An Unplanned C-Section Sets Off Postpartum Depression for One Mom

[Editor’s Note: Today we’re running a two-post series on c-sections and how they affected two moms differently. First up we have Contributing Writer Carrie London. Her c-section wasn’t planned and left her feeling all kinds of things. -Jenna]

An Unplanned C-Section Sets Off Postpartum Depression for One Mom -postpatumprogress.com

I never thought I would have a large baby. I am not even five feet tall and my husband weighs 165 lbs soaking wet.

Even when I became pregnant and my belly swelled and swelled, I was told by my OBGYN that everything looked fine—my daughter was measuring average. I believed her. I kept thinking to myself, “You can do this. You can push this child out like you were meant to do.”

By the time I was six months pregnant, I looked nine months pregnant.

The week before my water broke, I was not able to fit shirts over my stomach. I developed a PUPPS rash and felt absolutely miserable. The doctor still insisted that everything looked normal, even after I repeatedly asked if a scheduled C-Section would be necessary due to my size.

No one said anything to me about the possibility of a C-Section.

My water broke and I went into labor two days before my due date. I dilated slowly and painfully.

I had two epidurals placed into my spine, neither worked. I had bag after bag of pitocin pumped into my body because I was not progressing as fast as they wanted me to do. I labored for 22 hours, pushing for two of those hours. I was running a fever. I lost bladder control. I tore myself. She was there, she was in the birth canal but could not make the final turn through my pelvis bone. As we approached the last  hour, I was blacking out between pushes. I was weak and defeated.

Then, and only then, did my OBGYN lean over to me and say, quietly, we may want to start considering a C-Section.

Before she could even finish the sentence I yelled, “YES.” I removed all of my jewelry, my family filed into my labor room as if to say goodbye to me. The nurses gave me the awful syrup to drink so I wouldn’t get heartburn during the surgery. I almost threw it up and they yelled at me that if I threw it up, I would have to take it again.

Within 10 minutes of the initial consideration for the surgery, I was wheeled into an operating room. I was placed onto a small slab of plastic. I was sitting up, barely conscious, when the anesthesiologist came into the room. He took one look at my back and asked, “Did any of these epidurals work for you?” I shook my head. He put his hand on my shoulder, “I am going to do it correctly. Don’t worry.”

What was incorrect about the two other ones I had been given and, later, billed for?!

When the tubing in my back was in place, I was laid down on the cold plastic. I was draped, my arms began to shake uncontrollably so my arms were tied down in the shape of Christ on the cross. A small woman sat up above my head, holding my cheeks gently.

“You won’t feel anything. It will just feel like they are pushing on your stomach.” I nodded, only comprehending some of what she was saying.

Then, before I was even cut, there was commotion behind my curtain.

The catheter wouldn’t go in. My baby’s head was blocking where it should go up into. A nurse was instructed to quickly go get a child’s size one.  While none of this hurt, the sensation of multiple attempts of a catheter being strung up into you is not pleasant, to say the least.

The children’s size was small enough to snake it around her head and put it in place. Once this was accomplished it felt like 14 hours had passed. It was probably only about 3 minutes.

They cut. Two definite cuts; one to my belly and then one to my uterus. It felt like a cat kneading on my belly to get comfortable. People were talking to me the whole time. It was like when you’re in the dentist with your mouth full of metal and your dentist wants to hear about your vacation from a few months ago; I’M KIND OF INDISPOSED RIGHT NOW, DUDE.

After a few more seconds of pulling, I was fully flayed open. I feel her let loose of my body. I felt her spill out of me.

As this happened, the crowd behind my curtain gasped in shock. During the last few weeks of my pregnancy my stomach had become extremely swollen and pointed. No amount of ultrasounds could figure out what that point was because you couldn’t really make anything out at that point because she was so squished inside of me.

As my child was released from me, my OBGYN yelled, “It was her knees! Those were knees!”

And then, as they pulled her free of me, another gasp. They held her over the curtain for me to see immediately.

She was a giant alien baby.

She looked like an 18 month old.

