Going off meds (for the first time in 19 years) to get pregnant - any experience?

a.k.a.: What to Expect when You Expect to Be Expecting

Hey all,

I've been on some form of stimulant or other (Ritalin and its siblings) since the age of 9.  I think I had summer "breaks" as a kid, but I haven't been off meds for more than a couple weeks since high school or college (5-10 years ago).  Well, my DH and I are thinking of trying for a baby and I know all the warnings against taking meds while pregnant.  Thus, once we start trying (in the next month or so, probably) I'm going to go off the meds.  I am looking for a coach/therapist already to help support this transition, but they all have 2-month waiting lists or else I haven't asked them for availability because they're all the way across town.  My internship's going to wind down a month from now, and with nothing in the pipeline, DH and I feel this is a good time to take the chance.  If I do end up getting a job, I'm planning to do it meds-free from the start.  

I've made so many helpful changes to the ways I deal with communication, my DH, organization, work, etc, etc, etc in the past year or so, and I'm afraid it'll all go down the drain (with just a year of on-off experience, they're not long-term habits yet) and I'll turn into a cross-eyed internet-consuming vegetable (plus impulsive blurting and shopping) once I go off the meds.  Lifestyle changes can help, and I do plan to exercise more regularly, at least once and hopefully twice a week in addition to the workouts I already get by commuting by bike.  Just started omega-3s so we'll see if those help as well.

Oh, and of course stopping the birth control, tomorrow will be my first day off those hormones in 7 years!  I'll be giving that a couple of weeks before going off meds, I don't want to shock my body with two withdrawals like that!

Has anyone here gone through this experience?  Can you offer me advice on how to stay involved in life, what you went through when going off meds, what helped you or what hurt, what I might expect, and possibly the hugest change, what my DH might expect after knowing me-on-meds for 5+ years without seeing my ADD in its "natural state" for more than a week or two of vacation?  I really don't want to spend every day accomplishing nothing and every night talking to DH about regretting not having gotten anything done for the next x-number of years.  One part of me's ready and excited, while the other KNOWS how absolutely little I know/am prepared for just how much everything is going to change once this process gets going.

Thanks in advance if you can give any tips or personal experience!

Pregnant Before Meds

Well, I got pregnant before I learned that I had ADHD.  On one hand, you'll have both ADHD and baby-brain, which means yes you'll probably be off in space-cadet land.  You are going to need a lot of support to pull it off, but I think that's true with most pregnant women.  The good part is that people will attribute your forgetfulness to "baby brain" so they might give you some slack.

When I was pregnant, everyone gave me slack except my husband.  It was awful because he'd expect me to do a ton of stuff all the time and I felt sick all the time so I didn't have the energy to focus.  I did a lot of repetitive stuff that I could do sitting down like folding laundry and crocheting.  It's hard to sleep when you're pregnant too so that makes you even less able to focus.  

So, basically, plan on being zombie-like for the next year and a half.  Because once the baby comes, you will be running on very little sleep so you'll have trouble focusing no matter what.  

My advice is to do gentle yoga.  And yes exercising when you can.  When you don't feel like you're going to die of discomfort.  Because yes there will be those days.  Adjust your expectations.  Try to warn your husband as to what to expect.  Try not to view your life in terms of accomplishments like cleaning or projects- do the major projects before you get pregnant.  Talk to your husband and make sure he's prepared to switch his focus, too, from being task-oriented to oriented around the family dynamic.  The major accomplishments you should focus on are maintaining a good relationship with your husband and taking care of yourself and the baby.  Be as active as you can, keep a journal, do creative projects like making baby stuff.  If you need to contribute in a practical way, try to find deals on baby stuff- that's what I did.  I spent a lot of time looking for used stuff and researching pregnancy and baby stuff.  Since I couldn't work (my job was doing farm stuff that became dangerous once I got pregnant), I tried to do cost cutting things instead.

Try to reassure your husband that it might be difficult living with you off your meds, and pregnancy and new parenthood are stressful things, but you will get your focus back eventually.  (Although probably not until the baby starts sleeping through the night.)  I think the reason my husband was so hard on me was because he thought that if I stopped doing most of the housework and chores, that I would never be able to get back into the swing of contributing equally to household tasks.  Plus I didn't know it then but he was unable to switch from a task-centered view to a family-centered view.  You're going to have trouble if he can't relax his household standards quite a bit.  But most people are more understanding of pregnancy than my husband was.  If you feel like crap for 9 months (which I did) you're not going to be able to get much done.  I slept a good 13 hours each day, because I couldn't get a good quality sleep with all the discomfort.

Thanks for the insights and

Thanks for the insights and the real-life suggestions!  I like the idea of making things, though looking for deals on furniture or used items already sends me into hyperfocus-land even when I'm on meds and might be a minefield without.  A few projects would be good - we moved in January and still don't have all our artwork hung up, or shelves, and those would be good things to accomplish.

