The moment we had been wishing for during the past five and a half years finally came to fruition – we were pregnant! We could honestly not believe it. I kept thinking that the blood test had to be wrong. I wanted to see for myself that I was pregnant. I bought an at-home pregnancy test and managed to wait until the next morning, July 1, to take it, because first pee contains the highest level of pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). Besides, I wanted to see with my own eyes a pregnancy test that was finally positive, after taking so many throughout the years that were negative. My husband and I did a little photo shoot to document this first step in my pregnancy. Goodness knows we love to document our lives and I naturally wanted to start a baby book. (I actually have three! Scrapbooking is definitely a guilty pleasure.)
We could not wait to tell people, so we called his parents the day we found out and asked them if they wanted to eat at the Mexican restaurant in Raceland. Our families knew we were doing the IUI, so they were a little suspicious, but kept it cool. We had plans to tell them as soon as we sat down, but as we were coming in his dad was getting called into work and the waiter was asking us our drink order, so we waited until a better moment appeared and his dad was back. Once the food arrived and we were almost done, my husband asked his sister if a mutual friend had a baby. His sister said yes and joked that the friend’s mom (who was youngish) was now a grandmother, to which my husband replied, “Oh, just like mom.” It took a few seconds before the realization set in and their eyes lit up and started excitedly squealing. They confessed that they had hoped that was why we wanted to eat dinner, but we were not saying anything, so they figured we did not know anything yet. Surprise!
I wanted to tell my family in person as well. Since Independence Day was only a few days away, my littlest sister and her significant other were going to visit my family in Panama City Beach (they live in Orlando). We did not have plans to go to PCB for the 4th of July, but figured this would be the best time to tell them because everyone would be there except my middle sister (who lives outside of Washington DC). We arrived late on the third because I had an appointment with Audubon Fertility that morning. It was so hard keeping it a secret that evening, but we had planned out a cute way to announce it to them so needed to wait until the cookout the next day.
At the cookout, my mom, stepdad, sister and brother-in-law, stepbrothers and stepsister-in-law, and grandparents were all around the big outdoor table under the patio in the backyard. We were all eating and laughing and enjoying ourselves and some of us started to finish. Now was the time for the big reveal. I stood up to announce that I brought a king cake for dessert from my favorite place, Antoine’s bakery. My sister stood up and hugged me because she loves king cake. I then told them that they had to be careful because there was a baby inside the king cake…waited a beat…and then added, “Just like me!” Everyone went silent as what I said sunk in. All of sudden people started gasping and my mom jumped up. “Really?!” she asked. That is when I held up a sign that said _35_ weeks until Baby and held up the paper plates I had brought for the king cake that said, “B is for Baby.” At that point, my mom started crying, my sister was teary eyed, and I think a few others were as well (it was kind of a blur with all the well-wishing going on). My mom and sister admitted that they wondered if I was pregnant because they knew about the fertility clinic and wondered if that was why I decided to come into town, but I had not said anything, so they figured they were wrong. Surprise!
Everyone then started telling me that I needed to call my middle sister and tell her. My stepbrother and I devised a plan where I would be on FaceTime with her and then he would say, “I got the baby!” while eating the king cake, and then I would turn the camera and say, “No, *I* got the baby!” I called her and as soon as he said his line and I turned the camera and said mine, the call dropped! Nooo! She called back and said, “I think you were about to tell me something important…” I was! I am pregnant! She started to tear up as well because she knew how long we had been trying and during that time, she had my niece, who had just turned two. I told my niece that she would have a little cousin to play with by the time she turned three!
Later that evening, I went to my grandparents’ house so I could tell my uncle and aunt since they both had to work earlier in the day. When my aunt walked in the house, she immediately said, “Well, is it a boy, girl, or a cat?” My family definitely knew something was up! I laughed and told her it was too soon to know. Later when my uncle came home, he started eating a piece of king cake on the plates I had brought. He had not looked at the plate very closely, so my grandma was hovering over him, repeating, “Look at the plate. Look down! Look at the plate!” In the meantime, my Nannie kept calling my grandma to find out if I said anything. Apparently, we were the talk of the town for the past couple days! But it was very heartwarming to see and hear that everyone was so excited for us since they all knew how much we had struggled to reach this point.
After we went home, I started to feel sick. Morning sickness is not the right term for being sick while pregnant, because it is not just the morning. It is all. day. long. and the official name of it is actually Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy (NVP). Eating became a luxury that I could not afford anymore. I also became so dizzy that it was hard to get up from the couch without wanting to throw up. I mentioned this at my next appointment, and they prescribed me Diclegis. Diclegis is basically unisom and B6 and you can take up to four pills a day. Which I did. It greatly helped with the dizziness and I did not feel nauseous all day; however, I still could not eat without throwing up. I lived on White Cheddar Cheeze-Its and, weirdly, Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwiches. Sometimes I would get Wendy’s multiple days in a row since that was one of the only foods that did not make me sick.
