POST PARTUM JOURNEY

The Nightmare of Premature Labor, Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

    In honor of International Premie Day, I asked around to see if a mom would be willing to share her story with the ups and downs of having a premature birth and baby. Melynda was willing to share her story not only about having a premie but about the postpartum depression and anxiety that she suffered. The first time that I read through her story I cried. It’s incredibly raw and honest. Thanks, Melynda, for sharing your journey with me and the rest of the world.

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  Today is a monumental day for me. We are up early and driving down Ventura Boulevard on our way to my doctor’s appointment. I’m hoping that this will be my last follow up regarding the nightmare I was just in. About six months ago, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, chronic anxiety, and posttraumatic stress from a traumatic birth. I roll down the window and feel the cool November breeze and can’t help to smile at the bright blue sky. I look over at my husband and say, “Gary, it is finally quiet!” He says, “Of course its quiet the baby is sleeping. Thank God!” Very true considering I am sitting in the front seat, which I never do. The baby has a little separation anxiety and does not like me out of his sight. I told my husband, “Not because of that! My mind it is finally at peace.” At this moment there is no worry, no anxiety, no racing thoughts, no fears, no intrusive thoughts, no nightmares and no flashbacks! I can’t believe it, but I feel like myself again.  I sit in the passenger seat just reminiscing on the journey we just lived.

     The nightmare began when I was 26 weeks pregnant. I have to admit up until this point I had an amazing pregnancy compared to my other two children. Yes, I did have gestational diabetes and some blood pressure problems, but that was really it. With my 15-year-old son, I had preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and premature rupture of membranes, which developed an infection. I had to deliver him at 35 weeks. My 10-year-old son I had gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, continuous loss of amniotic fluid, and the constant feeling of passing out when I stood or sat up. I had to emergently deliver him at 36 weeks due to stress and a sudden drop of heart rate in the baby. I knew that this pregnancy was going to be difficult since I was “older”, but I felt so good. What was about to transpire was not expected.

     So 1 week shy of being 7 months pregnant, I started bleeding. I had mild cramping as well, but I went to my OB/GYN and even saw my high-risk doctor. They said just stay off your feet and rest, and the baby looked okay. A couple days later I woke up still bleeding with diarrhea, and the baby was no longer moving. The doctor advised me to go the hospital right away. No one was home, my car was in the shop, and we had no family nearby. So I called a taxi. I remembered being so scared! I Sat in the back of that taxicab and my whole body was shaking. I was holding back the tears because I couldn’t let people know that I was afraid and I didn’t want to be alone. I honestly don’t even think I told my husband I was on my way to the hospital.

     Well we came to find out, I was in premature labor. The baby was doing well, and my amniotic bag had ruptured. I wasn’t having active contractions, so I was on hospital bed-rest. They were giving me all sorts of medication to prevent further progression of labor. They also gave me steroid shots for the baby’s lungs, and I received magnesium for the baby’s brain development. My most significant memory of that time was my belly. It was so small. I just started feeling pregnant. I just bought a bunch of pregnancy clothes, and now it didn’t even look like I was pregnant. All the fluid was gone and there was just a little bump. The only thing that kept me calm in that room was the sound of his heartbeat. That sound reminded me that he was still alive and fighting. That gave me strength.

     Four days later we had a meeting with the Neonatologist and the Manager of the NICU. They basically prepare you for the worst, and leave you with some hope for the best. That night I was excited because my nurse ordered me the most luxurious egg crate I had ever seen and felt. So I showered and started getting ready for bed. This strange feeling came over me, increasing pressure down there. I called the nurse and she decided to check me. I WAS 7CM DILATED! Yes he was coming whether we liked it or not.

