[Editor’s Note: Today we have a guest post by Lindsey O. She’s experiencing a third pregnancy filled with anxiety, depression, and PTSD after two previous pregnancies. She’s honest here in a way we don’t get to read from a lot of moms. Hopefully it helps others feel less alone. -Anne-Marie]
My first pregnancy I was blissfully unaware of what pregnancy and childbirth were like, and honestly I wish that I could get a bit of that naiveté back. Every bit of those nine months felt new and exciting and fun. I loved learning about everything my body was doing and how my son was growing. My birth was a little scary at the end but with the techniques I learned in my Bradley classes, I was able to achieve my goal of an unmedicated birth.
The second baby was conceived quite by chance shortly before my first son turned a year old. The anxiety kicked in and I felt more isolated from my husband because of the demands of his job and his inability to well, care.
My entire pregnancy I hoped and prayed that the baby would be breech so I had an excuse to not go through an unmedicated vaginal birth again. My husband assured me that I would feel disappointed in myself and the experience if I “wussed out” and agreed reluctantly to help me re-study our Bradley book. Every time we sat down to go over it, I would have a rush of fear and start to cry or get angry and decide I was done for the evening. I just didn’t want to think about what the process was going to do to me again.
At some point in the last ten weeks of that pregnancy, I decided to be “tough” and “suck it up,” telling myself that having unmedicated births were the greatest gifts I could give my children on their birth days. Also I had decided this was our last baby, so I just had to do it this one last time.
The labor went quicker. I was strong and determined and confident. I kept my wits the whole time (well transition was the usual craziness, but I held out) and experienced another unmedicated birth. This time, a nine pound, one ounce screamer. And then the room fell silent.
I was holding my baby and didn’t notice much but wasn’t allowed to sit up, and then all I really remember was a lot of fundal massage and cramping and code words. Honestly, I felt like crap and couldn’t walk and was incredibly dizzy. Later that day a nurse informed me that I had hemorrhaged and they were about to give me a transfusion but I stabilized.
The OB who delivered my baby said something about me being past the point of blood loss that “we worry about losing the mother.” They then told me that the severe cramping was because I had been given Pitocin through my hep lok. They kept me an extra night for in hospital care for GBS+ reasons which I disagreed about and then guilted me into a heel stick for my baby because he was “big” and they wanted to check for diabetes.
Where was my husband for ALL of this? You tell me. I was ALONE. However, I knew that at least I would never, ever have to go through this again.
Fast forward exactly three years later and we are stunned by the conception of another baby who will be here in less than 13 weeks. I was in a funk for two weeks, and it took me three months to get back to reality and my responsibilities with my business and mothering.
Here I am, now, in some ways getting my mojo back and in others an absolute mess. I try to do what I can when I can in different aspects of my life to maintain order, but there is a lurking emotional monster somewhere near me at all times.
I have broken down now in two midwife appointments and cry whenever I think about having to do that again. I have been diagnosed with PTSD and clearly I have anxiety and depression which I have never experienced in my lifetime. I fear that I may die next time, that I may bleed out, tear horribly as I did with the first two, or just have something dangerous or scary happen. It takes up a good deal of space in my daily life. So what do I do about this?
I have answers from everyone and suggestions and loving advice but all I can think about is this: I am not telling anyone what I really want. What I really want is control. I want to have a birth I am happy about not because I “did it for the baby” or did it to make my husband proud or did it because I felt I had to after being given a sense of control from a child birth program. I want to feel I had my best outcome in a birth because I got what I needed to have closure. (I will be getting some form of permanent birth control after this baby, as will my husband.)
I NEVER in a million years thought I would say this, but I am seriously considering a c-section. Do I care if anyone judges me in this? Honestly, I did until the anxiety took over my life. I don’t want to let the anxiety in any more than I have. I see this as a chance to heal, and I don’t think I would have been forced to deal with all of the bottled up stress from my first two births if this third baby hadn’t come along.
I want to heal from this and I want to feel like I can close this chapter in my life and let it all go. I also want to make my body a safe place for this child while she is still there and right now, I know it is not. I can’t go on hoping to have the decision made for me and suffer like this all the way to the end and then come up with some last minute decision about how I will birth.
I’m still working this out in my head and will have a discussion with my midwife at the next appointment so I definitely don’t have concrete plans for anything yet, but I feel better knowing that I am finally taking full ownership of this and not allowing myself to feel pressured in any direction.
If I could say anything to anyone who utters one word to a pregnant or postpartum mom, I would urge them to take consideration for the mother and her well-being and not spend so much energy on the baby. Let her shower, rest, do the chores for her, hold the baby for her while she eats dinner, and let her cry to you if she hurts.
But most of all tell her it’s okay and it’s normal to feel whatever she does or doesn’t feel. Let her be in charge and own the entire experience and not feel like she has to put on a brave face for you. I wish I had been more vulnerable after those first two pregnancies so that I could be more open for this one.