It’s funny how five words can knock you over or build you up stronger than you ever imagined.
Let’s start this like a group session:
Hi. My name is Katie, and I’m bipolar and pregnant.
What this post entails is not meant to offend. It is not intended to be medical advice, nor was it written to bully, persuade, or intimidate. The soul purpose is to be an encouragement that with God, anything, even conception on an anti-psychotic drug, is possible.
And not only possible, but met with a happy ending.
We’ll start the story with my first real experience, when I began discussing the idea of having children on meds with one of my first adult psychiatrists. He was a good fellow, very bookish and practical. However, his sessions were always quick (most appointments for the nutty are always in and out). I was 20 years old and engaged to marry my husband over the summer. I had no idea what I really wanted for my future, I was still young and stupid and locked in on my own desires. However, my husband had expressed HIS desire to have a family – it was important to him and he was waiting on me. There was no one else he wanted in his life to mother his children than myself, and come on, if that ain’t a compliment then what is? 😉 While it would still be around three more years from this date before I officially gave in, this med check appointment was the perfect time to discuss our options of pregnancy and myself being mentally ill.
Was it safe? Could I breastfeed? Would I have a mutant baby (although X-men powers would certainly, certainly be cool)? Would everything backfire, due to surging hormones, making me into a God forbid – dangerous parent? Legitimate concerns, I had SO many questions and I was afraid, but I did have hope. I honestly expected a long, comforting discussion with a few options.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t what I received.
“My husband to be an I are considering parenting. What medication can I take if I were to become pregnant?”
Without a hitch in his scoff, he simply smiled, “None of them are safe.”
The conversation ended as quickly as it began.
I was dumbfounded. BUT, at the same time, NOT surprised. I had been on mood stabilizers most of my life and I was no newbie to the judgment, conspiracy, and taboo surrounding a woman having a mental condition and trying to conceive (or a man, for that matter).
There just isn’t enough research.
The risks of exposure to the baby are dangerous.
You won’t make a good parent.
Just adopt… it seems selfish to want to make a baby when you’re obviously sick.
I won’t tell you which of those quotes were of personal experience, because really, what would that accomplish? I’m sure as you can imagine though they were disheartening, discouraging, and made me feel ashamed for even wanting children.
I left that appointment numb, and when I told my husband what had happened, he was quietly frustrated. The next few med checks I had with this particular doctor avoided children or pregnancy as a topic. Previously, I had another psychiatrist in the same area whose opinion wasn’t much different. In fact, his consisted of the tried and true: “You’ll need to come off of medication completely, by the way, if you ever want kids.”
We spent a couple years as newlyweds without approaching the subject to each other again. I went back and forth with it in my mind, undecided if I could even tolerate a baby. I was 22. I was having fun! I didn’t want an addition. Plus, I was losing weight the healthy way, exercising AND keeping it off, why would I want to change that?
I didn’t have time to think about kids.
But they snuck their way in there. Prying, tickling my brain, cooing! It was unavoidable. By summer of 2011, I was in full baby fever.
I remember the joy on Luther’s face when I asked him if he wanted to try. The current psychiatrist I was seeing said that if I ever got pregnant, to simply taper my meds for three days and start a prenatal vitamin.
I was terrified but boldly inspired by his neutral stance. It wasn’t a super positive one, but it wasn’t negative, either. I gave myself a month to really try and prep myself… I was about to consider a no meds life. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I’d never done this except maybe one time in my life, and it had been a hellish expedience I didn’t want to repeat. Still, I knew that I wanted this and I was willing to fight for it.
Shockingly we conceived on the first try. We couldn’t believe it! I made the phonecall to my doctor and I started cutting my doses. Everything seemed okay. My mood was too elevated to crash,. I went to my first prenatal at a clinic and got another positive test.
( I should tell you, that before my 2011 pregnancy, we experienced a very early loss on meds where we lost the baby with my next period – and sadly, we had told everyone we knew. It was embarrassing and devastating, so this time we kept it a secret between us one only one friend.)
