What did I do to cause this?

20 Feb

Rosalyn was not a pretty baby.

She wasn’t, really. For the first few months of her life, she looked sad, and mean. Vivian on the other hand, came out of the womb smiling. She was the happiest baby you would ever meet.

During my first pregnancy, with Vivian, I smoked. A lot. I freely admit it, and feel badly about it. I wait for the shoe to drop on the good health Vivian has had so far. But I was happy through that pregnancy-scared yes, bewildered and nervous about the entire thing, but happy, mostly.

My second pregnancy was an entirely different story.

For the first few months I wanted to abort, tried a few “natural” ways to abort, which didn’t work. I didn’t have the money or the transportation to another city for an abortion, and I couldn’t bear the thought of riding a greyhound bus home after having the potential of a child sucked from me. Then I started thinking about what would happen if we did abort, and then, later on, we couldn’t have anymore. So we kept the pregnancy, which I was convinced was a boy until about 6 months when suddenly something changed, and I knew it was a girl.

But through that pregnancy was my slow descent into near madness. I was crotchety, I was mean, I was vile. Everyone around me was fair game. I alienated most of the people I worked with, and some still stay distant from me. I had to leave work earlier than I would have liked because I was worried I’d get myself fired. I was that kind of foul.

I cried for no reason. I was mad at people for no reason. I’d turn on a dime. Stories of children being abused, the holocaust, anything like that could set me off for hours. I couldn’t watch the footage of the tsunami. It was just too much.

oh, the things I wish I had known.

I didn’t know there was bipolar disorder in my biological family. My PPD after Vivian, while scary, was brief compared to what was to come. I had no idea my world was unravelling. I figured it was just hormones. My eating was out of control, and I gained about 40 pounds that I still can’t get off (and that the anti-depressants and freaking cold weather aren’t helping either)

Rosalyn seemed to me a hard baby to love. She was unattractive. She wasn’t cute, or dainty-we nicknamed her ‘Gigantor” and she was. She seemed to not like her mother either.

So I sit here, at work, staring at their baby pictures wondering how much of their personalities in the first few weeks of life are based on the mother’s emotional state? I’ve always wondered if my quiet sense that everyone will eventually leave me or somehow screw me over stems from my first abandonment by my birth mother, and the constant knowledge when she was pregnant that I would not stay with her. Could she have become attached, or would she have been like I was with Ros-refusing to think happily about the child to come, difficult to rouse to any state of happiness.

Today it’s still true that Vivian is “sunny” while Rosalyn is more like her mother. Ros doesn’t smile for no reason, whereas Vivian is constantly smiling (when she isn’t talking) What could I have done to Rosalyn? Was I responsible for making her unhappy, and unattractive and therefore harder to love as a newborn? Could I have stopped it?

I can find so little on the onset of bipolar during pregnancy, and that’s what I’m convinced happened to me. Something triggered a disorder which I had previously been coping with to move into over drive. It almost killed me. Now I find myself wondering what it did to Rosalyn as well.

What’s past is past, but I can’t help but wonder-does anyone have children that seem to ‘represent” their general overall emotional state when pregnant?

16 Responses to “What did I do to cause this?”

  1. Kimberly February 20, 2007 at 6:49 pm #

    I was on antidepressants with Regan. I’m pretty sure that’s a big part of why she’s the Zen Baby.

    I was stressed right out with Sabrina, and she’s a moody Diva.

  2. gl2814 February 20, 2007 at 10:28 pm #

    well the way she’ll turn on a dime I’m pretty sure Ros has inherited your bi-polar. but look at her now and look at me – she’s also inherited your ability to be cute, flutter your eyelashes and get whatever you want out of your father. I know I’m not really addressing your point here, but I think she’ll be fine.

    ps – you yelled a lot while you were pregnant with her. maybe you’re to blame for her volume level too 😉

  3. Jennifer February 20, 2007 at 11:31 pm #

    How weird you wrote about this today. I was also wondering this concerning my kiddos.

