How a Traumatic Birth Gave Me Postpartum PTSD & Depression

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How My Traumatic Birth Experience Gave Me Postpartum PTSD & Depression

My child will be an only child.

I want to talk about one of the reasons she will be an only child. I want to talk about why I roll my eyes or wince when someone tells me that I’m too young to say something like this or to “give it time.”

I have diagnosed PTSD from giving birth.

I can still see every detail of my labor in my mind; I replay it more often than I admit. I obsess over it. I romanticize about other people’s labor stories. My best friend just did a home birth. She walked around in the calm darkness and labored and loved and labored some more. She gave birth to a beautiful, healthy girl.

I feel robbed.

Nothing went right.

But, Carrie, things don’t always go to plan! Calm down.

No. Nothing went right.

In fact, things went so not-right that it is affecting me mentally. Still. It has been five years.

My water broke naturally at home, three days before my due date. I arrived at the hospital, after having some small contractions, and was three centimeters dilated. I was wheeled into a room, given a gown, and hooked up.

Hooked up.

First, they put my IV in. Then they put the fetal  heart monitor on my belly. I was told to lay on my back so it wouldn’t slide. I was told not to move.

I wasn’t hooked up. I was strapped down. I was rendered immobile.

I was young and didn’t know any different. These people knew what they were doing. I’m just here to have a baby, folks.

When I didn’t progress fast enough, I was given a bag of Pitocin. This worked. I progressed. I was asked if I wanted an epidural. I said sure. The pain wasn’t insane, but it wasn’t great and “the guy is on the floor now so it’s now or never.” Okay. It’s now.

I was given an epidural. It did not work.

I was given a second epidural. It did not work.

They kept that one hooked up just in case it decided to work. Just for fun. That’s three things tethering me to the bed at this point. Three things keeping me on my back, the most difficult position to be in to push something the size of a pug out of your vagina.

I stalled at six centimeters. I was made to feel like I was wasting everyone’s time, like I was failing at my job. You had one job, cervix. C’mon.

I was given a second bag of Pitocin. I began to run a fever. I had to have that little finger monitor on to keep track of my fever. Four things, now.

The Pitocin pushed me, quickly and painfully, to 9 1/2 centimeters. Everyone stood around and watched me. They waited as I labored with a faulty epidural and a net cast over my body like a beached whale.

“We are going to push now.”

I wasn’t at 10 yet. My body wasn’t ready yet. I told everyone this. They assured me all would be well, they were just going to push aside the last 1/2 centimeter every time I pushed.

Push it aside. No epidural. It felt like a giant hug, let me tell you.

At this point I had been in labor for 20 hours. My family was told to leave the room and things seemed to get serious.

I pushed. I pushed in a way that I didn’t know I could push. None of us ever know, do we? We always pause for a split-second in awe of ourselves. I am doing it. I can feel it.

I tore myself on the inside. But I kept pushing. I lost bladder control. But I kept pushing. I began to black out between pushes. I swallowed ice chips brought from my bewildered husband and kept pushing.


I was told stop.

They could see the top of her head, but it wasn’t going to happen. She wasn’t coming out this way. The head was not going to fit through my body this way.

Two hours of straight pushing. A fever. No epidural.

And suddenly, I was drinking a terrible medication to keep me from throwing up during surgery. I was taking off my jewelry. I was saying goodbye to my mother.

I was wheeled away.

People became more kind now. They played music for me in the surgery room. Someone was singing along. The anesthesiologist came in and said he heard my epidurals didn’t work. I nodded. He assured me this spinal was going to work.

It worked. I lost feeling from my neck, down. My arms were shaking so badly that they had to strap them down.

Strapped down.

I didn’t feel much. It felt like a cat kneading my stomach. Pulling at me, pushing at me. It felt like how you would imagine life beating you up from the inside.

Then she was free and everyone gasped. She was huge and had been facing forward. She was never going to come out of me naturally, they said. They held her up to my face for three seconds. She smelled like me. She looked like me. They took her away, pushed a bit more medication into me, and I woke up in the hallway, stitched up.

I had split myself in half to have a baby. I had labored for 22 hours to have a baby.

I was alone in the hallway.

Where was my baby? Was it all just a dream?

Of course, I saw her in my room shortly after. I remember thinking to myself, “I already feel it. I already have postpartum depression.

I did. I had it badly. But, it went beyond postpartum depression. I was obsessed with watching her, but wouldn’t touch her. I would have sleep paralysis. I would get sick to my stomach when she cried.

I still won’t consider doing it again.

My psychiatrist, years after, finally mentioned it sounded like PTSD. How could that be? I wasn’t in a war! I wasn’t wounded! Nothing traumatic happened to me!

Something traumatic did happen to me. I was robbed of something very important to all mothers: I was robbed of my power. I created a human being out of cells for nine months. For nine months all I thought about, all I was trained for, was to push this human being out of my body and be the woman I was supposed to be. For nine months I played my labor plan over and over in my head. It took them less than 10 minutes to hack her out of me.

I was robbed of my power.

They robbed me of that. Never again. I will keep this child precious and make sure those around me retain their power. I will use my story to make sure it doesn’t happen to other women.

This is my story. It doesn’t have to happen to you.


Read more about PTSD and Postpartum Depression:

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We Need to Talk About Postpartum Disorders

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[Editor’s Note: Today we are thrilled to have a guest post by Betsy Schwartz, Vice President of Public Education & Strategic Initiatives at the National Council for Behavioral Health.]