     Wow! We were not expected that. I remember the silence of the hospital room, but you could hear the nurses scrambling around and shouting demands. CALL THE NICU TEAM, CALL THE DOCTOR, GET OVER HERE AND HELP US TAKE HER TO L&D! In the meantime I could no longer keep it together. It was a scene from a horror movie. I was beside myself. I wasn’t ready to be a mom! I wasn’t ready to grieve! I wasn’t prepared for this! I screamed and screamed! I can still see the faces of the visitors in the hallway, as my bed was hurried passed them. They were horrified. All I could do was squeeze him in and in order for me to do that I had to scream! Well a few minutes later he came right out on his own, and to everyone’s amazement he came out screaming!

     My husband was gone, the neonatal team was gone, my ob was gone, and the baby was gone. I lay there alone in a silent hospital room. I didn’t know what to do or what to think. So I called my sister. I said in a normal voice,” Marcy I had the baby.” Silence. I no longer could hold back my tears.  “I had the baby. I tried to hold him in. I tried, I tried, and I tried. I couldn’t hold him in anymore,” and I sobbed and sobbed.

     A couple hours later, I was wheeled up to see my baby. I was frightened. To be very honest, I didn’t want to see him. I didn’t want to see my failure. I didn’t want to know what I, my own body, his mother, couldn’t even do for him.  There he was so strong, such a fighter. Quentin Geronimo was born at 27 weeks, weighing 2lbs 12 oz.

 

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The next 3 months would be the hardest of my life. The ride of the NICU rollercoaster began. There he was so tiny, so fragile, but so beautiful. He had oxygen in his nose, he had a tube coming out of his mouth, he had monitors on his chest, monitor on his foot, and PICC line in his arm. He had blood coming out of his poop and there was blood being aspirated from his belly. His abdomen was distended. We had to learn how to touch him and how to speak around him. Do this, but don’t do that. I have to admit I was scared out of my mind.

The most traumatic event from the NICU for me was to watch his heart rate drop from 160, 150, 130, 100, 80, 70, 60, 50, 20, 10 and then he started to turn blue and he became limp. The alarms are beeping. The nurse comes over and rubs his back and the numbers start to rise and his color comes back. The nurse says, “Oh that’s normal for premature babies. Don’t worry!” Now I know that was normal, but it is horrifying to see your child do that.

You know the feeling when you go on a rollercoaster and you have been on the ride several times? So you go on it, and you hear the screams of people cheering, and you know a huge dip is coming, but you are so use to it. You just ride it with no reaction. It no longer becomes fun. It just becomes a ride. I became that parent. On one hand I was scared to death. I was freaked out. On the other hand I am a Registered Nurse. So my nurse mode kicked in. My only way to cope with this experience was to monitor his vital signs and his body language, I assessed him any chance I got. In my mind, in order for me to get though this I had to be his nurse. I couldn’t be his mother. I couldn’t carry him full term. Now I can’t feed him. I have to ask to even hold him. I couldn’t bathe him; I couldn’t change him unless it was “time ”. I had to relinquish all control and put my child’s life in the hands of people that I didn’t even know. I was helpless!

The hardest thing I had to do was leave him every night. That baby knew exactly when his mama was going home because he would either wake up and start screaming; or his heart rate would drop and he would have an episode. Then to go home was the strangest feeling. The house was so quiet. It was always clean and silent. There was an empty baby crib. I can’t even explain how it was to lay in bed and know I wasn’t pregnant, but yet all there was, silence.

When I was home is when my mind would take over. I started having panic attacks. If no one were around, I would cry and cry. I would have flashbacks of the events and I would go over what I did wrong. I would try to find solutions on what I should have done if I was a better mother. My mind was all over the place. If the phone rang, I would jump up. I would have terror running through my body. My mind would say, “The baby is dead. How could you be home and not with him? You are a terrible mother!” I tortured myself!

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These thoughts and episodes are the reason I am seeing a doctor and on medication. I actually have a therapist that specialized in postpartum depression and I have a weekly group I go to. This has been a godsend! I truly have an amazing team looking after my baby and me.