In between the sickness, we went to Audubon Fertility every week for an ultrasound until I was eleven weeks pregnant. It was included in our package price of about $1200, so we were lucky and were able to see our baby grow through five weeks of ultrasounds. It was so amazing to see our baby turn from an embryo sac to a gummy bear with tiny stubs for arms and legs and to watch our baby wiggle around. Right before our last ultrasound, we did a blood test to not only check the baby’s sex, but to check for any genetic abnormalities. Not that we would have loved our baby any less, but we wanted to be prepared with knowledge of how to best care for him or her if there was a genetic abnormality. On August 17, 2017, we received the email with our results. We were of course nervous, but blessedly, our baby had no genetic abnormalities detected. Then there was a button to press to reveal our baby’s sex.
Suddenly, we were nervous. Either way, we would be thrilled and had names already picked out for either sex. But did I secretly hope for one sex over the other? We gingerly pressed the button to reveal…IT’S A GIRL! We both teared up in joy. On our last ultrasound with Audubon Fertility, we were able to put a name to the little fig-sized baby inside of me. As we told them goodbye and how grateful we were for everything they did for us, they handed us a congratulatory bag with, among other things, a little onesie with their logo on it. That is one that she wears with pride!
The first week of August, school started again and we had to go back to work. It was incredibly rough. The sickness never abated and the mornings were the worst. I could not eat, I could not seem to get ready to get to work on time (luckily, first period was my prep, because I am not sure what would have happened if I had a class), I could barely walk around my classroom without getting queasy, and a threw up quite a few times. If I tried talking while walking, I would have to stop and take a break, otherwise I would get sick. So many kind people offered mini solutions to help, such as mints, ginger gum, Sprite, sea bands, etc. Though they offered a small respite, nothing worked long term. People related to me personal stories of how they or their wives were sick but started feeling better around the second trimester. So as week fourteen came and went, I kept telling myself that any day now I would stop feeling so sick. Any day now. And week fifteen came and went. Week sixteen. Week seventeen. And there was no relief in sight.
By this point, my mental health had slowly been deteriorating. One day, my husband sat me down with tears in his eyes and explained to me that he was very concerned about me. He did some research and he thought I might have prepartum depression. Prepartum depression? I never knew that was even a thing. I had heard of postpartum depression, but not prepartum. I looked at the symptoms:
- Persistent sadness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Loss of interest in sex
- Loss of interest in activities that you usually enjoy
- Recurring thoughts of death, suicide, or hopelessness
- A sense of dread about everything, including the pregnany
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Change in eating habits
- Feeling emotionally numb
I could check off every. single. one. Somehow, without me even realizing it, I had slipped into a deep depression. Once I started examining my current situation, I realized just how deeply depressed I was.
Obviously, the change in eating habits and sleep occurred due to being pregnant. But it was the fact that I was almost halfway done with my pregnancy and I was still unable to eat that took its toll on me. I was losing weight, not gaining it. If you know me, you know that chicken has been my top food my entire life; however, the thought of eating or even smelling chicken made me sick (except for those Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwiches!). It was crackers and protein shakes for the most part. I also suddenly developed insomnia and would walk around in a sleep-deprived haze, in addition to all of the aches and pains that being pregnant comes with (like increase need to pee and trouble breathing and acid reflux and etc.). I could not concentrate to save my life. I would sit behind my desk in class and stare at the wall. My students would ask me if I was okay and it was like coming out of a fog. In fact, students that I taught previous years that would see me in the hallway would ask my husband if I was alright because I did not seem like myself (and they all knew I was pregnant). I was teacher of the year last school year, and this school year, I cried almost every morning at the thought of going to work. I LOVE being a teacher. It is seriously my calling. It does not stress me out; it actually does the opposite. Yet, being at work became a severe source of anxiety (and I do not have discipline problems in my classroom so that was not an issue). I actually cried so hard at work sometimes, for literally no reason, that I would have to go home.
I had absolutely no interest in anything. Other things that usually brought me joy in life, like crafting, listening to records, playing The Legend of Zelda, reading books, watching movies…none of those brought me pleasure. I would sit on the couch and either zone out on television or simply stare out the window for hours on end. Even my husband brought me no comfort. I did not want anyone, including him, to touch me. Once my grandpa wanted a hug when telling me bye and I burst into tears. This was not usual behavior for me.
