My early pregnancy mental health struggle and a renewed passion for health

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been almost 2 months since my last blog entry. And so much has happened that I couldn’t let one more day pass without documenting and sharing my experiences with all of you here.  Since my last entry on October 12th, I’ve had 2 ultrasounds and both appointments went very well.  Baby has a nice strong heartbeat and appears to be healthy in every discernable way. What a relief! And I’m 12 weeks pregnant. This is also why I finally felt emotionally strong enough to continue on this writing journey, which will hopefully parallel and strengthen my physical journey.  I felt everything was just happening so easily as I journeyed down this path, that I kept waiting for reality to set in, and the inevitable let down or struggle.  But then I realized, even if I do encounter some misfortune along this path, it won’t have benefited myself, nor any of you, that I chose not to document my experiences going through it all.  So enough about that and let’s get right to the fun part.  Let’s share in this adventure together.  I’ve missed all of you!

I’m going to admit something here that feels shameful to say.  Over the past few years I haven’t been eating or taking care of myself nutritionally the way I should and know to do, especially considering my background in nutrition (I have a BS degree in nutrition from the University of Saint Joseph’s here in West Hartford, CT and also was a nutritionist in San Diego for several years after college.)  I have loved cooking since I was a child and all the way up until a couple years ago, when I just suddenly stopped.  I had stopped caring because I felt like it was a lot of effort to put in for just me.  I get motivated to cook when I know other people will be enjoying it.  So being single and living alone, I just felt like there was no point.  But I truly missed the feeling I get when I make something new, or even one of my tried and true recipes, and feel that sense of purpose and accomplishment when it’s complete.  Plus, who doesn’t love eating some delicious home cooking?  I own all this great cookware and had completely stopped using it. Since I’ve moved into my house a couple years ago, I have barely cooked at all.  Being pregnant has obviously changed a lot in my life for the better. I’m getting back to my passions and feeling motivated.  And I’m proud to say I’ve been cooking up a storm for the past 2 months.  Every time I tackle a recipe I imagine a day when my child is old enough to really enjoy my cooking with me.   And even now, they say the baby is old enough to taste the foods I’m eating, and I love thinking about them in my belly feeling happy because of how yummy my cooking is!

Besides the actual cooking and baking I’ve been doing, I’ve also been much more mindful of my food choices now that my baby is relying on me for all of his/her nutrition.  Before getting pregnant I was not very good about eating at regular intervals either. I would basically go all day without food just because I was too busy to think about eating or preparing food. Then I would eat all my calories in the evening between 3pm and midnight.  Well, that’s simply not good enough for me and baby anymore!  I now eat breakfast every morning, and many small snacks and meals throughout the day.  This is a huge change and I feel so much better now that I’m feeding myself and my baby properly.   I’ll write up a separate post with a sample meal plan that mirrors the way I’ve been eating in case anyone is curious or would like some help in that area too.

Something about pregnancy that was completely unexpected to me has been how physically different I’ve felt.  Of course, I’ve heard of morning sickness and other early pregnancy symptoms, but I never understood the degree to which I would feel completely exhausted and nauseous all day long.  For the first 3-4 weeks of my pregnancy I felt mostly normal but then suddenly that all changed.  I never had even a single burst of energy throughout the entire day, and had a non-stop nausea, which made it difficult to eat properly.  I feel like pregnant women have not shared these things with me to the extent I was feeling them and so it was a shock to me.  As a result of these symptoms, my changing hormones and other emotional events, I was also experiencing a persistent sadness and heaviness in my soul for the most part of my 7ththrough 9thweek of pregnancy.  It was so extreme, I even considered taking a medication (approved during pregnancy) for depression.  I picked up a prescription for Zoloft on November 7thand decided that if I still felt such strong sadness a week from then, I would take it.  I really dedicated that week to taking care of myself, eating properly, talking with friends, avoiding triggers and exercising. I usually aim to walk between 10 and 20 miles per week and it’s been no different during pregnancy.  By November 15th, I felt almost fully back to my normal self and so never took the Zoloft.

It’s so important when you’re pregnant, and even when you’re not pregnant, to realize that no matter how awful things feel, if you make healthy choices, and focus your energy on pursuits that make you feel fulfilled and energized, you will feel better again.  It’s inevitable.  There will always be valleys in life but mountaintops will always follow them.  So while that means life will always have pain and suffering, it will also always have joy and pleasure.  For me, I need to remind myself of the temporary nature of pain when I’m in the midst of it.  While that doesn’t make the pain disappear, it gives me perspective.  I know better days are always ahead.

Let me just quickly discuss the healthy choices I’m referring to and maybe I’ll help someone else in the process.  The things I do regain my emotional balance when I’m despairing, are to share my experiences with others, exercise as often as possible, pursue activities such as cooking, dancing or reading which give me pleasure and purpose, choose healthy foods and eat often, avoid people or places that make me feel depleted, and set limits for social media use.  Those are all pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t get into too much detail. Consistency in making healthy choices doesn’t mean I’m immediately going to feel relief.  Sometimes it takes a couple weeks of dedicated healthy decisions to start feeling the benefits.  But I know those happy feelings and positive outlook will return.

I definitely was not expecting to be feeling such despair during a time that seemed so obviously wonderful and celebratory, such as pregnancy.  But life doesn’t work that way.  The most beautiful and genuine smiles don’t guarantee an absence of tears and that awful torn feeling in your soul when you feel like everything is bleak and difficult.  Also, I think the feelings of sadness were magnified for me because I spend many hours and days alone.  But guess what? The strength and resilience of my soul is also magnified because I achieved it all on my own as well.  So while sadness may feel more dark for me as a single woman, my strength and ability to heal from hardship is also much greater being single, and that makes it all worth it.  It’s always been worth it.  And I can’t wait to share it all with my child.

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