My Journey with Anxiety and Depression in Pregnancy
Before entering my 30’s, I thought I had it all figured out.
The word spirituality resonated with me as some kind of rainbow powder thrown at unicorns… Something very mystical that had nothing to do with me. That’s pretty crazy, right?! Or maybe you think the same. In my case, I just never had the chance to have a spiritual education. I’d been raised in a society where everything is set up in a rational way and where our behaviors are guided by reason and practicality.
When I started travelling, meeting so many people from all parts of the world and getting into surfing, I came to discover new perspectives and learnt that there wasn’t only one ‘’good’’ path to take in life. I finally realized that our body, mind and spirit were actually meant to be connected. That might sound very obvious to you, but it wasn’t for me. My brain was the one giving orders to my body and my body needed to just operate, as if it was some kind of mechanical engine. When you spend your life ignoring the needs of your body, well, it gets tired from not being listened to… and that’s when you start getting sick and injured. And that’s what happened to me.
And that’s when I had the call to start my journey on the road of personal spiritual development.
I’d been carrying some lifetime patterns that were totally useless and simply creating a constant, endless stress on my body. I was trapped in the constantly ‘doing’, having difficulty in just being, and living in the present moment without having my mind racing about all sorts of things. I was constantly putting unnecessary pressure on myself to do more in all aspects of my life; more sport, more work, more social activities. I was disconnected from what my body needed because I was so trapped in my mind.
I’m sure it would still be possible to live happily with these patterns. But the thing is that, once you start being conscious of it, they annoy the fuck out of you and you just want to get rid of them because they are slowing you down in becoming a better, more fulfilled human. I felt the urge to get some help and resources to start reprogramming my brain, to be more present, to detach from my ego… Let’s be honest, this is a lifetime process!
You might think: what the heck does that have to do with pregnancy? I’m getting there!
One of the main reasons why I embarked on this self development journey was so that the day I had kids, I wouldn’t pass them these patterns. One of my coaches once told me: ‘’You don’t do the work for yourself, you do it for the future generations”. And that resonated with me. Because as a kid, we repeat what we see, and growing up we perpetuate our parent’s behaviours. Long story short, that same coach got me to embark on a 9-moon series where we would plant a seed -an intention– and make it grow –transform and work on that intention- throughout the next 9 full moons.
The analogy of doing it during 9 moons was to symbolize the gestation period of a pregnancy- nine months. On October 30th 2020, I went to that first ritual, planting the seed of being more connected with my sacred feminine and not letting my brain be a constant dictator to my body. Passing from the girl that doesn’t believe in spirituality to the one doing moon rituals is quite a big gap!
The morning next to that ritual, I went to have breakfast with my coach and she asked me if I wanted kids.
I was 33 years old, so that’s a question I had started to get a lot. I’d always known I’d wanted kids, but never had the call yet… Motherhood was always a project I was putting off for the future. I told her that my partner and I weren’t planning on having kids yet. I also told her that our contraception method was the calendar method for the past 6 years. I still clearly remember the look on her face ‘’You’ve been using that method for the past 6 years and never got pregnant!?’’. And I remember thinking, maybe I am sterile?! Because it’s true that we’ve been playing with fire quite often… let’s say I wasn’t religiously tracking my ovulation.
Fast forward to the next full moon, I got my partner to also embark on the full-moon rituals series. I remember how great I was feeling afterwards and for the last weeks of 2020; so light and happy, as if I had found a way of liberating myself of some constant useless stress I’d been carrying for years.
And magically, that was during that time I got pregnant without having any clue.
So no, the calendar method is not that safe if you’re not really practicing it properly 😉 And I firmly believe that I got pregnant at that specific time when I was feeling so connected to my partner and myself, like never before.
But this is where the fairy tale gets darker. This is where we talk about my anxiety and depression in pregnancy.