And she was mad.

Even before suctioning, she was screaming a gargled sound that I could only think to myself, “Me too, girl. Me too.”

They swiftly took her to the room across the hall to clean and measure. My husband trailed behind her procession, dumbfounded and well aware that I was probably going to blame this on him, somehow.

When they brought her back in quickly to hold against my face, my arms being strapped down still, my husband said quietly, “She’s 8 lbs…1oz….21 inches long. Jesus, Carrie.”

They took her away then, to be put in the little plastic baby box that all newborns arrive in.

Out there, in the hall, my entire family stood, gaping at the window and waiting to see the newest precious thing to enter our family. A few moments before my daughter was brought out, another baby was placed in a box.

It was small, docile, fell immediately asleep. Everyone cooed and shed tears, assuming that must have been my child. My husband rounded the corner, saw the scene and shook his head at them all. They brought my giant, pink, screaming child into the room and he smiled and pointed to her.

Another gasp.

All the while, I was in the OR being stitched up. I was becoming drowsy. Before I passed out, I remember my OBGYN telling me that there was no way that child was ever going to come out of me naturally. Why was I forced to even try, then? Perhaps she had measured normally for an average size woman, but I’m no average sized woman. I was irritated.

When I woke up, I was in a hallway. I was alone. The lights were dimmed. I was disoriented and for a moment wondered if I had dreamed the whole thing all along. Then my husband appeared, and a nurse. I was wheeled up to my room. My family was all in there, waiting for me. It was past midnight at this point and none of them had slept either. I was made a fuss over for a little while, then they wheeled in my baby. She was almost too long for her little observation box. Her cheeks were so big, they made her eyes slant. Her little mouth tied up in the most precious way.

When they handed my daughter to me for the first time, as some stories go, I felt nothing. I didn’t feel love, excitement, fear, sadness. I felt numb. I held her long enough to take some pictures, then handed her back; told them to wheel her back to the nursery so I could sleep.

As my ridiculous labor and surgery ended, the period of Postpartum Depression begun.

A Letter to My Daughter: I’m Sorry, but Not Sorry

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post requires a Tissue Warning. Leslie Froelich writes beautifully about the birth of her twins, the loss of one daughter, and the subsequent battle with postpartum depression. -Jenna]

A Letter to My Daughter: I'm Sorry, but I'm Not Sorry -postpartumprogress.com

Dear Elizabeth:

I can’t believe you are three years old, full of life and energy and—truth be told—a whole lot of piss and vinegar most of the time. But I love you more than ever, even if I didn’t when you were first born.

I mean, obviously I loved you; every mother, since the dawn of time, has loved her child in some mysterious, intrinsic, complex way that can’t be explained. But I wasn’t in love with you.

It wasn’t your fault. You, a tiny, pink hued, sweet little nugget of innocence and joy, did nothing wrong. You couldn’t help that your twin sister, Hannah, passed away at just three weeks of age. If anything, the doctors said you kept her alive longer just by your presence in the womb. [Read: 13 Things You Should Know About Grief After Miscarriage or Baby Loss.]

It wasn’t your fault that you and your sister were the rarest kind of twins possible, sharing one sac and one placenta and being at constant risk of cord entanglement and death. 

It wasn’t your fault that my pregnancy with you and Hannah was, to this day, the darkest time of my life, one in which I lived in constant fear that I would lose one or both of you. 

It wasn’t your fault that I had to be put on bed rest in the hospital for two months, scared and isolated from your father and our pets and away from anything normal, like my own bed or the food I liked. 

It wasn’t your fault that I had to have a painful, horrifying c section at 33.5 weeks gestation and that I didn’t get to see you but for five brief minutes before the doctors whisked you away from me, and I didn’t get to hold you or your sister for hours after the fact.

It wasn’t your fault that you had to stay in the NICU for the first month of your life, hooked up to every tube and wire imaginable and looking just so tiny and pathetic I was convinced I was going to hurt you somehow.

But this is what I really want to tell you, even though the mere words pain me: It’s not your fault that I wanted nothing to do with you after you came home from the hospital.

