Mental Illness and Pregnancy

by Birth Without Fear on June 4, 2013

“I’ve debated telling this story. I’m afraid of being judged and perhaps even… yelled at.  But my story is just as important as yours. My story is the one that no one talks about. My story is about being pregnant with a mental illness.” -B 

My story starts a good 10 years ago, when I was officially diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. In a nut shell, Borderline Personality disorder is all encompassing. Its not usually diagnosed, and some psychiatrists don’t even believe its exists. It includes things like fear of abandonment, mistrust, harmful thoughts, and fast moving emotional thought process that I have no control over. I have very little control over what I think, do, and how I react to things emotionally. Medication makes things easier, but these things will always be a struggle for me. Anyways… 

At that time I had no future. The world was dark. No one cared and everyone else was a hypocrite. I had no future. And honestly it was only a matter of time, before the drugs, alcohol, and cutting caught up to me. Sooner or later… and I didn’t care that much. 

Then I met my husband. He held my hand and offered me a choice. Did I want to continue being miserable, angry and alone, or did I want the future he was offering me? With a career, and a home and maybe even a baby? I had always wanted a baby. If I wanted that, I had to start medication. That was my choice. I was tired of all of it, and I had nothing to loose, so I chose him.   

I was stable for 3 years. Properly medicated with regular therapy and we both felt it was time to have a baby. We wanted a baby and we knew it would be hard. We knew it would be hard because of my illness, but we decided as a team to take the risk. We wanted a baby boy. Maybe it was selfish to want something so badly, especially since I knew I would not be able to go off my medication. My psychiatrist assured me it was safe though, so we quadrupled my folic acid intake to counter act the medication I was already on. And within a few weeks I was pregnant! 

We were thrilled. Nervous, scared. We were parents. There was life growing inside me!!! 

This lasted all of 2 weeks. Then I got sick. 

Typical pregnancy symptoms I was told. They will pass, “you have life growing inside you”. Not so simple for someone like me. For the first 3 months, I was so nauseous I couldn’t eat. I lost 15lbs. Luckily I had enough to spare. Something as simple as not being able to eat was hard for my mind to accept. I cried often. 

The second trimester was worse. “Its ok, it’ll pass, its just part of being pregnant, you have life growing inside you!!” I had a migraine for 3 months straight. Nothing I did alleviated the pain. It only went away when I was sleeping and I wasn’t sleeping all that well either. I cried because I was in pain and tired. 

Please don’t misunderstand. Of course I had moments of elation. Every time he moved. Every time we listened to music together and he danced. We still dance! He amazed me. He was growing inside me and it truly is an amazing thing!  These moments gave me the strength to carry him longer then I wanted to. These moments were very special for me. 

The third trimester, although relieved by the fact that finally after 12 weeks my migraine had went away and I was able to eat again, now the depression kicked in. I hadn’t slept in God knows how long, I was miserable every single day, I ached everywhere I could hardly move. I cried every day because I felt so sick of life. My mental illness had taken over my thought processes, and more then once I threatened to cut my baby out of me! People thought it was funny for me to say that. “You have life growing inside of you. It’ll all be worth it in the end.” They all said. But I had never had a baby before, I didn’t know what they meant, and as far as I was concerned at that point, nothing was worth the pain I was feeling physically and emotionally. I was so unhappy and so depressed and my thought processes were so disturbed. I felt bad for how I was feeling because I knew my son could tell. Every time I cried he got quiet and I knew he knew how I felt about him. So I also felt ashamed. I should love my baby. I grew him and he’s special, but I didn’t. I didn’t even like him anymore! He had put me through a lot already and I was very angry at him.  

At 40 weeks 2 days I called my doctor and begged him to induce me. Once again stating that I was totally serious about cutting him out myself. He finally obliged  and I was scheduled for an induction the next day. I was so incredibly grateful! The induction worked and within a few hours I was in full labour! 

It hurt like a bitch but I was so happy to finally be in the final stretch of things. Morphine, epidural yes please!  

