When the image of motherhood isn’t what you pictured

I have pretty much had anxiety my entire life. I never knew how life changing and debilitating it could be until I became a parent. I had always wanted to be a mother and had this image in my head of what it would be like.

On September 20, 2019 I went to be induced with my son. I had a less than desirable, and traumatic c-section. I had a postpartum hemorrhage and had significant blood loss that could have resulted in death on the table. I remember waking up from general anesthesia and being told to breastfeed my son right away, which I did. I was still in shock because I wasn’t able to be awake for the birth and I was still processing feeling the incision being made without adequate pain relief measures. I struggled to breastfeed in the beginning from all the blood loss and anemia. I supplemented with formula and felt like the worst mother that had ever existed because I had failed my son not once, but twice.

I later developed agoraphobia in December of that year. I had my first panic attack at a job waitressing, and I had my boss call and ambulance because I was convinced I was dying. I was MORTIFIED. I made every excuse in the book to why I had to go. I made sure people knew I didn’t have anxiety. I was SO ashamed. I was unable to work as a waitress from there on out from fear of having another attack. I didn’t leave my house for close to two months. I kept having attack after attack so I made my husband take me to the hospital because I was CONVINCED I was going crazy. They didn’t do much, gave me an Ativan and sent me on my way. I still had no idea what was going on. Fast forward a month later I kept having intrusive thoughts which I thought was my fault, little did I know almost 90% of new parents experience these thoughts. I was so ashamed. I then became suicidal because I knew I didn’t want my son to have a crazy mother. I called my dad and he picked me up and he did all the research he could to help me. We later found the Mother/Baby Group at Nystrom & Associates in Baxter, MN. They were able to get me in NEXT day for a psychiatric evaluation. I was diagnosed with PTSD, postpartum anxiety, agoraphobia with panic attacks. I was prescribed an SSRI, which I still take to this very day. I went to therapy 3 times a week, 3 hours each session for 10 weeks. I was dedicated to my recovery. I refused to be a victim and I still do until this day.

Today, I am pregnant again. I am able to hold a job, leave the house, and function in society, be a present wife and mother. I also volunteer for Postpartum Support Minnesota, a division of Postpartum Support International. I hope one day to specialize in perinatal mental health and go back to school to help other women that are in the spot that I was in.

I am so grateful for my dad and mom for encouraging me along the way, my husband for being supportive and not giving up on me. And my son for being patient and loving. And my grandmother for cooking meals, taking care of my son when I was unable to and making sure that I always got the rest I needed. Recovery and hope is possible for those who have survived birth trauma. Sometimes you have to be your own advocate.

Approximately 9% of women experience postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following childbirth. Most often, this illness is caused by a real or perceived trauma during delivery or postpartum. These traumas could include:

Prolapsed cord Unplanned C-section

Use of vacuum extractor or forceps to deliver the baby

Baby going to NICU

Feelings of powerlessness, poor communication and/or lack of support and reassurance during the delivery

Women who have experienced a previous trauma, such as rape or sexual abuse, are also at a higher risk for experiencing postpartum PTSD. Women who have experienced a severe physical complication or injury related to pregnancy or childbirth, such as severe postpartum hemorrhage, unexpected hysterectomy, severe preeclampsia/eclampsia, perineal trauma (3rd or 4th degree tear), or cardiac disease. Symptoms Symptoms of postpartum PTSD might include:

*Intrusive re-experiencing of a past traumatic event (which in this case may have been the childbirth itself)

*Flashbacks or nightmares

* Avoidance of stimuli associated with the event, including thoughts, feelings, people, places and details of the event

*Persistent increased arousal (irritability, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response)

*Anxiety and panic attacks

*Feeling a sense of unreality and detachment

Postpartum PTSD is temporary and treatable with professional help. If you feel you may be suffering from this illness, know that it is not your fault and you are not to blame. (Postpartum Support International)