What I struggled with during an unplanned pregnancy and how I am dealing with this postpartum period
Last year during maternal mental health week, I shared my PPD story after my pregnancy with Bee. You can read more here in my “You Are Worthy” post.
This year during maternal mental health week, I still cannot believe that I have a newborn. Roey’s pregnancy was not planned.
I discovered I was pregnant was I was about 7 weeks along. I was 14 months postpartum with Bee and on the road to recovery after a deep postpartum depression period. I had been in therapy for months, dose adjusted my medication a few times, started working more to get out of the house, and finally started to find my new rhythm.
Those two pink lines changed everything.
I felt immediately overwhelmed, anxious, and terrified. I wanted another baby, but not now. I didn’t want this. I wanted time to myself. I had been pregnant and/or breastfeeding for 3.5 years – I didn’t even know what it felt like to have my body to myself. And the depression – I feared that the most.
When you experience PPD, you are 50% more likely to have a recurring episode at a subsequent pregnancy. I was certain that I would be in that 50%.
Once the news somewhat sank in, I had a flood of new emotions.
knew how many people, my parent’s included, experienced infertility. Getting pregnant came so easily to me. And here I was wishing I wasn’t pregnant when there were so many who longed for what I had.
I had told everyone, even publicly through bumblebaby, that I was going to wait to have another baby, at least a few years. Finn and Bee are 17 months apart and the transition to two was much harder than I expected. How could I explain this?
Oh, the anxiety.
HOW will I get through this pregnancy?
I am so comfortable with newborns, it’s sort of my thing. I know how to calm and comfort them. I can read their cues so well. I can get them to sleep. It’s part of being a NICU nurse but also something I have always had instinctually. But pregnancy – pregnancy and I are not friends. The acid reflux, insomnia, horrible pelvic pain, hormones, discomfort – I’d take a newborn over pregnancy in a hot second.
WHAT will I do with another baby added to this crazy toddler mix?
It will be basically three under 3 years old. I couldn’t even handle TWO.
HOW will I get past postpartum depression again?
The thought of it was just unbearable. I did NOT want to go there again, ever. It felt inevitable.
I just want to feel myself again.
Hormones and I do not get along. I’ve always had mood swings with my period and it was amplified in pregnancy and postpartum. I’d been on a constant rollercoaster ride since March 2016 when I got pregnant with Finn – pregnancy to breastfeeding, to pregnant with Bee while breastfeeding, to breastfeeding when Roey was conceived, and back to pregnancy again (and back to breastfeeding!).
My pregnancy with Finn was by far the hardest physically. He was (and still is) a big baby from the start. I gained over 75lbs and was SO SWOLLEN. I mean, so so swollen. I couldn’t fit in XXL unisex scrubs and I had to wear thigh high 50mm Hg compression stockings for 24 hours straight. My feet grew 3.5 sizes, and I had so much swelling in my hands that they were completely numb from 34 weeks on, I couldn’t put IVs in at work!
Bee’s pregnancy was a breeze, a typical weight gain and I felt so good in comparison to Finn’s. But mentally a whole different story.
With Roey, the first weeks were very emotional. I was a terrified, bitter, and anxious mess. I couldn’t wrap my head around the pregnancy, so I just ignored it to a certain level. I couldn’t stomach my prenatal vitamins – physically and mentally. I had never missed a single day with Finn or Bee. I would look at the vitamins and walk away. For some reason, the vitamins made it real, so I didn’t take them. I still have guilt over that.
The pregnancy was difficult mentally and emotionally for me. I carried a lot of resentment into my relationships with my husband, family, and friends. I isolated myself, lost interest in things that started to once again become appealing after Bee, lost energy, and drive. The depression crept in again as anger and irritability. I felt out of body. I couldn’t control my own emotions.
