Q. I have an 18-month-old son, and I recently found out that I am four months pregnant. I thought that my initial shock and depression would go away, but they haven't. I'm worried because I went through a three-month bout of depression after my son was born. This time, the depression has started while I am pregnant. That probably means it will be even worse after this child is born. My husband tells me I should think of all the people in the world in much worse circumstances. I feel very guilty about the way I am taking this and have started thinking of myself as some kind of monster. I don't know what to do, and prayer doesn't seem to help.
--Ann, Boise, Idaho

First, you must understand that everything you have experienced and are experiencing now is extremely common. You are not ungrateful or abnormal. Postpartum depression affects some 15% to 20% of new mothers, and it is more likely to start during a subsequent pregnancy if experienced before. Second, although your husband probably means well, dwelling on others' misfortunes will not help you or anyone else. Third, don't give up on prayer, but as best you can, pray with peace and a sense of release. Try to fall back into God's arms and know in your moment of prayer that you are deeply loved for who you are right now.

Also, talk to your physician about the depression. Depression is a disease that can be treated effectively with medication and therapy, but only a doctor can advise you on which antidepressants are safe during pregnancy or while nursing. In addition, here is a way that you can use your mind more helpfully.

Facing and acknowledging the situation we are in always brings some measure of relief. Denial splits the mind and makes it a battlefield. You might begin by sitting quietly and writing out a full and honest description of everything that is going on in your life and body, including all your thoughts and feelings about this pregnancy. You especially want to identify the specific thoughts behind your fear about what might happen after this baby is born.

Look at these fears as an opportunity to prepare for the fact that you may continue to be depressed after this baby is born. Rather than condemning yourself because you "shouldn't" be feeling the way you are, try to plan how you can deal with the depression. What helped you get out of it before? Whom can you turn to for help? Are there strategies you can put in place for when the depression is especially bad? Are there groups in your area where expectant and/or new mothers get together and talk honestly about their less-than-ideal thoughts?

Once you make the decision to stop fighting your emotions and thoughts, you open yourself not only to practical solutions but also to the fact that God loves you now, depression and all. Very often when we are depressed, we feel abandoned and alone. We find it difficult to believe that God loves us when we do not love ourselves. When Hugh was a boy, his family went to a spiritual healer who always used the same prayer for her many remarkable healings. Perhaps you might say this prayer to yourself over and over, and let your mind move past the words to the experience:

I am one with thee
Oh thou infinite one
I am where thou art
I am what thou art
I am because thou art.

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