Founder of La Luna Counseling and Wellness – Master of Arts, Licensed Professional Counselor
Avon-by-the-Sea, New Jersey
I gave birth to my son in August 2017. I had a magical idea of what childbirth would be. As most seasoned mothers would know, we can’t control everything that will come, and I was mistaken. I was in labor for a total of twenty-three hours. Twenty-two of those hours were without an epidural. When they finally were able to give me one, I was 9 cm dilated. The epidural was of course unable to fully kick in by the time I was holding my baby boy. Upon the final push and hearing his cry, he was taken from me and put in an incubator. I was unaware that I had developed an infection during my labor. My water had been broken for too long and as a result, I had a fever that reached 103 degrees. My baby boy Tony had a fever like me from being in utero as I was developing chorioamnionitis. Within fifteen minutes of being earth side, Tony’s fever subsided, and I was given antibiotics.
I had “baby blues” for the first two weeks along with the typical sleep deprivation. He had colic and was hard to console. Anyone who has had to deal with a colic baby knows the pain. I was unhappy and short tempered, but I thought it was normal. I had an unhappy baby who would cry for no reason, so why would I be happy? After about six months things finally began to simmer down. His colic went away, and I began feeling like myself again. I wish I knew then what I know now. Those feelings I was experiencing were actually postpartum depression, but I suffered in silence.
After my son turned two, I was ready to try for a second baby. I figured if I could handle one, how hard could one more really be? When I became pregnant, I had more mood swings and anger then I did with my first. I chocked it up to other life stressors we were having, like moving homes and the stress of handling a toddler and living during a global pandemic.
I had created a birth plan for this delivery, but it went sideways just as the first did. Because of COVID-19, my doctors wanted to induce me. They wanted to get me in and out of the hospital as quick as possible. By minimizing the amount of time, we were there, it reduced the chance of us picking the virus and the hospital was short staffed due to increased cases. I never wanted to be induced. This caused my anxiety to rise significantly. I hoped and prayed that she would just come naturally without needing an induction.
I attempted to bring labor on naturally, but nothing worked, and I had to be induced. Part of my birth plan that was slightly different than my first was to have a doula help guide me through labor. I was unable to have my doula with me because of the restrictions from the pandemic. Thankfully I was able to have my husband unlike some neighboring hospitals who were not allowing any support people. I tried to see how long I could go without an epidural since I didn’t feel that I needed it with my first labor. I labored for a total of 8 hours. The contractions felt like they were faster, more intense because of using additional medications to progress labor. I ended up asking for an epidural, but the anesthesiologist could not place it. She poked at my spine five times without success. By the time she finally accessed the epidural space I was relieved emotionally, but physically felt the same. I had one leg that was a little numb, but it didn’t feel like the contractions were any more manageable. They said they could attempt to replace the epidural, but that was an unbearable pain I didn’t want to go through again.
About an hour after that horrifying experience, I was pushing. On April 9, 2020 I gave birth to my daughter, Luna Rose. When she was 24 hours old, I was sitting at home on my couch with her. I was able to stay in the hospital for three days when I had my son. I had family members coming to visit with balloons and gifts. Where I delivered, birthing during the pandemic felt as if the hospital staff was shooing me out as soon as I was crowning. While I was thankful to be home, away from Covid & with my other child, I don’t know that I was fully prepared before I was discharged. I thought to myself it was just nerves. I’ve handled newborn stress before; I can do it again. The baby blues paired with sleep deprivation brought me back to the same place, but it felt more intense and overwhelming. After the first two weeks I thought these feelings would subside, but they didn’t.
I was crying nonstop. I was dreading getting out of bed when Luna would cry. The intrusive thoughts were becoming louder and louder. I knew something was not right. I told my husband one night that I felt he adjusted to becoming a parent of two better than I had. I felt that my children were better off being raised with him then they were with me.
I was planning on packing my bags and leaving to give them a better life. Through my tears, I planned out my escape and wanted to let him know that this was goodbye. My husband realized this was not normal and couldn’t attribute it to sleep deprivation anymore.
I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety. Being able to speak the words out loud was possibly the most difficult for me. We always want to be strong and power through, not expose our weakness. It may have been because of the stigma associated with postpartum depression and anxiety, or because it’s hard to be honest with yourself when you are having challenging moments in life. I finally had the courage to stand up and speak my truth but wanting help and finding the help were two different battles.
I spoke to my OBGYN, but I felt as if they didn’t know how to handle this behavior. I was referred to the only phone number my doctor had. It was a free service in my area, but they were inundated with clients because of the pandemic. I felt like an anonymous value on a list with hundreds of others. There was such disconnect on Zoom; I couldn’t tell if my therapist even truly heard me. I wondered if other people were possibly going through this as well. A light bulb went off in my head. I wanted to help other people who were experiencing the same challenges as me.
This became my motivation for getting better. I was already a licensed therapist, but I wanted to help support people in their pregnancy and postpartum period. I began taking classes, trainings and working on becoming a state certified Perinatal Mood Disorder Specialist. I opened La Luna Counseling and Wellness in September 2020. My advice to those who are pregnant or have birthed recently is to be honest with yourself and get help when you know something isn’t feeling right. There are others out there who are going through the same thing as you. We can support each other.
Do you love birth? Heck yeah you do!
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