I Struggled With Perinatal Depression Like Britney Spears, Hid Pregnancy

I Struggled With Perinatal Depression Like Britney Spears, Hid Pregnancy

  • As my belly grew bigger, I tried to hide it with clothes and by placing my purse in front of my bump. 
  • I had intrusive thoughts of my baby dying. 
  • The fog started to lift the second my son was born. 

“Does this shirt make me look pregnant?” I asked my husband before dinner with friends one evening.

“Well, I’d hope so — you are nine months pregnant.”

I turned to the closet to search for another outfit. I collapsed onto the floor of our bedroom in tears. “I can’t go,” I said sobbing. “Everyone will be able to tell that I’m pregnant.”

My husband sighed, aware that there was no logic to comfort me. “Of course they’ll be able to tell. Just hold on. It will all be over soon enough.”

When the newly freed Britney Spears announced her pregnancy on Instagram this week, she did not do so with a photo of the beginnings of a bump. The pop star whose belly defined my generation posted another image: one of cut pink carnations, delicately placed around a teacup and saucer.  

Spears’ past pregnancies were anything but a cup of tea. In her caption, she detailed her plans for confinement. She said that her desire to hide stemmed from her previous struggles with perinatal



I, too, struggled with all the symptoms of depression during pregnancy — exhaustion, sadness, mood swings, and crying.

I hadn’t heard of depression during pregnancy

Though I’d heard women speak at length about depression after the birth of their babies, I’d rarely heard anyone talk about how your mental health could suffer while carrying one. My experience felt intensely private.

I was filled with despair, despite carrying a healthy, very much desired baby. I was ashamed of my growing body and overcome with crippling sadness. I was sure that because I hated pregnancy, I would be a bad mother, too. I responded by attempting to hide my pregnancy.  

I dressed in baggy layers and in slimming black. In the third trimester, I began ordering my groceries online rather than shopping at the store — all because I feared comments about my pregnancy from strangers. I did not stand to speak in meetings because I dreaded the stares of colleagues. I placed a large purse on my lap to hide my midsection while sitting in public. I avoided crowded parks, choosing instead to walk my dogs in a quiet cemetery.

I had intrusive thoughts

Each day, I had intrusive thoughts of my unborn son dying. I watched a video on social media of a baby finding a fallen grape on the ground, placing it in his mouth, and choking on it.  After several days of this video playing on loop in my mind, I signed up for an infant CPR class at our local hospital.

At the course, I compressed the chest of a plastic, sexless doll. I turned to the instructor for feedback on my form. 

“You’re doing great!” he responded. “It’s just hard for you because your baby bump is in the way.”

I walked to the parking garage after class and began to cry because the instructor commented on the existence of my baby bump.

I was lucky. Unlike Britney Spears and many mothers in marginalized communities, I would not have my mental health used against me by those in power. After nine long months, I would be relieved of pregnancy — yes, the contractions in labor would feel like a relief compared to the suffering of the previous nine months.

As the nurse placed my son on my chest, the fog began to lift. In his face, I would find happiness: a gift. The dimple in his chin, the crook of his neck, the wide stare of his eyes — proof that my pain could still give birth to something more than beautiful and good. 

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