Time is a daze but I think I was in labour for about 14 hours before I started pushing. The nurse has mentioned that I could up the epidural so I did and by 9:00am I was ready to start pushing but I couldn’t feel anything so I did the best I could. 

My doctor showed up and tried to vacuum. It didn’t work, it fell off 3 times and baby wasn’t bugging. Finally he concluded that baby was stuck and we had to have an emergency c-section. Up until this point I was doing fine. My mood had elevated for obvious reasons and I was in the home stretch! This baby that had been tormenting me for 40 weeks would soon be out and maybe then we could start our relationship over.  

They said C-section and everything changed. Now I got scared. I turned to my husband and said, “can you call my parents?” Now I was crying, for the first time throughout the entire labour. I had prepared myself for everything except that. Everyone told me that I had the hips to birth a baby, but my baby was now stuck between them and was not coming out on his own.  

So they did the c-section and everything went smoothly. I was embarrassed because I was laying on the table completely naked and exposed. Nothing covered except my head, but I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I pushed it down like I had pushed all my feelings and emotions down for so long and just let them do what they had to do. 

They tugged and pulled and the anesthesiologist commented over and over again, “just a little bit more tugging.” I guess baby was really stuck. I felt my body move with each tug, but they eventually got him out and he cried and we were happy. I was so happy he was finally out! 

My husband held him for the first half hour while they stitched and stapled me up. My parents came right away because the C-section was a shock to them too. Apparently my mother was hysterical, “my baby is being cut open!!!”. So they held him too. I don’t remember if they held him before me. I wasn’t opposed to it. I guess I was happy. I was more relieved. 

The one thing I remember is how invasive the nurses were. They wanted to put me on Demerol so I would stop shaking because of course by this time my body had gone into shock. My OB said no right away (the one good thing about the entire experience) and just put me under a heated blanket. Within half hour my shaking had stopped. 

As the nurses cleaned me up, my body completely numb and still fat from pregnancy, one of them commented on my scars. I have about a dozen that are noticeable because of my mental illness and the first thing I thought was, didn’t you read my file?  Must I explain this to you? But I quickly did. Calmly. It was not what I needed to hear, nor was it something I wanted to explain at that precise moment. I mean I had just had a baby literally ripped from my body. Clean me up and keep your comments to yourself! 

newborn after cesarean

Well from here on in, nothing went right. I didn’t sleep for 4 day, because they insisted on having a bright night light on all night long. I was exhausted! Baby wasn’t eating and was unable to nurse because my milk refused to come in.  I looked and felt like shit and this baby would not stop crying! We supplemented. We had to. 

Because of all the drugs, my face broke out in cold sores. I’m prone to them to begin with, I get them quite seriously actually but this time, I had over a hundred! I had them in my eyes, on my cheeks, on my nose, my chin. The glands in my neck had swelled up so much I could hardly move my head, and since the herpes virus can actually kill newborns, I was restricted in how often I could hold my baby. Needless to say, we did not bond..

Now the depression hit a high. We were finally home, still not breastfeeding, or sleeping. I couldn’t move because of the surgery, he was crying because he was so hungry. I was crying because in my mind, I was a failure. I couldn’t birth my baby, I couldn’t feed my baby, I couldn’t even hold my baby. I said to my husband, “if your’e holding him, who’s holding me? ” And I meant it! I felt so incredibly alone and shameful. I thought often of just stuffing the baby in the freezer. Often. If it wasn’t the freezer it was the washing machine… Often. And that scared me.  In my screwed up mind, this baby was the cause of everything bad that had happened for the last 42 weeks of my life and if he just wasn’t here anymore… I felt horrible. What made me feel worse was the fact that I knew he knew exactly how I felt and it was obvious that he didn’t trust me.  

I still cried every day. It was a very difficult time for my husband. I put on a brave face for all the family that came to visit us, but as soon as we were alone everything fell apart…. 

So here’s where the story gets better.

