Not what I expected – but could I have seen it coming? PART I (guest post)
I clearly remember that memorable moment while I was peeing on the stick and my phone rang … it was my dad. Usually conversations in my family start with, “What are you doin’?” Against my own will, I answered and attempted a normal conversation with him while I tried not to notice the second pink line appearing! It wasn’t exactly what I expected that moment to be like.
While pregnant, I was finishing grad school, learning how to be a counselor, in my first year of marriage, grieving the loss of my mother-in-law, and dealing with money woes and the lack of work for my husband. I had lost the sexy muscle tone I had built before our wedding, and we had neighbors who fought loudly living beneath us. Life was a little ridiculous, I guess you could say.
At 15 weeks, we finally told my parents. We waited so we could tell them in person when they visited us for Easter. It ended up being detrimental for us to hold in the news for that long. What was supposed to be our greatest joy was our greatest secret, for a long time.
At 26 weeks we moved across the country. More stress.
At 30 weeks, my husband and I were going to celebrate our one-year anniversary with a romantic getaway. At 6 am, the morning we were to leave, DH went to the bathroom and said, “There’s blood in the toilet.” I had gone to the bathroom around 3 am and had forgotten to flush. There was no mistaking it though, and when I sat down again to make sure of what was going on, it wiped bright red. Shock. Fear. Dread.
“Oh no. Oh no. Oh, honey. We have to page Cindie.” (our midwife)
That day we didn’t go for a romantic road trip. We stayed in bed and watched movies. I felt like my one-year anniversary had been robbed from me.
We soon discovered I had placenta previa, a condition where the placenta is positioned in a way that blocks the cervix. My baby’s blood and food source was completely blocking his/her way out. We pleaded for God to move it so we could “go natural.” It didn’t, which was a double crisis, if you think about it.
At 38 weeks, and after 3 ultrasounds, we consulted with an OB who worked in partnership with our midwife. “I’m sorry,” she said kindly, “there’s just no hope of a vaginal birth for you.” She paused and let it sink in. Less than 24 hours later that OB was cutting me open and pulling my baby out of me.
How do you deal with the mixture of disappointment intermingled with joy? How do you reconcile the euphoric things people say about having a baby with reality? How are you supposed to love every minute when you have no clue what you are doing, are sleep deprived and grumpy, and when this teeny person has high-jacked your every moment?
My daydreams of becoming a mom never included the things that I actually experienced. Having a baby was kind of like a shipwreck. Maybe that’s because I ended up with a high-risk pregnancy that resulted in major abdominal surgery. Maybe it’s because my marriage was still brand new. Maybe it’s because from now on there will rarely (ever?) be a moment of my time when I do not consider my child. Maybe it’s because I began to think some of the scariest thoughts about myself, my child, and my husband that were embarrassing to admit. Maybe it’s because my parents were back home freaking out about me not being OK. Maybe it’s because I needed to go on antidepressants to help my mood and brain chemistry get back to where it should be. Or maybe I was already in a storm before our baby was born.
“PPD (postpartum depression) never exists in a vacuum,” my counselor said to me as we reflected on various pieces of the depression I had developed since delivering my son. When I occasionally come up for air (which is happening more often now) I keep seeing the pieces of the wreckage around me more clearly. It’s like I’m on a life raft with DH and Phinehas watching pieces of our life float by us. We are OK. We’re not dead, and in fact, we can see land not too far away. But we’re tired and sad because everything has changed. And nothing is what we expected it to be.
I will tell you of the beauty amidst the disappointment, though. The c-section went beautifully and I had beyond excellent care. Even the hospital food was amazing! Phinehas was born a perfectly healthy baby boy. We had skin-to-skin within 4 minutes of his life. He began nursing like a champ within the first 30 minutes. I have, by God’s grace, bonded with my little boy. We love him and are continuing to grow more attached to him. The depression is slowly lifting and we are surrounded by a community that loves us.
When things began looking a little dark, we cried out to our church community. For several weeks I had someone coming to my house every day to help. Some days I just needed someone to cry with and talk to. Friends brought meals, homemade bread, picked me up to take me to prayer groups, cooked and cleaned for us.
The follow-up meetings with my midwife team were invaluable – they saw the depression coming and watched for the “pink flags.” It was a conversation with my midwife around 4 weeks after Phinehas’ birth that gave me permission to admit that I wasn’t feeling like myself. With all the background stress, I wondered if I was more vulnerable to PPD than others.
But still, it was hard to decipher if it was PPD or just the normal transition that new moms experience …
(Part II of Emily’s story to come in the next post)
Written by Emily Henry – wife of DH, proud momma of Phinehas Turner Henry