The increasing levels of discomfort

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The third trimester descends, almost without me realizing. The physical and emotional roller coaster ride that is pregnancy peaks around the 28th week, and then the increasing G force and terrifying descent into what can only be described as hormonal madness takes over.

Random shooting pain in my hips and other lady parts punctuates nearly every attempt at perambulation. The compression of about 20 pounds of mostly liquid weight leans heavily on my bladder and organs when I stand. The baby inside me is equally as irritable and restless, turning over on himself ceaselessly day and night. Sleep is a joke, what little I am able to get is interrupted every few hours by a child in the next room working through night tantrums, terrors, or simply testing out new interrogation techniques for the CIA.

Leg cramps begin, a symptom I’d previously forgotten about, so if I’m not awakened by the need to urinate six times a night, or because of the crying child in the next room, it’s to stamp out the charlie horse which has cruelly grappled what little hope I had at achieving restful sleep.

When I do get comfortable, I have to wait for the baby to settle down again, as the movement has jarred him awake. If I drift off to sleep, my dreams are angry or horrific nightmares, as mentally exhausting as the physical symptoms I’m enduring.

My waking life, beginning with the first light of day, usually begins with tears. Most of the time it’s a sheer frustration that whatever hope I had to rest for that night is gone, wasted and lost forever. If it’s not that, then it’s the hormonal moodiness, the filter I’d held in the before times long worn away, the fuse on my temper smoldering, needing for the smallest spark to explode.

I go through cycles of brood, snap, explode, apologize, repeat. I hate the impact I’m having on the people around me. I isolate further, trying to shield them from my behavior, which only makes me feel even more depressed, burdensome and unworthy.

I see my doctors, they give me guarded, concerned looks. I feel the frayed rope of my sanity unwind further as I assure them I’m going to be okay, I just have to get through it. I begin to question whether I truly can. The mind turns in on itself. I feel foolish for saying anything at all. I don’t want to have people worry about me.

I fear the additional weeks ahead, pondering how this body endured the first child, and how on earth I’ll complete the home stretch with any semblance of sanity. I stare at my growing belly, wondering if at any moment it will break open in splintering stretch marks or just give up altogether and finally spill my guts all over the place. I am, in a word, uncomfortable.

Strangers ask about my due date, how I’m feeling. Women tell me how much they loved being pregnant. I rage inside. How?! What am I doing wrong, I wonder. What secret part of this process is so enjoyable that I’m missing out? I decide that those who say things like this are either liars or forget what their experience was truly like. It’s the only thing I can do to keep me from wanting to punch them in their smug little faces.

Maybe some women do enjoy it, like the people who eat chocolate covered pretzels and can enjoy combinations of things that shouldn’t taste good together. But for me, I’ll never understand it. Whatever good feelings that come from pregnancy are drowned out by the symptoms that make me so miserable I can barely function. That’s not to say I’m not happy about adding another child to our family, because I am, and I can’t wait to meet him. But goodness, the process of getting there cannot be described as fun.

The nesting begins

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The boys went out today for a whole Saturday of activities and left me alone in the house. It’s not a bad thing, honestly. I get so tired nowadays, and I’m crabby, so not so much fun on our outings. But in the quiet time they gave me, which turned out to be like 6 hours total, I began what can only be described as nesting.

I was overcome with an undeniable need to scour the house of all dirt and disorder. I scrubbed the bathrooms. I dusted all the things. I vacuumed. I drudged up all the random bins I had around the house filled with things for me to “deal with later” and dealt with all of them. I found all the pieces to my son’s lego train, tracked down the assembly instructions with a little creative sleuthing and put it all back together. I organized all my scrapbooking nonsense and my son’s arts and craft projects from school. I did all the laundry. I purged so much stuff and was left with a respectable pile of “still needs attention” stuff.

Although the urge didn’t really go away, I ran out of steam for the day. I picked up again this morning at work, going through my desk drawers and pulling all the things that needed to be brought home or purged out. I even wiped down the insides of the drawers. I have my sights set on the linen closet at home next, and my closet needs to be purged as well. Because there’s a baby coming! And my environment must be made ready!!

Please no

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I can’t seriously believe I had to utter them, but today the words “Please don’t pet my belly” actually came out of my mouth. To someone I really thought would know better. I just give up on humanity. Can we please, all of us, work on educating the people in our lives on proper pregnant lady codes of conduct?

Step 1: Do NOT identify the pregnant lady as such until she does so herself.

Step 2: Do NOT touch the pregnant lady unless she specifically invites you to do so.

Step 3: Do NOT make comments about her appearance. You can inquire how she’s feeling, but ONLY if you actually want the answer to the question. If you don’t want to hear about her symptoms (and believe me, she’s got them!), don’t ask.

Step 4: Speak to pregnant lady like you would any other adult human being not carrying a fetus at the moment. You’ll find that she’s got a lot to say about many topics, and will direct the conversation back to the status of being pregnant if she wants to discuss it.

