Oh So Real: Pregnancy and Suicidal Depression

“Oh baby,” I said, as he/she came down the birth canal, “You are born!”. It was 1979. We didn’t know the sex of the child before birth. The birthing experience was wonderful, a balm for the difficult pregnancy caused by the onset of major depression in the fourth month of pregnancy.

I was alone.

Don’t get me wrong, my husband was with me very much during the pregnancy. But I was alone with being pregnant and being ill. I knew no other woman who was or had been pregnant and seriously depressed to talk to, to compare notes, to help me express my feelings or to hug. I hope this summary of my story of the difficult pregnancy will help other mothers who find themselves struggling with similar experiences today.

If you are pregnant and depressed, you are Not alone.

People with mental illness want to succeed as parents

Parenting. I know that when my son was born, and I had serious depression, I was overwhelmed by the thought of taking care of a newborn, the rest of the family, the home, meals, …..the whole shebang. No one in my health care team thought of arranging for assistance for me or even meeting with me. My extended family assumed once the baby was born the depression would correct itself and, with the joy of the new baby, I would manage fine.

Actually the terror of my anxiety level worsened. I was sure I would do things wrong. The depression worsened.

My children are now ages 35 and 40. They are well and we are doing well with each other. I couldn’t be more blessed as a parent. In fact, now I am a Grandparent to two children, a boy and girl who are 5 and 9. Their birthdays are coming up and celebrating grandchildren’s birthdays  is an awful lot of fun!

I’ll discuss some things I would have done differently when my children were born in a second post.

Parenting, continued….

Raising children, for me, while taking care of my own mental illness, was a double challenge. I was a parent before major depression, and later Bipolar Disorder II, evolved. My article on parenting (in the menus above under “Real Life, Real Challenges”) was written several years ago but this post gives me the opportunity to add to my observations.
Support should be given to them every step of the way, as needed, per individual. We love our children and want to do the best for them. Support during pregnancy check-ups; assistance at hand, if wanted, when the baby is about to be born; coordinated discharge planning when mother and baby are leaving for home; weekly in-home visits, etc.

With that in mind, here are some things I would do differently if I had the opportunity:

  • I would be less critical of family members. In fact, I think that some parenting classes can be suggested to parents with mental illness ( we’d learn the program and we’d all learn from each other) Stress techniques that would teach how to do positive reinforcement so the parent with depression/mental illness has some tools to use.
  • I would teach my children at an earlier age, in simple terms, that I had an illness and that sometimes I needed the house to be extra quiet and I had to nap because I wasn’t feeling well.
  • I/we would teach that the illness and bad feelings that I had were not the children’s fault, nor anyone’s fault.