My world has become very quiet lately, and my writing self has been especially effected. It's not as though there is a lack of noteworthy activity in my life: after wearing glasses for most of his life, Rob had laser surgery to correct his vision; my father is single-handedly transforming a cement basement into a warm, welcoming two-bedroom apartment (where his first grandchild will probably be born); my brother is moving to Maryland for at least a year...and then to New York...and then...
And yet I feel silent, and listless. Empty most of the day, every day.
I know exactly what this is, and have been approaching it with a sort of cool detachment. "Ah yes," I think. "Depression." I wear my past experience with it like a suit of armor against this familiar monster. I know what you are, and I won't let you hurt me again.
For months, I maintained that I was simply experiencing the low, non-glowy side of pregnancy. The extreme irritability, trouble sleeping, never-ending fatigue and desire to eat only refined carbohydrates all seemed like common enough pregnancy complaints that I dismissed them as such. But I know better.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression and perscribed medication at sixteen. Five years later, I weaned myself off of the medication, because I didn't want pills to be the long-term solution to my problem. But the pills helped. They helped a lot. Not taking them means I have to be more involved in managing my mood. I have to eat well, sleep well, exercise regularly, and--if nothing else--remind myself that my feelings of worthlessness have more to do with my brain chemistry than my personhood. Of course, pregnancy throws a monkey wrench into the mental machinery.
Depression during prenancy ushers in doubt. Because somehow, it seems so acceptable to judge our aptitude for mothering on our level of happiness during pregnancy. I feel guilty for not basking in the miraculousness of my own body and its ability to create another human being. My mother loooovved being pregnant, and I fully expected to love it, too. But I feel sad and empty, and not at all Earth-Mother-like. And frankly, I feel cheated. I feel cheated out of what my culture maintains is supposed to be beautiful, joy-filled, life-affirming experience. And because I can't be happily glowing, I find myself face-to-face with doubt in its worst form: If I can't even enjoy pregnancy, I will never enjoy being a mother.
And it sucks. Depression sucks, and depression during pregnancy really sucks. It's lonely and painful, and no matter how many times you tell your rational, intellectual self that this is just a feeling, your emotional self does. not. care. But that doesn't make the emotional self right.
I know what you are, and I won't let you hurt me again.
Not loving every minute of pregnancy has nothing to do with how much I'll love my child. Being a depressed pregnant woman doesn't mean I'll be a bad mother; it just means that I'm a depressed pregnant woman. That's life. And for now, that will have to be okay.