After a failed vasectomy reversal, a second successful reversal, two failed frozen embryo transfers and six (in total) IVF with ICSI procedures, and three miscarriages, I was finally pregnant with my rainbow baby. My pregnancy was complicated and I received daily blood thinner injections until week 36 of pregnancy.
I live 4,500 miles as the crow flies from my closest family and because of my infertility, lived a very secluded life. My stress level was constantly high and I didn’t share my concerns and fears with many, for when I shared I received well-meaning advice I felt wasn’t helpful to me. In hindsight, it would’ve been better if I’d opened up to my health care providers, but I never wanted to be a burden and often thought I asked enough of them already. I know now this wasn’t the best choice I could’ve made.
My labor was induced with Dinopristol and later Pitocin because I had pre-eclampsia, with significant elevated blood pressure, high levels of protein in my urine, fluid retention, and loss of sight. Despite our best efforts the induction failed. 30 hours without progress and pain management left me cranky, in pain, and exhausted beyond anything I had ever felt before. I was scared for my baby’s life and my own, so when my health care provider asked, “What do you want, Nina?” I replied, “I want to be done!” without hesitation.
Less than an hour later I was prepped and ready for a Cesarean birth—something I previously thought I wanted to avoid at all cost.
My baby was whisked away and I didn’t see him for almost an hour after birth. My husband did skin-to-skin while I was alone and crying. Snot and tears ran down my cheeks when the anesthesiologist asked, “You want something to calm you down, Mama?” I declined and asked for a tissue instead.
During the 12 hours in observation after Cesarean due to failed induction and pre-eclampsia, I received magnesium to curb the chance of having seizures. A few hours into the IV drip I started feeling terrible. I experienced pressure in my chest, extreme fatigue, and couldn’t move a limb. The nurse assured me that it was normal after what my body had been through.
I was transferred to the mother and baby floor some time in the evening and a nurse assistant came every 30 minutes to check my blood pressure and temperature. At 2 a.m. when I was finally asleep, the lights turned on again and I couldn’t help but curse like a sailor. When was I supposed to rest?
At 6 a.m., another nurse came into my room and told me to get up because I hadn’t walked since my baby was born. I tried to reason with her and explained I really hadn’t slept for 72 hours and since the magnesium IV I felt as if an elephant sat on my chest. She waved it off and told me walking was the cure.
I couldn’t get up by myself, so I raised my bed to make it easier on me. I got dizzy as the back side of the bed lifted half of my body and told the nurse I was nauseous. She said, “Come on Mama, you can do it!” I swung my legs off the bed best I could and let them dangle. I almost puked on her, but again she waved it off and patted the baby bed lightly, “Come on Mama, just hold on right here!” I did. I held on to the bed. My ears started ringing, yet I took two steps.
Then the voices around me disappeared and the room got dark.
I don’t remember what happened to my body in the next hour and a half.
But I remember darkness. I remember thinking, “That’s it. You tried so hard to have a baby. Thirteen years of trying, three miscarriages, finally you have a baby and now you don’t get to be his mama. That’s it. You’re done.”
My husband was in the Army on active duty and had to go back to work after 14 days of paternal leave. When I first experienced ruminating thoughts, I was looking out the window holding my newborn. I heard sirens. We live close to a fire station. We hear sirens all the time and never before has it caused any physical symptoms. This was different. My body froze. Paralyzing fear gave me stomach cramps. I wanted to puke. I stared at my phone and had only one thought, “My husband is dead.”
The same thought appeared when I wasn’t with my baby, so I never ever left him with anybody. Aside from my husband I was his sole caregiver. I didn’t trust anybody. The baby was an extension of me. There was my rainbow baby and me, together 24/7. People close to me started calling me helicopter mom, but if I had told them how I was feeling when I was away from my baby, maybe they would’ve understood or told me to go seek help.
I kept my postpartum anxiety from everyone for about six months. I didn’t tell my health care providers and the postpartum screening didn’t ask about anxiety. It only asked if I was sad or had feelings of hurting myself. I didn’t have any such feelings. I felt scared to death. But that wasn’t on the paper and no one asked me directly.
Six months I dealt with the paralyzing fear of someone taking my baby from me, the recurring thoughts of losing someone I love, the physical pain, the exhaustion, the fatigue, only to keep people from calling me crazy.
I now know that shifting hormones, sleep deprivation, isolation, biology, and my previous circumstance played a vital role in my postpartum anxiety, but I also now know that I could have had help had I spoken up.
If you have a friend, sister (in-law), or neighbor who has just had a baby, check on her, cook her a meal, talk to her, see how she’s doing, let her talk about her birth experience, hold space for her. Please.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 10-15 percent of women experience some sort of postpartum depression (PPD). Some women have symptoms up to one year; yet others even longer. Of the 10-15 percent approximately 4-5 percent need medication to curb their out-of-control feelings.
Postpartum depression is an illness and manifests in the first four to six weeks postpartum. Exactly the time moms without symptoms use to bond with their baby and ease into motherhood. The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research posted a press release on January 30, 2017, linking Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin), a commonly used medication used to induce labor and/or treat postpartum hemorrhage, to postpartum depression and anxiety. According to Depression and Anxiety, every year one in eight women in the United States will have postpartum depression and/or anxiety.
Postpartum depression is sneaky. Signs and symptoms include, but aren’t limited to: sadness, loss of energy, constant tiredness, sleeping excessively or not sleeping at all, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, feeling like a failure, thoughts of hurting oneself or worse, unexplained fear, and ruminating thoughts that cause anxiety.
Some people only have a few symptoms and others have all of them.
If you experience any of the symptoms, please tell your health care provider. Talk to someone. Call someone. You are not crazy. You are not alone.
I am better now, but it took me years before I could walk into the hospital without puking into the first trash can or running to the bathroom and letting cold water run on my hands.
Please, seek help.
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