If I had to recall when my depression started, I would think it was in 2014 when I first knew that I was pregnant. My pregnancy was great news for our whole family since the baby is the first grandchild on both my parents’ side as well as my in-laws. I was also excited about this new life as me and my husband had been trying for a baby for some time and we knew that I was pregnant just one week before when we were about to undergo fertility tests. Unfortunately, 2014 was a year that brought about so much changes and trauma in my life.
Just one month after knowing that I was pregnant, I went back to China with my husband to celebrate Chinese New Year in his hometown. I recalled one night when we were about to fall asleep and I received a call from my crying extremely distressed mother. She told me that my father had been cheating on her for about 10 years, she felt like a fool and that she wanted a divorce. My heart stopped when I heard that, and I remembered myself crying like crazy with my husband consoling me but not knowing what to say. Actually I’ve always known that my father was not a faithful husband. He was a dutiful father and husband but not a faithful one. It wasn’t the first time my mother had caught him cheating but the fact that this affair carried on for so long without my mother knowing anything was testament to my father’s “great acting skills” and his duality. I didn’t know at that time but this would be the first in a series of events that forced me to face immense pressure.
When we went back from China to Singapore, the whole family got involved in this messy affair. My mother kept quarrelling with my father and I think she really had a mental breakdown then. Throughout this year and for around 3 years after that, I couldn’t recall the number of times we had to rush to their house to interfere in their fights and with neighbors calling the police due to the noise. In fact, she started physically abusing my father for around 3 years until the doctor notified her that she had breast cancer (and that’s another “story”). So the beginning of 2014 started off with a “bang” just like that.
In the background, I was also facing great pressure at work. My team was rushing to push out a construction tender costing billions of dollars and we were pulling extremely long hours in the office. Our client was also extremely picky and demanding and we were having client meetings from morning until around 10pm at night. All this while, I was pregnant and I was definitely not one of those lucky women who had an easy pregnancy. My morning sickness was so bad that sometimes I would be stuck in the toilet the whole day just hugging the toilet bowl puking whatever I had managed to eat. My morning sickness sure didn’t occur only in the morning.
The next event that shocked me was when my parents notified me that my brother had been arrested for being a runner for moneylenders. We had to rush to engage lawyers and I had to accompany my emotionally and mentally unstable mother throughout all this mess. Finally, my brother was convicted to around 3 months’ prison and had to pay a fine of $30,000. With the cost of engaging lawyers and all the rushing around, it went up to around $50,000. What angered and disappointed me most at that time was even after all that, my brother said that our whole family owed him. I was speechless and shaking with so much anger that I really couldn’t describe what I was feeling.
In the third trimester of my pregnancy, I discovered that my whole body was feeling itchy. It wasn’t the kind of itch due to dry skin, it felt like ants were crawling all over my body and I kept waking up in the middle of the night scratching like mad but to no avail. The itch was driving me insane and I knew in my heart that something wasn’t right. I started looking up my symptoms on the internet and found out that I might be having a rare pregnancy condition called “intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP)”. Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) is a potentially serious liver disorder that can develop in pregnancy. Normally, bile acids flow from your liver to your gut to help you digest food. In ICP, the bile acids do not flow properly and build up in your body instead. There’s no cure for ICP, but it should go once you’ve had your baby. Babies whose mothers have ICP have a higher chance of being born prematurely or stillborn. I read online about mothers who didn’t know that they had this condition and giving birth to stillborn babies. I panicked and rushed to check with my gynae.
Unfortunately, my gynae at that time just told me that it could be due to my stomach stretching. He referred me to the National Skin Centre for skin specialist to take a look. At that point in time, I knew that the doctors didn’t take me seriously and probably thought of me as an overly anxious crazy first-time mother. I printed out papers about ICP and insisted that they take my blood sample to check for this condition. I told them that I would pay for the tests and they had no choice but to do them for me. I was proven right. The blood test took around 2 hours and the hospital called me back for further checkup. I was referred from my original gynae to another one in KKH (where they specialized in unique women and children medical conditions). Being a first time mother, I felt so helpless and angry. If I hadn’t insisted on doing the liver tests, my baby and I might be in danger and not know anything better.
All this while, my emotional, mental as well as physical health took such a beating that even recalling it now somehow gave me traumatic flashbacks, it was like I had PTSD. The next 3 years were trying times for me, with both my family as well as my marriage almost going under. But I will leave that for another post.