I have secrets. Several of them, to be more accurate. Secrets that I am not so much ashamed of, but are reluctant to tell people about. Reluctant because I don’t want to be judged. Reluctant because I don’t want to know people’s views on these sorts of things. Reluctant because I’m just trying to live my life the best way I know how for myself and my family. Reluctant because I feel like until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes, you can’t tell me a got-damn thing. Reluctant because black folks in particular are real iffy about mental illness and medications.
I’m pregnant. 21 weeks, 22 on Thursday. I’ve wanted this baby for a really long time. This baby is probably the most anticipated of my three children, as I always had this idea that three children would make my family complete. This pregnancy has been tough, perhaps tougher for me than the others since my illnesses now have names and recognizable symptoms. I’ve done a lot of work over the past four years since Little A’s birth to keep myself healthy.
But I’m not cured. Bipolar disorder does not go away. It must be managed and treated, consistently, continuously. So even though I am pregnant, I’m still on an antidepressant and an anti-psychotic, at relatively high doses. But being down to two medications is a victory for me, as I started out on five. And one that I finished only after I became pregnant is one known to increase the risk of birth defects. But I’m still stable.
Stability is a shaky thing. I’m not taking anything for the fibromyalgia, which is likely contributing to my aches and pains in this second trimester when I really shouldn’t be feeling this bad until the third trimester. I stopped my sleep aid, even though lack of sleep triggers hypomanic episodes. And the one that causes birth defects also helped with the body aches, and the headaches too. Between weeks 9 and 12 I had a migraine every single day. And stable doesn’t mean “like normal.” I missed the entire last week of classes and barely scraped together enough legal knowledge to get through exams. And now, I haven’t left my house in two days. I don’t feel depressed, just sluggish, but I would be doing better, I am convinced, if I was on my other meds.
I want to get off these last two drugs, but I don’t know if I can. My baby appears to be perfectly healthy, growing wonderfully with a strong heartbeat and none of the defects that the bad drug could have caused. He is likely to be a world-famous gymnast with the all the tumbling he is doing in there – sometimes his movements make me nauseous! But in the third trimester, which begins next month, getting off the drugs would likely be very beneficial for my son. While I was on the antidepressant for my other two children, we now know that third trimester use my cause issues with breathing and tremors after birth. And with the anti-pscyhotic, tremors and withdrawal symptoms of diarrhea, dizziness, headache, irritability, nausea, trouble sleeping, or vomiting may occur. But if I don’t stay on, I could have an episode that lands me, for the second time, in the psych ward. I would do anything for my kids, but I can’t imagine that being hospitalized would be good for any of us, my two big kids especially.
I also want to breastfeed, an experience I really enjoyed with my other two, even if it was hard going in the beginning. But both of these drugs are found in breastmilk. Studies conflict over whether the amount is enough to cause worry.
Bottom line is: I want to be “clean” so bad. I want to be “normal” so bad. I want my kids to have a great life so bad. But this may be one of those times that getting clean is not such a good thing. It’s one of those times where having a happy mama may be “better” than having a totally organic, medication free baby. It may be one of those times that we have to give up what we want in the short term to make room for infinite blessings down the line.
It may be one of those times, but how will I know?