Then there was light
Marion Winik on pregnancy,
depression and one big, happy ending
This is not a good time. This is not a fun day. Tell the Cat in the Hat I do not want to play.
This was one of the cheerier refrains that went through my head after I got pregnant 2 1/2 years ago. The rest of the time, I would think: I can’t do this. I don’t want to be here.
But for God’s sake, why? I was about to have a baby, my first daughter, with my new husband in our beautiful place in the country. This was a good thing! I already had two sons and two stepchildren, and everyone was excited—everyone, that is, but me.
I’d known pregnancy at 41 might be different from pregnancy at 27, but I wasn’t worried. My first pregnancy was one of the happiest, healthiest times of my life. Having left behind a mini-warehouse of bad habits prior to conception, I wrote effusive reports in my journal, wore goofy T-shirts to aerobics classes, wolfed down greens and giant vitamins with gusto. I didn’t just have a glow, I was a glow.
Then something terrible happened. My baby was stillborn at full term. I felt as if I had run full speed into a brick wall. Predictably, I was more reserved during my next pregnancy, but when it produced a healthy son, I felt a whole lot better. The pregnancy after that went fine, too. Then I was done with the whole thing, I thought—until a decade later, when I found myself back in the baby business.
Very early on, I could tell something was wrong. Normally, I’m a little hyperactive. At any particular moment, I might be talking on the phone as I fold laundry, make spaghetti sauce and keep an eye on the pages spewing from my computer printer. Now, after everyone was gone in the morning, I would find myself lying on the floor, staring into space.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” my husband would ask.
“What did you do today?”
“Want to go for a walk? Come on, it’ll be fun.”
“I’m too tired.”
God, was I tired. And I was tired of being tired. I was tired of being huge. I was tired of going to the bathroom. I was tired, in fact, of being pregnant.
There were other logical reasons for my feeling down. Having moved 2,000 miles to get married, I hadn’t yet developed a new sense of community. Pennsylvania’s winter weather added to my isolation. But it wasn’t the snow; it was the weather in my head. It was the biochemistry.
By my third month, my obstetrician and I were talking about antidepressants. Since he said it posed no danger to the baby, I went on the drug Zoloft. It helped immensely—not just me, but the rest of my family, who’d had no idea how to deal with this monosyllabic stranger masquerading as their wife and mom. At least I got my sense of humor back.
I wondered whether I would still need the medication after Jane was born—and I learned the answer to my question pretty dramatically. Immediately after that final, roaring cavewoman push popped her out, I felt as if I was floating up off the delivery table with relief and joy. My husband tells people I jogged down the hall to the recovery room, and I probably could have flown. I never took another pill. Jane was way more powerful than any Zoloft.