I couldn’t get off the couch. I felt dull and heavy.
About a month prior, a positive pregnancy test left me elated with anticipation for our third child. The excitement gave way to gloom and winter stretched on, so I blamed the gray skies. When my belly grew faster than my previous pregnancies, I thought maybe it was something physical. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew something changed in me towards the end of my first trimester.
Looking back, I understand why I misidentified the heavy feeling. First, during my previous pregnancies, I totally rocked the glow factor. I felt healthy and alive, despite the looming complications created by my freak uterus. Rocky deliveries, however, explained my husband’s hesitant response to the idea of a third pregnancy.
Eventually, he warmed up to the thought, and voila, the third pregnancy was upon us. Perhaps, I still felt the need to convince him a third pregnancy was a good idea, so I laid low all day and tried my best to look alive in the evenings.
Going out proved to be exhausting and bedtime never came soon enough!
Second, “depression” seemed, well, too depressing. Prior to this pregnancy, I never struggled with emotional highs or lows. On the contrary, my husband often called me a “ridiculous optimist.” While I knew friends with depression, identifying depression within me remained foreign. I knew post-partum depression swung with indiscriminate blows, but I never even considered depression an option in those hard prenatal days, I just kept trying to be optimistic thinking tomorrow would be better, but I always woke up with the same dull feeling.
As my pregnant belly grew, the doctor revealed the baby’s gender, a boy! Adding a son to our family overjoyed my heart. I thought the excitement of replacing all the pink in my storage bins with blue might just shoo away the heavy cloud, but the gloom remained. My belly seemed to grow larger by the day, and I chalked up my heaviness to the physical stress such quick growth might cause.
At my 20-week doctor’s visit, I wanted answers. I asked about my growing belly and the uncharacteristic movement I was feeling all over the place. What caused such fast growth? Why the lack of energy? And the dull feeling? Unfortunately, the doctor shuffled me through his office quickly explaining, “Pregnancies with boys are different. Expect different feelings during this third pregnancy.”
After my visit, my heaviness worsened. Now, in addition to the emotional weight, I began feeling physical symptoms. Constant fatigue stole my glow and a mysterious “lump” moved into my throat, one that I was familiar with only from moments in my life when I was on the verge of tears. Except, I never felt like crying. I didn’t feel like anything. The lump in my throat remained a nagging reminder that something was “off.”
I asked my husband to accompany me to the 24-week visit. Our specialist, known for quickly assessing and sending patients along, intimidated me. I couldn’t muster up the boldness or even maintain consistent perception to ask the questions others asked of me after these visits. My husband also recognized a marked difference with this pregnancy and wanted to ask a few questions of his own.
In the exam room that day, the doctor pulled out the ultrasound wand for the fifth time to look at our growing son. As a specialist, his quick routine measurements directed our conversations. He lubed up my belly, glanced at the screen, and then surprised himself (and us) by exclaiming, “Oh! We’ve got two babies!”
And that was my answer, at least for then.
My pregnancy lasted another ten weeks. It was ten more weeks of the same heavy feeling and the lump in my throat, but twins were double the joy and double the concern, so we spent those ten weeks with the best kind of distraction. The reality of my heaviness remained and even now, when I watch home videos of the pregnancy, I hear the nagging lump in my through the tone of my voice.
Our world was a whirlwind of diapers and feedings and so much laundry after the birth of our twins. I remember feeling the physical lump in my throat for some time after but kept so busy, I never addressed it with anyone. The feelings of heaviness left before the lump and after the twins’ first birthday, even that disappeared completely.
Four years later, in a pediatric waiting room, I read an article about “antepartum depression” or “prenatal depression.” The article explained prenatal depression as “baby blues” during pregnancy as opposed to after when postpartum depression sets in. The article cited research about the probability of prenatal depression and listed “mothers of multiples” as one of the factors.
“AHA!” I remember thinking. What an enlightening personal discovery! I wanted to return to that tired mama, resting on the couch for the umpteenth day in a row, and say:
- “It’s going to be okay.”
- “Don’t feel guilty about missing out on the excitement of growing a human being inside of you. Your body is working overtime and you will enjoy all that life soon enough.”
- “Take all the time you need and pass your heaviness around. Let people help you and encourage you while you rest.”
- “Be honest about how you feel. Talk it out with your husband, a trusted friend, and most importantly (and emphatically!) to your physician.”
- “Eat well and rest plenty, taking good care of yourself so your body can miraculously grow a life, or two, or three – and a legacy whose heart beats with yours.”
Depression related to pregnancy is real. My twin pregnancy exposed the reality of living with numbness of emotion and lack of desire for anything. Although pregnant women with a history of mental health conditions increase the likelihood of prenatal and post-partum depression, my case shows a twin pregnancy might be the only factor that increases the chance of experiencing prenatal depression.
And you know what? It was okay. I eventually got off that couch and felt like whistling again. Today, my twins are rocking fourteen years of very full lives thanks to the heavy load I carried and that pesky lump in my throat. This mama’s heart sings in knowing the struggle that gave birth to so much life.