My Birthing Experience, Part 2

Warning: This is potentially triggering to other mommas who had traumatic birth experiences

Back in early February I shared part 1 of my birth story with all of you. It’s incredibly difficult for me to talk about this topic but I’m finally ready to write part 2. My daughter will be a year old in a few weeks, and I’ve had a lot of increased anxiety lately. Of course I’m looking forward to her turning one and having her very first birthday, but I’m also dreading having more flashbacks to my birthing experience and the aftermath that challenged my will to survive. So in complete honesty (since that is the running theme here on our blog) I’m more anxious than excited about the birthday milestone that’s right around the corner. If you missed part 1, read it here. I’m going to do my best to be totally honest about what happened after the birth of my gorgeous girl, please be gentle in the comments section.

Where we left off – I had an emergency c-section, my baby was born unresponsive but then was a lot better within 5 minutes of being born, and my husband was forced to choose between going with the baby or staying with me for the rest of the surgery. I told him to go with the baby and I laid on the table for another 45 minutes completely alone.

At this point, I was reunited with my baby and we were spending time together in the hospital room. I spent 4 days in the hospital I think, and my baby cried, all the time. I thought I was handling everything, I honestly did. We had lots of fun visitors while we were there – I’m blessed to have incredible friends & family who wanted to come meet this new little person. Then it was time to go home, again, I thought I was doing fine. I remember we put the baby in her car seat and I sat with her in the back of the car on the ride home. I also remember getting home and being like, OK, now what?

We came home right before Memorial Day weekend. This turned out to be a total disaster for me as you’ll see. After being home for not even 24 hours, I started having massive anxiety. I didn’t understand what was happening. I had moments where I didn’t want to breastfeed the baby and times where I didn’t even want to be in the same room as her. I hate admitting that. I was as high-anxiety as a person can be and I had never, ever felt that way. I would sit on the couch crying because I was in an incredible state of panic. My husband didn’t know what to do, and I don’t think he realized at the time that a really serious problem was brewing. I knew though, I knew. I did not feel good, mentally. Maybe it’s my background in psychology, I’m not sure, but I knew I needed help. RIGHT AWAY.

To take a quick step back, I met and had been talking with a phenomenal lactation consultant (person one that made a huge difference) and she could tell that I was getting increasingly panicky. Thank God for that woman, she let me call her at all hours of the night, while I was crying, not knowing what to do. She suggested I call the on-call doctor at my OBGYN’s office. I took her advice right away. As a reminder, this was on Memorial Day weekend, so the doctor’s office wouldn’t be open until Tuesday, and I honestly could not make it till Tuesday without serious help.

I called the on-call doctor, and spoke with a man who I will not name. I told him about my massive anxiety, my inability to function, my difficulty wanting to breastfed my child. He told me I was fine. He told me that I was just having normal first-time mom feelings and that I sounded overwhelmed. He didn’t take me seriously. I pushed back and said I didn’t think what I was feeling was normal. I literally said to him “but I don’t even want to hold my baby!” He eventually said he would call in an antidepressant for me and we got off the phone. This Dr. could have made a huge positive impact on my life by believing me. Instead, he made me feel ashamed, crazy and like an annoying burden.

Needless to say, my anxiety got even worse. Which didn’t seem possible at the time. I did not think I could survive. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t lay down. Every time I tried to lay in bed to rest I had to get up because I could feel a panic attack coming. I ended up calling the on-call Dr. several times over the course of 24 hours and I got the SAME Dr. each time. It began taking him a really long time to call me back – at one point it had been hours and I was sitting on the couch, rocking myself, holding my stomach, crying that entire time. I was now in a state of crisis. When he finally called me back and I started tell him, again, that I really wasn’t OK and I didn’t know what to do, he yelled at me. He told me he had to un-scrub to come talk to me and that I was ridiculous. He said I wasn’t that bad (I can’t understand at all how he could think this).  I was hysterical on the phone with him and he continued talking down to me. It got to the point that he demanded to talk to my husband, and then they had a huge fight on the phone. As I’m writing this right now, I feel all the anger I have towards this person coming up.

