I planned my pregnancy. I married my best friend. We had a plan. The plan was to enjoy our marriage and take time to learn more about ourselves before we had a child. So after our wedding, I got on birth control.
Two years later, we were ready to have a child. I had a great job, as a senior executive with a top audit firm in Lagos. My husband is an entrepreneur, business was doing great. We were ready to be parents, we had dreamt about it even before our wedding. He wanted a baby girl, I wanted a boy. We had names ready, if it was a boy we’ll call him Oluwadunbarin. If we had a girl, she was to be called Aduke.
Our dreams came true!
Four months after I went off birth control, I got pregnant. I was over the moon, we both were, my husband and I. Our dreams were coming true. We had prepared for this throughout our courtship and marriage. I immediately signed up for antenatal classes, with a top private hospital in Lagos island. We wanted only the best, we could afford it, so why not? Our doctor was the best, he was so kind. He told me all about what to expect. Okay, maybe everything.
He said I could expect morning sickness, feeling like crap all morning, you know, throwing up and stuff. I was expecting those like a security guard to expect an important mail for his boss, I was alert and ready. It never came though. I had no morning sickness in my first trimester, everything was perfect. This made me glad because it meant that I had no issues at work. I was full of energy until I wasn’t.
It all began in my second trimester, we had just found out the sex of our baby; we were buzzing. It was a girl. My husband was over the moon. We were excited to see baby, Aduke for the first time, through the screen. The joy on my husband’s face made me happy. I was a fortunate woman, most men where I’m from would want a baby boy, he wanted a daughter he could make Tiktok videos with; you know the cute father-daughter videos.
Although I wanted a boy, I was happy, I’ll have a mini me. I’ll shower her with love and joy, all the joy in my heart. One morning though, I woke up feeling sad, I was 5 months pregnant at the time. I couldn’t place it, I was moody all day, my colleagues noticed. Everyone kept asking what was wrong, “Did you have a fight with David?” My boss asked, with a look of deep concern. There was no fight, I just felt down. Thinking back, it was weird. It was like someone flipped a switch, my joy was gone.
My husband said he had gone online run a search on google. Eventually, all the search results said it was normal. Women could feel moody and have mood swings during pregnancy. I felt better, I apologized to my husband and promised to snap out of it. I was naive.
Subsequently, days turned to weeks, and I basically felt down and sad all the time. With the sadness came irritability and weeping spells. I would literally break down in tears without provocation. Sometimes, I would snap at my husband, and shout at him to leave me alone. I couldn’t recognize myself, I felt like a horrible wife.
I needed help
My husband did not deserve it, he was a good man. I felt guilty, and confused. I cried and cried, it’s how I remember the rest of my pregnancy, I was a cry cry baby. It was not until my 7th month that I realized I was depressed.
I was speaking with a friend who volunteers for an organization called Postpartum Support Network (PSN) Africa. She told me that she thought I was depressed. At first I rebuked her. Depression is not my portion, from where to where? I told her postpartum depression happens after childbirth, she pushed back, explaining with kindness how postpartum depression can start during pregnancy. I didn’t want to believe her. But deep down I knew she was right, I was depressed. A couple days after our conversation, I called my friend Ibukun, and asked her to refer a therapist I could speak to. It was the beginning of my journey to recovery.
Isn’t it crazy that no one tells us about this? How is it possible to actually be depressed and struggle with anxiety during pregnancy? That sometimes it’s not just mood swings? Here’s a list of some of the symptoms I had and what I learned during therapy that helped.
- Low self esteem
- Constant fatigue (I was basically exhausted from the moment I woke up in the morning.)
- Low sex drive (up until my 5th month, I was sexually active, it was down from then on)
- Feeling empty, like my life had no meaning
- Keeping a journal (My therapist had me write down exactly how I felt each day. At the start it was challenging but it helped me greatly. I was an outlet and an opportunity to make sense of how I was feeling each day)
- Three good things – Each night before I went to bed, I will write three good things about my day or life. I thought it was a silly exercise when I was asked by my therapist to do it. But it helped me greatly, to shift my thoughts from what was sad about my situation to things I had going for me.
- Exercise – My therapist said if exercise was a pill, every doctor will prescribe it. Giving my situation, I could only do very little exercise, like going on walks, but they saved my life. Go on short walks daily.
- Identify, challenge and replace negative thoughts. I learned that our thoughts often trigger negative feelings. So I guard my thoughts. When I notice I might be thinking about negative things, I challenge the negative thoughts and replace them with more rational thoughts. It is one trick I learned during therapy that has helped me till date.
I am a warrior mum…..
I had my baby safely, and months after I continued to struggle with sadness and guilt. Honestly, I felt like a bad mom, not good enough for my child and husband. I continued therapy, and by my 5th month postpartum, I was doing great. In the end, I beat depression!
I wish I knew all these before my pregnancy, I wish I knew that one could be depressed during pregnancy. It’s why I’m being vulnerable and sharing my story with you, so that you don’t have to suffer alone. There’s help and there are things you could do yourself to feel better.
You are not alone……..
Guest writer Kachi Ekwerike, Clinical Psychologist and Founder of the Postpartum Support Network.
See also: Tips For Surviving The First Days After Childbirth