We were sitting on the couch one night, just hanging out watching tv. He was 2 weeks old, and I just looked at him. This was the first time I had actually just looked at him. He looked back and I said, “there is something so familiar in your eyes.” As I looked harder, I realized he had my eyes. I was looking into a mirror! My heart melted. I said, “I guess you aren’t so bad…maybe this isn’t your fault.” And his glare did not faultier. “Can we start over?” And turned his head and started rooting, “You want to try just one more time?” So for the first time I nursed him.

He latched and he drank big gulps and he looked at me and I could tell that for the first time he forgave me. He understood and I promised him then that no matter what I thought, no matter what the voices told me to do I wouldn’t do them. He trusted me now and I couldn’t betray that. The thoughts haunt me on a daily basis even now but he trusts me and he loves me and he cuddles me and he forgave me and now he doesn’t even remember and as time goes by, the thoughts dwindle and they aren’t as strong. That night I fell in love with my son for the first time. He looks just me, so how couldn’t I love him.  

Some days for me are harder then others. My son is my reason now. My reason to stay strong, to take my medication and to go to therapy. He needs me  to do these things not only for myself but for him. Every time I look into his milk chocolate eyes, my eyes,  I’m reminded of where I was, where I could be and where I am now I’m more confident as a mom and more secure as a woman, and its all because of him. I’m so lucky. My husband has been incredibly supportive throughout this entire journey and I have him to thank as well. 

I still don’t know how I’m going to explain things to him as he gets older. Why I need to take medication, what the scars mean, why I get so angry sometimes or cry uncontrollably, and why I can’t control certain aspects of my emotions. I don’t know. But I figure I’ll just take every day as it comes. As a blessing. I grew him inside me. He’s mine and regardless of how I felt about him in the beginning, its not how I feel about him now. He’s the absolute love of my life and I tell him every single day. 

mother and son

pregnancy and mental illness

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{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

Mia June 5, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Your story couldn’t have came at a more perfect time in my life. To hear real emotion and just brutal honesty took more courage than most people can imagine. I’m a mother of 2 that I had in my early 20′s, I’ve suffered a lifetime of a life almost identical to yours, minus the cutting. I never knew I had BPD until a few years ago, although, as I got into my 30′s I knew something was not right. I’ve taken so many medications, none worked. Finally, one worked and I’ve had the most amazing 4 years of my life, for the most part. I met someone who I have married and we have decided to start a family. We did our first round of IVF and I had to get off of my medication a couple of months prior. The whole process was wonderful and went smoothly the entire way. I ended up having a positive pregnancy test but miscarried @ 5 weeks. We thought we would do A frozen embryo transfer the next cycle we could so I chose to stay off of my medication. Well, a month in, my life started to fall apart. I was once again destroying the relationships all around me. Just as I did all the years prior to the medication. So with the help of my doctors and psychiatrist, we decide that it was best to get back on my medication to get my life back on track and put off my transfer for a little while. During the time I was off, I tried natural remedies, yoga, acupuncture, massage, you name it, I tried it! Nothing worked! All the uncontrollable thoughts that race through the brain with a person suffering with BPD is something no one can understand unless they have it. You honestly can’t control the thoughts, no matter how hard you try. It’s sad! So, long story short, I’m on my medication and just going to see how things go for a while and try a few other routes before doing another transfer. I knew I had to do something or creating a life with someone and destroying that life wouldn’t be what you want to bring a new child into. Not fair for that child. Unfortunately, I suffered tons with my first 2 pregnancies and had the same bonding issues with my 2nd child who was a c-section. It was completely different than my first natural birth and the depression afterwards was just as bad. I thought that what I was feeling was normal for a mom with 2 small kids. Little did I know, it can be helped! So, now that I’ve spilled my guts to everyone, I just want to say thank you for sharing your story as you’ve given me a light and hope that I need. We may or may not be able to have the child we are desiring in our lives but we are mature enough to make the best decisions so that we do not put a child at risk on any level. Tha kd agin for this!

