Post Partum Anxiety (AKA Depression’s bitchy twin)

Thankfully, people are finally talking about post partum depression and sharing their personal stories. More and more celebrities are starting to come out in the open and proclaim their journey’s of PPD and express their feelings, which is such a huge step because PPD isn’t anything new!

That being said, I hadn’t heard of Post Partum Anxiety. Of course, we know anxiety and depression go hand in hand but I feel like I was left in the dark about something I probably should have been warned about. A heads up. So here is mine to you, a cautionary tale, if you will:

After our traumatic experience with Chase in the children’s hospital, I was feeling really anxious. As I have said previously, I have always suffered from anxiety, but those 48 hours really sent me over the edge (my hormones, just after giving birth, didn’t make matters any easier. Let me tell you, even the coolest cucumber will be on an emotional rollercoaster after having a baby. If you haven’t had a baby already, get ready, this is no joke. And if you’re a mom, I need say no more. But read on, nonetheless).

When we got home, I had this overwhelming fear that my son was somehow going to die. Every second of the day, my mind raced, thinking and worrying about all of the possible ways he could get hurt or die and I felt it so strongly that I would get anxiety and panic attacks. I would hide in another room (usually the bathroom), and shake and cry but didn’t want anyone to think I was crazy. I literally felt crazy. I had these thoughts and unrealistic fears so frequently that I started to wonder if I, myself, was going to somehow hurt him when all other irrational fears passed (and I think THIS is why we don’t talk about these things).

For instance, I was afraid to give my baby a bath alone because what if he drowned? My mind went like this: “I would never let him drown, so I can put that fear aside, so what else could possibly go wrong? What if I let him fall in the tub?” Knowing I would NEVER do that, I would then get mad at myself, ashamed and embarrassed for having such a thought and I would wait until my husband got home to give him a bath so I wouldn’t be so anxious. I don’t know how much newborns retain, but I didn’t want Chase’s first memories to be of his mother sobbing and shaking and checking the temperature of the tub 800 times or come up with some OCD way of wrapping him in a towel afterwards or something.

I was afraid to iron a shirt in the same room as the baby because I was afraid he would somehow get burned, but again, I realized that was irrational. If he was alllll the way over there, HOW could he possibly get burned? So then I thought “would I purposefully burn him??” Of course not, so why would I have that thought in the first place. “I must be going crazy”. Needless to say, we had a pile of my husband’s wrinkled work shirts, which all ended up at the dry cleaners.

I was so ashamed and confused. I didn’t want to share these feelings that I had all the time because even though you hear of people talk about overwhelming thoughts, feelings, and emotions, you think there’s no way anyone else is having thoughts like these and surely they’ll take my child away if I share them. A crazy lady who’s afraid she’s going to harm her newborn but also won’t let anyone else hold him? Lock her up!

Right after we got out of the children’s hospital, we had an appointment with Chase’s pediatrician. As stated in my previous blog post, Chase was slightly jaundice (in case you don’t know, some babies are born “jaundice” meaning your baby has more bilirubin than it can get rid of. Bilirubin is a yellow substance that’s made when the body breaks down old red blood cells. It leaves the baby’s body through urine and stool but some cases are worse than others. It gives your baby that “yellowish” look. Sometimes they need special lights, almost like a tanning bed, and others cases clear up on their own). Knowing some babies need the light therapy, I asked our pediatrician if putting Chase in the sunlight would help move things along for him. He said yes, that can certainly help, so I took his words quite literally, went home and sat outside in the sun with Chase for about 15 minutes. Keep in mind, it was early November in North Carolina and he was in pants and a onesie, perfect for that day. After that time, we went inside and slowly but surely, Chase started getting red.

Panicked, I called a client of mine who is a PA (I called her 523 times over the first few months) and asked her what this could be. She informed me that yes, putting baby in the sunlight would help, but not directly in the sun like I did. “The pediatrician told me to!” I cried, “But he meant to put Chase by a window for a little while, not outside in the direct sunlight, he’s too little and his skin is too sensitive”. I started shaking and crying and knowing I had just caused my baby harm I asked her if I had hurt him: “Did he get burned, did I make it worse, will he get a fever and die???” Will he be ok??” She told me to calm down, “You thought you were doing the right thing.” But that didn’t make me feel any better. I proceeded to call another pediatrician’s cell phone who discharged Chase from the hospital (she has probably since changed her number…or blocked mine), interrupted her family dinner and left a panicked voicemail about how I left Chase in the sun and I think he’s going to die. She called me back right away, mid chomp of her chicken salad, and asked how long I had left him in the car alone. “Noooo, I cried”, and explained the story and she said “I thought by your voicemail that you had left him in the car! He’s going to be fine.”

I wasn’t buying it. I went up to my husband in the kitchen (it was his birthday, by the way) and as I shook, told him I thought I was losing it and I didn’t want to feel this way anymore. I knew that what I was feeling all day long was probably not normal. I said “I’m not ok” and he just hugged me. He told me everything was going to be fine, the baby was happy and “look, he’s not even red anymore!” I guess he was just hot from the sun he had never seen before. Poor kid.

