I went in for a c-section. Nothing like scheduling to have your baby ripped out of your uterus. It’s quite surreal. I asked the anesthesiologist if I could play a meditation podcast on my phone. He smiled and said, “sure! we could all do with a little more serenity around here!” I’m not sure if that made me happy or nervous.
So with the scheduled c-section, unlike my previous surprise c-section, there would be no epidural which made me anxious. But the anesthesiologist put my mind at ease and I felt comfortable with him. The problem was that after he gave me the medication to numb my lower part of my body, the meditation I was listening to started with, “now feel your toes, then your feet, up to your calves and then your knees…” My husband quickly shut it off. “This is not going to work!” I said laughing nervously. But I was still in good spirits.
I felt the tugging and pulling like the last c-section. No pain…and then bang! It sounded like the bed dropped. There was all kinds of commotion going on and my body jerked so hard I felt like I was a piece of meat on a cutting board. I asked my husband what was going on, panicking. I could hear scuffling and conversations and I felt pressure in my ribs like never before.
My husband calmly said, ‘Everything is fine.”
But I knew it wasn’t. I could tell in his eyes.
My body was being jerked up and down and the pressure in my ribs escalated and before I could had a complete panic attack, I heard the baby.
Oh, thank God, I thought. The sound of his cry was beautiful.
The Baby Didn’t Want to Come Out
I later found out that the baby didn’t want to come out . Every time they went to grab him, he turned his head and moved up. I felt the pressure and it was frightening. Not knowing what was happening was the worst feeling.
When I held my baby, I felt the rush of happy hormones fill me up as I looked into my child’s eyes. He was beautiful, just as I had expected. Perfect and big just like my first son. I held him close to me and stared at him in awe. I was exhausted. So I rested and slipped away for a while and was later awakened as they rolled in the baby and took my vitals. It felt so natural to hold him this time, unlike the first c-section. It had been so awkward and I was so afraid of dropping the baby. This time I felt so much more secure. I expected those feelings to linger but unfortunately they didn’t.
When night time came, I was restless, tired, and nervous about my three year old meeting his brother the next day. I started to feel a little anxious but that was expected. After all, I had just brought a new life into this world and my body had gone through something major. The next day my three year old came to meet his brother and it went perfect. I was anticipating it for so long, envisioning every moment. It was beautiful to watch him interact with him.
The second day went fast. All the excitement of the brothers meeting, nurses coming in and out all day, and visitors stopping by. I had an appetite and watched a little television. The baby was with me a lot and I was breastfeeding, but it was challenging. It kept me busy and focused. But at some point I called the nurses to pick up the baby to take back to the nursery so I could get some rest and was answered with, “you don’t want to keep the baby with you?” I remember feeling a shift right then and there. I felt shamed for not wanting to be with the baby 24/7. Guilt started to creep in.
Then night came again and I started to feel a black cloud hover over me. I started to feel numb. It hit me so hard and I felt like I was sinking deep into something so painful that I feared losing my mind at some point. All of a sudden I had intrusive, irrational thoughts attacking my mind. I had this unreasonable fear that something would happen to the baby. That he would die. Then I had thoughts of my family dying. They were so real to me I was panicking. My heart began to race. My breathing started to become more rapid. I could feel my heart pumping like it was shooting waves of ammunition into my ears.
My husband could get into a car accident on his way home from the hospital. My son was going to get hit by a car. What would everyone do If I died? My family would be all alone.
The intrusive thoughts became intrusive visuals. It wouldn’t go away and I was gripped with fear. I would see flashes of death, blood and guts. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It was like a tape playing over and over, haunting me.
How would I stop my family from getting hurt? Was my son going to fall down the stairs? Would he drown while taking a bath? Would I, could I be responsible for any of this, instigating it?
The thoughts invaded my mind. It wouldn’t stop and they kept coming. Just when one ended, another would come at full force. I was desperate. I went from laughing with my mom in the hospital room before surgery to spiraling out of control. Now I was crying. I knew it was normal to be weepy after having a baby but this feeling I had was not normal.
I laid in bed when everyone left and I prayed. I prayed many prayers, any that I could think of. Prayers I hadn’t said in years. I kept repeating to myself over and over “God help me.” The fear was paralyzing and all of a sudden I realized something else that I had no control over. I WAS losing my mind.
The baby wasn’t latching and I couldn’t find any help. The nurses were great but I needed help. Real help. I was stuck so I asked for a breast pump. The baby still wasn’t latching well so I got a syringe and gave the colostrum to him in his mouth. I tried to put him on my breast and use the syringe at the same time. Nothing was working.
