Before I had kids, I was clueless (read CLUELESS) about babies and children. I went to the classes and listened to my family and friends share their “nuggets of gold.” I heard how hard being a mom was but how it was so rewarding. People told me I would feel a love unlike any I had experienced. I read all the books, blogs and watched all the films. Before long, I found myself flooded with information, hugely pregnant and obsessing over every detail. I bought the glass bottles so my baby wouldn’t be exposed to harmful chemicals. I bought every homeopathic remedy for babies and nursing moms in existence. By my 8th month, we had two EMT grade first-aid kits (one for the car), nine types of organic cotton swaddles and a nursery most would envy.
We were ready. I was ready.
I would tell my husband, “This baby is going to be so loved.” Tears welled and we looked around the nursery, an end shot from the latest non-toxic paint commercial. Two and a half months later, none of it even mattered.
I was two weeks late. According to the doctor, due to my cervical positioning it was impossible to go into labor on my own. I insisted on a natural birth and one without any intervention. I saw all the documentaries. After all, I’m not some moron to become subject to the medical machine’s whims. We delayed induction until the last possible day. As I lay in the hospital on day two with enough Pitocin in me to open the world’s cervix (had it one), my Grandmother called to inform me that the maids had arrived to, “Clean my already clean house.” I smiled with satisfaction at my obsessive attention to detail, “Already an awesome Mom”, I thought to myself.
Cut to day three in the hospital, after five and a half hours of pushing he was here. He was amazing and perfect. I didn’t love him yet the way I thought I would but I’d read that was normal for some Moms.
Two hours later, I was in the recovery room with six nurses and two OBGYN’s standing over me in a panic. The long induction and extended labor had caused major internal hemorrhaging. Nurses were using their body weight to push down on my stomach. Blood was gushing. The doctors and nurses argued over which coagulant to give through the IV. Finally, a decision was made. Moments later, an intense pressure rushed into my head, I couldn’t breathe and began vomiting on the nurse to my right. My husband was holding our newborn son just behind her. I looked at them and time slowed. I looked at him with eyes that said, “Help me.” He looked back and smiled not knowing what else to do. My blood pressure surged and was followed by alarms sounding from the machines. They reversed the medication. I was okay. I could breathe again. My head was better. The bleeding stopped. I had lost almost half my blood supply but I was alive. I smiled. I just wanted my baby. My family arrived for their first visit. On his way to find them in the waiting area, my husband saw that a crash cart had been parked right outside my room.
On day five, we went home.
I didn’t feel like myself when we got home.
I was extremely cold and shaky. Exhausted and weak, I stayed in bed for days while my husband tended to the baby. The only time I saw him was for feedings. I couldn’t sleep at night and as I would try to fall asleep I would shiver, shake and jerk. I was wearing layers, socks and a beanie in the middle of one of the hottest summers on record. Something was wrong. I thought perhaps it could be anemia or an infection from the trauma to my body. The doctor prescribed iron pills and antibiotics. I still couldn’t sleep. I had gone days without sleep. The doctor prescribed Ambien and I slept. At the end of his paternity leave, my husband reluctantly left for his first morning back to work. I assured him I’d be fine. I thought I would be.
The swaddles stayed in the organized-by-size closet, the glass bottles untouched and I sat in the glider staring at the TV with my son at the breast. I couldn’t move and yet I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t take a full breath. Sleep without medication was unachievable. Earlier that day as the baby slept, I was paralyzed from panic. I couldn’t take a breath at all. My heart raced and I fell to the floor as sharp pains occupied my chest. “It’s my heart.” I thought, “I’m going to die from a heart attack at 29.” Shaken, I rose to my feet.
I looked at my baby and felt fearful.
I couldn’t hold him without feeling scared of something indefinable. When the bushes waved outside the window, I’d jump. I had postpartum depression and anxiety disorder from my traumatic birth and no one warned me as we left the hospital. No amount of preparation could’ve prepared me for the long, arduous journey that lay ahead.
My husband came home that night and I threw my arms around him in tears. I told him I needed help. I called my doctor and went in, got medication and began taking it right away. Weeks later, it wasn’t helping and I couldn’t take care of the baby the way he deserved. I moved in with my family who live three hours away. They helped me care for him so I could attend my therapy and psychiatry appointments. I did everything I could to get myself better, which was more than difficult as the depression made even showering insurmountably hard. All I wanted was to love my baby, be there for my husband and smile again.
After four medication adjustments, therapy, hikes and the support of my family and friends, I was finally “me” again. My son and I are close now and I can’t wait to see him in the morning. I miss him at night. My heart swells with that love unlike any other I’d heard so much about.
I didn’t choose to have a perinatal mood disorder. It chose me. It was the hardest thing I have ever been through and the recovery was long and unsatisfying. At the end, I rebounded and became better for the experience but it took a lot of support from a lot of people and a lot of determination from me.
Amber lives with her husband and their son in the San Francisco Bay Area. Amber is a Mom, Wife, Daughter and Global Citizen who enjoys sharing her musings and experiences with others through her writing.
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