I even called the pediatrician’s office one day in tears, asked for a specific nurse who I really liked (and asked for, personally, during appointments) and told her I thought I was losing it and needed an appointment. She very kindly explained that Chase’s pediatrician could not prescribe me Xanax and that I should call my own primary caredoctor. Thanks a lot, Lindsay.

For the longest time I felt this anxious or worse. I WAS prescribed Paxil but was too anxious to take it! I was afraid I would sleep too well and not hear the baby cry or that my milk supply would dwindle, even though they say otherwise.

I would get panic attacks when people would come over or try to hold Chase. I made everyone wash their hands (everyone should with a newborn), use purell, take their shoes off (still do), ask if anyone had been around anyone else sick, did they have all their shots, and I rarely left the house. Granted, it was wintertime and flu season and even the pediatrician told me not to take Chase into the grocery stores until he was a little older.

I know being cooped up in the house all the time didn’t help. Sometimes getting out makes a WORLD of difference. Even just driving to get a cup of coffee in the drive-through with the baby while he slept gave me a little perspective. (Chase LOVES being out and about now. I think he was relieved to discover the world consisted of more than 2 faces and 6 rooms).

The truth is, once I cried and told a girlfriend about the way I had been feeling and my worries and scary thoughts, she immediately shared similarly embarrassing (to her) thoughts and anxieties. Not everyone feels this way, but it’s important to know that you are not alone! I think the thought of isolation is almost as bad as the feeling of anxiety. We have to know there are other people out there who feel, or have felt, the same way. Our bodies go through hell and back from pregnancy to birth and the aftermath. Our hormones are sky high and then hit a brick wall. There’s no way you can keep a level head after that. Granted, some of us cope better than others, while some of us go whackadoodle! Up, down, left right and there’s no telling how you’ll feel or what crazy scenario you’ll come up with.

To give you some hope, (if you are currently going through anything similar) it took about 2 weeks for these irrational thoughts to start to subside. It did take months for me to start to back off a little with the baby and feel ok about others holding him. Some would argue that I’m still crazy and overprotective but I don’t care! He’s my son. I AM protective and don’t really care if I offend anyone when it comes to him. I’m not a bitch, I’m a mommy.

 

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Chase Nicholas Provencher!! 10/27/16

If you’re reading this in late July or after..you haven’t missed something, it has taken me 8 months to post about the birth of my son. And of you stay tuned, you’ll read all about why it has taken me 8 months (if you’re a mother, you already know), all about napping (or lack there of), nursing, (thank you, lactation consultants!) Post partum anxiety, losing friends, gaining friends, starting a family away from family and tons more…as quickly as I can get them written, anyway.
SOOOO…Here is the beginning story of my gorgeous, perfect little nugget we like to call “Chasey”!

My water broke at 4:45 AM on Wednesday, October 26th, 2016 and I thought I was going to have a baby in a matter of a few hours! (LOL!) 26 hours later, we welcomed Chase into our family.

I was tested positive for GBS, which is called Group B Strep. A fancy (and scary) way of saying bacteria, perfectly common and normal. It means that when you’re water breaks, you have to go right to the hospital because your baby is at risk of getting the bacteria, as the amniotic sac is what is keeping him or her protected.

I woke up right away, wondering if that “leak” was, in fact, my water breaking and went to the bathroom. I sat down and thought maybe it was just that I needed to “go” and was experiencing an embarrassing side effect of late pregnancy and peeing my pants. After I thought I was finished, I stood up and called to my husband who came stumbling in the bathroom with 1 eye open.

“I think my water just broke, but I’m not sure”

Just then, more of the “water” came out all over my legs the bathroom rug I was standing on.

“Oh. Yup. My water is breaking.”

“Get back on the toilet!” He panicked.

So, if you didn’t know, which I didn’t because nobody told me: when your water breaks, it isn’t just one quick gush of liquid like you see in the movies, this is an ongoing river that never stops. Just when you think it’s over, it’s like “A River Runs Through It”. It’s an embarassing, never ending trickle that it ridiculously uncomfortable and to make you feel a little worse, they stick a puppy pee pad under your tush in the hospital, only they don’t change it as frequently as Dorothy changed Todo’s.

Now, I had heard that when you get to the hospital and decalred that you are, in fact, in labor, they (the evil nurses) don’t let you eat anything. Nothing. You get Jello, ginger ale and chicken broth. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had the satisfaction of that meal since I had the stomach bug when I was 9. So I made my husband stop by Starbucks on the way to the hospital and I got a decaf pumpkin latte  (it was October, afterall) and a warm croissant. I didn’t eat the whole thing, I was so nervous and excited. Stupid. Foolish. Eat the whole croissant. Always eat the whole croissant. I was starved for the next 26 hours and my stomach pain was almost as bad as the contractions. Seriously.