As I was saying, things seemed and felt great… almost too great. I began to worry. Where were my symptoms? Shouldn’t my breasts be tender? Why wasn’t I nauseous? My husband tried to consolidate me but I was a mess. I began experiencing full blown rages, crying spells, and obsessive compulsive thoughts. The state of the baby was all I thought about, or even cared about. I was a train wreck.
I had severe abdominal pain one night around 7 weeks (turned out to be really bad indigestion) so we went to the ER. I had hoped my first sonogram would be in the comfort of my doc’s office… nope, ER!
Their concern with me being pregnant and experiencing pain was what led to the ultrasound – they wanted to rule out miscarriage. I was stone cold and fearful, and had a gut feeling everything had suddenly been a huge mistake. I tried to remind myself that this was what I wanted, what I asked for. I went into it knowing I’d face emotional difficulty and relapsing, but I didn’t think I’d have another loss. I was off of meds, right? I should be in the clear, this time, right?
Even though the pain was unrelated, the sonogram showed me at 5 and ½ weeks, not 7. We were confused. There was also no heartbeat. They tried to reassure me that I probably just had my dates wrong. I told them I was tracking my cycle, I knew when I ovulated, so that couldn’t be correct. They shrugged it off and told me I probably should, too. They scheduled me another ultrasound in two weeks with the hospital, with my practitioner.
And let me tell you, those were the longest, darkest two weeks of my life. They were full of doubt, pain, tears, and fear. I stopped praying. My mood swings were uncontrollable. I couldn’t eat. I wasn’t sleeping and I still had NO pregnancy symptoms whatsoever.
I went to the follow up alone. My husband had recently started a new job on 3rd shift and would be unable to make the appointment.
I remember feeling hollow and the white walls of the waiting room seemed endless. The scent of sterile equipment made me dizzy as I set on the edge of the exam table. The tech soon arrived and began the session.
I stared at the screen. She was very quiet. My heart sank.
I measured 6 weeks… still without a heartbeat.
I felt gutted. My baby had grown a tiny bit, most likely had begun to have a heartrate, shortly before passing away. I couldn’t even cry. I was breathless and broken. Loss is a terrible thing to feel, and it pains me to know that there are so, SO many women out there who have experienced miscarriage. While in my instance they were early, it was still excruciatingly saddening and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone… I don’t know if being unmedicated made the difference, but it traumatized me and I had nightmares for several months. To this day I still struggle with intrusive, compulsive thoughts relating miscarriage in general.
I ended up having one more ultrasound when I should have been measuring 11-12 weeks. I got to see the same image for the third time… confirming the baby inside me was lifeless.
It was December by that point and I ended up having to make an incredibly difficult decision. My body wasn’t rejecting our precious baby, so my Christmas was spent enduring an assisted miscarriage at home, in our new apartment.
I will spare you the details, but as I said earlier, the event left me traumatized and shattered for months.
I decided after that to continue to stay off of meds for awhile. A lot of people advised me to go back on them after we came forward about our second loss, but I had other ideas. I had worked too hard to come off them for the pregnancy and to just go running back made me feel weak; fragile. I wanted to prove everyone wrong. I was full of anger and pain and decided to stay off of them for a solid year – and then, if things worked out, we could try for another baby.
This, my dear readers, was the dumbest and worst decision I could have made.
I spent the next year falling from my Faith. I became two faced, rebellious, selfish and frankly, a little insane. I caused hurt to many, many people including my husband. The grief and guilt I still had not let go was causing me to lead a very unsatisfied and empty life.
My bulimia and anorexia resurfaced from high-school and my weight plummeted to 106 pounds. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew better – it had to stop, I needed help, and I needed to be back on medication. Still I resisted until one night my manic symptoms became so overwhelming, I called the front desk of a psychiatric ward. I scheduled myself to a fresh start – a new psychiatrist, since I was too ashamed to face the old one. I hoped for the best and began treatment and counseling ASAP.
It turned out to be a woman – foreign ground to me! She was also much younger, in her thirties about and had a professional warmth that was unfamiliar in all my experiences.
