I began my pregnancy after more than a year of trying. I wanted so much to be a mother and more than anything, watch someone grow up and love and nurture a person to adulthood. I wanted to be a great Mom. When I received the news of my pregnancy it was like being in a daytime drama. I was called at work by the nurse in my OB’s office because I needed to know to cancel my hysterosalpingogram – a fertility x-ray – because my blood work came back and I was pregnant. As immediately as I was excited, the anxiety set in. I kept repeating in my head the words of the nurse: “Don’t get too excited. Your levels are so low you won’t even test positive on a home pregnancy test. You literally just conceived.”
Since I had to wait …I waited to miscarry, since two of my closest friends lost babies the fall and winter that preceded that spring. I waited a few weeks to be seen. I had a lovely OB, but I couldn’t shake the hospital, the sterility and the filth. It seemed such a juxtaposition. Sterile filth. People punching clocks, nurses charting and never making eye contact, people telling me how I feel, listening to machines and reading charts instead of listening to me. Not knowing which of the twelve OB’s in the practice would show up for my delivery increased my anxiety even more – especially since I had a history of abuse. I was spiraling in my head. Then I found a home birth midwifery team which was small and seemed like they valued the same things I did. I had incredible prenatal care and could narrow my birth attendants down to two or three of the midwives, all which attended my hour long prenatal care visits at one point or another. We had a full hour, so nothing was ever rushed and questions were answered organically. It was wonderful.
During the first trimester, I began to experience external stressors on top of my fears about the pregnancy. I committed to not taking my antidepressant while pregnant because my psychiatrist, who was retiring, had informed me I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed on medication and I didn’t follow up with the doctor taking over her patients so I came off of the medication traumatically. I then experienced massive corporate acquisition layoffs and a twenty percent pay cut which was terrifying because I grew up very poor. My health began to fail from undiagnosed herniated discs in my neck that caused radial nerve damage, which I would later find out, required corrective surgery at ten weeks postpartum which caused anxiety about managing my pain and lost mobility. I was a mess. I began to regret my pregnancy and look for ways out; I would have anxiety about the regret. My anxiety manifested in rage. I recall terrible rage in my efforts to cope with the many negative emotions I would regularly experience.
My homebirth with the midwives wasn’t what I had hoped for. It wasn’t bad, just unexpected. When my labor began I was a little early and my midwives told me I would be late; first babies are late. I told them I felt like the baby was coming early because I was unable to sleep and unbearably tired; I was told all women are tired the last few weeks but that I would be more tired. Apparently I wasn’t tired enough. I went into labor three days later. I called about my water breaking and I was told to rest because my labor hadn’t officially started; they would come when my contractions were closer and I couldn’t talk through them. The midwives were probably more hands off than I would have liked in the realm of support and no one asked what I needed or wanted, and I didn’t demand it. I was focused on being good, obedient. I labored where and how I wanted, in the privacy of my own home. I labored for 32 hours before deciding to transfer. When we arrived at the hospital things were fine. My husband sat around covered in vomit for three hours waiting for scrubs while I slept through Pitocin and a walking epidural while I waited to wake up and push. When my son came, he was immediately moved to the NICU for a diagnosis of presumptive pneumonia and a cascade of interventions for things that we were told were common and would resolve on their own.
I shut down the minute they wheeled him to the NICU and when I sat in the POD next to my baby I compared his vitals to other baby’s monitors and asked myself why we were there when babies were leaving in poorer condition than he was. Every shift I was kicked out and there was nowhere for me to stay close to my baby. So I drove home every night for three nights. There is nothing quite as frustrating as having your care providers telling you to rest while telling you to stay connected to a baby who you have to walk up hill to get to after giving birth. My care team called to drop by for our first home visit while we were in the NICU and their head midwife didn’t remember to communicate that fact about our family to her team, so I had the privilege of communicating that from the NICU. We never received an official diagnosis, a formal release or any post release care paperwork, no car seat inspection, or any other formality we observed other families going through. When we were released from the hospital we received a pink slip that said NGTD and we were shown the door. We were pretty traumatized and we felt punished and politicized for our choice to have our baby at home. It all felt like a punishment.
I struggled once home. I was heartbroken by the feeling of being abandon my by midwives because of the NICU situation and lack of communication between their staff. I felt deceived by the birth community that I would be empowered and beautiful. It was a joke. Birth was heartbreaking, dehumanizing and made me feel like my baby and I were caged monkeys on display for students. For months I would drive by the hospital and play a movie reel in my head of a memory and cry the rest of my commute home, another thirty minutes. I did this from 13 weeks postpartum to 2 years, five days a week.
My son’s first birthday was depressing, full of tears and sadness. I grieved my birth experience and my first year of parenting being nothing that I had hoped for. I grieved the joyful experience I lost. I grieved the missed opportunities, I grieved my severe sleep deprivation and struggles with breast feeding. I grieved the financial struggles of paying for two births and a spinal fusion surgery all within a 60 day period with three deductibles, two anesthesiologists, and endless other medical bills. I grieved the loss of confidence in my ability to be a good parent and I grieved my child’s future with a failure of a mother like me.
I accessed Baby Blues Connection when I was five weeks postpartum and attended group until my son was five months old. One volunteer meeting we had a speaker who was demonstrating energy work she does with trauma sufferers. I wasn’t sure about it. After six months of avoiding it, I finally made an appointment. I avoided it because I was so sick of thinking about my trauma, so sick of talking about it and so tired of the flash backs or scripts that would run through my mind when I was triggered. I just couldn’t talk anymore, it was too painful and exhausting – I made an appointment and started therapy with energy work.
I returned to Baby Blues Connection to when my son was 18 months old, committed to helping others who were struggling with PPD/A. It was when I began volunteering that I gradually came full circle improving my self-care. I have been with BBC since.