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Julia June 5, 2013 at 8:44 pm

this story really touched my heart. Im a 18 and in my second trimester of pregnancy with the father of my son in jail. I have BPD, PTSD, and ADHD. my mental illnesses seemed to not being my life too much so about a half a year ago I had weened off them. now that im going through this pregnancy especially alone. I find alot of my old demons coming after me as well. reading your story made me flood tears because ive felt all the similar feelings, thank you so much for writing this because I find it hard to find the strength in living but I must not ever forget what it will be like to have my son in my arms for the first time. I wish you the best of luck on your future (:

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Megan June 5, 2013 at 8:48 pm

This is such a beautiful story. Regardless of illness what we do how we act who we are our children love us unconditionally. And we have all had thoughts. And then we just fall in love and it changes.

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Courtney June 5, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Thank you SO much for sharing. I am a mom with bipolar. Our experiences may have been different but the need for understanding is the same.

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Anon June 5, 2013 at 9:08 pm

This is a beautiful story, of so much pain and courage. As a mother with a long history of depression (and possibly bipolar) dealing with an unplanned third pregnancy that has met with family disapproval, thank you. Thank you, for being brave enough to share. Pregnancy isn’t always joyful. Life with a baby – and not just a new baby – can be hard. Medication has never worked for me, but I’m constantly aware of the impact my illness has on my family. Thank you for making me feel like my decision to have children is still somehow legitimate, acceptable, despite what many would say.

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Emily June 5, 2013 at 9:13 pm

You are a brave brave Mama!

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Skye June 5, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Thank you so much for sharing. You are so brave! And your son is so beautiful! God bless you and your family!

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Christene Thaller June 5, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Thank you for sharing I don’t have a diagnosed mental illness, but I do suffer from depression, and am not medicated for it, also anxiety. Some days I don’t even want to pick up my screaming baby boy, and I want my older boy to just go away. But deep deep down in my heart I would die if any thing happened to my boys………thank you again for sharing your story.

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Zuzana June 5, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Good luck with everything! When I was a child they diagnosed me with bipolar too but I didn’t accept it as a reason why. I know how you feel, how it feels, the thoughts and everything, but I said no. I don’t have a diagnosis. Everything is some part of me and if us not working for good it means there is a disharmony out there. It took me long and diffucult years to get it under control so I could live a normal life. It kicked me hard, sometimes but I didn’t give up. I took it as a chance to learn something about myself. I believe every illness is trying to tell us something and you can cure yourself. Now I have a 7 month old baby. Pregnancy wasn’t easy sometimes, when she was born I struggled too and a lot. I had sick thoughts, I felt bad, but I still keep going and I know one day I will be in peace and harmony. So can everybody else. Heal themself. Good luck with everything. :)

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Katia June 5, 2013 at 11:16 pm

I’m in tears. If you pushed everything aside & decided to try again…my son & I can get past this hurdle and move on with nursing. Thank you for sharing. My respect to you!

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Shayna June 6, 2013 at 8:39 am

Thanks for sharing your story. You’re incredibly brave and there’s no doubt in my mind that you are a great mother. Don’t forget that. You don’t just deal with the challenges of raising a little one you also struggle with your own mind on a daily basis. This makes parenting even more challenging at times, and I think you are a super hero.

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Brittney June 6, 2013 at 8:55 pm

You are one brave momma for sharing your story!

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Brooke June 8, 2013 at 4:53 am

Thank you so much for sharing something so powerful and also so private. I can’t quite put into words how much your story touched me, but I’ve come from a similar place and I think you’re doing amazing. Thank you again.

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Rosie June 14, 2013 at 12:39 am

Thank you so much for your courage to share your story with strangers. I’m in tears reading it because I really connected with you, I haven’t been diagnosed with an illness but can relate with deep fears of abandonment, the unknown and mistrust due to different traumatic experiences from my childhood. Mental, emotional health are a constant challenge for me. I’m not a mom yet but am a doula and babies, mommies and birth are very dear to my heart. I hope I can be as brave and courageous as you one day to say yes to marriage and a baby and trust God. Thank you for your example and for sharing!