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness…that was pretty much all I felt. I was so physically sick that I could not enjoy the fact that I was finally pregnant. I felt so guilty about that and felt worthless as not just a future mom, but as a woman in general. Why was the number one thing that a woman is supposed to do so hard for me? As a result, I could not connect to my baby. This is extremely hard for me to write about or even admit, but I wanted nothing to do with anything baby related. I did not take bumpie pics, I did not fill in the baby book, I did not fill out a baby registry, I did not even want to talk about me being pregnant. I cringed every time someone asked about my baby. Putting a fake smile on my face and trying not to cry while talking to people was the absolute hardest thing I have had to do. I do not want to put into words exactly how dark my thoughts got, but it was scary.
Thanks to my husband, I was able to recognize and admit these feelings, and we made an appointment with my OB-GYN. She immediately put me on Wellbutrin, which is a pregnancy safe antidepressant, and told me that I should consult with a psychiatrist. It was hard to accept that I needed help, but I wanted to make sure that not only was I safe, but, more importantly, so was my little girl.
My psychiatrist recognized the severity of my depression and thought for the health and safety of both of us, I should be on not quite bed rest, but away from sources of stress and anxiety at the least, and thus should stay home. It was extremely hard for me to admit that I needed be at home, because I felt like a complete failure. How does one go from teacher of the year one year to can barely function within the classroom the next? Without the support of my husband, I am not sure the outcome of this would have been so positive.
In November, I went to Panama City Beach for a week to visit my family. Both of my sisters came in town as well. The first few days were great; I think I was on a high from seeing everyone. By Monday night, however, the depression started creeping back in. I could barely look at anyone (my husband had went back to Louisiana at this point). The next morning, my sisters were leaving, and we were supposed to eat breakfast with my parents and grandparents. I could not go. I could not bring myself to get dressed. I spent the next three days in my mom’s spare bedroom, watching Boy Meets World on Netflix in the dark. When they drove me back to Louisiana and my husband met us in Slidell to pick me up, my mom said that was the first time she saw me smile since he had left Florida.
Even though the Wellbutrin worked as an antidepressant, but did nothing to stop the anxiety and paranoia. So even though my depression was better, I still could not be around people too much, including family. I tried to go to my work’s Christmas celebration and the minute I walked in the school, I started panicking and crying. Luckily, I saw one of my friends as soon as I entered and she sat with me until my husband came to the front. We walked to his office and I stayed in there until we were fairly sure most people had left. Once again, this was not normal behavior for me. However, I did not want to take any stronger medicine for fear of the possible side effects for my baby.
One of the hardest times was the week of my baby shower. Once the Wellbutrin started working, I started to connect a little to my pregnancy and was able to finally create a baby registry. Our shower was set for December 30 and my whole family was coming into town for it. Both of my sisters and their husbands and my niece were staying at my house (which is not huge, but we are a close family and always share our houses when we visit one another). Even though I loved having them there, there were things I simply could not attend. They went to the aquarium, they went out to eat several times, and probably had a few more excursions…but I stayed home. I expended so much energy acting cheery while we were at home that I simply had no energy or fortitude to go out in public with them. Most of the time when we were at home, I stayed in my recliner playing Candy Crush or some other mindless game. I would be as engaged with my family as I could, but I needed something else to zone out on to calm me down. I think most of them understood to a point, but it is hard for people to really comprehend what it means to have anxiety and depression unless they have gone through it themselves. They still hold you to “normal” expectations and you can tell them until you are blue in the face, but they will still not understand and can get offended if they perceive you acting differently than normal.
The day of the baby shower was the hardest. I am not comfortable being the center of attention as it is, so to be the extreme center of attention, which the pictures, hugs, well wishes, etc that go along with baby showers…my anxiety was through the roof. I politely asked if there could be a no hugging policy, because people touching me made me feel as if my skin was crawling (I am not a big hugger normally, but that is not a normal reaction from me!). The pictures were pretty rough; naturally, many people wanted a picture with me (I cannot blame them!), but the smile was pretty forced. I went outside and sat on the porch whenever I felt too overwhelmed. Luckily, my two best friends growing up were both there too and they both understood what I was going through, so they would talk to me about other things or just let me calm down for a minute. The best part of the day, surprisingly, was opening up presents for my baby. I think that I was just so grateful and filled with gratitude and appreciation from everyone’s generosity, that it overpowered the feelings of anxiety. Our daughter is so extremely lucky to have so many caring people in her life that love her so much.
The closer we got to our baby’s due date, the better I felt mentally. The few ultrasounds at the doctor’s appointments showed what looked like a real human now and I had all of nursery items thanks to the shower. She seemed real now instead of this abstract idea that was (still!) making me sick. I spent the next several weeks putting together her furniture and arranging her nursery, washing her clothes, packing my hospital bags, and other baby related things. For the first time since probably July, I was getting excited. I could finally picture her and imagine her in my arms and I prayed that once she arrived, my hormones would return to normal. Most women that have prepartum depression have it turn into postpartum depression.
Little did I know that my body had one more twist waiting for me…
To read part three of this series covering the pregnancy, click here.