The Postpartum Depression Chronicles part I: From a Fairytale Pregnancy to a C-Section Hell
I loved, loved, LOVED being pregnant. Apart from being extremely tired in my first trimester —which was during my last semester of grad school and I was not allowed to be tired —and having extreme heartburn (Lennox had LOTS of hair. No it's not an old wives' tale), my pregnancy was rather smooth. You could say I was spoiled. My skin was glowing. I felt energetic, especially in the second trimester. My hair and nails were gorgeous and growing like weeds, oh, and the attention. The attention you get when you're pregnant is incredible. Everyone is always asking about you, helping you and sometimes — well a lot of the times— awkwardly touching your belly. Too bad this attention doesn't carry on once the baby comes earth-side. Then you become a pariah.
Glowing, happy Lorena thinking 'only four more weeks until I can drink one of those.' Little did she know she would never enjoy a drink like she used to.
Going back to my pregnancy, I used to believe; 'If I am such a champ at pregnancy, then I've got this motherhood thing in the bag'- or so I thought. LOL! I used to think a lot, scratch that. Now that I think about it, I didn't really think about motherhood that much at all. I did, however, do a lot of researching and buying of baby products. Oh, and I did read a couple books. According to myself I was more than prepared to take on a baby. Anyways, all they do is eat, sleep and poop right?
Not only was I not prepared— and high on life from my perfect pregnancy — but I had all of these misconceptions about what my experience would be like. These misconceptions and lack of knowledge contributed to my PPD. In the next couple of posts I will dive into these topics; the first of which is my labor and birthing of Lennox and how my picture-perfect natural birth turned into a c-section-hell.
Labor and Birth
Lennox was born at 41 weeks. He did not want to come out, however, I just could not take the suspense any longer. That's why I exaggerated my non-existent contractions on the morning of the night I was supposed to be induced just to speed the process up. I was so excited to be the first of four women in my family to have a natural birth. Going into the hospital was so exciting for me especially since try sister-in-law always emphasized how much she loved her two hospital experiences. She also had two C-sections and loved being waited on hand and foot. Little did I know that I was going to be probed and poked for the next 20 hours: the epidural, the machines, the catheter, the catheter, oh my god, the catheter. I was basically numb from life from the epidural, but that damn catheter felt like someone was stabbing my insides, and to make it worse, the nurses added another catheter because it was not inserted correctly. Also, I was STARVING. Unless you're one of the lucky few who have a quick labor and birth, except to starve because they do not let you eat anything except for ice chips due to possible aspiration during anesthesia.
20 hours passed and I thought I was nearing the end of the worst part of my hospital experience. WRONG. At 8:40 am— 10 cm dilated, exhausted and hangry— my OB-GYN came into my room bearing bad news. She explained that Lennox was quite comfy and nestled on my bladder so I had to pick from one of two options; Option 1: Pushing— which most likely would take a couple hours and he would probably come out with some type of dystocia since he was measuring 9.4 pounds! and I would still most likely have to have a C-section— or option 2: undergo a C-section.
What a shitty choice of options. My brain tried to reason with my hunger and exhaustion but they quickly convinced my brain that a C-section was the quickest and safest option. Off to the operating table I went.
Hours 10:00 and 11:00 were very blurry as they prepped me and carved my baby out of me. I remember feeling very peaceful and pain-free for the first time in 20 hours. I did feel them tugging on my lower half but I just felt a tickling sensation. It all happened so fast then, WHAM! I heard a cry. What? Is that my baby? Awe, he sounds so cute, but why don't I feel anything? I literally felt nothing. It was almost as if the anesthesia had numbed not only my body, but my emotions also. I watched from afar as Carlos finished cutting Lennox's umbilical cord and then one of the nurses brought him to me. I remember her asking me "well, do you want to kiss him?" Why was someone instructing me to kiss my baby? Wasn't I just naturally supposed to feel compelled to? This wasn't right. I was supposed to have a natural birth, where I immediately put the baby to my chest for skin-to-skin. That what they taught me in my breastfeeding class and what I read in my books. I was supposed to feel feel this so-called love-at-first-sight that all mothers feel once their baby is born. What was happening? I for sure must be dreaming.