We got through the NICU experience. It was tough! I’m not going to lie we had great days and not so great days. 3 months later we were finally able to take our baby home. That was scary! For 3 months I had help and support and now we have to go to that silent home with no support other than my 2 boys, my husband, and all the thoughts living in my mind.

The thing I remember the most of having the baby home was staying up and watch him sleep. I couldn’t stop looking at him. I needed to know that he was still breathing. I couldn’t be away from him. I just couldn’t. I can’t explain it, but I was so scared he was going to die. I literally thought he was going to die. I’m not going to lie; I sometimes still have that worry. The only thing that got me through that episode was doing a nurse assessment on him. That is what my therapist suggested and it worked.

In that time, I never thought I would ever be the same or “normal” again.

The scariest thing I remember with the baby being home was having intrusive thoughts. I would go on our balcony, which is 3 stories up, and look at the stars. One night we went out there and I started seeing myself throwing him off the balcony. I ran inside. That scared me! I would never hurt my baby and that thought freaked me out. I immediately told my therapist and went to my doctor. My medication was increased, and my husband took a vacation because they didn’t want me home alone with the baby.  I no longer had that vision of throwing him out, so I would slowly go outside, but then I would think I would trip over the door and he would go flying off the balcony. Then I started imagining him falling out of my husband’s arms and off the balcony. So for the next few weeks I stayed away from that balcony. And eventually as the medication dosage became effective I no longer had intrusive thoughts. Slowly I no longer had irrational fears and I no longer had anxiety.

 

Today our house is no longer silent, our living room no longer clean, and his bed is no longer empty. My husband and I are sitting on the floor with baby toys scattered everywhere. There is a swing in the middle of the living room, his jumper near the doorway, his stroller in the entry way and diapers in every corner of the house. In the middle of us is a white blanket and lying there is our miracle baby Quentin. He is looking up at us smiling, giggling, and kicking. We can’t help but just be in the moment. I feel so in love with this child. I told my husband, “Wow! What a year. This little boy has given me strength I never knew I had. This has been the hardest year of my life, but the absolute best year of my life!”

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https://www.facebook.com/EveryChildIsABlessingTheJourneyThroughMyPregnancy.

09-14-2014

10537807_10152540717486328_388713829763821999_nThis quote is amazing and my life! Most of you read about the recent birth of our son. He was born 3 months early and was in the NICU for 11 weeks. Most of you see the pictures of him and his beautiful smile, but I have not shared the dark times I have experienced. I will now; and will be posting some stories from my Post Partum Journey to hopefully help others and myself.
I have had 3 traumatic pregnancies and child births. This last one of not knowing if the baby would survive was the most traumatic for me and my family (especially my 10 year old son).
I didn’t realize there was a problem until I couldn’t finish my sentences, I stayed up all night thinking what could have I done differently, I absolutely did not cry EVER, and I literally had short term memory.
I have Post Partum Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD. This has been a long journey and I have learned a lot.

Too be honest- my battle is not over yet!

 

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COMING HOME- ALONE!

Three hours after the birth of my son, I was finally able to go visit him. I was excited, and I was in shock of what had just transpired. I just had a baby a few days shy of being 7 months pregnant. I have never admitted it, but I was so scared to see him. The nurse wheeled me down to the NICU along with my husband. My brain still fuzzy from the magnesium and my body was numb from all the adrenaline.

 

There he was lying in his incubator, with wires everywhere. He had an IV in his arm, tube coming out of his mouth, oxygen in his nose, bili light shining on him, cardiac monitor on his chest, and pulse oximeter on his foot. He layed there helpless as I watched feeling like the most worthless mother ever.

 

The next day, the social worker came to visit me. She asked about my history with anxiety. I told her I was fine! I had conquered it a few years ago; I was able to take myself off medication. That was when my life changed for the better and I began my spiritual healing and journey. She then handed me a paper about Postpartum Depression. I told her I was fine, but I will take it anyway.

 

I was able to leave the hospital on the third day. I still wasn’t able to sleep much, but I was fine. We said goodbye to the baby and I was off.