Everyone kept telling me how much better and easier things would be once you came home, but they were wrong. When Hannah passed away, something inside of me just broke and became damaged and irreparable for a long time. 

I’m sorry that I didn’t want to change you, hold you or feed you. I did all these things, of course, because the mom in me stepped up to duty, but I found no joy in any of it. All I felt was constant anxiety, the kind that starts in your stomach and courses through your veins like poison. 

I’m sorry that I regretted having you. Now that I am better, I can say with absolute certainty that you are the love of my life and I can’t imagine this journey any other way. But back then, all I did was fantasize about how much better life was before you came along, and I truly believed your father and I had made a monumental mistake. We had a good life before parenthood and we had messed it up, and the thought of taking care of you for the next 18 years literally made me vomit. No, really, ask your grandma. She held my hair back for me. 

I’m sorry I was so depressed that I almost couldn’t nurse you because my milk supply was getting so low. I fought like hell to do it, and I did, but I hated every minute of breastfeeding. I would just sit there and cry the whole time because it hurt and I was so miserable.

I’m sorry I cried all the time and had such a hard time getting out of bed. I was so sad about losing your sister and I just didn’t know how to face the day ahead.

I’m sorry that you were robbed of your twin. I know she is your guardian angel and looking after you and protecting you at all times, but not a day goes by that I don’t imagine what life would be like if you had Hannah to play with, to laugh with, and to sing songs with. It’s the ultimate injustice, and I will never get over it.

I’m sorry that for a long time, I was a shell of my former self, devoid of laughter or happiness. Even I didn’t recognize myself at that moment in my life. 

I’m sorry that if you look at pictures of when you were first born, those in the know can probably tell how forced my smile was. It was the best I could do. 

But what I’m not sorry about, nor will I ever be ashamed to admit or talk about, is the fact that all of this stemmed from postpartum depression

I’m not sorry that I had to go on medication and drag you with me, carrier in hand, to see a counselor twice a week for the first year of your life. That woman—she knows who she is—brought me back to life and helped me become the mother I am today.

I’m not sorry that I’ve been so open with people about my battle with PPD, because I was fortunate to get the help I so desperately needed and come out on the other side of that long, dark, lonely tunnel. I believe it’s my calling to help as many women as possible by telling my story and working to destigmatize this terrible illness.

I’m not sorry that we decided to have another baby; your beautiful, sweet sister Maggie. She does not replace Hannah; nothing and nobody ever will. But she has brought us a happiness we never thought we would get to experience again after everything that happened with you and your sister. 

I’m not sorry that with Maggie, I experienced the kind of normal, uncomplicated pregnancy that every first time mother should get to have, and all the joys that come after: snuggling and bathing and giggles and so many other wonderful firsts.

I’m not sorry because, at the end of the day, this is my journey and I can’t change or edit it. What I can do is learn from the adversity that I have faced and choose to be stronger. I believe I am a better mom because of it. 

I love you so, so much, and I hope that you never, ever have to experience even a shred of what I have gone through. But please know that if you do, sweet daughter, I will never judge you. I will hold you and cry with you and love you unconditionally.

Because that’s what mothers do.

 

Leslie Froelich is a freelance writer and co-facilitator of a postpartum depression support group in the Cleveland, Ohio area, run through the organization POEM (Perinatal Outreach and Encouragement for Moms). She is a stay at home mama to two daughters, Elizabeth and Maggie, two fur babies (in the form of cats) and has been married to her spouse, Nick, since 2007.

A Latina Mama Wonders if She Belongs in the Warrior Mom Community

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from Pauline Campos, a Latina mama who isn’t sure if she belongs in the Warrior Mom Community. Spoiler Alert: She does. -Jenna]

A Latina Mom Wonders if She Belongs in the Warrior Mom Community -postpartumprogress.com

I don’t know if I belong here, in this sacred place for women who have climbed out of a darkness that has been named and called out for what it was—what it still is for so many. I’ve spent far too long watching, lurking, and listening to the growing community of women bravely and openly seeking the help they need, all the while nodding my head in understanding more often that I was previously ready to admit.

