Pregnant & Suicidal: How One Mom Found the Light After the Dark

Maureen Fura was newly pregnant with her second child and had no history of mental health issues when she began having suicidal thoughts. What if I drove off a cliff? the graduate student found herself thinking. What if I poison myself with bleach?

She lived in fear that she would hurt herself or her family. And she didn't think there was any way she'd make it nine months until her baby was born.


Maureen's experience with depression isn't as shocking as it sounds. According to the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health, 15–20 percent of the approximately 4 million women who'll give birth this year will be affected by a mental health issue.

Yet many doctors dismiss women's symptoms as "baby blues." And new moms, repeatedly told that this is the "happiest time of their life," can feel too ashamed to ask for help.

Now 40 and living in Miami, Maureen is a maternal health advocate as well as a filmmaker. Her sons are now ages 4 and 7, and she's still happily married. But, she tells us, "I am constantly aware that I almost wasn't here."

She's told her story, as well as that of other mothers impacted by mental health issues, in a documentary called The Dark Side of the Full Moon. And here, Maureen shares with CafeMom what helped her decide her life is worth living.

What were the first symptoms of your depression? 
My first symptom [in April 2008] was a thought about hanging in a tree. It was the first suicidal thought I ever had. This happened about an hour before I took a pregnancy test and discovered I was pregnant. 

Before this, I'd never had suicidal thoughts in my life and I had never had a mental health crisis or diagnosis. I was 32 and in graduate school. I was newly married. I was happy and healthy. 

I also had terrible "what if" scenarios that fired off in my head every second of my waking day. Scenarios like, "What if I drive and twist the wheel to drive off the cliff?"; "What if I pour bleach into the food I am cooking?”; "What if I tie a rope around my neck?"; "What if wake up in the middle of the night and hurt the people I love most?"

The fear was all-consuming, so much that I would stop driving, cooking, sleeping, living, for fear of what I could do. I was normal one day and then the next, it was like the carpet was pulled out from under me.

Did anyone else notice?
Yes, my husband, my parents, and my friends noticed. I dropped out of my classes. I lost 10 pounds because the anxiety kept me from eating. I was very independent and all of a sudden, I couldn't be left alone. 

I fell to pieces and it felt like I was falling very publicly. Everyone knew. Just like me, they believed it was because of the pregnancy. Either the hormones or dealing with the trauma from my first pregnancy, placing a baby for adoption. [Maureen also has a 20-year-old birth daughter.]

More from CafeMom: Here's What It's Like to Lose Your Husband to Suicide

maureen fura and children

What professional help did you get?
I remember telling my OB at my first appointment that I felt sad and didn't feel like myself, and she didn't hesitate, responding back, "You should be happy you're having a baby."  

I spoke with a therapist soon after who told me I would have to "white knuckle" it and that I should read a book on anxiety and depression. I was shocked. I was in a crisis and I wasn't sure I was going to make it.

I called 9-1-1 one morning when I was alone and was taken to the ER. It was hard for me to tell the dispatcher why I called. I told them I was five weeks pregnant and it was hard to breathe. The real reason was I was afraid I was going to take the pills in my medicine cabinet. I didn't feel safe by myself.

More from CafeMom: 12 Powerful Scientific Facts About Depression

My depression spiraled, the anxiety and OCD feeding the hopelessness. I called specialists who told me they could only talk to my doctor. I called therapy centers that told me there was a three-month wait. My three free therapy sessions at my grad school told me since I was suicidal, my problem was too big and they couldn't help me. And I was told my insurance was "too good" for free services in the community.

OBs told me we had to watch out for postpartum. Meanwhile, I wasn't sure I was going to make it to delivery. If I did, I planned on taking my life soon after, convinced that my son would be better without me. I could hurt him.

By the time I was six months pregnant, I'd seen 29 care providers in four counties and two states. I never found it hard to speak with specialists. I knew this wasn't me. I couldn't remember the old me, but I knew there was something wrong and I needed help. 

What felt like the lowest point of your depression?
It was the moment my husband and I decided it would be best for me to travel with my parents from California back to their home in Delaware for two weeks so they could watch me while he finished up his final exams. 

I remember driving in my parents' rental car, feeling like life would never feel joyful and I was going to be like this forever ... I was holding on, but didn't know to what. For me, that was one of the hardest parts of my experience to reconcile: my desire to die, to take my own life. I felt so guilty and shameful.

More from CafeMom: 5 Warning Signs You Could Have Postpartum Depression

How did you finally get help?
I saw a licensed clinical social worker named Meg, whose office was less than a mile from my OB's office. Help was that close but it took six months to find her. 

Meg was the first person to say I was in a severe depression with obsessive-compulsive disorder brought on by the pregnancy. For the first time, I felt safe. I wasn't sure how I was going to get better, but I believed and trusted her.

I saw Meg for three years. She connected me with a psychiatric nurse practitioner who specialized in maternal mental health complications. I was put on an SSRI and began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The nurse told me that the goal wasn't to have me hanging in the hole with just my fingertips out. We needed to get me back and that we wouldn't stop until that happened. There was a team making sure I made it through and I did. It didn't happen overnight -- it took months -- but it did happen. 

maureen fura and children

How are you today? 
It's been eight years since I "lost" myself. The depression has never come back. I take a low-dose SSRI to keep my anxiety and OCD in check. I make sure to get plenty of rest and listen to my body when I need a break. I am now an expert at self-care.  

I did recently have a miscarriage and there was a day I felt I might be slipping again but I told my husband, father, and friends and they talked me through it.

I also had a moment a year ago that I thought, "I feel like me again." I honestly never thought that was possible. I thought she was gone. The "me" that was safe and secure and confident in the world. The "me" who could travel by herself, who could take care of her kids by herself. I thought she was gone forever. She wasn't, it just took time to get her back. Seven years. 

What's your advice to other women who are struggling with suicidal thoughts?
Tell someone and don't stop until someone gives you the help you need. I can't imagine what would have happened to me if I didn't speak out and didn't keep asking for help or if I'd settled on the wrong help. 

Ask people to stay with you, to protect you if you are scared, to hold you while you're finding your way back. I know that your head is telling you it won't ever be better, that this is your new normal and life isn't worth living. But I can tell you that your thinking right now is sick and needs help.

The light may have disappeared at the end of the tunnel, but just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's not there. It's there, I promise, and it can and will get better. You are not alone. 


If you or someone that you know is in crisis, get help quickly by calling 911, going to the nearest emergency room, or calling the toll-free 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or TTY: 800-799-4TTY (4889).

This interview has been edited for length.


Images via UnSplash; Ryan Fura

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