"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and learn not on your own understanding."
As I mentioned in my last post, I experienced heightened anxiety and mood swings following my second pregnancy. Poor judgement calls were made. Several. The first major oversight being resuming my routine dose too quickly postpartum. The second major oversight being not communicating symptoms of unmanageable anxiety nor mood changes to my psychiatrist/husband/close family. I tried to manage a lot of changes on my own. I didn't involve my support system on numerous occasions. I look back on this past year and notice a trail of warning signs of impending mania.
We took a pregnancy test at the end of February. It was positive. We were both overwhelmed. We had our first ultrasound on March 22nd. Three of my sister-in-laws were in town at the time. What timing! The worst of the first trimester nausea and exhaustion were in full swing. Their presence was a true God send for several reasons. I was in a state of shock for some time. This shock paired with anxiety became overwhelming as I mulled over the reality of the next year, the ages of my children (then, 7 months and 3 years) and the fact that I was pregnant six months prior to this third pregnancy.
There was much to consider.
I like a surprise just as much as the next person. A life-changing surprise with my chemical makeup is overwhelming at best and traumatic at worst. I was ruminating, foreshadowing, projecting and eventually I simply isolated. I became depressed. The last time I remember being this depressed was early college. I was trying to detach from an overwhelming reality. I went to church alone on Holy Thursday. I remember being highly emotional and feeling utterly alone. Was I honestly capable of mothering three under four? Why now? Ben was doing his best to prop me up and make me feel equipped, but I just didn't feel that way. I was afraid.
On February 20th, I began a do-it-yourself retreat entitled "30 Days to Morning Glory" (see Wisdom page). This retreat is a great way to deepen and renew your devotion to Mary. It's made simple for busy people like you and me with short reflections and prayers. I relied heavily on the reflections and prayers found in this retreat booklet during the beginning days of my pregnancy. It was the type of indirect moral support I needed. Well, indirect-ish.
On March 25th, the retreat culminated with a consecration prayer. That same day we were headed to a kid's birthday party in the afternoon. After the party came to a close, we took to a nearby park. I remember being seated about 5 feet off the ground on a platform with Amelia hugging my left hip. A young toddler was about to come crashing down head first on the step to my immediate right. Without thinking, I reached out my right hand to cradle the toddlers' head. I then looked back at Amelia. I was dumbfounded. Amelia was dangling head first, with her ankle in my left hand.
Before turning to face Amelia's foot, not only was I completely unaware that Amelia had fallen, but I have absolutely no memory of catching her by the ankle mid-fall. Even in the most ideal circumstances I don't know if I or anyone for that matter could catch someone by the ankle mid-fall without looking.
The mother of the little girl came rushing forward. In unison, she grabbed Amelia and I grabbed her daughter. We were both searching for words. In the end we were reassured to learn both girls were unscathed. We thanked each other. And we eventually made our way home.
This experience shaped my journey to acceptance. What a remarkable, rather miraculous circumstance. To this day I still shudder when I think of what could of been, but wasn't. I truly believe that divine intervention was at play on the playground that day. In the weeks to follow I still wrestled with anxiety, but as time passed and more family members learned of the pregnancy I was able to cope better. I am grateful to my husband and my family for checking in with me and reassuring me of their support and love. As far as treatment goes, my dose needed to be adjusted, as it did in the second trimester of the previous pregnancy. I have experienced sleep disturbances with the current pregnancy, in addition to increased anxiety and mood changes. I am in a much better place now, both mentally and emotionally. I found the more people I opened up to about my anxiety the less anxious I became. Seeking out social support as well as maintaining a consistent prayer and yoga routine were invaluable during the past year. I also found extraordinary inspiration and hope through this past summer's women's retreat at our local parish. More details to follow.