My Story: Joy

#PostpartumConfession | My Story: Joy #military #postpartumdepression #breastfeeding #birthstory

My Story: "Hey, we need to talk... I'm pregnant"

No. it wasn't the most thought out announcement to send my husband, but we had been married only 2 weeks when we got the news we'd be expecting a bundle of fun in roughly 9 months. My husband is in the Air Force, so for us there were plenty of different hoops to jump through just to see an OBGYN. 

For the most part my pregnancy was smooth - I had terrible morning sickness the first 8 weeks and terrible heartburn (the pain from it was so bad they thought I was having an ectopic pregnancy and sent me for an ultrasound immediately) - but our life at the time was anything but.

We went to visit my husband's family (and my first time meeting them!) for Christmas, and the night we flew back, we come back to our apartment to find out that not only did a pipe freeze and burst, but our apartment was FULL of black mold. So, from January second until middle of February, we hopped around from hotel to hotel because the condition of our apartment was unlivable and dangerous, but the management company wouldn't release us nor would they pay for the hotels. We eventually we're able to secure military housing on base, but not until we had signed a new lease with a different company. 

A few months after we moved in, spring hit and caused a massive flood through the city - right through the middle of town. I was 8 1/2 months pregnant at this time and my husband was working 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week trying to build dikes, fill sand bags and stop the waters. When news hit that there was a potential water contamination, my husband (who's career field is water systems) was tasked with purifying water for the base. Once again he worked long hours, and didn't receive more than one day off. 

Through it all, I stayed pretty upbeat, maybe even slightly delusional. I had this plan for my delivery and baby care that was mostly created around irrational fears my mom had ("getting an epidural will cause your heart to stop! who would raise your baby then!?!") and the tidbits of experience I received from my sister, friends, and just being an outside observer.

I had no intention of having any sort of pain relief during labor, I even made my husband swear he'd talk me out of an epidural. I turned my nose up at the idea of bottle or formula feeding, because all I ever saw or heard was how great breastfeeding was.

Well, early one morning in July, husband's already on duty at the water purification site, I'm peacefully sleeping in bed when I suddenly feel wet. I panicked, thinking I wet the bed (hello pregnancy incontinence) and rushed to the bathroom. It was only then did I realize it was my water breaking. In a panicky excitement I called my doctor, then my sister and mom and finally my husband. My doctor said to give it an hour before coming in, but i didn't even make it a 15 minutes without having to change my pants. Meanwhile my husband was fighting his chain of command because they were refusing to let him leave and threatened to charge him if he left. It wasn't until they confirmed I was in labor that they agreed to let him go. 

Once at the hospital, they sent me to shower to start my contractions, but that didn't work. So they had to start pitocin. Everything I planned for labor started to rapidly disappear. The pain I thought I could handle was excruciating. I drifted in and out of a sleep for the better part of the day, tried clawing my nurse's hands away from me when I had contractions (they had to hold the monitor on because they kept losing the heartbeat), and begged for an epidural.

After 7 hours of labor I finally convinced my nurse to call the anesthesiologist. My husband (bless his heart) stayed true to his word and tried to convince me not to get it, just like I told him. Unfortunately he chose the start of a particularly intense contraction to bring it up, and I slapped him. He loves to bring it up. 

After the epidural, everything was better. I still felt my contractions because my son was trying to come out face up. Once he was delivered, nothing else mattered. I had a 2nd degree tear that required stitches, and lost a lot of blood so I had to stay longer at the hospital. That's when my trouble began. 

Breastfeeding was horrible.

My son didn't want to latch. I didn't want to send him to the nursery so I didn't sleep much those days in the hospital. Once the doctor signed off and the lactation consultant was moderately pleased with our latching/nursing - we had to use a shield and even then it was a struggle - we were on our way home.

For the first two weeks I had no problems with nursing, I felt stellar. To this day I have no idea what went wrong. My money is on mastitis, but I had no idea what to look for as far as symptoms or signs so I was oblivious. All I know was one morning I woke up incredibly early to feed my son and I felt like someone was trying to tear my breast off. I cried, tried the other side, sobbed in pain. I thought pumping would help, it made it feel worse.

Meanwhile my baby cried. He cried because he was hungry, or wet, or tired, or just a baby. It didn't matter he cried, and nothing I could do seemed to help. Slowly I felt myself slipping down. 4 weeks after he was born, I remember waking up to him crying and wanting nothing to do with feeding him. Of course the sane part of my mind was chastising the rest of me for feeling that way, and grudgingly, I tried to feed him. I cried because it hurt. I did the only thing I could think; I called my mom. I asked how she felt - she breastfed 5 kids - she HAD to have some insight. She did, marginally.

She said it was just baby blues and I'd be fine. And I believed her. 

For 2 more months I struggled feeding my son. One morning when he wouldn't calm down and I had tried to bear as much of the pain as I could, I sat him in his crib, slumped onto his nursery floor and sobbed. I sobbed for not being able to take care of him like a "good" mother, I sobbed because I was in pain constantly, I sobbed because I felt so alone and overwhelmed and no one seemed to understand. My husband tried, but he was the dad - he got to go to work, have a sort of break from it all. He didn't go through the actual labor, nor did he experience the 9 months of pregnancy. When he found me 3 hours later, still crying, he was upset. But still - I didn't want to believe there was something wrong with me. It wasn't until my son was 3 months old, and in the hospital for a UTI that we switched to formula and I began to feel immensely better. 

Since hindsight is always 20/20 I know I had postpartum depression. I wish I had let someone know so I could've received help. I wish I wouldn't have been too proud to admit that there was something wrong, and it was okay. Even after I started formula feeding I felt ashamed. Like I failed. It was my mom who made me feel better. She told me I was feeding my baby, and that's all that mattered. And she was right.

Joy | Texas | Mama to Orion 4 , Alice 2

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