I kept calling for help. I needed a lactation consultant, but they didn’t work on the weekends. I was feeling desperate now. Then a nurse recommended that I give him formula.
What? No way! I’m not making that mistake again!
That was a big no-no for me. That would mean defeat and I wasn’t going to do that. So I kept trying and going back and forth in my head trying to dull the irrational thoughts of my family dying and having the uncontrollable need to breastfeed and get it down perfectly.
I Asked for Formula – This Sent me Over the Edge
But after battling with myself and feeling desperate, I asked for the formula. I felt so inadequate. Like asking for formula was the most shameful thing I could do as a mother.
I might as well be putting poison in my baby if I have to feed him formula, I thought.
I felt inadequate and my self esteem was diminishing. But my need and drive to breastfeed (this time) was so strong I would do anything. I felt lonely, tired and completely crazy. When are the thoughts going to stop? I prayed.
I had all kinds of visuals of my children dying. Drownings, car accidents, head injuries. Everything was so graphic and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I was losing control. I was going crazy and I knew it. So I kept praying. I lay awake all night praying. I felt like I was on stimulants and I couldn’t shut my mind off. The fear and panic kept sneaking in even when I tried playing the meditations I had stored on my phone. Nothing would stop the thoughts and utter fear I felt. I was spiraling out of control. I cried out to God, “please make this stop!”
Pediatrician Questioned Me on Baby’s Low Birth Weight
The next morning, one of the pediatricians came in looking concerned and told me that my son had lost 20% of his weight and asked what was going on, like I had any control over it. “And he has jaundice so we might have to keep him here,” she said as cold as ice. I felt like she was insinuating that it was my fault. I was devastated. I felt like a failure of a mother. All these irrational feelings were getting worse. But they felt real. Very real. Now I had starved my son by not giving him formula. I was confused and upset. I just wanted to leave and go home. I wanted to forget this whole experience and fade away. The pain was getting worse. I was in the worst place I had ever been; my head.
When my midwife came in and I broke down crying, she drew the curtain and we talked. She was so compassionate and protective. She wouldn’t let the nurse near me. She forced me to call my Psychiatrist and called a social worker to my room.
I Refused Medication
I am not taking medication, I thought. I am going to breastfeed whether it kills me.
“You can breastfeed and take medication,” my midwife and psychiatrist said. “Okay,” I said knowing full well I was not going to take it. I just needed to get them off my back.
I spoke to the social worker, told her what she needed to hear (because I was good at that) and I needed to go home ASAP.
I prayed to God for a sign that I was OK. I needed to know that I wasn’t crazy. I couldn’t go home feeling like this. I was scared.
Then the nurse that was releasing me came in to talk about the paper work. She had talked to my psychiatrist on the phone to make sure I could go home. She leaned over me and started crying.
“You remind me of me when I had my children, she said. I didn’t do anything about the feelings I was having and got into my car and was about to drive into a ditch with my children. You do not need to feel this way. You are a good mother whether or not you breastfeed. Your self worth is not dependent on that. Please know that you will be OK. Your not alone.”
Tears were running down her face. She knew all too well what I was going through.
Standing in front of me, unbeknownst to me was my angel. Right in front of me the whole time. I was going to be OK. I’m not alone.
It was a relief to get home but now I had another “situation”. It was the sudden realization that I was a mother to not one child but two children. Panic started again and the intrusive thoughts began in overdrive.
Going Home – Things Got Worse
When I got home, all the intrusive thoughts from the hospital came flooding back and now I had the extra pressure of responsibility. It was too much to handle. The thoughts were so real. I couldn’t separate myself from them. All I could see was a black hole that I was slowing sinking into. Had I forgotten that I had already been a mother for almost three years? And a great mother I was told. But I couldn’t even wrap my head around how I was going to manage two kids.
“You just will, people said, you won’t have a choice.”
I kept thinking about how I was going to entertain a toddler who was always on the go, needing me 24/7 while trying to breastfeed the newborn. It seemed like an impossible task. I was exhausted. I wanted so bad to breastfeed but I was dead set against taking medication and breastfeeding. I also had an obsession that the items around me were contaminated, so I couldn’t accept that I would breastfeed while on meds. When I had enough energy and I wasn’t obsessing about my family dying or my kids being in the same room together, I would think of things being contaminated. In my mind, I could be contaminating the baby, who I was supposed to protect. Boy, did I have a busy mind. It felt dark and evil all around me and I couldn’t sleep. I just wanted to die. But I kept praying.