    With Rugrat, I was in University, book bound, very healthy happy pregnancy (if a bit stressed in the beginning). She is essentially healthy, happy and one hell of a smart kid.

    With Squeak. She was in the nursery for the first four days of her life. I held her once during that time. Glen saw her and held her once a day. Did this set the stage for her current clingyness? Even now she needs a LOT of reassurance. She panics when I’m not in the room. Glen cannot calm her if she gets on a tear. She’s only 8 months. Is this going to get worse? I was an emotional roller coaster.

    I’m quite nervous for what the future will bring.

  4. thordora February 21, 2007 at 7:18 am #

    Ros is REALLY clingy with me as well, and I always worry that it’s because I rejected her in the beginning.

    I’d love it if I could find some studies on this. Perhaps when I go back to school, I’ll study this myself.

    Mogo, I’ve wondered the yelling thing myself.

  5. feartheseeds February 21, 2007 at 7:33 am #

    “Could I have stopped it?”

    If she gets bipolar later on it’s not because of anything you did while she was inside you. That’s not how genetic diseases work.

    “I can find so little on the onset of bipolar during pregnancy, and that’s what I’m convinced happened to me.”

    Pregnancy is a common trigger for bipolar disease in women. I’ll find the paperwork/studies for you…

    Manic Depression is a genetic disease. If you have it, and the father had it, chances are pretty good your children will have the gene, but that doesn’t mean they get the disease. It takes an event, a trigger, that throws your ability to moderate your emotions into “random & repeat”, being a parent is not automatically one of those triggers. There are kids whose parents put them through hell and back (you don’t come across as one of these) and the kids come out as normal, well adjusted lawyers for the tobacco industry.

    “Now I find myself wondering what it did to Rosalyn as well.”

    If your kid is quiet, maybe she just doesn’t have anything to say yet, and is saving it all up for her 18th birthday. Lucky you. Having shit experiences in the womb does not give a kid bipolar disease. The womb is a remarkably resilient place to live. That’s why most of us spend as much time as we can trying to get back in.

  6. thordora February 21, 2007 at 9:20 am #

    From what I’ve seen, with only me having it, she has a 10% chance of developing bipolar. I’m not too worried, but still. I’m thinking more of what the emotional state of a mother during pregnancy does to the development of the inborn personality. Not out of any desire to blame myself, but out of honest curiousity.

    I now know that pregnancy triggers bipolar, but I wish I had of known that was one of the potentials when I WAS pregnant. But no one much talks about psychiatric disorders during pregnancy.

  7. Marcy February 21, 2007 at 10:10 am #

    Interesting — I was mostly happy during pregnancy, except I had a lot of anxiety building up towards the end. My three-month old has been a relatively easy baby, and seems reasonably content. I sometimes see signs that she might have a sensitivity to anxiety… On the other hand, my plummet into PPD — like you, I think mostly an extreme aggravation of an existing condition of depression and anxiety — doesn’t seem to have hurt her.

  8. feartheseeds February 21, 2007 at 10:36 am #

    The problem with being pregnant is that there really is no end to the possibilities for things going wrong once the damn thing is out in the open. But as for what happens inside the womb here are some sites you might find interesting — sorry, some of the links get a little messy:

    “Prenatal damage: Some evidence suggests that a disruption of early fetal brain development or trauma that occurs at the time of birth — for example, loss of oxygen to the brain — may be a factor in the development of certain conditions, such as autism.
    Other factors: Poor nutrition and exposure to toxins, such as lead, may play a role in the development of mental illnesses.”

    “…women might switch to lithium because it has fewer risks to the developing fetus than their current medication. While taking lithium, it is important that women stay hydrated to prevent lithium toxicity in themselves and the fetus.
    “Lithium is the only drug proven to reduce the rate of relapse of [manic depression] from nearly 50 percent to less than 10 percent when women continue or begin lithium treatment after giving birth. Women who choose to breast-feed should know that lithium is secreted in breast milk. Breast-fed newborns whose mothers take lithium should have their blood monitored for lithium.”

