The Lies I Tell

My kids love hearing all about how “when they were babies”.  They often ask at bedtime for me to tell them the story of the day they were born. I snuggle up next to them and tell them each a beautiful story of how one day, after being in my tummy for a long time, they said “It’s time to come out!” and started kicking my belly.  Mommy & daddy headed to the hospital and the doctor took them out and we all were so happy! They both were pink round chunky little turkeys and they giggled as soon as we saw them.  Then, they cuddled up next to us for the rest of the day and cooed and smiled as all of our family came to meet them for the first time.   They were perfect and the cutest little things I had ever seen.  I tell them both that each day they were brought into this world were both the best day of my life.  The thing is, the only good thing that actually happened on either of those days for me was that we added them to our family. Each time I tell this story, I’m telling them a long, concocted LIE.  Truth be told, I love the fact that they were born, but I hate both of the days that they entered this world.

My youngest child turned three this week. At thirteen months apart, I’m now living with a full fledged three and four year old. They aren’t toddlers anymore, they aren’t babies. They’re preschoolers. I’m not sure how I feel about this.

Their birthdays are always a mix of emotions for me; happy to celebrate a milestone for them and yet both their births were both such terrifying experiences  for me that I actually ended up having a panic attack the morning of my now three year old’s birthday. I started thinking what exactly was going on at this moment three years ago and as I then thought about my experience giving birth to my four year old (which was equally as chilling). I could feel my chest start to constrict and my body become clammy.  My breathing became short little breaths and my eyes were getting blurry. Sobbing, I called my mother, who helped me calm down.

I’ve written about this before, but the long and short of it is that  my first child was two weeks late.  After 31 hours of labor, I ended up with a horrendous emergency c-section.  My first act towards my sweet newborn baby was to push him away my because I was in the midst of the mother load of all panic attacks imaginable on the operating table. Instead of giving him a kiss, I literally pushed him away.  My experience resulted in me being drugged up for the entire first day he was born. He ended up in the NICU 24 hours later, due to irregular breathing.  In retrospect, I was so drugged up that first day that I realized I didn’t even attempt to feed him.  I had no maternal instincts. I didn’t even want to hold him, out of fear I’d drop him.  This fat 10 pound baby was probably starving, which caused him to hyperventilate. I failed him.  I waived my right as a post- op patient and joined my first baby in the NICU; sleeping in a chair in his room while recovering from major surgery and an exhausting and harrowing few days.

My husband and I were inexperienced and it’s so easy now to say what we should have done. We should have asked the nurses to feed him some formula, we should have had me transported separately to the hospital where the NICU was so that I was being taken care of as well as he. We should have never let this happen.  Hindsight is always 20/20.

With my second, the delivery went surprisingly well, but what followed did not. I couldn’t see over the sheet they put between mother and baby, but I could see my husband’s ashen face. My child was blue, the color of the summer sky before a torrential rainstorm begins. He was not healthy and he wasn’t crying. He wasn’t a chunky, pink fat baby. He was struggling to stay alive.  Something was very, very wrong.

brewingStormIceland

He was later diagnosed with a genetic issue: Respiratory Distress Disorder. Simply, if you can imagine blowing up a balloon, it’s tough at first, but then gets easier the bigger the balloon gets. He was born without the hormone that covers the lungs to help them expand. He was fighting to breathe, and we are lucky he didn’t end up with brain damage due to lack of oxygen. He was whisked out of the operating room before I could see him.  Meanwhile, I was in the midst of massive hemorrhaging. I had five nurses attending to me in recovery and I didn’t care… all I could think about was my baby who I couldn’t see or even help.

I was questioned humiliating questions by the NICU rep for the hospital in front of my husband, mother and mother in law ( while still hemorrhaging and basically spread eagle in my hospital bed.

  • Did I engage in illicit drugs during my pregnancy?
  • Did I smoke cigarettes while pregnant?
  • Did I drink alcohol while pregnant?

The answers were all  NO, but I could read between the lines : What did I do to cause this?  The weight of the guilt I felt was like holding up a 1,000lb rock above my head.  I couldn’t help it.   The first time I saw my sweet little baby, he was in a contraption that looked like a glass coffin to transfer him to the NICU.  He was sedated and all I could do was reach my hand into a little hole in this glass coffin and tell him I loved him.  It was four days before I was able to hold that precious peanut. These four days felt like four lifetimes.

Life is crazy. Life is hard. I am so thankful that they are both thriving, healthy children now, and I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I know people that may have had the perfect delivery but ended up with a child much more seriously sick than mine. I know people who have watched a child of theirs go through pediatric cancer treatments. In no way am I comparing my experience to anyone else’s, but mine is all I know. My story is all I can tell.

I selfishly can’t help but feel like I got handed the short stick both times. I was robbed of the first few weeks of my child’s life. I have no pictures of their first few moments. I have no happy pictures of us as a family on either day.  I have very few happy memories of their birthdays.  I wasn’t given the opportunity to create an immediate bond and connection with either child, and both experiences were so intense that four years later, I’m still suffering from PTSD.  I’m angry because this has partly effected our plans for any future children. I’m angry that I missed out on so much.  I’m angry that things were so much harder than I had ever planned on them being.  I’m angry over the amount of helplessness I felt in both situations. I’m angry with myself for feeling any of this at all.