After that phone call, I called my friend Rachel and told her I needed help. She dropped everything she was doing to drive over and be with me. Rachel is a special person, she is incredibly non-judgemental and understands mental health issues and all I wanted was her; I needed her to help me. I also called my mom and she came up at the drop of a hat to stay with us to help my husband take care of the baby, because I couldn’t. I felt like a horrible mom. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me.

Just so you have a sense of time, this all occurred within the first 24-36 hours of coming home from the hospital. At this point, it was decided that I was going to go to the emergency room and that my husband and Rachel were taking me. It was also at this point that I decided I could no longer breastfeed. My entire family supported me in making this decision, not one of them judged me and my husband ran right out to Whole Foods to get some formula. You have to understand, I really wanted to breastfeed before all of this happened. I had a terrific double electric pump, all these breastfeeding supplies, but I couldn’t do it, emotionally.

I left the baby at home with my mom and they took me to the ER. I was in an incredible state of panic and high-anxiety. I could not relax and I needed it to stop. I couldn’t imagine making it to the next day without help. To be honest, even though I knew I needed help, at the time I couldn’t imagine feeling better. I could not imagine that I would ever get back to my normal self. To make matters worse, it was a HOT day, the ER was full of people and the AC in the hospital broke. So it was hot as well. Sounds perfect for someone in crisis right?

It took a while before I was seen, hours and hours of sitting on a hospital bed in the hall wearing just a hospital gown. My breasts were leaking down my gown, I was incredibly sweaty and I kept saying to Dan that I needed help NOW. Instead, it took a while for them to see me. I was sitting in the area where the other mental health patients are. I have never had a mental health crisis and I never in my life thought I would be sitting in an ER begging for help. I still feel ashamed to openly talk about this part, even though I know I shouldn’t.

Once I was seen I was given some anti-anxiety medicine that was immediate acting, and I started to feel a little better. We decided that I didn’t need to be admitted and I was prescribed some pretty heavy-duty medicine. When I got home, I remember feeling loopy and I was finally able to eat something. Most of my immediate family was there to support me, which was incredible. Rachel stayed over and even went out to get lavender lotion to give me foot massages (I mean seriously, can I have a better friend?). My mom stayed with us for a while – maybe two weeks and Rachel stayed for several days.

Another person that I must mention is my psychologist Pam. She is an incredible human-being and was there for me throughout this entire post-birth experience. In fact, when I went to see her a day or two after all of this happened, she is the one who made the biggest impact on my anxiety-level. She told me that I was still in a state of panic from my c-section experience. It all made sense at that moment. I couldn’t lay down without having an anxiety attack because when I laid down it was like I was right back on that surgical table, scared for my baby and completely alone. Pam was, and still is, an incredible source of light for me, she really helped me get through that period in my life and she continues to help me deal with my anxiety issues (because they are still a problem, yes, almost a year later).

I eventually did get better, it took a while but I got there. I consider my entire birthing experience to be traumatic but to me, what was the most traumatic was dealing with the mental health issues that plagued me when we got home. What still sticks with me today is the absolute RAGE I have towards that doctor that did not believe me. He was mean to me. He talked down to me at the worst point in my entire life. Thank God I had all the other incredible people in my life to help me, or I honestly don’t think I would have survived.

Special thanks to the following people for literally saving my life:

  • The lactation consultant
  • My mom
  • Rachel
  • My husband
  • Pam
  • Everyone else that was, and still is, there for me

And thanks to all of you, my readers, who actually read this whole story. My intention is not to frighten anyone, but instead to be real about what happened to me in hopes that it might make one other mom feel like she isn’t alone. And if you want to read more about postpartum anxiety, check out this great resource.

18 thoughts on “My Birthing Experience, Part 2

  1. Wow. All I can say is I wish I read this 3 years ago. I feel like my experience with PPD would have turned out differently. Not to sound overly-dramatic but nothing I’ve read about this topic has touched me as much as this post. I’m still not quite ready to write about my own experience but when I do, your honesty and courage in this piece will inspire me. Thank you.