She knew my position from the beginning as I left nothing out of the picture during intake. Her papers for me would include my miscarriage history, my disorders, and my long term goals. Believe it or not, having kids was still one of them… but I wouldn’t argue or even question her if she said outright that trying again one day would be a poor idea. I was aware that coming off my pills had been a mistake and the chance of ever carrying a baby on them was officially out.
Or so I thought.
So you can imagine my gawking at her response to my tentative question of, “What if, one day, could I?” after I became well on a new drug. I was shocked at what she said.
“The benefit for you being on medication FAR outweighs any risk… I would feel comfortable with you conceiving on this drug, but no others. With monitoring, it would be okay.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. Yes, I’d made a 180 on this drug. Yes, I was myself again. God had been merciful and pulled me through one of the darkest times in my life… but I never expected to hear such a hopeful and joyful thing.
Whether or not this new pill was simply waiting for me, or this psychiatrist was plucked out of a dream, Christ’s love radiated in that office that day.
By the end of 2013, I’d continued the same drug. We raised it twice – still keeping it on one of the lowest dosages. It worked for me and I honestly believe God intended for me to have it.
While my emotional health was 100 percent, my body… was not! I had been keeping record of my cycles since the miscarriage for personal use, and my periods had ceased for several months at a time. I couldn’t tell if I was still ovulating. When I did finally bleed, it was sporadic and strange. Even if we wanted to try one last time, I wasn’t even sure if conception was possible.
Well, guess what?
We conceived on what I believe was cycle day 78.
Completely spontaneous?… no, I think not. Totally a God thing. A merciful, gracious, loving God thing.
For the first trimester of my pregnancy, I was being seen every six weeks by my psychiatrist and about every one to two by my midwife. I had many blood tests performed to monitor my HCG and progesterone, both of which rose perfectly. Everything pointed to a successful pregnancy, but I was nervous, because I hadn’t had many symptoms. My breasts had grown this time, but they weren’t tender. I wasn’t throwing up, I felt completely normal. Of course my OCD kicked in full gear and I started worrying that I was having another repeat loss.
Our first sonogram proved me completely wrong. There, in the middle of the screen, was a beautiful flickering beat nestled safely inside our peanut of 7 weeks.
I want you to know that being medicated in the first trimester kept me healthy and sane. I found enjoyment in all the things I normally did, I exercised when I could, and kept in contact with friends. I had hard days, yes, but they were remarkably calm. I already felt like I was being a good parent, even if my baby couldn’t hear or feel me. I knew in my heart that staying on meds was beneficial for this precious life inside of me. If I am at ease, they are at ease. Even though there were still risks to be had, they were low and to me I felt they would be nonexistent with the power of Christ’s healing and protection. Of course there were days where I doubted, where I cried, where I panicked. But they were far and few between compared to the laughter, excitement and thrill of a growing belly.
We told the world at 12 weeks, after seeing our baby for the second time. The second trimester has flown by without warning, and here I sit, still on the same dosage of medication and loving every second of my pregnancy. I feel this child move and my heart swells. I am so grateful and in awe of every moment and I refuse to spend a second of it for granted, which I would not be able to do so if I were not in the right state of mind.
If you are hurting… if you are desperate. If you are sick, If you are in despair, in disbelief in your own life or just searching for answers, I pray that my story can be of assistance. I want this be an awareness message. I want you to feel empowered by my speech, to be unafraid to seek help or to keep praying for that right doctor who will work with you until you find the right combination you need to conceive your own little miracle.
Miracles can happen.
They DO happen.
God bless you, and if you have questions – any at all, please comment below or send me a message privately. You’re safe here.
(If you would like to know the exact medication I’m on, or have previously been on, I can tell you privately. I plan on having this be a public blog so although I am unashamed to be medicated, my privacy is still important to me. But I remember doing countless hours of research online myself, desperately trying to find someone who had a successful pregnancy on the meds I’ve taken… so I would love to be that person for you.)