Since I take after my dad a lot physically, my mom's already opined that I'll probably be like his mom for pregnancy... neither of my dad's parents are with us anymore, so if my mom's right, I have no one to ask about what to expect physically.  But I get my ADD from my mom's side, so it won't be exactly like my dad's mom no matter what.

It's really, really interesting what you said about your husband thinking if you let up on housework you wouldn't be able to get back into it.  I can imagine that being a real, well-founded worry from all sides, in many relationships.  We have just hired a cleaning lady to come in every week.  From past experience, I keep things (relatively) tidy when someone cleans regularly, so that's one hurdle lowered (if not cleared).  

I'll be sharing this with my DH, thanks so much!

No Problem :)

If the housework thing isn't as much of an issue, than the only major things to think about are,

A. Appointments.  I use Google Calendar so I can mark down when I am supposed to leave for an appointment, although even that slips my mind sometimes.  But I have  LOT of appointments- hopefully you will not have so many!

B.  How does ADHD affect your emotions?  Pregnancy will also affect your emotions.  For me it was first like having the worst raging PMS I've ever experienced, where I was furious for no apparent reason, then I was just a super volatile version of myself (and I'm a volatile person even without the hormones.)  But I can usually figure out if my intense emotions are from hormones, so I tried not to take it out on my loved ones.  But if you normally have restlessness or agitation from being unmedicated, that can be affected by pregnancy too.  That's why I suggested to keep a journal- usually that helps people sort out their emotions, so that you don't do anything impulsive like leave your husband because it seems like he's the worst person in the world for not helping you fix dinner that one time.

C. Being exhausted.  Sometimes husbands and others don't get how taxing it is to be carrying a baby.  :P  You get tired and hungry so easily, so always plan for breaks and snacks.  Your body is doing this incredible thing, and using way more resources than you would normally use.  Just because our bodies are "meant for this" doesn't mean it's a walk in the park!  (On the other hand, it's nothing compared to when your baby turns into a toddler, but that's a whole other ball game!)  ;)

D. Driving.  Driving requires a lot of focus, so if you think it's dangerous for you to be on the road, keep some Ritalin handy for those occasions and then try to limit your driving.  It's better to take a little meds than to get in a car crash, although you could use caffeine if you think that would be safer for your body.

Great points!

A. Already use Calendar, plus alarms on my phone starting 20-40 minutes before I should leave for appointments!  I think I’ll be setting more and more of these as time goes on, and/or setting them earlier and earlier for longer transitions.  I already write down nearly everything (everything I want to remember for more than 3 seconds!)

B. PMS has been especially raging the past few months.  Not sure if birth control had anything to do with it, so we'll see what happens at PMS time this month.  I have my fingers crossed so hard, because I don't know what I'll do if it gets even worse.  Whenever I have the presence to step back and examine the feels, I can also tell when it’s PMS, which has a very distinct background-feeling.  I’m trying to separate the PMS-feels from my actions or remove myself ASAP from situations when I start to react. 

As for ADHD emotions, when I'm off meds I am mostly a space cadet.  When I am frustrated I'm either unable to connect to my (or my DH's) emotions or overwhelmed by them.  When I feel helpless & overwhelmed, I've been known to yell, mock, slam doors or throw (pen-sized) objects (at the floor) - but I made a solemn promise to myself this month that I never want to do that again.  Awareness is the first step, treatment the next!

Love the idea of keeping a journal, as that really helps me see patterns.  I did it when I switched meds in January and am keeping one now to see how my system evens its hormones out!  Writing is so therapeutic.  Externalizing my thoughts helps me, too, to work through them.  I'm jealous of my DH for that; his thoughts, like Pegasus, spring full-formed from his head (or at least his mouth).  Mine, like a Polaroid, need outside exposure to develop.

C. Exhaustion will be a tricky one.  As you can imagine, there are plenty of nights where I already space out on the productive/helpful work I could be doing, just because it doesn’t occur to me to do it, so when exhaustion is added to the mix this could get hairy.  I think a coach might be able to help with this, if anyone can, to make systems or something.  Thanks for that heads-up.

D. Driving is luckily not an issue, as we use public transportation.  However I do have a bike (before you ask, I do always wear a helmet & lights) and distracted or impulsive biking can be just as dangerous or more so!  After a certain point I clearly wouldn’t use the bike anymore, but I hear your advice loud and clear til then!  

Great!  You sound like you

Great!  You sound like you have prepared the best you can.  :)  You sound like you will make a great mom!  Good luck!

Aw, thanks!  I hope so!  I

Aw, thanks!  I hope so!  I sure do come off competent onscreen.  Let's ask my DH how I do in real life... ;)  You really helped by pointing out things like unfinished projects and emotions and exhaustion.  As we all know, it's one thing to say, "Wow, great idea, I'll definitely do that" and quite another to definitely DO that.  And it's also different to say "I'll be prepared for exhaustion" while not being able to tangibly imagine how different I'll feel.  So we'll see about that end of the deal...

It may well be a slog, but I've heard it's got a pretty nifty reward at the end (all things considered). :)