Serving women as a labor doula and photographing those births as I attend them is a calling that has my heart completely. Kaitlin’s birth was not what she had planned, and I was struck by her strength, vulnerability and bravery both throughout her labor and delivery, as well as when she took to her community to share her story of postpartum depression. These are her words and below is her story:
I’ve decided to share my story about my struggle with postpartum PTSD. I guess it all starts with the story of my labor: When I first found out I was pregnant I was scared but excited- I was planing on delivering at Atlanta Birth Center. All natural. Midwives. Doula. Water birth. The whole 9 yards. I didn’t think for one moment that things would turn out way they did. My labor was...not great. After telling the birth center that I hadn’t felt the baby move much recently, they sent me to get an ultrasound. My amniotic fluid was low so they kept me over night to see if they could raise my levels. No luck. So, labor had to be induced. This meant I couldn’t deliver at the birth center. I cried. I asked (*cough* begged *cough*) the midwife who came to see me if there was anyway at all I could still deliver at the birth center but there was no way that could happen. They started the process and we waited. I labored for a long time (all day Wednesday) before I felt I was ready to call my doula to come help (at this point it was probably noon on Thursday). Side note: I cannot stress enough how important doulas are- I never would have made it without Sarah. I was in pain but Sarah and Brad guided me though the contractions. Brad was seriously a champ, he picked up on stuff so quick, it was like having two doulas! No matter what we did, this baby did not want to come out. The hospital wanted me to stay in bed, hooked up to machines and I was so angry. The nurses (who were NOT associated with the birth center, I might add) did not listen to my needs and kept talking about how I should just get a c-section and get it over with. My birth plan had gone to shit and now I couldn’t try different positions AND I had to listen to this bull s***?! I tried to take things in stride and I’d like to think I stayed pretty zen. And then it all went to hell... I felt like I was ready to push so we called in a nurse to check and see how dilated I was...mistake. Apparently, it was time for a shift change- there were at least 6 nurses in the room, all talking about a c-section they had assisted on and talking loudly about what they had done for me so far. Meanwhile, I have a complete stranger trying to do a pelvic exam while I’m having hardcore contractions. I was one cm dilated. WTAF! I lost it. I lost my cool. From that point on, it was hours of me crying saying “I can’t do this” and “I want to die” and “Get her out of me.” I literally thought I was going to die. I was convinced of it. Sarah and Brad soothed me as best they could. Finally, I called the on call midwife sobbing and asking if it was okay to get an epidural. I was actually ASKING PERMISSION to end MY SUFFERING. That’s how out of my control I felt the situation had become. We told the nurses I wanted the epidural. Sara (the midwife, not to doula) was the midwife on call and she rushed down to the hospital to come assist. After waiting a few hours the epidural still hadn’t come- turns out the nurses didn’t understand what we meant when we said “hey, we want an epidural”. I’m not sure what was confusing about that but whatever! Once we got the message across, we waited some more. Finally, the anesthesiologist showed up. Now I was on my back like a turtle just waiting for the pain to stop. Guess what? It didn’t. I was still in agony. The anesthesiologist was nowhere to be found. We waited and waited for her to come back. Finally Sara (midwife, not the doula) suggested I sit up. After a moment I said “I have to push.” I didn’t care if I was still at 1cm, I was going to get this baby out. Sara took a quick peak and, wouldn’t ya know it, I was READY! I had gone from 0 to 60 in no time. I pushed for maybe 15 minutes and Ginny was out at 11:15PM on Thursday night. Also, halfway through pushing, guess who showed up...the anesthesiologist. Augh. So...it’s time to go home. Ginny won’t sleep unless I’m holding her. I’m tired. My body is a disaster zone. And to top it off...I am having flashbacks to my labor. Legit, hardcore flashbacks. I was consistently convinced I was back in the delivery room. I had no idea I was safe, at home, with my baby. I was a mess. I would shut down for hours. I was struggling. It took me days to even admit to Brad what was happening. Finally, Brad insisted that I go to the birth center to see my therapist and a midwife to talk about what was going on. Also, isn't it so cool that my therapist is associated with the birth center?! The midwife and my therapist came to the conclusion that I had postpartum PTSD and anxiety. PPPTSD is pretty rare, it is reported by maybe 9% of women. It is scary shit. Living through my labor once was enough without having to repeat the experience when sitting at home alone with my baby. The important thing is that I got help. The medications, therapy and finally getting more sleep helped but the flashbacks didn’t stop until shortly before I went back to work. I was already returning 6 weeks later than I had planned. It was a TOUGH transition. In the last five months I have learned a lot about myself and motherhood. Motherhood is hard. Motherhood is rewarding. I guess I felt like it was finally time to share this because I want all my mama friends to know that it’s okay to get help. Postpartum depression and other things of that nature are no f***ing joke. You don’t have to suffer in silence.