After ending the year feeling so great, I started 2021 suddenly dealing with anxiety attacks, insomnia and extreme fatigue… I felt completely lost as if I wasn’t the same person anymore. Where was the bubbly, happy MC!?!… I’d been working so hard to get to where I thought I finally was, only to find myself depressed, unable to even do some basic tasks. I wouldn’t eat, I didn’t want to see anyone, I didn’t even want to surf…!
I thought my partner was cheating on me and that the whole world was against me. I felt miserable. I would spend my days crying in bed and google-ing “personality disorder “ because I was convinced I had some major health issues and that I needed to go to a rehab center. I was very depressed and I remember clearly thinking “ if I don’t find myself back, what’s the point of living…” That’s how bad it was!
Going through this dark phase makes me have so much compassion for people dealing with mental health issues.
It’s truly paralyzing and even the simpler task seems like climbing Mount Everest. That mental breakdown was a very challenging time for me and my partner. He couldn’t understand what was happening to me. I couldn’t tell him how to help me because I was so detached from reality and myself, feeling depressed and so, so exhausted. My defence mechanism was to push him away and blame him for what was happening to me. I remember the clueless look on his face; “what the heck is happening!?’’. We were in a very bad place in our relationship and I felt like there wasn’t any way to fix it.
This dark phase lasted for a couple weeks at least. I had lost 10 pounds and didn’t get my period, but I thought it was because of the state I was in… Let’s say it’s hard to connect with your body when you’re in such a fucked up place in your head.
On the second month of skipping my period, I was having VERY sensitive boobs, I had lower abdomen tightness, I was constantly out of breath (which could have been because of the anxiety attacks…) and I needed to pee a few times per night (but that could also be because of the insomnia). But I started thinking… was I pregnant?! I spent some time in denial of even doing a pregnancy test because it was impossible for me, we’d been ‘’careful’’ the past 6 years… So how could I be pregnant?! My partner finally urged me to get a test, so we could take it out of our minds.
It didn’t even take two seconds of peeing on that stick before a ‘plus’ (+) sign appeared, signalling a positive pregnancy.
I must’ve checked a hundred times on the instruction paper what it meant. In my head I could only think that there was something wrong with the test. I did a second test and the exact same scenario happened. Was there an actual growing human inside my belly?! I was so, but SO confused. I wanted to have a baby one day, but I wanted to grow that baby in the very best environment… Don’t we all want to always give the best of the best to our children?!
I had been feeling so bad, I was so afraid that I had already fucked up that baby with the anxiety and depression in pregnancy I had been experiencing. I felt so terribly guilty. I got out of the bathroom to tell my partner the news. I remember the look of incomprehension in his face, his dismay. We sat in silence far away from each other, both in shock… No hug, no kiss, just silence. Let me just say that this is NOT how you envision the moment you find out you’re expecting a baby. We all have our fantasies of those special moments in life. What happened was the complete opposite of my expectations of a pregnancy announcement to the love of my life and father of my child. I felt so much guilty that this was supposed to be a happy moment but it just wasn’t. It was terrible. This is not the reaction we should have…”That’s not the plan, we’re not ready, we don’t even know what’s happening with our relationship’’.
As if the two pregnancy tests weren’t enough to make it real, I felt like I needed a confirmation from a doctor, so I got an appointment to the closest gynaecologist that same day.
At that time, we were in Ecuador and the gynaecologist where I could get an appointment was not the gynaecologist office you have in mind… Let’s just say it was very dark and not super comforting (but super clean, don’t worry ;)). As I laid down on the table for a vaginal ultrasound with my heart racing, I suddenly saw a little black bean appearing on screen. I then heard the doctor say: ‘’Embarazo, si hay!, Tienes 9 semanas de embarazo, Felicitaciones! ’’ (Yes, I am confirming the pregnancy. You are 9 weeks pregnant, Congratulations!) I tried to express some kind of smile, but inside I felt dizzy, scared, guilty. This is not how it should be… But I also felt SO much love already for that little bean on the screen.
