Guest Blog from the amazing Laura Schmidt from ARC Fitness here in Sudbury, on her personal experience with antenatal depression, hardships of her pregnancy and the healing power of yoga.
Right away I could tell what a phenomenal human being Laura is. She was so open and kind and just had an amazing presence about her. I am sure anyone who has taken her Yoga Classes can attest to what a positive energy she has.
I am so grateful she has written this beautiful piece, and am so fortunate to be able to collaborate with such an inspirational woman.
I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did <3.
How Antenatal Depression Stopped me from going to My BFF’s Wedding (By Laura Schmidt)
When I first met Meg, I felt an immediate connection, and it was quickly apparent that we both shared a lot of the same philosophies surrounding pregnancy, birth and parenthood. We both aim to “keep it real” and strive to combat the glamorization of pregnancy and motherhood. Why? Turns out we both endured antenatal depression (depression during pregnancy). So when she reached out to me to guest post on her amazing blog and share my story, I agreed without hesitation.
My name is Laura. Most people know me as the upbeat ball of energy greeting you with a smile at ARC Climbing, instructing an uplifting yoga class, or chasing after my excitedly happy daughter, who will soon be turning four. It’s easy to smile now, but during one of the most important turning points of my life, I was struck with profound sadness.
I wish I could make a PSA video — Prenatal Depression: It Is a Thing!
We’re so used to hearing about postpartum depression (and I think we’re finally getting to a place where people are understanding it more, are realizing the symptoms, and are able to offer more tools for support). Pregnancy, on the other hand, is still heralded as this phenomenon in which a woman becomes a radiant beam of light and feels wonderful and glowing (despite morning sickness, obviously!) and enters a magically healthier and happier state of existence. Did you know women can get depression during pregnancy too? I sure didn’t… until I got depression during my pregnancy.
I was newly married at the time, and I looked forward to becoming pregnant. I ate healthy, exercised, and had a positive support system. My pregnancy was fully planned and hoped for (though it happened quicker than expected). I was excited for this next chapter of my life and to feel that pregnancy glow! And instead was disappointed to find that it would never arrive.
I noticed my shift in mood early within the first trimester and chalked it up to the change in hormones, and was just thankful I didn’t have much morning sickness. I started taking folic acid and “interviewing” health care practitioners, eventually connecting with a lovely midwifery collective in Ottawa, where I met with my midwife Tess and learned my little junebug was very healthy and developing well!
(You can get a Copy of Our FREE Amazing Tips for Dealing with Anxiety During Pregnancy HERE)
I just didn’t feel like myself…
But I didn’t feel well myself. I had dreamed of this pregnancy for a long time, yet I wasn’t excited about it in the slightest. I woke up every morning filled with fear and doubt. I felt unsettled, and even sad, and in a true cycle of negative emotions, I then felt guilt and shame for feeling those things. New life is beautiful! Pregnant women are supposed to be happy! As a result, I ended up not announcing my pregnancy for more than four months. (Fortunately, this coincided nicely with the Christmas holidays and it wasn’t too hard to attribute a little extra weight to delicious holiday baking.)
“I feel like something is wrong with me. I don’t feel like myself anymore.”
I had mentioned my feelings to my midwife earlier in my pregnancy, but it was around this time, once I was out of the first trimester, that I reached out to Tess more earnestly, in tears, and said, “I feel like something is wrong with me. I don’t feel like myself anymore.” She provided an immense amount of support during this difficult time, and together we decided that a referral to the Perinatal Mental Health Program at the Ottawa Hospital would be a good choice. Unfortunately, the psychiatrist there had long wait times for appointments, and it would likely be a couple months before I could see someone.
At five months pregnant, I had fatigue that never seemed to abate with any amount of sleep, an inability to focus on even simple tasks, and I wavered between feeling overly emotional or emotionally numb, with sadness and dread being at the forefront of my mind a good portion of the day. I had a fulfilling job that I got to do from home (!) but came to find it too challenging to continue, so I took my maternity leave more than three months before actually giving birth.
Missing my Best Friends Wedding.
When I was nearly six months pregnant, my best friend was getting married in the Dominican Republic, and I was all set to stand in his wedding… until anxiety kept me from setting foot on the plane. I had purchased the plane tickets, booked the hotel and made preparations, all for nothing. My mental condition cost me thousands of dollars, and more than that, I missed out on being there for such an important friend’s special day.
Finally, my appointment with the antenatal psychiatrist arrived, not a day too soon, and it was so remarkably informative and healing. We discussed my symptoms and feelings, and everything finally started to make sense. It felt empowering to learn that I wasn’t alone — antenatal depression may happen to 7-20% of pregnant women! It was also a relief to learn that there are ways to treat depression during pregnancy, and it’s never too late to get started. We discussed several medications, but as my case was considered fairly mild, decided it could be managed with regular exercise, daylight, eating well, and other positive lifestyle changes.
For the third trimester of my pregnancy, I began to feel more in control. I started walking outdoors every day, I made healthy dietary choices, and I started reading as many childbirth books as I could get my hands on. Around this time, two wonderful things happened. First, I found an amazing doula to support me during my pregnancy and birth, and second, I started to practice yoga daily.
How Prenatal Yoga brought me back to Myself.
When people think of prenatal yoga, they think of poses that prepare the body for birth, or provide comfort for the pregnant body. Both are true, but the most astounding thing that resulted from my yoga practice was the return of my presence of mind. Within the storm inside was now some stillness, a place where I could see myself as I really was, and feel the truth in my heart. There was no magic light switch of positivity that happened in my life during this time, but with these tools, my feelings and thoughts came to seem less daunting and more manageable. I became determined to give birth without fear.
At 38 weeks, I had a beautiful home birth with the support of two midwives and my doula, and welcomed my healthy baby girl Althea into this world. Throughout the entire experience, I felt safe, protected and believed in, and to my surprise and delight, I felt an instantaneous and immensely strong connection to my daughter and more love than my heart could contain. With these women at my side, and the tools and knowledge to look after my health and wellness, I went on to have a positive relationship with breastfeeding, a solid start to motherhood, and most fortunately, positive mental health in the postpartum period.
My yoga practice and the support from this collection of incredible women worked to quell my biggest fear while I was pregnant: that I was transmitting all this negative energy into my unborn child. It was uplifting and monumental for me to come away with this message — and I hope if there’s anything you get out of reading this as a woman potentially faced with depression during your pregnancy, it’s this —
You’re not alone, and how you feel right now doesn’t say anything about your ability to have a healthy pregnancy, be a good mother and a decent human being; what you’re sending across to that little human inside you is that no matter how you feel at any given time, you will always be there.
And now, at nearly four, my daughter laughs as she races down the other side of a massive snow pile and out of my sight; she’s an adventurer and hard to rein in. But then, and now, I am always there for her. And it’s clear she knows this.