Today marks one month until the official due date.
I’m in the home stretch and boy do I feel like it. The acid reflux is so bad I wake up in the middle of the night to vomit. If the reflux doesn’t get me, I’m up in the middle of the night to pee. My feet are swelled so much you can’t see my ankles. I’m chronically tired, and walking from one end of the room to the other is enough to both wind me and make me want to take a nap. My back aches worse than ever. Bending over is agony. I’m grateful for the ability to get pregnant and have a baby, don’t get me wrong, but losing some of my autonomy has made me look forward to when my body can be my own again.
Bodily changes are one thing. Emotional ones are another. I’ve often posted on Facebook about the odd triggers that would make me get weepy. A lot of times I found them amusing. I mean, come on. Getting weepy at the Soarin’ music? But then, sometime in late October, that weepiness started to shift. It got more frequent. Sometimes I didn’t even know why I was crying at all. it happened everywhere, without warning: in the middle of the night, first thing in the morning, at work in the bathroom stall, on the metro ride home. It wasn’t just sadness affecting me, either. It was irrational anger and an almost crippling anxiety. According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, between 14-23% of women will struggle with some symptoms of depression during pregnancy. I decided it was time to do something about it and spoke to my doctor about options.
Matt and I decided to avoid medication and explore other avenues of treatment. I don’t know how, but when I was talking to a friend about the depression and what course of action I thought I would take, acupuncture came up. I did a little research and found acupuncture is actually used to treat a variety of pregnancy-related ailments: infertility, morning sickness, depression, headaches, sleeplessness, and many others. I decided to give it a try. I didn’t relish the thought of getting stuck with needles, but crying and feeling like a bag of snakes was in my chest every day wasn’t a picnic, either.
With the blessing of my doctor, I looked up the number of some fancy wellness center in Old Town and tried to get an appointment. Unfortunately, the doctor only saw new patients at certain times during the week, and my leave is more precious than ever now. I wrote that doctors off and made a list of doctors that stayed open past 5. I got lucky my second try. There was a Chinese acupuncturist and herbalist nearby that stayed open till 7. He could even see me that evening.
I’m not sure what I expected. The doctor didn’t speak much English and he didn’t explain much, but he went right to work asking me questions about my emotions, my diet, and my habits. He took my pulse and started to hit pressure points with this pen-type device. Then he took several needles out and inserted them at different points in my feet, hands, and arm. Some stung a little, some I hardly felt. He turned on a heat lamp and left me to my own devices for awhile. And that’s how every visit goes.
He did tell me that first visit that I’m “out of balance.” He said my lung qi (pronounced chee) is low and my liver qi is high. The goal is to get me more balanced out. I looked up some of the terms he used when I got home to try and wrap my Western head around the ideas of qi and imbalance. According to one source, the lung is associated with the emotions of sadness and grief (funny enough, the liver is associated with anger). The lung is partnered with the large intestine, and both work together to take in and expel. When the lung is out of balance, there is a prolonged grief that leads to depression (which is, the article points out, Western term), or dampness.
It was easy enough to wrap my head around it, honestly. And I’m really happy to say that the treatment has helped. I don’t get weepy anymore, even when there are triggers. I don’t dwell on the things that have been making me anxious, but the anxiety still manages to creep in here and there. Yesterday, I was even able to purge a monstrous amount of things I’ve been holding onto (since the lungs are also associated with emotional attachment and letting things go, apparently). I’m hoping that this fresh, more balanced feeling lasts into the postpartum period, as I know that’s also a time for depression.
I’ve wanted to talk about this for a long time, but as it seems with most things pregnancy related, it’s more acceptable for women to keep silent about the issues and the problems related to pregnancy. One things I’ve learned the hard way is that no one really cares about your morning sickness, or your debilitation, or your depression. Some do, but those are the people who are close to you. In other situations, you’re supposed to, in the name of what people view as equality, be tough and act like nothing is wrong. I’ve seen women bravely declare that they’ve gone through these things, not for sympathy, but for the simple fact that they are sharing an experience with the world in hopes others might see it and relate.
I’m sharing this as a way of saying, yes this does happen. No, you’re not a terrible person for admitting it. There are options. I’m lucky; I know my experience is not as bad as some. I’m lucky that the acupuncture has worked. I’ve got an amazing husband and friends willing to listen and help me though it.
And as I feel Zelda kicking around in my stomach, ready to make her debut sometime in the not too distant future, I know the decision I made to get help has been more than worth it.