Rosie.

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Rosie June 14, 2013 at 12:43 am

Forgot to add, you are very beautiful and your baby is so beautiful and adorable:)

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Ashlie June 15, 2013 at 12:05 am

The raw emotion, and honesty in this story really pulled at my heart strings! A baby is NEVER easy but what you went through was extra hard, I am so sorry you had to feel the way you did, but also SO proud of you for over coming it and turning into an amazing momma! He Is so handsome :)

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Yanya June 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Your story was SO amazing! I can’t thank you enough for sharing. I also suffer from mental illness and am TTC. Stories like yours give me hope that even if things aren’t going right in the beginning they can (and will) get better.

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Kimberley Jurdison September 19, 2013 at 6:34 am

I could’ve written this myself. I know those feeling. I’m bipolar. I struggle with my emotions on a daily basis. I’m 17 weeks pregnant and my son is almost 4. He is my reason for breathing. I haven’t been able to tell anyone the thoughts I had about him throu my horrific PPD, and some days are still bad, especially with pregnancy hormones. But he hugs me and brings me his blanket when I cry and takes care of me. You are so incredibly strong. Your story brought me to tears and I hope all is well with you and your son. You are not alone. I understand. I’m cring to hard to comment anymore, but feel so connected to you. You are so brave and strong. Much love to you xoxo

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Sarah-Jayne September 19, 2013 at 7:29 am

Thank you for sharing your story. I understand how you feel and I almost didn’t realise that someone else felt and experiened similar feelings and emotins. I suffer with severe ocd including intrusive thoughts and depression. Thankyou for being so brave and honest. a

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Katie sB January 28, 2014 at 11:02 pm

Thank you for sharing your story. Really inspiring. You are very brave.

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Rabbit February 23, 2014 at 5:50 pm

i really have to thank you so much for writing this. i know it can be hard to reveal such honesty & emotion. i’m 22 weeks pregnant now and was feeling sheer cold terror pulsate through my body on a daily basis, fearing that i wouldn’t connect or even couldn’t connect because of my mental illnesses (BPD & PTSD along with a bunch of minor things that tend to go along with the two). i’ve been in therapy for a while and have been totally committed to changing my thoughts & behaviours for the better, but still i was so, so scared. reading your story has, for the past few days, put me at such ease that i’m starting to connect with my son as he’s beginning to kick inside my belly. i feel reassured that things will be okay and that is helping me feel connected to the present & people around me. thank you again~!!

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Patty March 4, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Hi Rabbit,
I want to reassure you that you will connect and love your child and everything will be perfect. It even says in the bible, ” can a mother forget her child?” I’m confident that you will bond and love it tenderly and the baby will be the one to pull you through the hard times. It will be a baby of healing. I know because it happened to me. It means so much to snuggle a baby as you go thru hard times. It’s bonding and soothing to care for another and you will find a huge satisfaction caring for your little one. God bless you, dear girl!

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kelle hyde March 25, 2014 at 6:23 pm

wow. this story moved me to tears. i have bpd and am currently pregnant with my first child!! your story really touched my heart, it makes me realise that no matter how hard it seems, how scared i am, how angry and insecure i get, how i doubt myself and my abilities to bring this child up the best i can, that even after all this, the love i will feel for my child will be much bigger than all of these things combined. its a relief that however messed up i am that my child will hopefully understand and love me regardless. i get terrified that i will damage my child somehow by being crazy, unstable, an emotional wreck, but after reading this i just have more hope that i can and will be the best mum i can be and that it is possible for people with bpd to make it in life and bring up a child successfully, lovingly and honestly. thankyou so much for sharing this touching story. i wish all the best for you and your beautiful little boy!!!!x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x.x

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Sonia lopes July 13, 2014 at 1:20 pm

I’m bpd too! But at times I desagree with diagnose.are u still taking meds? What meds are u taking? Did u ever suffer from allucinations?? I got emotional with ur story.

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