Hope is What We Come Looking For

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When I was pregnant with my first child, there wasn’t a room that could contain my joy. I had been waiting my entire life to have a baby and after I saw the two pink lines on the pregnancy test stick, I walked on air.  I went to bed in the same way I woke up, with a smile on my face. I couldn’t wait to have this baby and the first time I heard the swoosh of his heartbeat on my 8-week exam, I laughed out loud from happiness.

People told me I looked radiant, and I felt it. I had an energy and excitement for this new baby and I wanted to do everything right. I took my prenatal vitamins, got enough water, ate the right foods, and went for long walks. I never shorted myself on sleep and I counted the days until our baby’s arrival.

All was going along as picture perfect as my pregnancy calendar predicted, until at 31-and-a-half weeks of pregnancy, when I awoke with excruciating lower back pain and swollen hands, feet and face. I went to work, but sitting was impossible. The shoes I had to wear that day were my loosest slip-on loafers, and my feet were pushing against the seams. A nurse walked past my desk that day and saw me with my legs elevated on a waste can. She asked how I was and when I told her how my back hurt and that my fingers were too puffy for rings, she insisted I call my OB/GYN. I had an appointment the next week and didn’t think I had to, but she refused to walk away until I made the call. To my alarm, when I called my doctor’s office and told her of my symptoms, she asked me to come in right away. I didn’t feel that I needed to be seen, but I was scared enough by my doctor’s concern to go in. On the drive there, I felt one of the worst headaches I’ve had in years.

When I arrived at the doctor’s office, they immediately measured me and told me I was measuring four weeks larger in size for being 31 weeks. Then they took my blood pressure. I saw the exchange of glances between the nurse and the doctor. My OB then took the blood pressure herself. She put the instrument down, and placed her hands on my knees. I felt dizzy with an anxiousness I had never felt before. “We’re going to have to admit you. Your blood pressure is through the roof and we’ll try to get your numbers down, but you’re entering pre-term labor.”

This couldn’t be. I told her, “But I’m only 31 weeks! And my husband’s in Australia!” She made a tense moment lighter by joking, “Well, the baby doesn’t care about that. He’s on his way if we don’t do something about it.”

And so ended an idyllic pregnancy. I wept because of all the things that weren’t going according to my dreams: I hadn’t had my baby shower, I hadn’t celebrated my last day at work, I was alone at home, and my baby might be born early! I wasn’t ready for this pregnancy to end and there were beautiful maternity dresses I had yet to wear! I was being yanked out of life as I knew it and things felt out of control. The tears came as they admitted me to the hospital and the soonest my husband could get back to the United States was three days. I was alone, and so overwhelmed.

My doctor began contraction-stopping medications and I was ordered on bed rest. One evening during my second week of hospitalization, I suddenly felt as if I couldn’t get air and begged for the windows to be opened. My doctor was called and she told me I was having a panic attack. She said, “It’s being in here, with these four white walls. We’ll give you something for tonight.” Unable to leave the bed, even for showers, I felt as if the room was the size of a shoebox. At 35-and-a-half weeks’ gestation and a month of bed rest, the doctor felt my baby Alec was viable enough for life outside the womb and so we discontinued the magnesium sulfate. We had made it! I knew that everything would be better now that the bed rest was over. I had felt like a ticking time bomb for the past four weeks and now I could relax and have this baby.

My labor started within hours of stopping the medication. Despite my eagerness to have this baby, I was weak from not moving for four weeks. Since I had been on bed rest I missed the birthing classes. When the doctor told me during labor to “breathe, push, like we taught you in class,” I had to remind her I hadn’t been to the classes. After 13 hours of laboring, Alec finally came, but I felt weak and my blood pressure plummeted. The doctor ordered a blood transfusion and I felt as if this pregnancy and labor were just one problem right after another allowing me no time to breathe in between episodes. I had thought that after the bed rest, all would be well again, but then the doctor told me Alec was having trouble breathing on his own.

My pregnancy and delivery were difficult enough, and now Alec had to spend a week in NICU. On the fifth day, I finally had the strength to nurse him, but his sucking reflex was weak from being premature. My pregnancy hadn’t been what I dreamed of, my labor and delivery were touch and go, and now breastfeeding was close to impossible. It had been almost a month and a half of high emotion and no sleep and being more scared then I’ve ever been in my life. After three days of Alec being in NICU, my doctor told me Alec had jaundice and would have to be under lights and would have to remain longer. I fell apart at the thought of going home without a baby.

It was too  much. I was getting slammed before I had a chance to get back up again. I remember my  heart pounding so hard that I thought my ribs would break. I felt light-headed. There were visitors coming to the hospital and everyone expected me to be trilling with joy at this new baby but what I wanted to do more than anything was run away. That’s not an easy thing to say, and I still feel the weight of that confession 18 years later. But those days, of wanting to escape and the fear of being judged as someone who didn’t realize the gift I had in a baby, have impacted my life to the degree that almost two decades later I still  feel the anguish of those moments. We were discharged after a week, but once home, my symptoms of fear for Alec’s health, my anxiousness over feeling so alone in not understanding what was happening to me, manifested itself in agitation that didn’t let my mind quiet, keeping me awake. My appetite completely disappeared and I lost 15 pounds within three weeks. I finally had my baby, what was wrong?  I didn’t even recognize myself.

In those first months of being a new mother, I needed that hope that I wouldn’t always feel this way. If my baby and I were going to make it, I needed a promise of a tomorrow.

*This is Part I of an original series written for Postpartum Progress. Part II will be published here tomorrow.

It is an honor and a thrill to be part of the Warrior Mom Leadership Team. Thank you so much, Katherine Stone, for the opportunity to tell my story. Writing, heals.