 

Coming home to a house with out a baby was strange. I can’t explain the feeling. I knew the baby was born, but it just didn’t seem real. My belly was back to normal, I didn’t feel any kicking, but his crib was empty. I was so empty. I kept telling myself you will be fine.

 

My daily routine: Wake up the boys at 0700, start pumping. Drop them off to school and go straight to the hospital. Touch the baby, change his diaper, take his temperature and sit by the bed. I watched his vital signs like a hawk. 1000 pump at the bedside. 1200 change his diaper and take his temperature again. 1300 pump. Get ready to pick up the boys from school. Get home and cook dinner. Maybe eat? 1600 pump. 1700 go back to the hospital. Change his diaper and take his temperature. Sit with my husband and stare at the baby. 2100 go home and pump. 0000 wake up and pump. 0300 pump.

 

It was like I was the energizer bunny. I just kept going and going. I was able to still give people advice and tell all my friends I was happy and fine. I was keeping the status quo, but when everyone was sleeping…. I would blame myself and cry all night!

 

ADJUSTING TO BEING A HELPLESS MOTHER 

The baby had been in the hospital for 4 weeks now. He would have been 31 weeks if I were pregnant. He weighs 3lbs 7oz. He still is on oxygen and has a feeding tube. His belly is still distended and full of air, but on a good note the blood in his belly has reduced significantly. He still has lots of heart rate drops and apneic episodes. His body goes limp and the nurse has to stimulate him to get him going again. The monitors are constantly going BEEP BEEP BEEP!

 

Although the monitors, the tubes, the sounds seem scary, to me they were comforting. I am a nurse and I was able to monitor my baby every second I was there. If he went Brady and needed stimulation I would stimulate him. If he needed a temperature check or diaper change I did it. That’s the only thing I could do. The fate of my child was in someone else’s hands. Nourishment of my child was in someone else’s hands and he was being fed with a tube, but I did supply the milk. Putting my baby to sleep, bathing my baby, and his schedule was in someone else’s hands.

 

Do you know how that feels to be a helpless mother?

 

He had to be touched a certain way. In premature babies their nervous system is not fully developed. Lights seem brighter, noises seem louder, and touch can be painful. This is called sensory overload and can be very uncomfortable and cause stress on the baby. If we stressed the baby it could raise his heart rate, his breathing, and create issues with his belly.

 

So in order for him to grow in his new “womb” he needed to be stress free. Meaning he was to be handled in a certain way. Even though I was helping him by only holding him twice a day, and pumping every 3 hours. It just didn’t seem like enough to a control freak.

 

WHAT AM I FEELING?

PERINATAL MOOD AND ANXIETY DISORDERS

1 out of 7 woman gets a form of PMAD. Remember you are not alone! You have done nothing wrong. A theory is the sudden drop in hormone levels after delivering a baby can cause PMAD. Whatever the cause is, you are normal. You may not feel normal, but it will get better day-by-day.

 

PMAD can happen during pregnancy or postpartum, which consists of about 1 year after delivery.

(All the underlined is what I have experienced)

POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION SYMPTOMS:

  • Overwhelmed, want to run away; feel like you can’t handle being a mother.
  • Guilt, inadequate as a mother, you don’t feel you deserve your baby.
  • Detached from baby.
  • Confused, fuzzy, cloudy, forgetful
  • Angry, irritated, resentful toward your baby or others.
  • Numbness, empty feeling.
  • Sadness, crying, a complete mess.
  • Hopeless, feel like a failure, ashamed
  • Not eating or eating too much.
  • Fear
  • Loss of interest
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

 

POSTPARTUM ANXIETY & OCD

  • Racing thoughts, unable to relax
  • Constantly busy: cleaning, working, checking on the baby
  • Worry wart.
  • Disturbing thoughts.
  • Afraid to be alone.
  • Check on things constantly. Did you lock the door? Is the baby breathing?
  • Physical symptoms: stomach cramping, nausea, dizzy, shakiness….
  • Restless, on edge
  • No appetite
  • Can’t sleep
  • Feel a sense of dread

 

POSTPARTUM PANIC

  • Panic attacks: shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations, numbness or tingling in arms.