And that was my official entry into motherhood. It was far from being what I had expected, but looking back on this moment, I realize that this was how I needed to live it; in a perfectly imperfect way, just like we navigate the different chapters of our lives.
” We prepare for life as it unfolds, not our ideal image of it.
That is literally, the only path forward. “
– Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams
I wish I would have known better how powerful the hormonal changes of pregnancy can be and that anxiety and depression in pregnancy was one possibility… Knowing that: ‘No, I wasn’t actually going crazy’. I realized that no one is safe from depression, that it can happen to any of us and that mental health is still something taboo, even though more and more progress is being made. I personally struggled to admit to myself I needed help and then I had no clue where to look for it. I was also too ashamed to tell my family and friends how I was truly feeling and I was constantly feeling guilty for not being able to get back to ‘happy MC’. Pregnancy is quite an intense rollercoaster of emotions and if you feel depressed, please do reach out to your relatives and ask for help! There are some professionals out there who can help you get back on your feet if you experience anxiety and depression in pregnancy. Do not let yourself sink into darkness. You can never underestimate the power of hormones!
I personally sought help with the anxiety and depression in pregnancy through some therapy sessions and breathwork. It took me quite a while to feel like myself again, but it also allowed me to dig deeper into my spiritual journey, reconnecting with some parts of me I had never had the opportunity to connect with and mostly letting go of some self-destructive patterns that weren’t serving me anymore. I like to think that this dark phase happened to subconsciously prepare my body to be a better version of myself for my son-to-be. I choose to see this dark phase as an experience that brought me a positive outcome. I found it quite crazy that I got pregnant a few weeks after embarking on that 9-moon ritual, planting the seed to be more in-tuned\ with my body… If there’s one Experience that really forces you to connect with your body, it’s pregnancy!
It took me a while to connect with the living life inside of me.
I would sometimes wake up suddenly in the middle of night feeling so anxious about this new chapter of my life. But we are NOT crazy; our pregnant bodies go through so many changes physically and emotionally. We need to accept and welcome those intense mood swings. For me, it’s been a very slow and challenging process to watch my body change and allow myself to fully welcome all of my emotions… And to watch my partner being terrified to slowly connect with my growing belly and being more and more loving, supportive, enthusiastic about sharing his life and passions with his mini-him. We might not have lived the pregnancy announcement and the first trimester how we had envisioned it but navigating through those stormy times actually allowed us to build another layer of foundation to our relationship.
Pregnancy came with realizing what’s above us, the bigger picture.
Not get trapped into our daily day-to-day problems. Knowing what truly matters to us. Nature is quite incredible when you take a moment to notice it. The way everything is in perfect symbiosis is mind blowing. So are our bodies. At every breath you take, there’s dozens of organs working together to make sure you have the right amount of oxygen entering your body while releasing carbon dioxide. And just like that, from one day to the other, our body has the capacity of transforming a tiny cell the size of a grain of sand into a human being…
As I’m writing these words, I’m 39.6 weeks pregnant, meaning my due date is tomorrow. I’m not sure when my little man will decide to come into this world, it can be at any moment now. I feel scared and excited and anxious and happy and tired and so full of love. I’m not ready at all… But I realised that we can’t never be ready because motherhood is so full of surprises and definitely teaches us how to let go.
We created Salty Mama: Your Empowered Journey into Motherhood to support you as you move into, or deepen into motherhood. This package offers a 360 degree approach:
To you beautiful Mama, whatever you’re feeling, know that we understand and we honor you. You are the perfect mama for your baby and your child is so lucky to have you. We’re in this together.
If you think you may be experiencing anxiety and depression in pregnancy, get help. If you feel like you’re being dismissed, keep seeking help until you are listened to and respected. And know, anxiety and depression in pregnancy can happen to anyone and its nothing to be ashamed of.