I remember falling in love for the first time. The feeling was so tangible that it did take the very breath out of me and shook me to my core. My daughter was six weeks old and I was holding her, sitting in her nursery recovering from my last of three week-long hospital stays for severe mastitis. Until that moment, I hadn’t even realized that I had been functioning on instinct, that I might not love the little being I had grown inside of me. But there it was: A love so new and so powerful that I could only marvel at its very existence.

Don’t get me wrong: I did all the things I was supposed to do. I fed and clothed and held and sang to my baby. I read to and kissed and and checked on while she slept. I smiled and wondered at the marvel of this perfect little being. But I didn’t truly love, or maybe I did and just hadn’t been able to feel it. Feelings, like lights switches and door handles, tend to get easily lost in the darkness.

I don’t have an official diagnosis. Looking back, it’s clear to me that what I experienced was not “normal baby blues.” It’s also clear that even though I verbalized my concerns to my providers, I still managed to fall through the cracks.

The year was 2007 and the topic of postpartum depression and related conditions was still taboo in mainstream conversations, and even more so in the Latino culture in which I was raised. A friend of mine shared how her sisters, mother, and friends took shifts in her home to make she she was not left alone for a single moment for the first four weeks after having her baby, but no one ever discussed why. You work around the problem without addressing the problem. It’s just what you do. So she did.

And so did I.

It’s standard operating procedure for many Latinas, raised with the cultural ideal of “Marianismo,” in which a woman puts the needs of her family ahead of her own. Research studies have determined that Latinas are 37% more likely to suffer from Postpartum Depression than other groups, with factors such as socio-economic status, acculturation, and the knowledge that seeking help is often frowned upon by family members, all falling into play.

It’s important to note that while I managed to get up the nerve to ask for help during one of my postpartum checkups with my midwife, it did me no good. I remember nodding my head and holding in the tears as my midwife told me that I was fine. Everybody gets the baby blues, she said. This is normal, she told me.

But it wasn’t.

Having used up all of my bravery in that single, stammering moment just a few weeks after giving birth, I didn’t reach out again. I would survive, it turns out, by smiling through the all-encompassing fog while the sun shone. My tears, hot and plentiful, would wait until for night to fall and the world to sleep.

This is how most of our midnight feedings went. At least, the feedings I was able to do when we were both home together. I didn’t cry during each of my hospital stays for severe mastitis during the first six weeks as a new mother. I checked enough of the boxes that would flag me today for being at risk, even before the new guidelines calling for screening for women during pregnancy and after giving birth were announced.

I have a history of mental illness issues that include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and a suicide-attempt. I suffered through severe hyperemis-gravidarum (HG), an extreme form of morning sickness that, in my case, lasted the entire pregnancy and required medication commonly used to combat nausea in chemo patients. I visited the emergency room three times, one visit per trimester, for fluid via IVs when my insurance company refused to approve my medication refills. It took my admission papers and a confirmation of diagnosis each time to get them to sign off.

It wasn’t until only recently discussing my history with a friend that I learned my pregnancy and birth experience—from my pre-eclampsia and emergency-induction at 37 weeks to the frequent hospital stays after having my daughter—fit the descriptors for birth trauma, and that my irrational fear of subsequent pregnancies are an indicator for PTSD, according to the UK-based Birth Trauma Association.

I also learned I have ADHD—which can in and of itself, create its own set of challenges for new mothers—when my daughter was almost four years old. I struggle to focus daily, task by task, and become easily overstimulated when my senses are bombarded with anything new and different and shiny. I can’t even imagine having had this knowledge, alongside a medical support team, and how much more positive my experience could have been.

I don’t know if I belong here, but I’m eight years into this journey, and I’m still climbing. For that, I have to thank all those warrior moms who’ve shown us all that there is no shame in getting lost in the dark.

~Pauline Campos

How a Traumatic Birth Gave Me Postpartum PTSD & Depression

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.

Stop.

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. -PostpartumProgress.com

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: