Joe and I were getting ready for an evening out with friends. As usual, I took a pregnancy test to make sure I could have a glass of wine or two.
“You’re not gonna believe this,” I told Joe, returning from the bathroom. Having a baby wasn’t totally out of the plan, but I had just begun a program to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. To say the least, the timing wasn’t convenient. “We’ll manage,” Joe and I told each other. I was used to managing. As a critical care nurse for ten years, I knew how to cope with the unexpected.
We planned for Leo’s arrival throughout the pregnancy. Joe painted a mural in Leo’s nursery, I bought maternity clothes, a breast pump, and nursing shirts. I was an established patient at a women’s clinic and my midwife was able to see me right away.
I initially outlined my birth plan in my head. We wanted to have the birth be the least invasive as possible, so I requested that the nursing staff NOT ask me if I wanted pain medications. I would use a tub, a birthing ball, and other methods to minimize the pain. We attended a childbirth preparation class, called “Nonpharmaceutical Birthing Options.” The instructor spent some time on C-sections, but I didn’t really pay attention because it wasn’t going to happen to me. Too many unnecessary C-sections occur and I was going to deliver vaginally.
I labored at home for about twenty hours, waiting for Joe to arrive from a business trip. We finally decided it was time to head to the hospital. My midwives were with me the whole time—I couldn’t have asked for better care from them. Twenty hours later—FORTY hours into the labor—I still hadn’t been able to deliver Leo vaginally. I was worn out, so when my midwife insisted on a C-section, I relented.
Leo had Joe’s family’s cheeks. Of course he’d require a C-section. He had arrived. I was very watchful of him, not really knowing how to handle him or what being a mom really, truly meant. He started choking in the middle of the night and I wandered out into the hallway to ask for help. A nurse chided me, “Get back in your room! That’s what babies do!” I could barely breathe and my heart was racing. He’d stopped choking and he was fine, but I wasn’t. Not one nurse checked back with me to make sure everything was ok.
I was there, in the room with Leo, Joe sleeping on a pull-out, totally exhausted and absolutely unable to sleep. Things—abnormal things—kept popping up with Leo, but I didn’t want to be chastised again. I felt totally alone in the world.
When we returned home, Joe’s mom came to help. She was a god-send. Breastfeeding was not working because I wasn’t letting down. But she made me feel like I knew what I was doing. The thought passed through my head: If something happened to me, she was so good with the baby. He’d be okay with her.
Joe returned to work three weeks after Leo’s birth. His job required a lot of travel and I was used to it. But this time, I started counting down his return the minute he pulled out of the driveway. I had been feeling alone, but now I was alone. He left on Sunday and was supposed to return Thursday. Things were very dark for me. I rocked Leo back and forth, back and forth, thinking about ways to get my old life back. Thursday finally arrived and Joe called to say his plane had been delayed a half hour. I sobbed. I had been counting minutes down for four days and now I had to count up? This was not going to end. I told him, “Something’s wrong.” He rushed home as soon as he could.
Joe insisted I see my midwife the next day.
I sobbed, telling her, “Something’s not right.” I was in tears the whole time. She held me and said, “We’re gonna get you through this. We’re gonna get you through this.”
She researched and found the Pregnancy and Postpartum Resource Center and gave me the phone number.
PPRC connected me with a therapist and I started support group as soon as possible. The connection I have with the women from that group is something beyond words. A lifelong, deep connection.
Since I became a Family Nurse Practitioner, I struggle with how much to tell pregnant moms about what to really expect. I mean, twenty percent of us have PPD, but still 80% of us don’t. I’ve been telling them, “It’s not the glow lights and Pixie dust you think it’s gonna be.” You know, I’m glad I tell them something different from the Pampers commercials—it’s opened the door to some conversations that were desperately needed.