  2. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say THANK YOU for posting this, because I believe someone out there may stumble upon this post and it may literally save her life to know she’s not alone. I don’t think there is a lot of awareness about post-partum anxiety – I know I haven’t known much about it until now. So about that OB … I try really, really hard to not do the whole OB-bashing thing, because I know that there are good and bad doctors just like there are good and bad midwives, and I fear that sometimes I come off as biased against OB’s and hospitals. But this guy really does not deserve his license, either because he is insensitive to the point where it could have had disastrous consequences for you, or maybe just truly incompetent if he really believed that this was normal and could wait until Tuesday, or both. And as for breastfeeding, yes, this is one of those situations in which it would not have been healthy for you or Lills to attempt to continue your breastfeeding relationship. All the La Leche Leagues in the world would have to agree with me on that one. Last but definitely not least, it’s ok to have mixed feelings about your daughter’s first birthday. Some women with traumatic birth experiences find it too painful to have a party or celebrate in any manner. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your child more than anything in the world. It sounds like your family and friends will understand if you feel anxious around this milestone. Do what it takes for you to feel good right now!

  3. I wish you the best in your continuing recovery. Your Dr. sounds like one ob/gyn in my practice that I completely avoid because of his rude, degrading comments as if anything you feel while pregnant or after birth is “not big deal” or “dramatic”. If it is the same guy, he needs to find a new career. I am 35 weeks pregnant and my anxiety levels have been increasing. I have had slight anxiety prior but managed it through staying busy and working out, and of course writing! But as mobility is limiting me, I have noticed it is harder to not stress. Of course tell your Dr. at any prenatal visit and they say its “normal”. I think it is extremely wrong that women are being made to feel ashamed of their feelings during and after pregnancy. More needs to be done, this type of issue can’t continue. No one does anything about these issues until a woman loses her mind and does something drastic to herself or her baby. These feelings need to be taken serious right as they occur. I remember with my son I had such anxiety that everyone was out to hurt him. Even if my mother held him, I was convinced she was going to drop him on his head. It went away quickly within a week but still I called my Dr… she laughed and said it was just my protective instincts. Regardless, I was terrified.

    I think more needs to be done regarding anxiety and depression after birth or the weeks leading up. And the whole business of giving birth needs to be readdressed. Because it seems that is all it is to these Dr.’s …a paycheck. They need to take our birthing plans seriously and even in times of emergencies, explain and ease a woman through the process. It is her body they are dealing with after all.

    I wish you continued strength and happiness. And God bless your family and of course your daughter. There is support even with all the unprofessional Dr.s and I AK glad you have some of them behind you. Hopefully more will be done regarding this issue in the future.

  4. Michelle, thank you for being courageous enough to share your story! I am so sorry you had to go through this. I’ve never heard of ppa before, you only hear about ppd. I now know that is what I experienced when my daughter was 4 weeks old and I came down with a severe case of mastitis. I am so angry with that doctor – he needs to be held accountable and don’t be afraid to report him. Again, thank you for sharing this. Lills is one lucky little girl!

  5. Dear Michelle, sending you lots of *hugs!!!*
    This post has me feeling very emotional. Like others, I am beyond upset at that OB… but at the same time inspired by your strength and determination to get help, reach out to friends and family, etc. Having experienced anxiety attacks myself, it’s a little scary to think about how that could translate into a post-partum experience. Your story of how you made it through such a challenging time could save others’ lives. Thank you for sharing it.
    On another note, I’ve never understood why birthdays aren’t more about the *moms*… wishing you lots of TLC that day! XOXO!
    p.s. Lills is so lucky to have such a loving mom 🙂

    1. Sarahann, your comment made me teary! and you’re RIGHT! Mamas should have waaay more recognition on Birth(ing) Days! ♥

  6. I want to scream at that dr with you! He should not be practicing medicine, nevermind be an ob! I would file a complaint with the medical board… Grrr….. Ok, enough anger… We all love you, Michelle, and you are one of the most amazing people I know. You shine as a mom and woman, and we are all lucky to have you in our lives! This little group you have started is changing lives and making all of ours better. It’s sappy and cliched, but everything happens for a reason, and you have made something beautiful come out of something horrible. Embrace your strength, and lean on us when you need to. We’ll be here. Ok, now I’m done.