 

 

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About Alexandra Rosas

Alexandra is a published author, storyteller, and columnist for several websites. She writes of life as a first generation American and mother of three boys in a small town where she tries hard to go unnoticed. She fails miserably. You can follow her at her personal blog www.gooddayregularpeople.com . Alexandra is a post partum depression/anxiety survivor and is proud to be part of the Warrior Mom Leadership Team.

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  1. Thank you for writing this – this says it all: “But those days, of wanting to escape and the fear of being judged as someone who didn’t realize the gift I had in a baby, have impacted my life to the degree that almost two decades later I still feel the anguish of those moments.” It’s only been two years for me, but you put it perfectly into words. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us.

    • Thank you, TWilliams. It was a struggle tantamount to being one of the most challenging of my life. No understatement. WHen I look back on those times, I want to hug that person I was and say “hold on hold on hold on.” THank you, your comment uplifts me. Let’s get to know each other better, T.

  2. So many things we have in common, Alexandra! I had to go on partial bedrest in the middle of my second trimester, and complete at 29 weeks. Hospitalization, pre-term birth (32 weeks), NICU, home without babies. (I had two.) Panic, fear, anxiety, and feeling that I wasn’t allowed to be openly anything but grateful (especially because I was infertile and I had not 1 but 2 healthy babies). Can’t wait to see part 2…

  3. Thank you for sharing yourstory, sometimes I fear I’m the only one who will never recover because a year after I’m still suffering aftershocks of my bad ppd. I hope someday to share my story of certain recovery.

    • Dear “Mom”: You will. It’s a slow road out. I finally felt like myself after awhile. Never lose hope and continue to seek community. Most important of all, Forgive Yourself. I’d love to talk more, if you want to email me. xo

  4. I can relate to this so much, Alexandra. I was so excited during my easy pregnancy. I started having symptoms of anxiety during the last trimester (for no apparent reason), but they were manageable. After a very difficult labor, an emergency c-section in which my son almost died (he had a too short umbilical cord), and a long recovery (for me) in the hospital, I felt like I was too tired, too weak, and too freaked out to be excited anymore and even to be a very good mother. Before I had really recovered, we had to move to a new city in another state without any of my support system. It was a long road, and I didn’t get help for way too long. It’s so important to talk about these stories!

    • Thank you. Yes, I remember being bewildered that I saw no one else feeling the way I did. It really was, no hyperbole, the darkest time of my life. THank you for commenting, it is such a hidden subject, still.

  5. Thanks for telling your story. It helps. A lot.

    xoxoxoxo

  6. My heart is very full reading this. I knew all this, but I didn’t know all the details which make it real. I will come back to read Part 2, and I’m so glad you’re able to share your story and help other women.

  7. “a promise of a tomorrow”
    Yes, I so understand. Thank you for sharing this first part of your story. I too beat myself up for not feeling blessed and for not swimming in new motherhood joy when I first became a mom. Those days were dark… and the more people like you put it into to words, the more light creeps in for others.

  8. Thank you so much for writing this article and sharing your experiences with us. I struggled for 3 years after having my daughter before finally getting help for my postpartum anxiety and depression. Like you I dropped weight quickly, I even went 20 lbs under what I had been pre-pregnancy with my daughter. After receiving help I enjoying 2 glorious years of feeling normal and we then decided to have another baby. I am 8 months pregnant now and I have fears about experiencing PPD after my son is born. At least I know the warning signs and what help to seek, so I don’t have to suffer in agony for years like I did with my first child. It really is such a dark time and to link it to something so precious like a child makes it even harder to bear. I would love to hear about your experience with having your next two children and the precautions you took to guard against PPD. Thanks again.

    • Jasmine, please email me anytime you’d like… I can’t find a way to contact you. I am at gooddayregularpeople at gmail dot com . For me, and I can only speak for myself, it was the surprise attack of the PPD. I never had it on my radar. I was positive that nothing could make me happier than a baby and then, it all fell apart in so many pieces. I was prepared with help with the second pregnancy and had honest dialogue with my physician regarding my fear. Medical attention is at the forefront, as well as community. PPP is here as a resource and as a forum Please stay in touch!

  9. Thanks for sharing this. I just found out last week that I’m pregnant with my second child. I suffered from some pretty bad PPA with my first and now the thought of going through it again has been agony. I saw a few docs this week and one put me on Buspar to control my new onset of anxiety. I’m seriously considering termination because these feelings are too much. I’ve been on zoloft for 10 years and took a very low dose during my first pregnancy.

    • Thank you for commenting here, Rachel. I hope you’ve talked with your Dr., that is the most important thing to do before you make any decisions. I’ve sent your comment on to Katherine Stone so you know we’re here, to listen. Please email me if you’d like to talk, Alexandra is my name. email is gooddayregularpeople at gmail dot com. I hope you do send me a message, I’d love to talk to you. My mantra: one day at a time.

    • Rachel, I’m so sorry to hear you are struggling. I know that you are scared. I promise I completely understand. I was too when I went through my second pregnancy. But please know that you can do this. You have a team around you now that is watching you carefully and can help you either prevent entirely or lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration if you do get PPA again. What you’re doing is exactly the right thing by keeping in constant conversation with your psychiatric support team and your OB.

      • Thank you both. We’ve decided not to terminate. Right now, the mornings are the worst part for me. I’ve started to get out and function as best as I can, but this is a big struggle. It’s hard to explain why I feel this, as there are no rational reasons behind it. I am looking forward to another baby and I’m terrified in the same moment. I have a supportive husband and a good family ready to help at a moments notice. All I want is to function normally, because the medications don’t seem to be helping much.