 

POSTPARTUM POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER

  • Due to a traumatic pregnancy or childbirth experience.
  • Re-living the trauma.
  • Having nightmares or flashbacks
  • Anxiety/panic attacks
  • Detached/ avoiding

 

POSTPARTUM PSYCHOSIS

  • Delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, mania.
  • Hyperactivity, rapid mood swings.
  • Difficult communicating

 

If you experience any of these symptoms it is important to get help. Call your OB/GYN, primary care doctor, or Psychiatrist.

 

Postpartum Support International

Postpartum Progress

MoodGYM (its free!)

www.maternalmentalhealthla.org

www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

1-800-273-8255 Call for yourself or someone else you are concerned about.

GETTING HELP

I went to the NICU and talked with the social worker. I started to tell her how I was feeling. I knew something was different, but I figured it was because of everything that was going on.

 

This wasn’t a normal situation: Having my baby before I turned 7 months pregnant, he was confined to his incubator, wires connected to his chest to monitor his heart rate and respiratory rate, wires connected to his feet to monitor his oxygen status, PICC line inserted into his arm for antibiotics and feedings, lights on him for his jaundice, his belly was visibly distended, and he was spitting and pooping blood.

 

I told her I was having trouble articulating my sentences, I couldn’t remember anything from the day before unless it had to do with the baby, I felt very numb and emotionless, but I found myself crying when every one was sleeping. I would go over in my mind what should I have done differently. I felt that it was my fault and I felt very guilty and inadequate as a mother. Not only did I have 2 previous premature babies, but also now my newest baby is fighting for his life. I also barely slept maybe 2-3 hours a night, and I barely ate maybe once a day if I remembered.

 

The social worker was very concerned that I had postpartum depression and forced me to make an appointment with my doctor. She literally made me sit next to her and call my doctor for an appointment. I guess she knew that I wasn’t going to do it.

 

When I got home, I called my sister to tell her what had happened. I remember telling her what was going on with me. I hadn’t told anyone yet. I also told her that I was fine. I told her I don’t feel depressed and I don’t have anxiety. I remember telling her that I was just exhausted. My sister said do you remember talking to me the other day? I said No. She said well I called you to tell you about the house, and you started screaming at me. I honestly don’t even remember that. She said you better go to the doctor, and she made me write a list of all my symptoms just in case I forgot.

 

I agreed and the next day I went to my OB/Gyn.

 

That morning I parked in the hospital parking lot and walked to my doctors. I opened the door and checked in and sat in the waiting room. I felt fine. I told myself this is so stupid, I could be with my baby right now, nothing is wrong with me. In fact I was a little irritated that the social worker forced me here.

 

So I sat and waited. A lady walked in she looked about 8 months pregnant. Then I realized hey I should be 8 months pregnant right now. I started feeling a little uncomfortable. Then another lady walked in pregnant with a child by her side. I started feeling hot and dizzy. I was mad and angry. I didn’t understand how these people could just be walking around and 8 months pregnant. I never ever was able to do that. I sat in that waiting room surrounded by pregnant ladies and I was all-alone. The room became smaller and their bellies became bigger and bigger. I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t hold back anymore. I had a panic attack and started crying in front of everyone.

 

The door opens and they call Melynda. I ran in that room so fast and just broke down. By the time the doctor came in, he consoled me and referred me to a therapist.

I guess I had been so strong for myself, my baby, my family for so long that I never allowed myself to “feel”. I have also been in such a strict routine: home-hospital-home-hospital-home. I haven’t been in a new environment and I definitely have not been around other pregnant women.

 

I went to a therapist, and I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and PTSD from my traumatic birth.

 

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