    “If you are taking antidepressants, small quantities of them will come out through your breast milk. But studies have shown that children exposed to these drugs through breast milk have not had problems.”

    “According to Dr. Janet Dipietro, developmental psychologist, the fetus responds to his mother’s negative emotional state which in turn negatively affects his temperament. Dr. Dipietro explains, “We tend to think of personality as genetic, but I think a big part of it is determined by what’s called the ‘uterine environment’ – the environment that the mother gives to the fetus.”

    “Q. I’ve always had stress in my life so what difference will it make if I’m pregnant?
    “A. Now, more than ever, it’s important to take care of yourself and your unborn baby. Large amounts of stress can take its toll on your health and the health of the fetus. Prolonged stress has been linked to many health problems, including sleep disruption, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and lower resistance to infectious diseases. In some cases, stress has been shown to have a possible association with increased rates of infertility, increased nausea, low birthweight, premature birth and miscarriage.”

    “Untreated depression during pregnancy is associated with premature labor and low birth weight, and depressed mothers-to-be are more likely than their nondepressed peers to use alcohol, nicotine, and illegal drugs, all of which can have adverse effects on the fetus. Depressed women also have higher levels of stress, a concern because animal studies have documented that the offspring of mothers subjected to high levels of stress during pregnancy show abnormal growth and impaired learning as adults. And a study presented at the APA meeting by Dr. Stowe’s group revealed that 6-month-old infants whose mothers had been depressed during pregnancy show a higher than normal cortisol response when subjected to stress (eg, loud noises).”

  9. notsopregnantintexas February 21, 2007 at 11:16 am #

    Everytime someone looks at my son and says, “Oh! What a happy baby!” I think to myself, “Well, that’s what antidepressants in the third trimester will do to a kid.”

    When he was an infant, though, he had colic and would cry for hours. Now that he’s a toddler, he’s developing his own stubborness and less frequently tries to use his impish grin to get what he wants.

    With you and Ros, it might not be so much about what happened to her inside the womb, but how you reacted to her immediately following giving birth. This is essentially a nature vs. nuture debate: is she genetically predisposed to being tactiturn and possibly bi-polar or did it develop from her early experiences with a Mom dealing with a bi-polar disease.

    Then the question comes: Where was the Dorf during this time? If you had a partner, then the nurture effects would be minimized.

  10. thordora February 21, 2007 at 11:27 am #

    My husband was awesome with Ros after I gave birth-but he was ery scared of what was happening to me. She’s very attached to him as well, but in that “Daddy’s Girl” way. He’s the one that sat still for hours while she slept on his chest, so I could sleep. He’s the one that convinced me to see someone, who had his parents come visit so they could take the pressure off and let me sleep and realize I needed help. He was an incredible partner, now that the crap has cleared and I can see that he did everything within his power. He loved that little baby twice as much since I couldn’t.

    I’m thinking you’re right, and it has a good deal to do with my initial rejection of her, in the same way that my mother “had” to initially reject me.

  11. LGirl February 21, 2007 at 1:19 pm #

    My Pregnancy’s were both very similar. No drugs or meds, drink or smoking. BUT the main difference with mine were that with #1 I was working retail full time. I was on my feel all day and never stopped moving.PG#2 I was a SAHM with a quite sedentary life and plenty of naps.
    DD#1 came out and wouldn’t sleep unless she was held Couldn’t put herself asleep and when she finally did konk out would stay asleep for only 3 hours. She didn’t sleep through the night until she was 18 mos old.
    DD #2 so relaxed and calm and could and does entertain herself and couldn’t sleep properly unless she was in her own bed.
    My Theory is that #1 had constant movement in the womb and never learned to comfort herself. She’s now 8yo and still has a crying fit at least twice a day.
    DD#2 (age 3yo) likes to make the other one cry!LOL!

