Before I knew I was pregnant—when I was about three and a half weeks pregnant, or about a week and a half after probable conception—I decided to kill myself. But, I decided, I would wait until I got my period, because on the off chance that I was pregnant, I wouldn’t be able to.

It’s funny; reading what I say on this blog, if it weren’t for my constant reassurance, you’d never guess that I’m pro-choice. I just apparently feel hysterically protective of anything that I’m growing myself—if this were a sitcom, I’d end up with a tapeworm. Hilarity!

Actually finding out that I was pregnant was a huge relief; I got to blame hormones for the way I was feeling, and that black depression is part of why I’ve tended to guess that I’m going to have a girl. I heard somewhere that girls do that. Things got slowly better after that, and I’m thinking about it now because yesterday I started tapering off my antidepressants and looking forward to a hopefully drug-free year or two. When I was pregnant with Cricket, I went off of one drug immediately after figuring out that I was pregnant and going to stay pregnant and the other around seven months. Neither of them is anything like likely to cause any problems, but that 3 percent chance is more than enough to worry me, and I’d rather go ahead and wean before birth so that I don’t suddenly have to cold-turkey in order to breastfeed.

When I was at my appointment, I omitted some information from the form the midwives gave me. I do check the “depression” box, but (for example) when they ask whether I’ve ever been hospitalized for any reason, I say no. I don’t want to be treated like a crazy person, and this is how I handled it last time, although I’m aware that the policy isn’t without its flaws. I really need not to be a high-risk pregnancy, and if I end up with gestational diabetes or some other condition that takes that out of my hands, so be it. But I just want to have a low-key birth where I push out a baby all drug-free and relatively peaceful-like, and I know that I’m capable of that, so why not help my caretakers to believe it?

I recently read Dooce’s memoir about having her first daughter and then having severe post-partum depression. I’ve also watched a few women in an online community I belong to be dragged down by PPD over the past couple of years. Trying to figure out from my experiences after I lost Cricket whether I would have had PPD if I had parented him is probably futile, but I keep flashing back to, e.g., the conversation where I finally told my mom that I was hearing voices—I was careful to qualify that, explaining that they weren’t the kind of voices that tell you to kill, and it took me weeks to realize that my qualifier was just further freaking people out. Live and learn. Ultimately I don’t think that my depression then is a useful indicator for what parenting a newborn will do to my brain, but I hate that I can’t know until I get there what will happen.

My mother freaked out when I told her that I was going off meds—she had been trying to talk me into not going off at all and not breastfeeding, which is huge when you know that she worked as a lactation consultant for several years and still has a drawer full of “Breast Is Best” and “Eat at Mom’s” buttons. She eventually calmed down when I made it clear that I’m open to going back on drugs if it’s clear that I’m coming apart. I will be sort of heartbroken, though, which isn’t a great place to start climbing out of one’s depression. My decision has been to hope for the best in a careful way; we’ll see how that goes.

14 thoughts on “Pills

  1. There’s a book about preventing post-partum depression that I had as a review copy when I was writing pregnancy stuff. If I still had it, I’d send it to you. But the gist of the book was about getting enough SLEEP and support but mostly sleep. That seems to be the big trigger, which is really poor planning on Mother Nature’s part seeing as how sleep can be in short supply there at the beginning. But knowing that, maybe you can figure out ways to make sure that people are helping you sleep?

  2. I agree with Dawn on the sleep, both before and after the baby comes. Most everything can be left until later. If the baby is sleeping, you should be too!

    Post-partum depression (or it’s equivalent) happens in adoptive parents and in fathers as well. Research has shown that one of the main triggers to severe depression is lack of sleep. The post-pregnancy hormones certainly play a role, but adequate sleep can help to overcome it.

  3. Agree on the sleep. I did not do the fighting of trying to put my newborn in a crib, waking up every time she woke up.
    She slept, like animals in the wild, nestled in to my chest.
    When she woke, she nursed, while I continued to rest/sleep (in the first couple of weeks, I had to help a bit of course). We both woke and slept peacefully and I always got at least 8 hours that way. During the day, time in the sun walking.
    Also, I took and still take, high quality omega 3 every day.
    It works wonders!

  4. I think it sounds great that you’re tapering off and between now and the months following little bird’s birth, you’ll see how you feel and take back up again if you need to. I think that sounds great how you handled the forms with the midwives! I can imagine how it would feel to go to a practice and get the sense that they were weighing your every word or not taking you at face value.

    I don’t know anything about PPD, but the comments make me wonder what you should do if it’s not possible for you to get enough sleep…I mean if you guys are on your own…

    • Well, if I do get bad PPD, I’ll go back on meds and we’ll put the baby on formula–it’s not ideal, but we do have a backup plan, at least. =/

  5. Sleep is KEY to one’s mood. We all kind of know that but to *know* it, well, raising a newborn really does make this fact come crystal clear.

    For me, the other piece of depression–I really experienced it DURING my pregnancies not afterward–was that sense of isolation. I got so much good support from others who’d been as nauseated as I was. I wish I’d realized how depressed I was (took till the 3rd child) & had found some others who got this part, because it feels doubly terrible to be depressed when you are happy (& I was happy about the kiddies en route each time). Hope that makes sense. Friends would be extra good, to ensure you had a little more sleeping time.

  6. My understanding was that taking certain antidepressants does not rule out breastfeeding and that it is probably less than the risk of parenting while depressed as the research is quite clear that is bad for kids. I suggest you honestly share your concerns with your midwife now while you have time to talk to experts and research what your options are.

    • I’ve talked to a psychiatrist about the drugs that I’m on–they’re not recommended during breastfeeding, alas.

  7. I’m glad you’ve been speaking to a doctor and hope that prevention is key to PPD. like heather, I have no real experience with this. but I can speak to lack of sleep when caring for a newborn. I hope you can take care of yourself first and foremost.

  8. Hi, Mrs. Book – I haven’t visited in a few days and so am only now reading your post.

    So many other commentors have said much about PPD and meds that I won’t reiterate them in mine.

    But I have to tell you that the first sentence of your post chilled me to my very bones. I’m totally shocked and amazed that no one else has commented on it!

    “Before I knew I was pregnant—when I was about three and a half weeks pregnant, or about a week and a half after probable conception—I decided to kill myself.”

    What??? What???

    You’ve mentioned some suicidal ideation before, but to state it so firmly here on your blog and then to not go through with it because of the pregnancy (and please note that I am VERY thankful you are pregnant and opted to not carry through) Oh my goodness!!!

    I know that you see a therapist and that you are trying to figure out how to stay off meds for the breast feeding. However, if you’ve been having genuine suicidal ideation at the beginning of your pregnancy I would seriously worry just as much about the close of the pregnancy and immediate aftermath of post-partum hormones. Meds and not breast feeding might not be your first choice (or any new mom’s first choice) but wouldn’t that be better than suicidal thoughts and – heaven forbid – an actual attempt to take your own life and leave your little bird without a mom?

    Worried for you here in the Ocean State.

    • It was pretty messed up, I won’t lie–but it’s several months later now, and things are a lot better, and it’s not something I’m worried about at the moment. But yeah. If I start to feel that way again, back on pills right away.

  9. Please buy “Medications and Mother’s Milk” for yourself. Bring it to your shrink! Many MANY doctors are overly cautious about breastfeeding & meds. This book made it possible for me to nurse and be sane.

    Another First Mom,


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