Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Is there such a thing as PREpartum depression?

I have a friend who used to live in Nairobi.  It came up in a conversation about the weather.  You know the one: Would you be bored to tears if the weather were beautiful, but the same, every day?  

Nairobi is sunny and warm with a crisp breeze.  Every. Day.  

She said “You know, it’s impossible to be unhappy living in a climate like that!”

Mmmm…  Maybe not “impossible.” 

Here I am in Nairobi, visiting friends, meeting wonderful new people and eating delicious meals we relish even more because we can’t get anything like it in Kisumu.  Here I am sunning myself in this happy-inducing climate, feeling utterly depressed.

And I’m hesitant to write anything since it can only come across as whiny and self-pitying given the much more serious problems other people in this part of the world face.  In a better person that realization might be the kick-in-the-pants that would pull her out of her wallowing.  And that awareness only inconveniently adds a bit of self-loathing to my sadness.  But I can’t escape the emotions I feel.

I know all about postpartum depression and was lucky enough to avoid it with Caleb.  But is there a pre-partum depression I can diagnose myself with? That’s got to be a “thing,” right?

You see, I’ve felt this way frequently since my third trimester:  That there were tears piling up in my tear ducts just waiting for an excuse to let loose at the littlest inconvenience.   That I would need to swallow hard to pull them back and avoid embarrassing myself with irrational sadness.

The other day I couldn’t get the water to be less than boiling hot in the shower.  The painfully hot water forced me to leave half way through the shower and I proceeded, half naked with soap still in my hair,  to not just cry, but to sob.  A full body, shoulder-shaking, gasping-for-air, minutes-long sob.  

Caleb walked in on me in another recent crying jag and tried to comfort me with: “Mama, you crying because you want a donut?  You can have one later, OK?  So, now you not sad, right?”  

And that actually cheered me up.  For a while.

I don’t think anyone, save my husband and son, has ANY clue what I’m going through (And yes.  I know I say this on a BLOG, which means they could all know now, and that’s fine).  This is partly because I’m actually cheered up by company.  My depression is often sparked when I’m on my own too much, which doesn’t bode well for my indefinite maternity leave.  (Really, my job contract just ends when my baby is due)  

But, I’m not sure entirely how to disentangle what is hormone-provoked hyper-sensitivity with what might be real issues here.   Sure, the shower being too hot would not normally send me over the edge, but might some of this other stuff?

Like feeling a loss of self watching my husband’s career take off and my own stagnate with this move to Kenya.  Like feeling a bit too old to reinvent myself entirely.  Like wondering if living here is worth not watching my nieces and nephews grow up.   

Maybe I’d have answers or at least a better perspective on these things if I weren’t fighting back tears thinking about them.   Maybe not.  The thing is until depression clears it’s hard to think about any of this stuff with any objectivity.  

And I suppose it’s risky writing things down when I’m in this state – much less sharing it.  I’m sure it’s some kind of Murphy’s Law that when you write about this stuff, and perhaps even evoke some sympathy, that’s just about the time that your depression lifts and you not only don’t need the support but are embarrassed by everything you just wrote.  

I’ll take that chance since writing about this, and even knowing it might be read and might even resonate with someone, is helping now.


  1. I wish you could see yourself as others see you: insightful, intrepid, and definitely not too old to re-invent yourself. I hope your tears - flowing full and easily - wash away your sad feelings. I think every woman in her third trimester ponders how her life is changing and will continue to change up to and beyond the horizon - and that's hard for a planner. Laugh, hug, and, yes, cry a little/a lot. Your life is big and doesn't fit neatly in a market basket. We all send you much love.

    1. What wonderful kind words Heidi. I'm chocking up just reading them (another sign of overactive hormones? : ))

  2. Darling, I love your authenticity. The reinventing thing is already taking place and happening just as it should. Sending you love.

    1. Thanks so much Cheri. I've been thinking of you so much lately!! (Actually continually since I've been here) You are my model mom and I'm constantly finding myself asking "what would Cheri do?" I think you're right about the reinventing thing. I guess sometimes the key is to not plan or control it and just let it come and learn from it. Sending lot so love back at you.

  3. Kim - my thoughts are with you. I think there is such a thing as pre-partum depression; I had to fill out a form at my last appointment asking how I was feeling (which, fortunately, is no more stressed and pessimistic than normal). Regardless, I know you have the strength to get through this and to get past what are legitimate concerns about your personal and work life. You made such a brave and amazing choice moving to Africa, you'll be equally brave and amazing in facing the struggles of living there. Just know that lots of people are in your corner!

    Krista Loose

    1. Thanks so much for the vote of confidence Krista!! Interesting that your prenatal visits asked about this. Mine consist of feeling my belly and making sure I'm taking my vitamins. ; )

  4. Kim - not to be flip, because I have more thoughtful things to say - but regarding the re-inventing part. Keep in mind, Grandma Carrie became a pre-school teacher at age 60 and taught for another 10 years,and then substituted for several more. Yours is the generation that will change careers several times. Sending you love and lots of hugs. Just know that we think about you all constantly.


    1. Thanks mom. I think you're very right that it's possible to reinvent yourself at any age and there's plenty inspiration for doing so. I think where I am working right now is completely full of young overachieving hyper-accomplished types and it's hard to remember that. xoxo.

  5. Just getting it out in the open always helps me. And yes, pre-partum depression is such a thing. I think all mother's have felt it in a way. Also knowing your little baby won't be so close to you ever again also fuels the other emotions running through you head.

    Living so far from family hits me hard lots of days. For me its a struggle, if we live here we are far from my family. If we live there we are far from his. It will never be easy for us and that also makes me sad. Why couldn't he have been American or me South African? But God has other plans and you have to know, you are right where he intended you to be. Chin up and come visit us down south! :)

    1. Hi Blaire!
      Thanks for your comments. Yes, it is helpful to know that others share in the same emotions I'm going through now.

      Actually, my husband is not South African but his father and many friends live there so my family is pulled in the same directions as yours. At least we have skype and relatively cheap long distance calls. My husband's family moved to Kenya in the 80s and had to wait months for letters and plan phone calls weeks in advance. So, that helps put it in perspective a bit. But, like you said, it's never easy!

  6. Kim,
    There is such a thing as pre-partum depression and according to what I read it is becoming more prevalent. some is hormones.
    I would check wikipedia as they have a section on this and talk with your doctor.
    It is tough and all the situational things like not being at your home, not much family around, job ending makes it harder.
    I think it is great that you reached out. That is a healthy sign my dear!
    we are thinking of you!
    Love to you! and the boys!