Rocking the boat (Anonymous)
My son is now 20 months old (I’m 27) and is the most AWESOME gift life has ever given me, aside from my husband, yet I am still having a hard time overcoming a tough bout of post-partum depression. Before the birth of my son, I was a super-fit triathlete, vivacious and die-hard optimist, fresh out of college and had just started my own small business. I had a clear plan for myself and my future and was having a ball being the single social butterfly. Suddenly everything changed. My future husband and I conceived our son after a mere 4 months of dating, but decided we were in it for the long haul and decided to marry when I was 7 months pregnant. Talk about a scary start!
My pregnancy was fairly normal, just NOTHING what I had expected! I always romanticized the idea of pregnancy, always assuming I would be at a place in my life where a baby would be the icing on the cake. This was hardly what I had planned! I decided that I wanted as natural a delivery as possible- we’re talking NO drugs, IVs, post-birth eye drops- the whole shabang! Unfortunately, my plans were dashed the day I went in for my 36 week checkup and found that my son was breech. Again, my plans were turned upside down. The natural delivery plan was shot to hell, but I tried to keep my chin up and go with the flow. I opted out of an external cephalic version to avoid the risk of early delivery and to see if my son would turn on his own. I tried everything I heard of to encourage him to turn in an attempt to salvage my birth plan. I tried shining a flashlight down my stomach to encourage him to follow the light, laying inverted on an ironing board,
diving into a pool, even moxibustion and accupuncture! My efforts were all in vain. I even held out on a scheduled c-section until a week past my due date just to see if during the last few days he might still turn. That was no easy task, considering I was still working up until the day before I gave birth, standing for 8 hours a day and having gained 60+ lbs!
Five days past my due date, my water broke early in the morning and I scampered into the bathroom as fluid rushed down my legs. I noticed that there was a funny color to the fluid and immediately thought of what it must be- meconium. Not a good sign. Even so, I was elated that I was able to experience a small bit of a normal labor and will always cherish those last few moments that I was alone with my son still inside me. Knowing that meconium could be inhaled by the baby and cause complications, we rushed to the hospital to begin the cesarean delivery I had so dreaded. I relished the feeling of contractions and welcomed them, and felt calm spread over me as I accepted the situation ahead.
The c-section was actually pretty easy and I surprised myself that I was so calm. I tried to ignore my feelings that the doctors were rushing too much, that they weren’t paying attention to me, that I was just another surgery that morning. The whole thing progressed like a well-oiled machine. There was no soft lighting, no spiritual music playing, no SOUL to the whole event. I just let the doctors do their thing as I laid down and tried to breathe normally as the epidural affected my diaphragm and lungs. I didn’t even recognize my husband when he sat down next to me and held my hand. I was shocked when I asked the doctors if they had started yet and they said,” Oh yeah! We’ve got a hold of his legs! Now there’s a big baby!” (At 9.5lbs, I should say so!) I saw my beautiful son and his bright pink face screeching for all the world to hear for a split second before he was whisked away. I don’t recall seeing him again for what seemed like hours. The drugs they gave me caused me to become violently ill and I vomited almost non-stop for several hours after the birth. I was so drugged up that I have almost no clear memory of the next few hours. Bonding with my son was a distant urge. I do recall being wheeled down to the NICU to see my son, and having to stop several times along the way to vomit. One stop was so violent that I felt a distinct POP in the stitches holding my stomach together. This didn’t seem to bother any of the doctors or nurses, despite the fact that the skin around the alleged POP was now bulging.
My son was being held in the NICU for reasons that remain unclear to me. They said that there was a concern over his circulation post-birth and they wanted to check out his heart (this really means that they wanted to use their fancy machines and keep any possible lawsuits at bay). My son was fine and they released him soon after, but I have no recollection of his homecoming. I do recall a nurse prodding me several times to get me to nurse him and finally threatening to give him formula if I didn’t liven up. I fought through the drugs and tried to nurse. Let me just say that overcoming two inverted nipples while on morphine was not the easiest thing I’ve ever done. Breastfeeding proved to be THE most challenging feat of my life! I summoned up every nursing consultant I could scrounge up before I left the hospital, and was given every tool and doo-dad to encourage breast feeding. My mother-in-law must have thought I was a total moron when it was nursing time and I whipped out my avalanche of tools! Despite about 4 bouts of mastitis, cracked and bleeding nipples, latching problems and SEVERE engorgement (A cup to a D+!), I managed to breastfeed for an entire year! If my hubby hadn’t prodded me along and given a mountain of support, I might have quit after two weeks. It was a NIGHTMARE. I didn’t know a single other mother who had such a hard time of it. Nobody could compare stories with me or even come close!
Overcoming the c-section was a cakewalk compared to the struggles I had breastfeeding. It was so painful I actually used my leftover pain meds for the c-section recovery to make it through a nursing session. Since my brand-new hubby was still in law school and studied all day and all night, I was pretty much on my own with the baby. I suffered such exhaustion that I would lay on the couch weeping and say that I just wanted to die. I was also concerned over the strange bulge on one side of my birth scar, as well as the deflated balloon I had for a belly and the 30+ lbs I still had to lose.
Even a year and a half later and only 5lbs away from my pre-baby weight (pretty darn good, right?) I still have a few body issues. What mom doesn’t? Mostly I am struggling with my sense of self, the identity I am remodelling and the new life I have. I try not to seem ungrateful for all the blessings I have in life, but at the same time I struggle to find the “old” me, if she even exists anymore. With such a tumultuous start to my marriage, an unplanned pregnancy, unwanted cesarean, troubles breastfeeding and now a diagnosis of a prolapsed uterus and possible hernia, it’s a wonder I can carry on a normal conversation! Things are actually a lot better than they sound here, but I still have tough days. Completing my first triathlon at 5 mos post-partum was a real boost for me and something I remain proud of. It’s good to know that I have family and a great husband I can count on, as well as the awesome advice and inspiration from strong women like you! Shape of a Mother ROCKS!!!