Although I am feeling much better now (like day vs. night), I struggled with the “pregnancy blues” for a few weeks. I think it’s important to write about that experience, because maybe someone will read my experience and feel less alone in theirs.
It started at about 7 weeks pregnant, when I first noticed that the extreme fatigue was making me feel pretty bad about myself. I lost my ability to focus on writing; whereas before I could write 10 pages of a report or a manuscript in one sitting, I could barely crank out a paragraph in a day. I would stare at my computer and try to focus, try to come up with an idea or a series of words to string together, but I just couldn’t. It felt like my brain was full of cotton balls, and like I was hanging onto consciousness by a thread. I began to feel so bad about my failures at focusing that I avoided work altogether. Days of the week would pass that I wouldn’t even open my laptop – and my entire work, school, and social world revolves around my laptop. At first, the feelings I acknowledged were exhaustion and guilt. I felt guilty because I wasn’t working very hard, I wasn’t being productive, and I was letting my wife go to work for long hours to support us both while I dragged my feet in getting my PhD.
Then I started to acknowledge the feelings of sadness and numbness. I still couldn’t muster the energy to be productive, but the intense guilt I felt faded a bit. It faded because I was feeling numb. I felt like I didn’t even have the energy to have emotions, but I also felt an underlying sadness. It was difficult for my wife to make me laugh or smile. I cried seemingly at random throughout the day, and laid on the couch or in bed all day aching for my wife to come home and hold me.
Now, as I enter into the second trimester, I am feeling better. I think the changing of the seasons is helping a lot, too. I am taking more walks now that the sun is breaking through the cold gloominess of winter, and birds are starting to chirp and early bulbs are starting to sprout in the garden. I still haven’t gotten my full mental acuity back, so writing is still slow going. But I am doing what I can, and I feel a lot less bad about it. In fact, I don’t really feel sad at all anymore (at least not inexplicably sad). So it does get better.
Pregnancy blues is an interesting affliction because it’s not clinical depression (although pregnant women are definitely at risk of full-on depression), but it is still associated with an imbalance in hormones like serotonin. It is legitimately more than just feeling bad about feeling tired or nausous. So if you feel like you are in a depressed mood and are feeling bad about yourself for “not being able to handle” early pregnancy – the nausea, the lack of appetite, the fatigue and constant desire to sleep – go easy on yourself. Try to speak up for yourself and tell people how you feel. Ask for help. Don’t suffer alone, worrying that there is something seriously wrong with you. As my wife said when I expressed my fear that something was wrong with me, “it’s called being pregnant”. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and you deserve help to get through it.