I’ve never really felt like I needed to tell my story about pregnancy and birth. It always felt like a bit of a downer to tell people what happened to me but then I started reading others stories and I started to realize so many people go through so many things during pregnancy and birth and I felt better every time I read another moms story so I thought why not share mine and hopefully when someone reads this they too will feel like they aren’t alone in not having the “typical” pregnancy or birth
When I was 32 weeks pregnant I started to get what I though was indigestion. I took tums and hoped it would go away, but it persisted. At the time I worked in a very demanding job and I treated my pregnancy like an inconvenience that was holding me back from getting my work done and performing at the pace I was used to. I wasn’t going to let indigestion stop me from doing what I needed to do. But then it got worse and more consistent until finally I called my doctor. She did some blood work and sent me for an ultrasound. By this point I could hardly stand the pain. I couldn’t eat and could only lay on my right side to get some degree of comfort. Finally, my doctor called me and said that it looked like I had pancreatitis. I had never even heard of pancreatitis. She told me to go to the ER but to pack a bag because I would be admitted and would likely have to stay in the hospital overnight. I did as she said and went to the ER. Little did I know that I would end up staying in the hospital for the next 5 weeks.
Once I was admitted the tests began. Ultrasounds, stress tests, CT scans and so much blood work that my vein was tapped dry. I worried the entire time that all these things would negatively impact my baby, but they assured me she was all good in there. Once they were sure I had pancreatitis they put me on IV fluids and waited for my blood levels to come down. For anyone not familiar with pancreatitis (because I wasn’t before it became part of my story) you can’t eat or drink anything when you have it because it aggravates it further. Typically, with a couple days of IV fluids levels come down and you can go home and begin to introduce food again. Unfortunately, because of my pregnancy hormones the levels didn’t come down. But I needed to give nourishment to my growing baby. So, the doctors decided to put in an NG tube. This is a tube that goes into your nose and down the back of your throat. It bypasses your stomach but gives you the nutrients you need directly into the small intestine. This would allow my pancreas to heal while giving my growing baby what she needed. The experience of getting that tube in was not a good one. The doctor tried to make it a bit easier by playing music, Elvis Costello to be specific, but it didn’t help. I was scared, and nobody seemed to have the answers I was looking for. But I persisted, in fairness at that stage I really didn’t have any other choice. From the moment the tube went in I was depressed. Not just because of the fact that I couldn’t eat or drink or the fact that I was stuck in the hospital or even that I was scared and unsure of what was next but because my expectation of what my pregnancy was “supposed” to look like wasn’t fulfilled. I imagined myself wearing nice maternity clothes, having a celebration before I left work for maternity leave and enjoying some last-minute alone time with my husband unfortunately I was surrounded by tubes, needles, tests and all things scary!
Eventually at 37 weeks my OB decided to induce me for my safety and the safety of the baby. On June 15th, 2013 my baby girl was born. The delivery didn’t go as I planned either but seven blood transfusions and a trip to the ICU later we were together, and she was healthy. Unfortunately, I still wasn’t. The tube didn’t come out after I delivered her because I needed to have my gallbladder removed and that couldn’t happen for 3 weeks. I went home from the hospital with a new baby and a tube and it just pushed my depression even further. Everything I had planned was different and not good different. Once my gallbladder was out the tube was finally removed and I was able to go home tube free. The first thing I did when I got home was I smelled my daughters head. My sister was there, and she thought I was crazy, but it was the first time I could really smell her perfect little baby smell since she was born three weeks earlier. It was like a dream come true and I thought all my problems were solved. Silly me! Turns out those depressed feelings were more than just because of the tube and the journey they were mine to carry even after I was healthy again. Once again, the expectations I set for myself didn’t come true. I imagined myself cuddling my perfect baby while watching old episodes of Friends but all I ever felt was fear, anxiety and worry. I also had no idea that I wasn’t the only person feeling this way. It was like the best kept secret of all the moms that came before me. Eventually I got help, I saw my doctor and I started to leave the house and join other moms and their babies. I met friends who understood what I was going through and could relate to me. I started to bond with my little girl and eventually I even started to sleep albeit only a little bit!
What all this taught me is you can’t predict the path of your life. Whether you are a mother or not we don’t know what is around the corner and sometimes our expectations can be our worst enemy. Despite all our efforts to control outcomes and predict the future we can’t and while this is scary it can also be liberating because it takes the pressure off of us to plan and analyze everything that has happened or is going to happen. We can give ourselves permission to live in the moment and live every moment to the fullest. Being a mom has taught me this and even though every day is not easy every day is a new day and we are lucky to be able to live it to the fullest.