I finally broke down and took the meds after a lot of encouragement from friends. But I kept on pumping milk. Then I came to the realization that I didn’t want to breastfeed. My nipples had scabs on them. I didn’t want to get up in the middle of the night and pump and then wake up and pump and take care of a three year old while breastfeeding/pumping. But I felt ashamed for thinking that. The baby wasn’t latching and I was at my wits end. I stopped giving the baby my milk (because of the meds). But I kept pumping and dumping for a week. I just couldn’t accept anything that was happening. I had planned to breastfeed. I wanted to be the woman that pulls out her breast to feed the baby while sitting on a park bench happily watching her toddler playing on the slides. I had a plan! But my POSTPARTNUM DEPRESSION was stopping me. It was kicking my butt. By continuing to pump there was still a chance that I could stop the meds and breastfeed. I needed that option because it was too hard to let go. I could not let go. I was losing control. For a second, I thought I might need to be committed.
I Wanted to Die
I can’t be away from my children! I would die! I cried.
At the same time I wanted to die. I never considered taking my own life, but I knew I couldn’t keep going the way I felt. I would lay in bed and cry uncontrollably while my mom watched in disbelief , feeling powerless she couldn’t take away the pain. I didn’t want visitors. I didn’t want to deal with life and now I had to get light therapy for my baby because he had jaundice. And I didn’t want to take care of two children. I wanted my old life back, the one I knew before all this.
Would he have had jaundice if I put him by the window at the hospital? What if I would of given him formula right away? Would he of still had jaundice? Is this my fault? I just kept beating myself up.
What is happening to me? Am I going crazy?
Finally the Fog Lifted
After a few days of being on meds, the fog started to lift. I loved this little baby with all my heart. At the same time I was so afraid my other son would hurt him (accidentally or deliberately). I was obsessed with them being in the same room. I wanted to separate both of them and protect both of them. Through all the pain, I still loved them both so much it hurt. It started to be quite a job to manage all these thoughts in my head. But slowly, slowly the thoughts started to spread out more and become more like fleeting thoughts. As the days went by they weren’t continuous, invading my mind nonstop. I had time to enjoy looking at my baby and enjoy spending time with my other son.
My mom left to go back to Arizona and I knew I would have to pull it together. She wasn’t going to be there to pick up after us, cook for us, play with my son and entertain him. But when she said goodbye I knew I would be OK. Last time I didn’t speak up when I had my first son and the depression creeped in. It wasn’t as bad as this but it was bad enough that my therapist, after weeks of trying to convince me “if I wanted to be a better mother, she said, just until the hormones smooth out, would I do it (take meds) for my child?” This time I couldn’t hide it. And I was relieved that it was out in the open because I couldn’t live like that anymore. This time it was way more intense.
So now, eight months later, I am ready to talk about it, with no emotion, no tears because I can detach myself from the experience. That person was not me. It was an experience I had. It was the darkest week ever, and I have endured some painful moments in my life, including a miscarriage. But I was not prepared for anything like that. During that time, I didn’t think my prayers were being answered but there was a plan I could not foresee. I needed to experience it so that I could be a voice for others. I’ve come across people who have said that they felt this way but could not bring themselves to talk about it, living in the pain and feeling hopeless. I hope I never have that experience again, but also know the warning signs. I love my children too much to wait a week next time.
And now we have gotten into a routine and my children are obsessed with each other, giggling, and fighting over toys. Do I regret it? NEVER! I know now that having a second child was the best thing for my little family. It is trying at times and my toddler definitely regressed (he wakes up in the middle of the night and wants to sleep with us, wants me to feed him, and today declared that he would like to wear diapers again). He grabs his bothers’s pacifier and uses it. He also likes to be rocked like a baby. So we go with the flow. Some days are harder then others. I scream, I bribe and throw my hands up in the air. But the most important thing is that they are loved and they are loved by me.
I can Laugh Again
The good news is that I can laugh again. I’m back. I trusted the people around me and listened to them for my own well being. That was hard. I think I know better most of the time. But my way wasn’t working this time. The bad news is that…well there is no bad news. I live in the moment and enjoy my children day to day. The fleeting thoughts come and go and I realize I have no control with what happens to my children. They were lent to me by God. They are a gift. My job is to be the best mother I can be.