Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Parenting with SAD, Part 3: Conception, Miscarriage and Pregnancy

Once Londo and I were ready to start a family, I really had to think in depth about my disorder and how it would affect my parenting and my kids. I still wasn’t able to find much about how SAD affects parenting, but I did research into recurring depression. Turns out, women who suffer from depression are at a higher risk for postpartum depression (PPD). Londo and I thought it would be better if we had a baby in the late spring or summer for the PPD reason, and also because I was worried about having the energy every fall or winter to plan and deal with birthday parties.

Unfortunately, we had fertility issues, and at a certain point with those issues you have to give up trying to time an ideal birthday and simply do whatever you can to get pregnant. It was really hard to give that up. Adding to the heartbreak of infertility, we had to come to terms with the fact that if we did get pregnant, we might have a baby at a really rough time for us, making things extra hard. But though it was difficult, we did our best to make peace with it and began fertility treatments.

When we finally did get pregnant, we found out in December and the due date was September 3rd, so we started to mentally prepare ourselves for a very tough winter the following year with a newborn. Unfortunately, that baby was not meant to be, and the tough winter was right then.

It’s an understatement to say that dealing with a miscarriage in January was difficult and emotionally rough. A miscarriage in and of itself is (or can be) devastating, especially after trying for so long already. Add to that the chemical issues that normally have me exhausted and depressed, and well, it wasn’t pretty. It was not a hard decision for us to decide to take a cruise in early March down in the Caribbean, both to ease the pain of the lost baby and to get me more sunlight.

My next pregnancy, the one that resulted in my awesome and beautiful Pumpkin girl, started in June. I thought this would be a good thing, but the exhaustion of the first trimester is very much like the exhaustion I feel in winters. So instead of having half a year or so of energy, I had almost a full year of close to overwhelming exhaustion. I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have easy pregnancies anyway, but I definitely found it rough that entire 41.5 weeks.

Surprisingly, my third trimester in January and February was not as bad as we thought it would be. I made sure I had enough time to do my light therapy, Londo saw to my comforts and my dad drove me to and from work (which was close to his office at the time). My work was incredibly busy and stressful, but I was able to work from home 2-3 days a week, and full time in the 2 weeks prior to my due date and until I went into labor. I was disappointed that I didn’t have the energy and time to do all the nesting that my instincts were screaming for, but we got enough done to be ready for a new baby.

The Pumpkin’s due date was early March. I was concerned about my lack of energy becoming an issue during labor and delivery, so we lined up a duola. Although I knew Londo would be an excellent couch, I figured a duola could provide additional help and might have ways to help me through rough patches. I believe that it really did help having the duola there, even though I ended up with a C-section. And I feel very confident that the C-section had nothing to do with the Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Overall, that pregnancy was manageable, though difficult.

But being pregnant while having a toddler during the winter? That was the hardest time period in my life.

The Pumpkin has always been a spirited, active little girl who needs a lot of attention and interaction. In the winters, I become more introverted, needing to decrease my interactions with others and needing to have a certain amount of time to myself. In addition, I need time to do my light therapy, which again is too strong of a light to have in front of the little, developing eyes of toddlers and I have to sit still in front of instead of running around after a kiddo.

In winters prior to having kids, Londo had not only helped take care of some of my basic needs, but he also took over pretty much all of the pets’ care and the majority of the household chores. After having the Pumpkin, Londo had to also take over the majority of her care as well. On top of all that, I was having a rough pregnancy and becoming more and more depressed, even though I was doing lots of light therapy and had even started medication.

Depression during pregnancy was no fun. When I started losing weight in my second trimester, was barely making it into work, and was resenting the time I spent in front of my light instead of with my toddler who was having fun with her daddy, I knew it was time to make a change. I talked with my doctor and decided to up my medication dosage, and I made some additional changes to help me and Londo get through that winter. It was hard to admit that my depression was out of my control and that I needed more help. But at a certain point, I just had to bite the bullet and admit I couldn't manage on my own, especially when the health and well-being of my toddler and the baby in my belly was at risk.

But thanks to help from family, special considerations from work, and upped medication and light therapy, we made it through that winter! The Pookie was born healthy and happy (though again through a C-section after a failed attempt at a VBAC) in June.

Perhaps other people with Seasonal Affective Disorder have had easier pregnancies. Perhaps they were able to conceive with no problems, deliver at an ideal time, don't have miscarriages in the depths of winter. Perhaps the glow of pregnancy kept them warm and happy all winter long, the crazy pregnancy hormones providing energy and happiness through the short days and long nights. I hope that is the case for others, but it simply was not the case for me.

So yes, trying to conceive, the miscarriage and the pregnancies were tough for me. But the biggest upside to this condition is that I (and my family and friends) know that things will get better in the spring. Of course, the biggest downside is that I (we) have to deal with it every fall through winter. Those of us with SAD have to continue on with our lives and manage the disorder through the tough times. We can't stop planning our futures, our families, our lives because half of the year is a tough time for us. It's just about figuring how to get through the tough times, managing our health, and forging ahead, knowing that things will get easier over time.

And isn't that the case with just about everything difficult in life?