Growing up, literally all I wanted was to be a wife and mom. When I got married and then got pregnant, at first I was ecstatic. I loved babies so much. I was known as the ‘baby hog’ to our friends. I loved cuddling new babies and helping new moms postpartum. I wanted multiple children and had names picked out for my first two.
Then I got pregnant.
And at first I was over the moon. It was a girl! I was living my childhood dream! I took all the obligatory photos, pregnant and cheesing.
Then it began. I didn’t know much about mental health at the time, so I just handled it the best I could.
In my first trimester, I started having anxiety that became worse and worse every month of my pregnancy. I started having OCD intrusive thoughts that felt like magical thinking (just because I thought it, it must be true). One such thought was that I WOULD miscarry.
I became scared to eat everything. I constantly sought reassurance and avoided to prevent this from happening. My intrusive thoughts became darker. I imagined the baby getting hurt and it being my fault. I had a nightmare so vivid it felt real and it worsened my intrusive thoughts. I dropped my baby-sitting job (pregnancy is just making me tired!). I stopped cuddling friends’ babies (and if I did, I had extreme anxiety the whole time).
By the end of my pregnancy, I was terrified to even put my hand on my stomach because I’d be hurting the baby. I spent the last trimester alone, completely isolated and googling my fears and intrusive thoughts 80% of the time. I was literally a shell of myself.
And yet, when I had prenatal checkups I hid it all. No one could know I was already a bad mom or they’d take my baby away for sure. I lied my way through screenings and buried my screams for help.
Then it came time to give birth. I was overdue. Way overdue. It threw a wrench in my birth plan. I’ve always been a low-key hippie. So naturally, natural birth appealed to me. I had a midwife and a birthing house to give birth in. No hospital, no drugs.
The midwife said she couldn’t naturally induce me anymore because of my blood pressure, so she sent me to their back up hospital. I went in for a prenatal check up and left calling my husband, telling him we’d been instructed to go to the hospital and give birth today, with the on-call male doctor.
I didn’t want a male doctor. In fact, that was high on my priorities list. But now I had one, and my midwife wasn’t allowed to be at the hospital with me.
I was in labor for roughly one day and one night, giving birth around midnight. I was induced. The doctor sped up the pitocin drip without my consent. He wanted to go home.
I wanted to labor without an epidural, but finally caved to getting one. A nurse mocked my attempt at giving birth, telling me, “She was glad I was getting drugs because I couldn’t do it otherwise.” To be insulted and told I was once again failing at something at such a vulnerable moment had a real impact on me.
When the epidural was placed, they couldn’t get it right. They had to redo it several times. And then it failed. Twice.
Before going to the hospital, my membranes had been swept leaving me feeling raw and in pain. This made cervical checks hell. My labor didn’t bother me much. Cervical checks did. I would lay writhing and screaming when they were done. And everyone’s unspoken consensus seemed to be that I was just overly dramatic. I was not. The membrane sweep made it more painful than my contractions.
I can’t even count how many times they were done, and most were done with no prior checking with me. I just recently read that is considered obstetric violence. That was incredibly validating. My birth looked so normal and mundane that I never really felt validated being traumatized.
I wish my story was brighter or more hopeful but at least if it’s anything, it’s real. Moms hide this stuff. They try to fit in to society’s very limited view on motherhood. But sometimes this is motherhood. It can be scary and isolating and lonely. And I hope my story at least helps other moms to not feel alone.
When I got pregnant, I put a lot of pressure on myself to give the baby the perfect childhood I didn’t have. My siblings and I were rarely touched or hugged.
So, when I got pregnant, I knew I wanted to cuddle my baby. I had a whole Pinterest board filled with 3,000 ways to hold and cuddle your baby (baby wearing! Skin to skin shirts!). Then the prenatal experience I described above happened. My Pinterest board got deserted in favor of all consuming obsessive, fearful thoughts. Motherhood turned dark and scary.
I was high off motherhood for about a week (I’ll contribute that to hormones). And then it went right back to how I was during pregnancy. Except now instead of being terrified to ingest anything or touch my stomach, I was terrified to be alone with the baby and terrified to hold her. Terrified that I was responsible for a tiny human.
I barely baby wore and had major anxiety when I did. I didn’t hold her half as much as I wanted to. I stopped breastfeeding. I barely left the house. I made obsessive lists of random, inane things (household cleaners that wouldn’t hurt the baby) and binge-watched tv, trying to keep my mind just occupied with anything so I could ignore intrusive thoughts.
It. Was. Hell.
Her first smile in my memory is marked with me feeling like she didn’t deserve me for a mom.
Lots of emotions fill me from postpartum-anger, sadness, and guilt. Guilt that I didn’t bond. Guilt that I didn’t cuddle enough. Guilt that I didn’t breastfeed. Guilt that my mood darkened the home. It’s honestly a lot to try and put in one post. So, for now I’ll just say, it took a really, really long time for the thoughts to start slowly fading.
I’d be lying if I said they were completely gone now. But they’re getting so much better, and I’m so much better than that dark point in my life.
There is hope. There is always hope. Reach out. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help seeing the light.