*I have struggled with antepartum depression throughout most of this pregnancy. (And through my pregnancies with my last few children.) I haven’ always known how to talk about it. I thought I’d just share the sounds of my thoughts instead.**
To bed at 10:30 and up again at 4:50. Just over six hours of sleep. It’s the longest consecutive stretch of sleep that I’ve had in months. My body feels tired, but my mind is wide awake.
I keep running my hands over my distended belly and thinking about the girl inside. I’m 31 weeks pregnant now. I’ve watched my skin jump as she bumps and stretches inside of me. And yet I’m having a hard time with believing that she is real. It’s as though she’s some fairy story I’ve told myself about a make-believe girl. My mind simply refuses to believe the fact that she will be anything more than this bump in the front of me, or that our lives are about to change in the old familiar ways.
We have seen her on ultrasound, chosen her name, and announced her coming to the world; so why does my mind refuse to accept the inevitable? It’s not that I have some strange premonition of loss or tragedy, just that my imagination can’t go any further down the road than the reality of today. I try to call into focus daydreams of little hands and sweetly curved cheeks, the familiar warm boneless weight of a newborn in my arms, but while I can remember its truth with my other children, I can’t imagine this one.
I bought a few onesies last week, and one footie pajama. It’s all that she has in the closet so far. There are the two blankets a far-away friend sent, and the pictures of the beautiful quilt she’s creating for this newest baby, but there’s no crib to put it in. The bed which had held so many of our other children was worn out after the last one, and is somewhere in a landfill I’m sure. I’ve looked at a few online, but can’t find the enthusiasm or motivation to buy one. How do you buy furniture for a figment of your imagination? For someone whose existence you steadily ignore?
People ask us the name of our baby, and I smile coyly and say “We aren’t telling.” It’s not true. My husband and children are telling. I’m not. It feels false to speak her name out loud. The sound of her name doesn’t fill me with anticipation and excitement. It doesn’t make me feel anything at all. I’m just numb to it. I carefully chose what we would call her, naming her for two women I admire more than almost any others. I’d hoped that would tether her to the earth for me, give her flesh, and make her real. It hasn’t.
I know from experience that she will come roaring into this world and become instantly real. A necessary part of my life, as indispensable as breathing. It won’t be long before traces of this newest girl will overtake our house, and she will be enmeshed in our family life, forever a part of who we are. But it has’t happened yet.
In these early morning hours, I watch as her leg stretches out searching for more room. I rub the skin over what I know is a tiny foot and say a prayer for the small girl who is in there, trying desperately to feel anything but indifference. I know this will pass, it has before, but I also know that it won’t be today. Today, time will continue to stand still for me before the days will leap unexpectedly ahead. A hazy blur of disreality and unconnection, as I continue to wait for the miracle moment when she will at last be made real to me.
**I’ve discussed it all with my doctor, but the reality is that he can’t tell me anything new. This is all familiar ground to me. The only difference this time is that the feeling of suspension has a name – antepartum depression. Most people are more familiar with postpartum depression, but there are millions of women (1 in 5 prgnant women to be exact) who battle with depression throughout pregnancy. Not because we don’t love or want our babies. Not because we’re bad mothers. Not because we’re crazy or incapable of love, or any of the other things we tell ourselves. It’s because the hormones of being pregnant cause us to become chemically unbalanced, and this weird state of limbo is where we live. If you’re living in this place, like I am, please talk to your doctor about it. You’re not alone in this. It’s a real thing, and there is help.
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