I was quickly woken up from this not-so-much-a-dream as soon as the nurse wheeled me to my box-sized post-delivery room that I would call home for the next five days. They handed me Lennox for the first time after about a half an hour after he was born. I still felt relatively emotionless, something I would never dare to admit. Shortly after meeting my baby for the first time, I started to break out into a profuse sweat. The sweat was then followed by an intense itching, especially on my face. I told the nurse and she informed me that what what happening to me was called Pruritus- a reaction to the anesthesia that results in a severe itching. Apparently its rather common and according to Babymed, around 72% of women get this reaction following surgery. The best thing you can do if you start to feel this is to immediately tell your nurse so they can add a substance to your IV to alleviate the sensation.
My itching and profuse sweating lasted for what felt like an eternity, probably because it was happening it the midsts of my multitasking— trying to recover from being cut open, taking care and nourishing myself, trying to get my newborn to latch, all while dealing with a million nurses. Let me repeat myself. A MILLION NURSES. Be prepared to be interrupted by a nurse every five minutes. You get a phone call, nurse. A visitor comes, nurse. Baby starts to latch, nurse. Finally close your eyes for the first time in two days, nurse.You get where I am coming from. Why didn't anyone tell me about this annoying, constant, around the clock hovering of the nurses?
Also, breastfeeding after a C-section is a complete joke. It's nearly impossible. You are literally connected to so many different machines that you don't even know how to hold your child correctly, much less put him in a football/cradle position. Then, the baby may have trouble latching so you have to invite a lactation consultant to come in and join your never-ending nurse party, and on top of that you may not even have a milk supply. For me, my milk didn't come in until day FIVE. Yes, day 5! You may ask; what did your baby eat before your milk finally came in? Pretty much nothing, but according to the nurses, he didn't need much— just a little bit of colostrum will satisfy his tiny stomach. They recommended hand-expressing. Next they gave me a hand pump. Then a nipple shield. Sure, yeah, I'll just add that to my growing list of impossible things to do after a c-section.
By day two I was pretty much deteriorating. I had zero energy. My incision was starting to hurt, and worst of all, my newborn— who I swear to this day was never a newborn, except for the fact that he was newly born (he came out already having head control and wide awake)— was not being satisfied by my nonexistent milk supply and therefore would not stop crying. I could see all the other families on our hall looking at us with concerned eyes. One traveling nurse even told me that I needed to give Lennox a bottle, but my stubborn-ass-first-time-mom-self kept telling her I was EBF!!! On day 3 I gave up. I paged a nurse and told her I needed a break and also a bottle for my baby because he was screaming and hungry. You know what she did? She sent in another lactation consultant and apologized saying they don't take EBF babies to the nursery. Well for fucks sake!
Last, but not least, were the never-ending visitors. It was so great to see them, but at the same time it was exhausting having to put on a smile and pretend that everything was as picture-perfect as those posts I was publishing on Facebook. Of course, Lennox played right along and slept like champ when the visitors came around. I knew Carlos and I would pay the price as soon as they left. Thank you son, for making it look like I had my shit together.
So yeah, my hospital experience was FAR from ideal. I hope I have not scared any of you with what ifs, however, it is very good to go in with an open mind of what could happen. Some personal advice that I would like to offer:
Advice for before and after L & D
Eat a big meal before you go to the hospital, even if your go into labor naturally.
Wait as long as possible to get an epidural- something I didn't do. It's not natural for a woman to be on her back during labor and with the epidural you have no other choice.
If you end up having a C-section, ask for a hospital-grade electric pump, and bring a homemade (super easy to make) , or purchased pumping bra therefore you don't have to worry about hand-stimulating your milk. It will allow to to be hands-free, save you time and hopefully encourage the milk flow faster.
Do not be worried about offending people by declining a visit. This is a valuable time for you and your baby to get to know each other. Visitors are nice, but they can visit you as soon as you are home.
Last but not least, not everyone experiences a 'love at first sight' moment with their baby and that's ok. Just make sure to stay in-check with your feelings.