  7. Michelle, you are so brave to share your story – thank you. It is absolutely shameful the way you (and many women) have been treated during your entire birth experience. I agree with Kate – and I believe it’s through the sharing of stories like yours that we can begin to demand more for ourselves, including dignity and respect that we deserve both during and after labor and birth.

    I cannot believe the way that OB responded – it makes me so angry for you!!!!

  8. I cannot believe that dr. did that to you!!! My practice must have asked 300 times if I was having any depression or anxiety issues. I cannot believe they treated you like that!!! Have you written any letters to them or anything? Just curious. I’m sure it was hard enough to make the initial call…and even harder after you got that response. Wow.

  9. Thanks for the support everyone, it means more to me than you can possibly know. The whole thing has been so hard and still feels very raw to me.

  10. I just went back and read the Part 1 post because I missed it the first time. I’m also disappointed in the doula. I didn’t use a doula but it was my impression that they were there for YOU, to be YOUR advocate and keep a level head during the times that you and your husband cannot. She should have been your champion and your voice during the whole thing. I hope that you reported her and the doctor to at least their bosses (but if you didn’t because of the trauma, that’s totally okay, too).

  11. First of all, I want to hug you for a LIFETIME. But, simultaneously, can I kick that doctor’s ass?

    You are so brave. I cannot imagine how many lives you’ve touched by sharing this – and even saved.

    XO. Hero.

  12. You should feel so proud of yourself for sharing such a difficult experience. I just want to give you a huge hug right now! I just cannot get over that doctor…shame on him! I am filled with anger towards him just from reading your birth story so I can only imagine how you must have felt! You are such a strong mama. Just know you have made a difference by sharing your experience. *love and hugs!*

  13. Damn, Michelle….I’m left in tears of anger for you again and again feeling like THIS HAS TO STOP!!!!! Oh, that horrible, horrible f*cking doctor. His behavior is inexcusable and unconscionable!

    I am SO GLAD you had wonderful people to support you through this incredibly traumatic time. Please don’t feel you have to hurry-up your healing since it’s a year later. It’s ONLY a year later and this was a very BIG thing to go through.

    Damn! Once again I have to say, it’s TIME FOR THE MEDICAL PROFESSION to stop hijacking our births!!!!!

    I love you, Michelle. You are an amazing woman and beautiful Mama. I love you dearly…..

  14. Wow, Michelle, I’m so sorry that happened to you but so proud that you could share it with us. I’m lucky that I did not have that experience but thinking back, I don’t remember any of my doctors talking about postpartum anxiety at any point in either one of my pregnancies. Depression, yes, but not anxiety. That really worries me because I tend toward anxiety in normal life. Had I known that it possible to have this level of anxiety after giving birth, I definitely would have tried to have some kind of plan in place because I would have suspected I’d experience it (not that you can ever adequately prepare for something like that). I’m so glad that you have good support people in your life and that you can look at your not-so-baby-anymore baby girl and see how wonderful she is!

  15. Two feelings overwhelm me as I read this. Sadness for you (Hugs) and anger because of that OBGYN. How could he ever treat you like that? I remember my husband and I had to sit down in the hospital with my OBGYN and have a serious discussion about postpartum anxiety before we were allowed to leave the hospital. He made it clear to call the office if anything (big or small) happened and I would be taken care of ASAP. It’s a very real and scarry thing but can be easily helped with the right people. You have great frineds and family who stook by you. I am proud of you for all you have been able to do in this last year and for sharing this story. I know it will help a lot of people out. And I do hope you were able to somehow report this doctor to someone, either his practice (if there is more than one in the practice) or the hospital.

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