Key phrases like, “It’s great to see you” and “I’d love to hear all about it, if you want to talk” are great ways to open the door to baby-related conversations, without expectation or presumption.

The entire body/mind/life shift that a pregnant lady is undergoing isn’t really anyone’s business. There’s not much anyone can really do or say to alleviate any of the symptoms, but continuing to be a good friend and respecting personal boundaries and remembering your friend is still in that swelling mass of gestation goes a long way to making this nearly year long process more tolerable. Please, don’t be a dick. Thank you.

The attitude

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This post is about two things relating to attitudes: mine and other people’s. I realize that’s a wide net to cast, but I just wanted to jot down these ideas before they got away from me. As most of my posts lately have been about my pregnancy, this post is certainly no exception. But in the greater scheme of things, I have to recognize that these thoughts transcend the temporary condition I’m in, because it reflects on how people see me in the grand scheme of things, and how I, in turn, see them.

I must admit with no attempt at rationalizing it, that I’ve been in a bad way since learning I was pregnant. Although I wanted to have another child, and went into this process with eyes open, I have to admit that this pregnancy has been difficult for me. Whether it was truly harder on me than the first is not easy to assess because the circumstances are very different. Still, I will comment on what I’m feeling now, because the experience is still mine, important and most of all, uncomfortable.

I suppose during my first pregnancy, I spent most of the time denying how I felt, because people made it clear that they didn’t want to hear about my problems. I remember at one point, as I was laying out my fears of the unknown to some casual friends from work, one of the snapped at me to “just relax and enjoy it!” as though she’d had just about enough of my “complaining” and wanted me to gush about how super awesome being pregnant was. I did shut up, as it was evident I didn’t want to make a fuss about it anymore. I realized most people don’t really care about what I’m really feeling when they ask about it. They just want to hear how excited we are, a few details about gender, names, etc., so they can probe into topics which are none of their business, such as breastfeeding, circumcision, and pain management.

What I’ve learned from both pregnancies is that I have to accept that I’m living with severe depression, and that this condition is extremely exacerbated by the experience of a 10 month, non-medicated gestation. I am coping as best I can, which is to say that I’m not coping very well at all. Instead of suffering in silence like I did with the first pregnancy, I’ve decided that it’s best for me to communicate what I’m feeling when people ask. I tend not to volunteer the information without prompting, but if you ask me how I’m feeling, I’m going to tell you the truth: I’m not well, I’m in constant pain, both emotionally and physically, and I literally cannot wait for this to be over.

I’ve had mixed reactions, because I’m deciding not to breastfeed my second child at all, opting for medications that will keep me from self harm, which will end up in the breastmilk. I’m over the condescending stares and clucking of tongues about it. These are choices I have made for myself and my family and I give zero fucks about what other people think about it. Unless you are part of my medical team, you have zero say.

Being judged on a daily basis, on top of everything else I’m experiencing has not helped my mental state. I don’t like the way I feel, and it’s very hard to pass anything I say or do through a filter that’s already worn thin and clogged with all the other junk that’s going on behind the scenes. I’m well aware that my patience is worn exceedingly thin, and that I’m not exactly pleasant to be around. I feel like all I do lately is apologize and explain my behavior which makes me feel even more like a jerk, because I have to constantly remind people what they’re putting up with.

Beyond the stressors of the pregnancy, my job is in jeopardy as I’ve posted about before. I’ll have less than a year to find a new job when I return from maternity leave. The toxicity of the office I work in has gone to 11 and I’m finding it harder and harder to keep those experiences from coming home with me too. My only reprieve is the happy time I get with my family, which isn’t always happy because well, that’s life, and the gym.

I’m hoping that when I see my doctor soon, I’ll have more options. But for now, the light at the end of the tunnel is the day my water breaks (hopefully at an appropriate time), and my son is born into the world healthy and happy. Until then, I’m sorry, so very sorry, for my tone. We are undergoing a state of maintenance and hope to be back to “normal” very soon.

Prenatal Depression

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When you already live with depression, the symptoms become part of the backdrop of your daily experience. The pessimistic attitude and lack of joy is attributed to getting old, perhaps, or the general malaise of existence. The tiredness can be chalked up as a side effect of parenting a child, maybe stress, or the change in the seasons. They can happen to anyone, and do. The intrusive negative thoughts, though, the weepiness, the isolation and self loathing, those you recognize. But by then, it’s too late. The cycle has already circled over on me.  (This is how my depression works, in cycles, giving me a glimpse of “good” time where I think I’m okay, out of the woods, and I forget just enough to think maybe I was imagining all of it. I fool myself into thinking that I can overcome this on my own, without letting on to anyone, but in reality, there’s no hiding anything.)

I declined medication during my “childbearing” years because I didn’t want to risk the side effects to the baby that were getting a lot of press lately. I ended my relationship with my therapist as well, which I posted about previously, and the replacement was just not a good fit either. I haven’t found a suitable alternative, and so, I’m without the crutches that most people would use in my situation.