Mental Health First Aid USA + National Council for Behavioral Health + Postpartum Progress

In 2001, a tragic event in a suburb of Houston Texas shook the soul of the nation. A successful nurse, daughter, wife and mother did the unthinkable. In a state of postpartum psychosis, Andrea Yates systematically drowned each of her five innocent children. She emphatically believed that her action was the only way to prevent them from spending eternity in damnation. The State of Texas found her guilty and sentenced her to life in prison.

In 2006, the case was re-tried, at which time Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity. And rightfully so. International media attention focused on Yates’ trials offered a tragic opportunity to teach the world about postpartum illnesses.

During my tenure as CEO of Mental Health America of Greater Houston, we created a fund in memory of the Yates children dedicated to educating new moms and dads about the risks, signs and symptoms of postpartum disorders.

Now, fourteen years later, Mental Health First Aid USA has an opportunity to expand that national dialogue and education. Through a partnership between the National Council for Behavioral Health and Postpartum Progress, new moms can receive training to become Mental Health First Aid instructors, giving them the knowledge and skills they need to spread the word that postpartum illnesses are real, and when recognized, can be treated effectively.

Postpartum education will play an integral role in Mental Health First Aid’s mission of creating healthier communities, as research shows that the health of the mother determines the health of the infant. We look forward to this important collaboration and the work of Postpartum Progress. Together, we can work toward creating stronger, safer communities for all.

Together, We Can Work Toward Creating Stronger, Safer Communities for All. -Betsy Schwartz

-Betsy Schwartz, National Council for Behavioral Health

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Men’s Health Month: More Mental Health Help Needed for Fathers

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[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from Carrie London of Growing Humans. Addressing fathers’ mental health is important in the discussion of postpartum depression. Additionally, November is Men’s Health Month and this year the Movember movement includes mental health as an issue. -Jenna]

Men's Health Month: More Mental Health Help Needed for Fathers

I want to talk about postpartum depression. I want to talk about how isolating it can feel.

I want to talk about how painful it can be. I want to talk about how terrifying it is.


I remember the moment I realized my husband was struggling. I was sitting on the stairs, just outside my screaming newborn’s nursery, sobbing. He stood there next to me, stone-faced. I looked up at him, helpless, and told him I wanted to leave, to die, to fade away. I was deep into the postpartum woods, you see. I was under the water. I was reaching up my hand to him, my rock, my safe place.

He looked down at me, no light behind his eyes, and said, “Me too.”

I recoiled, immediately. How dare he threaten to leave me here? He was a man. He was THE man. The father of my child. He was supposed to hold me together, like he always has.

We both fell apart; the floor beneath us became a net and well fell through the holes. Together.

At my OBGYN visits following the birth, I was monitored. I had existing depression and was treated with a light hand; I was given medication, offered counseling. Resources were constantly available to me as I throttled through the most difficult period of my life. My husband was never mentioned. My husband was never a factor.

My husband suffered silently.

He endured sleepless nights, watching his wife unravel between his fingers, bringing a life into the world. He went back to work two days after our daughter was born. He would leave me in pieces each morning and arrive home to the same, after working eight hours; after unraveling himself.

Men are more likely to experience postpartum depression if their partner does.

Most never say a damn thing about it.

Most deal with it, poorly, and are labeled as bad fathers. Marriages suffer. Babies aren’t bonded with. Families are injured.

There are a handful of online support groups where men can discuss being “sad dads”…anonymously.


The stigma over the heads of men for mental health is so heavy that they only feel safe admitting to needing help anonymously.

There is a universe of support for me and this disease. I didn’t even need to ask for help. I am a woman. But postpartum depression does not just happen to women.

It happens to men. It happens to families.

I wish a doctor had asked me how my husband was handling it. I would have told them that he was distant, that something didn’t feel right, that he wouldn’t hold our baby, that he seemed afraid—all of the same symptoms I had when diagnosed with postpartum depression.

My husband should have been on medication with me. He should have been offered therapy. He should not have felt afraid and ashamed, like he still does to this day. These are not just “sad dads,” and I did not just have “the baby blues.”

We were sick. We were not treated equally, and that should probably be changed, don’t you think?

For more posts about fathers, check out our Help for Fathers category.

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Purchase Your Tickets for the 2016 Warrior Mom Conference

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That’s right! You can purchase your ticket for the 2016 Warrior Mom Conference, taking place in Atlanta, GA from October 14-15, 2016. We encourage you to do so as soon as you possibly can as we sold out very quickly last year.

But maybe you’re wondering what this is all about? What to expect, who will be there, why you might want to go? In addition to hearing profound speakers talk about the truths of postpartum depression, you’ll get to meet other mothers like you—ones who have been there, done this, and survived.

In the words of 2015 Warrior Mom Conference Alumni Amber Swinford Dunn, she “found her tribe.”

Hey Mama, I See Your Brave

We want to surround you with love, to embrace you and say, “Hey mama, I see your brave.”

And we want you to realize, like another alumni, Kate Weldon LeBlanc, that you’re fierce, too.

I Realized I Was One Too!

We want you to leave the Georgian Terrace at the end of the conference and know that you, too, are a warrior.

There will be food, fun, lots of learning, probably some tears, lots of laughter, and most importantly, a room full of other warrior moms who support you in your journey. Buy your ticket today, and plan on joining us for a beautiful and important conference next October.

We can’t wait to see you.

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