We all know this scene: a pregnant woman crying over an advert on TV or threatening murder because she has run out of her favourite pickle and jelly flavoured ice cream. Every media outlet we come across shows a scenario in which the pregnant woman behaves in a ‘crazy’ and unstable way due to the hormones raging through her body and we all laugh because it’s just a small snippet in a woman’s life where she can truly become unhinged and no one will say anything.
Everyone but me. Having gone through hormonal imbalances in the past that ended with me taking an overdose, I was terrified of being pregnant. If women with no history of anxiety and depression went ‘nuts’ during pregnancy, what hope was there for me?
It’s true: you’re never truly ‘ready’ for a baby
When my husband and I found out we were pregnant, there was no movie moment of excitement and joy. That’s not to say we weren’t happy. We had planned having a family…one day. We just didn’t think it would be this soon. We weren’t ‘ready’ and no matter how often people told us that no one is ever ready, we had envisaged to have certain things in place before starting a family.
I was in the midst of writing my first novel. My husband was starting a new business. We still didn’t own a house because we weren’t sure which country we wanted to settle in.
Our future was uncertain, but it was exciting! Anything could happen!
But in that moment when I saw the line appear on the pregnancy test, the freedom of that uncertainty suddenly became a burden. How could we bring a child into this? Everything we were planning was to set ourselves up ready and yet, here we were. A tiny little human that we couldn’t yet see had become our entire universe.
As we settled in to the new direction that our life was taking, I became more and more anxious over what this pregnancy would do to my mental health. Memories of an existence long forgotten, suddenly began to resurface.
Pregnancy and mental health
To those who have read my blog, you know how comfortable I am with talking about my past. I even try to give hope to those struggling right now because I have been there and I have, for the most part, come out the other side.
But this was new territory.
Because I knew the power of hormones. I knew that in the year in which I had the contraceptive implant, I was convinced I had gone insane and nothing I did was able to change that.
At the end of the day you could remove an implant. I would not remove my baby.
It was this knowledge that always made me unsure about having a family in the first place, but the decision had been taken away from me. And it wasn’t just hormonal imbalances during pregnancy that plagued me. What about post-natal depression? Surely I wouldn’t escape this debilitating illness, not with my past.
The first trimester wasn’t easy. The tiredness, the mood swings, the insomnia and the anxiety over my husband dying, were all pretty severe. And the sick joke about the first trimester is that you don’t generally tell people you are pregnant because of the risk of it all going wrong! So people tend to think you’re being a bit flaky and pathetic.
How I coped with pregnancy
I started swimming because I thought that the only way to beat one imbalance was to introduce another: endorphins. I was lucky that physically I was able to get my butt to the pool most mornings. I was also lucky that my husband’s place of work was on the way which made it easier to get motivated!
I cannot say for certain if swimming was the thing that made the difference for me (or maybe it was all the pizza?) After about week 20, I was one of the most chilled out pregnant women I’d ever encountered. I became a verified hippy! Nothing phased me and I enjoyed for the first time in my life, true peace of my mind.
I was also lucky enough not to suffer with PND.
How hormones continue to rule my head
So it’s now 7.5 months since I gave birth and I am still pretty chilled out. My gut feeling is that this is due to breast-feeding and as ever, I continue to question just how much of an impact hormones have on our mental health.
How often are people, particularly women, diagnosed with depression and anxiety when in fact what needs to be tested are hormone imbalances? If a hormonal implant makes me section-able, and becoming a mother has made me as chilled out as a penguin in the south pole, I simply cannot ignore the effect of hormones on the mind.
Becoming a mother to me still feels like magic. It’s harder than I ever thought but also 1000 times more rewarding. It is my purpose in life.
And that is what is so wonderful about the unmarked road. It can lead you anywhere <3