Oh, and I’m also pregnant. Like, really pregnant. At the time of this writing, I’m just past the halfway mark in my gestation with my second (and hopefully last) pregnancy. Although I love motherhood and all it brings with it, even the gross and frustrating stuff, the biological toll it takes is daunting to say the least. Both pregnancies have been fraught with symptoms that aggravate my depression. For example, I’m experiencing generalized pain, pretty much everywhere, but definitely in my joints, even from very early on when hardly any weight had been gained. A sense of overwhelming fear about how the fuck I’m going to do this is the backdrop to my waking (and sleeping) mental dialog. There’s a bunch of other biological stuff that’s sort of gross, so I won’t share, but I’ll just say I VERY strongly long for my previous homeostasis.

About a week ago, the invasive thoughts became more aggressive, and were drowning out much of my ability to do work or focus on a conversation. I choked at the drive thru order window. I had to apologize to every person taking a food order, because I fumbled my words so badly I just needed to start over. I found myself turning away from the impulse to contact my friends, spend time with my family, or even speak kindly to myself in any way. I just didn’t deserve it, so my brain would have you believe.

Realizing that I had another four months to get through, when hormones levels would take an increasingly heavy role in my decisions and actions, I understood that I was about to go down a slippery slope. I pulled up a quick depression screen online, and scored MAJOR on everything except the self harm items. Thankfully, the idea of self harm has never entered my mind. Having my son and another inside me, self harm was not an option. My body was needed, maybe not by me, but by them. It makes sense to me, at least, that I turned over that autonomy to a 3 year old and a 6 month gestating fetus, so that I wouldn’t do anything stupid or harmful.

Still, I knew I needed to do something. So, I started by calling my doctor (my primary care) under the guise of discussing vaccines I would need if any, and to discuss prescriptions for immediately following delivery. Luckily for me, where my therapists have not been a good fit, I found a caring and compassionate doctor in my family physician. We discuss my depression openly at our annual physicals, and he is adamant that if I ever find myself in crisis that I call immediately. Knowing I have this available to me is the last safety blanket I have, and I cling to it desperately.

Unfortunately, I have to wait almost two months for an open appointment to discuss (which is understandable given my timeline), so I have to suck it up until then. I’ve been trying to force myself to have conversations with people about how I’m feeling. It takes away the negative thoughts’ power somewhat. I’ve been focusing on getting to the gym too, which is another respite. But it’s not easy. I know it’s going to get worse before the end of the pregnancy. I won’t feel good until the baby is born safely and healthy in my arms. And then, I can finally reach for the prozac.

The sideshow

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I’m at that phase of my pregnancy where I’m really showing. The news of the gestation has travelled at my job. I work for one of the largest companies in my state, so there’s lots of people who sort of know me. And they’re all coming out of the woodwork at the moment.

I should say, I don’t mind genuine well wishers. People who are happy for me, and want to come by and give their congratulations are fine and welcome. What I don’t appreciate are the pregnancy tourists. I had a group of women from another department come by my office suite while I was on the phone. All of them stood outside my door trying to get a peek at my growing baby bump.

I don’t understand this behavior, honestly. It’s dehumanizing, realizing people only see you as a fetus-holder. And gaping for a glimpse of a baby bump like children at the zoo just makes me angry. Ultimately, they didn’t get the opportunity to see anything because I was doing my job and on the phone at the time. But that doesn’t mean they won’t try again.

These are the same folks telling me that I should grin and enjoy this blessed occasion. For them, I can see why. They aren’t the ones going through it. They don’t wake up in pain and discomfort every day. They aren’t the ones who have dwindling comfortable clothing. They have no fear of stretch marks and the need for a cesarean delivery. They just want to watch the sideshow and gawk at the life I’m about to produce.

The Pregnant Dreamscape

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One of the worst parts of pregnancy, for me at least, has been night time. Once you gain a certain amount of baby weight, it’s almost impossible to find a comfortable way to sleep. And when I finally am able to get rest, the pregnancy nightmares are just awful. A lot of my dreams lately have been of the horror movie variety in style, filled with tension and anticipation of horrific outcomes just around corner.

The cast of characters varies a bit, but my family of origin seems to be having a recurring role. Of course this makes sense, given my current state, anticipating a new baby and recalling how difficult the first experience was. The latest experience was also pretty violent. It began with me being a doormat, as was my role previously with them, but then as I came to my senses and began to remember the boundaries I’d set, I tried to enforce them. This caused them to become scarily violent, both towards me and my home, ending with a demolition derby like exit as they fled my home in a tantrum, mangling every single car on my block on the way out.

It’s not difficult to see why these dreams are happening. But they are still painful experiences nonetheless. Sometimes I’ll wake from nightmares and be unable to get back to sleep for hours. The torment caused by my own mind is worse the further along I get in this pregnancy. The things my busy brain conjures in the darkness, when I have little else to distract myself with, are reminders how much more of my issues I have to work through. I yearn for the day when I can feel normal and well adjusted, instead of just a shell faking her way through.