  12. bromac February 21, 2007 at 3:24 pm #

    Kimberly, expand on your Zen Baby. I was on anti-depressants throughout my pregnancy and my child is so easy-going and laid back it shocks me on a daily basis.

    I was what I would consider to be high stress during my pregnancy. I was totally unprepared for the changes in my body; both the extra 70lbs on a small frame as well as the maddening hormonal changes. I was also dealing with this depression and, quite probably, undiagnosed Bipolar II.

    But my daughter is this completely chilled out child. It amazes me……seriously, on a daily basis I sit in awe at how chill she is. She gets along with everyone and all she wants is someone to smile at her when she is silly. Everyone loves her; all the adults fight over her at daycare. She is a social butterfly, has slept through since 6wks, and only recently has she begun to throw very tame tantrums and to master the dirty/pouty look.

    I know I believe scientists when they say that the stress/attitude/emotion of the mother affects the child. I really do. But then I wonder how my child turned out so damn happy. So, I have no answer for you except to say that if you are onto something, that your desires affected the emotional outcome of Ros, and thus all/most mothers’ emotions directly affect the outcome of their childrens attitudes, then mine is the exception to the rule.

  13. misspudding February 22, 2007 at 1:57 am #

    The only thing I remember about stress/pregnancy was a Finnish study I read about right after I had Anthony: Mothers who ate more chocolate during pregnancy gave birth to happier babies.

    I ate a shitload of chocolate.

    Anthony was incredibly unhappy/colicky the first four or five months. I attribute that to allergies/feeding difficulties now. Once we resolved that, happiest baby!

    I was a really laid back pregnant woman. The only thing I was really worried about was, working in the environmental industry, and having been on a remedial excavation for six months prior to learning I was pregnant, did I expose myself to some toxins that may have affected his development? From what I’ve read, if the mother isn’t obviously affected by whatever she’s being exposed to, there’s little chance the fetus will be. The kid, as far as I can tell, turned out fine.

    Don’t beat yourself up over how the kid turned out. I, personally, think that a kid’s disposition is 90% whatever their parents’ is. My kid happened to inherit my husband’s totally calm and mechanical way of doing things and my sunny disposition. He’s a clingy little nut, though…probably because we parent him too much because he’s our first (and probably only).

  14. misspudding February 22, 2007 at 1:58 am #

    Correction…I was on said remedial excavation for six months, but I was only pregnant for a few weeks prior to learning I was pregnant. Probably wasn’t exposed to anything (wore a respirator).

  15. Heather February 22, 2007 at 12:34 pm #

    Freyja was a very easy baby. Very calm, self-assured if an infant can BE self-assured, didn’t cry much, happy as cheese to do whatever from birth. I talked to her all the damn time, though. I think she got that I was “there” very early on since I never shut up, which may have helped. She was just happy and giggly and sweet and charming.

    I was happy about being pregnant but the hormones made me a pyscho crazy jealous wife. If K so much as LOOKED at another woman I was all over his shit like white on rice. He didn’t know what had happened since I was pretty damn easygoing before pregnancy and instead of reassuring me he was an asshole about it and told me I was nuts. Sweet, huh? So even though I was in emotional turmoil, and probably clinically depressed as well, I was very happy about the pregnancy and baby, so maybe that’s why Freyja was mellow.

    I’m finding her personality now to be a little hard to take. She’s mouthy, sassy, too damn smart for her own good, thinks she’s the boss and laughs when she does naughty things. She is a challenge, I can no longer point at her and say “look, see my perfect child and revel in my parenting”.

    My parents say I didn’t get like that until I was a teenager. Then they laugh. And laugh. And laugh more.

  16. thordora February 22, 2007 at 12:38 pm #

    My Dad has been laughing a LOT lately. He promises to laugh more.

    And guys get their heads up their asses during pregnancy don’t they? Mine wasn’t terrible, but I still found myself wishing he’d occasionally do something extra special for me-I was carrying and birthing his children.

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