened. My emotions stabilized. I’m sure there’s scientific and psychological reasons for this, but it felt downright miraculous. I had been terrified of being pregnant for so long, and here I am, the most stable I’ve ever been.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days. There’s still a lot of things that terrify me. Giving birth. The strong possibility of postpartum depression. Being a mom. There are days when I desperately wish I could take a xanax. There are days when I wonder what on earth I was thinking. There are nights when I wake Aaron up to tell him there’s no way I’m giving birth and this baby will just have to stay put forever.
Real life is messy and ugly and frustrating. I’m guilty of trying to take the perfect baby bump selfie to post to Instagram in order to somehow prove that I’ve got my life together [spoiler alert: I don’t]. And if I can convey just one thing, it’s ok to not have your shit together. This is my life, my crazy wonderful life full of way too much cat hair and unwashed dishes and a nightstand full of pill bottles. I’m living it, the best I can, and isn’t that all that really matters?