I’ve had a couple of people reach out to me lately for my advice about having another baby after they’ve experienced a postpartum mood disorder with a previous child. I combed back through Postpartum Progress and realized I didn’t write very much about my pregnancy with my second beautiful child, and what I was thinking at the time. Perhaps I was avoiding writing down how I really felt as I awaited her birth.
Since I knew I was highly likely to experience postpartum OCD again, this time I made sure I had a team around me that I knew would watch me like a hawk. I saw my fabulous psychiatrist at Emory every month (Hi Dr. Newport!), took my meds, talked to my therapist and made my family and friends put on their eagle eyes and their super-sensitive ears to monitor me. I truly felt comfortable that I was doing all I could do to have a better experience the second time around. The absolute hardest part about all of it, though, was the meds. I can still feel twinges of guilt about taking medication while pregnant even to this day. And I’m sure there are plenty of judgmental people out there (like one Mr. Tom Cruise) who would love to tell me what an awful mother I was and am for doing that.
I thought long and hard about it. I prayed about it. I, of all people, know the latest research because it’s my job to inform you about it here at Postpartum Progress. Truly, the risk in general is small, though there are some antidepressants that are more dangerous in utero than others. Yet a risk is a risk. For mothers, even a teensy, less than 1% small risk is really a HUMONGOUS, MAMMOTH-SIZED, JUMBO JET GIGANTO-RISK. The risk that my son or daughter might get pink-eye from one of their friends is enough to give me a headache. My children are like delicate, precious packages of plutonium love as far as I’m concerned. The LAST THING I would ever want to be responsible for is putting them at risk. Yet there I was.
I talked about this with my therapist a lot. I cried about it. But she told me about how the flight attendants on planes warn you that, in case of cabin decompression or oxygen loss or however they put it, you should put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you put one on your child. If you’re out of commission, you can’t help the ones you love. So I decided I wanted to help myself so I could help my family. I know there was risk to taking the medication, and I know there was risk to my child if I hadn’t taken it. Either way there was unavoidable risk. So I bit the bullet. Or the Cymbalta, as it were. I ended up being fine and so did my daughter. That makes me happy. And for those of you who decide not to take meds, find other successful ways to cope, and end up being fine, that makes me happy too.
Just so you know, lots of women take medications while pregnant and are not judged at all. It’s just that society has decided that, while it’s okay for women who have chronic physical illnesses or diseases to remain medicated, mental illness is "optional" so we really don’t have to take that antidepressant stuff if we don’t want to, right? It’s okay if you need something to stop your brain tumor from growing, but if you’re just trying to stop your brain from acting out of control, well that’s different.