Work and bumblebaby was my escape and therapy during my postpartum period with Bee. I tried to hang on to that during Roey’s pregnancy, but felt I was receiving pushback from my family and Christian that I was working too much. It was the one thing I felt control over. Working made me feel good. It allowed me to be out of the house and have a break from my kids, and I felt that it was being taken away from me, whether that was the reality or not.
My energy levels were very low. I would sleep a lot during the day when Finn and Bee would nap (sometimes for 3 hours). I would get in bed at 7pm after they went down for the night. And then I would be up for hours in the middle of the night, finally to fall asleep at 5 to be woken at 630. I was drained, physically and mentally. I went to bed angry, and woke up angry. Angry at this situation that I didn’t ask for. Angry at what could have been. Grieving the loss of myself. I wanted to fast forward two years when this all would be back to “normal”. I counted the days until delivery.
Panic attacks would cause me to have contractions often, starting at 25 weeks. Prodromal labor started at 31 weeks, with three trips to triage under false alarm. I would have painful contractions every 1-2 minutes with no change in my cervix. Of course, this always happened overnight – so less sleep than I was already dealing with. I wanted to go early, I wanted this baby out (not at 31 weeks of course, but 35 and 38 weeks).
As my tummy grew, I went to weekly therapy. My therapist is such a sweet, soft spoken, and incredible listener. She helped to soften my rough edges, sweeten my bitterness. I am a planner – and planning is something that I could control to a degree in this situation. So for 8 months, we planned. She allowed me to be in survival mode for the pregnancy. We planned for the postpartum period in every aspect. Much of my PPD after Bee was related to support that I felt I didn’t and couldn’t receive. So, we changed my expectations for support and laid out the support systems that I knew I could rely on. I dose adjusted my medication 3 times. I set up childcare, a postpartum live-in doula, and a plan for Zulresso treatment, the first FDA approved IV medication to treat postpartum depression. I was SET!
Well, the world has a funny way of lining up my postpartum periods with other life changing events. The exact day Finn was born, my little 10 year old cousin, Brooks, was diagnosed with cancer. He passed shortly before Bee’s birth, a true tragedy that was unbearable for our entire family. And now, Roey’s birth lined up to the DAY with the coronavirus quarantine. All of my postpartum planning went out the window. No doula, no Zulresso, no childcare, no in person therapy. No time to work on bumblebaby and now having to deal with a dynamic change that comes with a husband working from home who also owns a small business in this devastated economy was extremely difficult.
Strangely enough, I felt prepared for disaster mode. I almost expected it. I didn’t know a postpartum period where I wasn’t in disaster mode. So the coronavirus quarantine felt oddly familiar to me. The isolation, both physically and emotionally, was something I knew well. The meds helped, too.
But to my surprise, the Stay at Home order changed my relationships differently this time. My parents quarantined with us and helped every single day with the kids. They kept a close eye on me, and helped me heal physically and mentally. They were just there, I didn’t have to ask.
My medication was at the right dosage and I did not have the deep hormonal slump. I bonded with Roey right away, something I didn’t have instantly with Finn and Bee. I wasn’t stressed about breastfeeding. I wasn’t controlling over feeding Roey and often handed it off to others. These aspects felt positive.
The anxiety was (and is) still here to a certain extent. Roey’s constant projectile vomiting had my NICU mind in a tizzy. It’s so hard to me to not have monitors and imaging available at my fingertips. I struggle with determining if it’s my anxiety or NICU instinct. Always afraid that I am missing something. But the depression is NOT. For that, I am extremely grateful.
Even through all of this, just a few days ago, I was cleaning out my bathroom drawers and found the pregnancy test that I used when I found out I was pregnant with Roey. The day I saw those two pink lines, my life changed. I was devastated and flooded with negative emotions thats stuck with me until delivery. But when I found the test again, I knew this baby was supposed to be in here. She’s taught me more in her 8 weeks of life than I ever could have expected – and that sometimes in life, things don’t need to be planned.
**This post is educational and not meant to take the place of your provider.