Throughout my relationship, discussions about kids were always fraught by my concerns of depression. But explaining this to my partner was sometimes difficult as he met me after my diagnosis and treatment.
I met my husband while I was writing a dating column for a national magazine. I was living my best life in New York City, flying all over the United States on blind dates — one of my favorites was going on a roller coaster date at Disneyworld.
When we met for the first time at my neighborhood coffee shop in Gramercy Park — the exact one where he would propose 3 years later — I had already chronicled my adventures on dozens of dates, most of which made for great stories but not-so-great love connections.
I was having doubts that true love existed and wandered into our first date a few minutes late with a cute knit cap covering my unwashed hair. While sipping a green tea as we chatted and laughed, I had serious regrets about forgoing washing my hair and putting on my favorite pink lipstick.
I told him about the dating column, and he was a tad hesitant, knowing details of the evening would be recorded for my readers, but he wasn’t dissuaded from seeing me again … and again. He was impressed with how confidently I put myself out there, excited to report on date details in such a public forum.
And it was true. I was relatively unfazed, even humored, by the less than flattering responses to some of my dating recaps. One internet troll even likened me to an equine: “Don’t date Sarah. She looks like a horse!” I was even using my dating adventures in my stand-up act, my self-deprecating humor a hit with the comedy club crowds.
It’s hard to imagine that less than 5 years ago, it would have been impossible for me to joke about myself with such ease.
A few months into our dating we were enjoying gelato in the West Village when we got onto the subject of kids.
“I was one of two, and I think I would like to have two kids. Two boys would be great,” he said.
“Yeah, I was one of two as well. My parents always thought they’d have one kid, and then when I came around, they were like, she needs a buddy, and along came my sister.”
“So, you want kids?” He asked.
“Um … I don’t know if I want to have a baby myself, but adoption is definitely something I’ve always been interested in.”
“OK.” He said with a bit of confusion.
“So here’s the thing, up until a few years ago, I suffered from really severe depression. But I got treatment and am on medication, and going off that medication to have a baby terrifies me.”
He looked surprised. “Wait, you? But you … I mean … you are so … happy and outgoing … you just don’t seem like someone who could ever be depressed.”
“But I was,” I assured him.
My teen years were riddled with acne and agoraphobia. I would often not feel good enough to be seen in public. I would wear my long sandy blonde hair like two curtains hiding my face from the world.
I had amazing parents who did anything they could to make me happy. I excelled academically, went to a top college, and was president of my dorm, but then I would just cry all of a sudden and wonder whether life would be better if I didn’t wake up tomorrow morning .
It must be the acne, we all thought. What teenager could handle aggressive cystic acne all over their face, back and arms? I went to an amazing dermatologist who diligently treated my condition for years, and at 23, my skin was finally clear.
But the sadness still lingered.
After trying every homeopathic and exercise-related mental health remedy, I went to a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with clinical depression and put on medication. I attended weekly sessions with a therapist and started to feel like I wanted to participate in life again. I got an acting agent and moved to New York City to pursue a career in performance.
The medication didn’t cure the depression, but it made the hard moments more tolerable. Everything remained stable for the next few years, but suddenly I had another emotional detour downward, and my dosage had to be adjusted.
But 5 years later, sitting across from this super cute guy enjoying a generous scoop of lemon sorbet, I was doing well. I wasn’t just surviving but I was thriving. As I helped myself to his chocolate-chocolate chip, I could tell he was having a harder time processing my recent revelations.
“But are you sure you still have depression? I mean, you could just be good now, and all that’s behind you.” He asked.
“I will always have depression. It’s part of me. I have tools to get me through it, but it’s something I’m always dealing with.”
He looked at me and smiled. I could tell he still didn’t really get it.
A short time later, my lifelong best friend, who saw my struggles first hand, and my sister, who was no stranger to my pre-medication moods, further provided him with accounts of life with a very depressed Sarah. While he listened and appreciated all they told him, he wasn’t entirely convinced that I was the basket case they had described.
“But that’s not who you are now. And you have no idea what would happen if you went off the medication. Maybe you don’t need it anymore. I mean, look at you. You are the life of the party.” Perhaps he was right, but that wasn’t a risk I would ever be willing to take, and he understood that.
Throughout the next few years, he constantly checked in with me on hard days when auditions didn’t go as I wanted or I was overlooked for a role. And there were stretches of time when I was more sad than I wanted to be, comforted only by a “Law and Order” spree or the latest craze in reality television, but I got through it.
I had his support, my family, friends, and committed therapist, and, of course, the ongoing support of a really effective antidepressant.
After we got married, we talked about the possibility of me carrying a baby, but I remained terrified to go off the medication, as well as the chance a pregnancy could trigger another major depressive episode. And then there was postpartum — so many women I knew struggled emotionally during those initial months after giving birth.
For years I went back and forth on the decision, and then I went to a doctor who gave me hope. She said if I wanted to remain on my medication during pregnancy, she was completely aligned.
“You going off the medication could actually cause more emotional harm than good. And what kind of life is that? There are no real links between this medication and birth complications. Stay on them and enjoy your pregnancy.”
For the first time, I allowed myself to dream about carrying a baby. It was thrilling. This didn’t guarantee I wouldn’t have issues, but at least I didn’t have to jump into this adventure without my safety net.
My husband and I were over the moon when I got pregnant. I exercised every day and had an amazing amount of energy. After the baby was born, I also had no issues with postpartum depression. My husband was impressed, reminding me constantly I could teach a class on how to ace pregnancy. But he also knew how scared I was of a sudden shift in emotions and not being prepared to face them.
Discussions about children were a catalyst to explain my depression to my now-husband. Even though he sees me as “the life of the party,” he has prioritized my concerns.
During my pregnancy and the years after, my husband has been incredibly kind and generous. While he has yet to witness the Sarah of yesteryear, the one who hid under her bed trying to mute the exhausting sadness, he remains ready to help her if she unexpectedly appears.
Different antidepressants can carry different risks for pregnancy, so it’s important to seek advice from a doctor about your specific situation and options.
Medically reviewed on June 24, 2022
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