I still Care

I’m hoping that one of these days, I’ll have told them each my fake version of the day they were born so many times that it will start to slowly sink into my brain; memories of the truth washed away, only to be replaced with my fairy tale that I have made up.  I lie and tell myself time heals all wounds, and one day, this will all be a distant memory.  I can only hope that this is true.

stronger

The Silent Issue No One Is Talking About

My mother claims it started when I was about two or three years old and would complain about my socks. They were never on correctly or comfortable enough. I’d spend 5 minutes getting them just right. As I got older my list of weird quirks grew. To this day, I hate the touch of newspaper; wash my hands about 15x a day and refuse to get into bed with dirty feet. I refuse to drink out of reusable plastic cups at diners, and I will not wear clothes that have been dried on the the clothesline- need to make sure to fluff them in a the dryer before wearing them (otherwise they’re  too stiff).

Back when smoking was allowed in bars when I was college, I made a boyfriend take a shower after we went out to a bar before staying over because I couldn’t stand the thought of all that bar dirt in my bed. (Forget the fact that he didn’t even smoke but I did! I would shower every night before bed as well).  I’ve driven half way to work just to turn around to make sure the oven was off- more times than I’d like to admit. To say the least, I have a mild case of OCD. While I don’t have counting issues and repeating rituals, this OCD results in extreme anxiety. I started getting massive panic attacks, which resulted in mild depression. Why couldn’t I just be normal like everyone else?

 According to The Mayo Clinic Women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. Depression can occur at any age. 

I’m not convinced if it is hormonal differences between the genders, or the simple fact that women reach out for help more often than men do. Regardless, what I do know that it is mental illness is a colossal issue that is mostly overlooked by society and actually looked down upon by many, as if someone is simply not trying hard enough to be normal. It’s not talked about enough. It’s embarrassing to share why seemingly normal activities can cause you a massive panic attack.

In a broad overview of the heinous acts of mass violence that has occurred across our country over the almost the past twenty years; from Columbine to Sandy Hook and other many devastating incidents in between and since (unfortunately too long to list here), the only consistent correlation between all of these events is that the person executing and carrying out these acts were not of sound mind.

There has been so much debate about gun control, boarder issues and honestly just a lot of bickering bullshit that has nothing to do with policy change on important issues. We are brushing the real issue of mental health under the rug. We’re in the midst of electing a new President and the only issues being debated relating to these problems are gun control and planned parenthood and abortion. Why is no one paying attention to the bigger underlying issue of MENTAL HEALTH?!

This is after all, a mom blog so I will bring this back full circle, I promise.  I don’t claim to be an expert on any of these political issues, or even have an answer to propose, just my own experience to share.

There is a silent issue among many women I know that isn’t being talked about. There’s a stigma of treating mental illness and many don’t realize it trickles down and effects the most “seemingly normal people” you’ll ever meet and probably don’t have a clue that they’re suffering with some major issues; specifically women and mothers.

In hindsight, I now have come to realize that I had post partum depression after my first child was born. Yet, at the time I wasn’t visiting my regular doctor anymore and was busy taking my newborn to a slew of one week, two week, one month pediatric appointments where all the questions were directed to and pertaining to my extreamly colicky child. No professional asked how I was coping, and I was on the verge of a breakdown.

My depression and anxiety has put a stress on my marriage and at times I have felt as though I’ve let my children down because I haven’t been the best mother at times. My mind was constantly focused on the next task at hand and was running a mile a minute.

Dishes needed to be washed, lunches needed to be packed, bills needed to be paid. My second child didn’t sleep through the night until he was two years old and still occasionally wakes up. I was exhausted.

Working full time and trying to be the perfect mom was putting immense pressure on me. I was wound so tightly, I was always pissed off. I picked fights with my husband and was generally just completely overwhelmed. If you know me, this may surprise you because I like to present myself as if I’ve got it all together. I am successful at work, outgoing and not an introvert. I was just suppressing all of these feelings. I was not IN the moment and constantly stressed about the next thing that needed to be done. I was trying to be perfect and placed way too much pressure on myself.

After three long years of living like this, I finally decided it had become too much and made an appointment with my doctor. This was by far the best decision I have made. It took my family and and I little while to get adjusted  to my new medication and it’s still a work in progress but I’m headed in to the right direction. I’m much more patient with my children and husband and I’m actually happy.

 I’m not saying that medication is for everyone. Exercise helps, seeing a therapist works for others, dedicate a night to yourself for some alone time if you need to, grab a coffee with a friend; but whatever you do, make sure you take care of yourself. 

Life is short. Managing a family and children is hard work and there is no shame in asking for help. You deserve it, and your family does as well. Don’t stay silent. Continue this conversation with your friends and family and you’ll be surprised how much support you’ll receive if you just open up to someone.  Lets work on getting this issue out there more so women like me don’t have to suffer as long as I did. 

I’m with you, mama ❤️

Xoxo,

Coastal Mama 😘