So I was standing in Starbucks at 5-something in the morning and GUSH came another wave of water breaking only this time it WAS just like the movies. I had to waddle myself out to the car and thankfully my husband insisted I sit on a towel before we pulled out of our driveway. Apparently he had envisioned this exact moment. I reluctantly sat down like a 4 year old who wet her pants with my sad little croissant and latte. That was an uncomfortable few minutes to the hospital. I had never been so grateful it was so close!

They also don’t tell you once the humility starts, it never ends. My panties had to be swabbed to see if my water had actually broken or if I had just peed my pants. It had. I was beginning to feel like a science experiment. That feeling doesn’t stop either.

What you also may not have known is even though your water breaks, you might not be dilated more than 1 cm. I wasn’t. What you might not be privy to is that it can take HOURS AND HOURS for you to dilate more. It did. I was given Pitocin to start labor because, like I said, I had been tested positive for GBS and they needed to get the baby moving along.

That started my contractions. Holy crap on a cracker. I’ve never been one to handle pain well, but once they start, they keep coming every few minutes like a wave of something fierce. Like an orgasm, you can feel it approaching. You know what’s about to happen and it takes over your whole body. But the similarities end right there. Multiple orgasms are welcome. This beast of nature is no joke and that’s why they have epidurals, which I recommend you sign up for in advance. ASAP. Don’t try to be a hero.

Now, because God has a sense of humor and karma exists, my child has been stubborn right from the whom. When the nurse at my OBGYN visits throughout my pregnancy would try and get a heartbeat, Chase would move away from the doppler. So it was no surprise when they had to monitor his heart rate during labor by placing a small monitor on his head inside of me that he took the monitor off of his head and threw it. Twice.

*Fun fact: After your epidural, you will have so many hands inside of you. From gadgets to gismos a plenty, you’re like an oven on Thanksgiving day. They keep putting things in and taking things out. I cringed in pain every time they checked my dilation but after the epidural I felt nada. Not a thing, which is why you are completely bed ridden once the epidural is administered.

For a little while they started talking about a C Section and I was really upset because I didn’t want one. I was hell bent on a “natural” birth (minus the epidural) but I’ll tell you, after about 15 hours of very little progress I was basically begging them to take him out any way possible.

As I mentioned earlier, due to the Pitocin to help things move along, Chase’s heart rate kept dropping and I had to stay in one, very uncomfortable position, which was basically half way on my left side. Not all the way so I could be comfortable enough for a nap but juuuust enough that I was stuck in some weird half-way position and had to stay there for what felt like forever. At one point there were 2 nurses putting me on all 4’s so that they could move the baby around. I asked them while they were down there if they could clean me up. I didn’t realize the severity of the situation we were in and I felt very yukky. One nurse looked at me and said “we’re a little more concerned with keeping your baby alive”. Okay. I feel like a horrible mother and I haven’t even met my child yet. Thank you.

Needless to say, Chase was ok but we had to be monitored and watch his heart rate. My husband stood in front of that monitor for almost 26 hours.

So after the 26th hour, I was checked again and THANK GOD I was dilated enough to finally start pushing! I had never been more excited in my life! My doctor asked me if I wanted to “watch” and normally, I would pass on such an offer but this was a long time coming so I said absolutely!

They actually wheeled this big mirror in and set it up so I could watch myself give birth. This was SO amazing and I’ll never forget it. I only pushed for 8 minutes and I got to see the whole thing. I saw the hair on top of his little head, saw his face and when he came out completely, they put him on my chest and he peed! (I didn’t care.)

Up until this point we weren’t certain of a middle name for Mr. Chase. But when he was put on my chest (and finished peeing) I rubbed my fingers over his eyebrow and his eyes rolled back and he fell asleep. Just like his daddy. At that moment I declared his middle name Nicholas, after his dad.

So, what you might not have heard before is that right before you’re actually about to give birth, you start to worry because labor in one thing, but now it’s getting real! You are about to meet the person who has been growing inside of you for 9 months, kicking and rolling around. I began to worry that I wouldn’t love him right away. That I would have to pretend. You hear stories from everyone about how there is an instant connection and you worry that you won’t have that. OR you hear about post partum depression and how there is a disconnect between the two of you and so you worry about that (I will be posting a lot on this matter in the future).

In my case, however, I was worried at that last moment. What if I didn’t love him? What if he was just another baby to me? What if I somehow felt jealous of him and the love others gave him but I didn’t share?

And then they handed him to me. And I saw his face. The face I had been picturing for 9 months was right here on me, inches away. I had been envisioning this very moment for maybe most of my life and now it was here. Reality. My son.

Maternal instincts kicked in immediately and I just wanted to nurse him and hold him close, which I did. For months. (That in more detail soon!)

They wheeled us up to our room and I held my new baby in my arms and hugged him as he slept. I had NO CLUE what I was in for….to be continued…

(Here he is! My munchkin. My Chasey. My heart.)

My little peanut. Chase Nicholas Provencher born 10/27/16 at 6:11 AM Weighing 8 lbs. 1.6 ounces of love.