Rachel's Story

My PPD story begins in 2011 after the birth of my first baby. At 41 weeks pregnant and under
the care of a doctor who was not patient or helpful in discussing my options, I was induced. I
had no communication as to why (except per the weeks) and all my intuitions screamed that he
was not ready to come out. But, as a first time Mom I was too frightened to question a
seasoned doctor and I went along with it.

After 18 hours of experiencing the most painful induction process that started with a foley
balloon (I had never heard of it and suddenly it was being placed inside of me), to Pitocin
ramped up so high I was vomiting non-stop and then finally a morphine injection to help me
relax, I slept. I wanted to then walk the halls to help with labor but was encouraged to get an
epidural and stay in bed. It was a hospital in a fancy area of Southern California and I will never
forget the nurse telling me “this is Newport Beach, sweetie, we don’t want to hear anyone
screaming!” Unfortunately the epidural (now the third drug in my system) caused my uterus to
contract and hold it for over 2 minutes. Alarm bells firing off, I received another injection of a
muscle relaxer to help calm the contraction. Now I had 4 types of drugs in my highly sensitive
body, had been laboring for over 12 hours, and was so exhausted I could barely stay awake. I
tried moving around as much as possible in my bed to keep labor progressing, but I was stalled
and the Dr on call decided it was time for a c-section. My son was born at 2 am and I was barely
able to stay awake. I have blurry memories of the birth and entire process and as soon as he
was placed in my arms I remember thinking “is this my baby? How do I know this is mine? I
didn’t even see him be born” – the attachment was not instantaneous.

Immediately people who loved me reassured me about my grief over not having my ideal birth
by saying “at least you have a healthy baby.” This made me feel guilty for my grief but also
didn’t sit right with me – I had a cousin with spina bifida, friends who had birthed babies with
down syndrome – does that mean they don’t get to rejoice because they didn’t “have a healthy
baby?” Overall, this was my introduction to being at the mercy of medical professionals,
experiencing grief instead of joy at the birth of my child, and feeling like maybe this whole birth
thing was more complicated than I had ever expected. My transition into motherhood was
shocking as well – my husband had to return to work within 3 days of me coming home from
the hospital and my family was on the East Coast. My son was colicky, screaming 6 hours a day
(later we diagnosed him with acid reflux but not until I became a mama bear in the pediatrician
office demanding help).

I spent the next 2 years struggling with what would finally be diagnosed as Post Partum PTSD. I
have nightmares, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, vivid feelings of violation in my abdomen, and baby blues. It took therapy, reading the book “Emotional Recovery from a C Section” and
writing out my birth story to finally find healing.

My next pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 9 weeks in which I never went into labor to deliver
the fetus but after weeks of waiting ended up with a D&C. This only played on my depression as I wondered if my body was broken. I got pregnant soon after and was determined to no longer be the silent Mom. I advocated for myself in finding a doctor that was trained by midwives and supported VBAC’s, I read books and hired a Doula to help guide my journey. She served as a therapist and helped me feel like I was not alone (or crazy) in any of my experiences.

With her help, the patience of my new Dr, and the grace of God, I went into labor at 40 weeks 5 days and delivered a beautiful little girl without any drugs or interventions. I felt redeemed and a huge part of me healed. I then began navigating the journey of raising two children while continuing to grow my private practice as a MFT.

Surprisingly, I got pregnant with my next baby when my daughter was only 1 (clearly my body
isn’t broken in that regard). It was a shock and made me truly consider how I would balance
three children under 4 years old with family across the country, a husband who traveled
frequently for work, and a thriving private practice. I began to wonder if I could do this, worry if
my mindset would impact having a positive birth experience, and struggled to be pregnant and
sick while raising two babies. Depression set in, triggered by my preference to be in control and
making decisions as well as the overwhelming feeling of how to balance it all.

I hired my Doula again and was able to have a vaginal delivery, although with my water already
broken it was a raw and painful labor process. My son was born (we hadn’t known the gender
prior to birth) and although he was beautiful and so wonderful, I have to admit my heart had
been set on a girl. I rolled with it but, again, when I am not in control my depression creeps in.
I began to settle into life with three kids after making the difficult decision to take a year
sabbatical off of work. Around 6 weeks old, my son didn’t start the typical transition of sleeping
through the night – getting up 5, 6, 7 times a night fussing. I was sleep deprived and, after
having children, became aware that my hormone levels had not evened out like they had in the
past. I felt constantly on edge. If someone brushed my skin, I flinched. If a child had a temper
tantrum, I would rage in anger and scream. Almost every single morning, after getting everyone
buckled into the car for a preschool drop off, I wept and cried while driving to school. I
remember being at a stop light with my head in my hands just sobbing while my son watched
from the back seat. He was so confused and, to this day, I feel the most regret over how my
months of post partum depression affected him. I had no idea that part of post partum
depression included anxiety. I would suddenly feel my heart start pounding out of chest, my
heart racing and difficulty breathing. I sometimes would have to put my head between my
knees to even it out – but nothing helped.

I finally reached out to my OB and requested medication. Within 3 days of starting medication
my symptoms had almost completely dissipated. I saw a therapist who did meditation and
helped me control my thoughts more using visualization. I read books and reached out to others – I was so ashamed to be so vulnerable since I was a clinician who “should be more
stable than this.” But now it is the part of my story I am the most proud of. Post Partum
Depression doesn’t discriminate because it is something completely out of your control, so
there is no shame when there is no personalization.

I was a victim to poor hormone levels and
also had to do some deep work on letting go of my expectations, preferences and
perfectionism. I had to embrace my journey, my vulnerabilities, and my neediness in order to
get stronger. I sought out authentic people and still do, to this day, because to be genuine in
our stories and open in our journeys is the only want to decrease the stigma surrounding the
truth of life post partum.

Do you identify with Rachel's story?

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