Medical Issues - Physical AND Mental
page still under construction ;-)
After the birth of my oldest in 2009, I had what I would describe as baby blues. Kind of feeling a little sad, a little on the moody side, lots of tears. It came and went and I really chocked it up to hormones and a little loss of previous life feelings. I didn't tell anyone, it didn't get any worse and it went away pretty quickly.
When I had my youngest in 2013, I was experiencing much the same - sadness, worry, crying, moody... plus I was overwhelmed and just BONE TIRED all the time. I figured the difference was just that I was caring for 3 other children (4 if you count my then husband). I powered through my days and my nights were filled with feelings of failure and guilt that it was just coming easy to me. At one of my post-partum OBGYN appointments, my doctor (BLESS YOU DR. VALLERY!) asked me how I was doing with healing and energy levels and then asked more specific questions about how I was feeling and how I was thinking.
As she asked these questions, I told her the shame I was feeling came with a lot of heightened anxiety bordering on panic at night. The sadness and worry meant that I couldn't concentrate, I would forget things super easily, I couldn't get to sleep, I could barely eat. And it was all just super overwhelming. She asked me how long I had been feeling like that - at that point it had been more than a month. I had still told no one about it, and if anyone noticed they didn't say anything to me, so I stopped talking to friends and family unless they talked to me first out of fear that they would be able to SEE how unfit I was. I felt like I was broken, weak, not fit to be a mother if I couldn't even handle the basics every day. I loved my baby, but I was feeling like he deserved far better.
My poor doctor who I had just laid all this on in a verbal dump, immediately was like - MOMMA THIS IS NOT NORMAL OMG (but in very doctorly terms). She asked some follow up questions and then asked if I had heard of Post-Partum Depression. I told her I had but that I hadn't had any thoughts of harming my baby and wasn't feeling like I was having any delusions or anything (turns out that's Post-Partum Psychosis). She explained a bit more and prescribed an anti-depressant that was compatible with breastfeeding - something else I was struggling with but stubborn enough to keep going, ha. She encouraged me to talk to other moms in my life and ask if they experienced similar things after giving birth. "It's more common than you think, and if your family has been there too, they want to know what you're going through."
That statement turned out to be SO. DAMN. TRUE!
I talked to my mom first who was immediately supportive and glad that I was getting help and reaching out for support. I talked to some coworkers who had kids, many of them had experienced similar things. Not one person had mentioned it while I was pregnant with either baby nor after I gave birth. I'm sure the hospitals provided a flyer on PPD before discharge, but honestly who even looks at those??? Life with a new baby is so chaotic. As with the rest of my sharing journey, it really amazed me just how many people had been through something similar and just never let on that they were struggling, but once I talked about my own experience they opened up and shared their stories. It really made me feel far less alone, less isolated, more supported even if the support was only them saying "been there girl, you're gonna get through it."
The meds helped within a WEEK. And when I tell you it felt like a miracle... I cannot understate how much pressure was lifted off of my chest!!!! I hugged my doctor when I went in a couple of weeks later. I finally felt like I could survive and had hope that one day that feeling would turn into a knowing that I could and would thrive as well.
Infertility & Pelvic Organ Prolapse
After my youngest was born, we had decided we wanted to try again for one more baby. We had trouble conceiving within a year of me stopping breastfeeding, so I went to get everything checked out. Everything was fine! My hormone levels were good, my body had bounced back beautifully from giving birth, I was having regular periods... every test came back with good news! Even in the face of that reality, my then-husband refused to get himself tested as it HAD to be my failing and couldn't be his. We kept trying with no success.
A year or so later, in early 2016, I noticed some odd feelings in my body. At my annual appointment, I mentioned a feeling of heaviness in my pelvic region. She did an exam and then asked if she could have their student come examine me as well "as a learning opportunity..." mind you, she hadn't yet told me anything, lol. I said yes and they oohed and ahhed over whatever they felt with my feet up in the stirrups and me getting more and more concerned by the second. Finally she told me I had a uterine prolapse and she thought I might also have some other types of prolapse as well (turns out I had 4 kinds). She couldn't tell me what had caused it and said that if I hadn't felt a "pop" or pinch of some sort then we really couldn't pinpoint WHEN it had happened either. She only knew that it wasn't there at my last visit but it was definitely there now. She listed a variety of potential causes - from being overweight post-baby to the intense weight lifting I had been doing to just age and having had two children and two really difficult labor and deliveries. At that point, I had never heard of Pelvic Organ Prolapse, so I was concerned but really wanted to read about it before developing too much of a worry state about it. My doctor said I could still get pregnant but likely would not be able to have a vaginal birth. At that point, we had been trying for 2+ years with no success, so we talked about how long I had essentially TO get pregnant before the POP got worse and needed more intervention. Not long, it turns out.
I went for more testing to understand what all was going on down there, and it turned out that my bladder and rectum had also prolapsed. My whole pelvic region was collapsing in on itself. I was off to rehab after that and learned a WHOLE HOST of new ways to do kegels, lol. Who knew there were so many different exercises that focused on the pelvic floor? Not me! I used different machines - some focused on external exercises, some focused on internal ones, some that had an electric current component, some that provided visual feedback and a report out... Not much helped, in fact it got worse to where I felt like every time I sat down I was sitting on a golf ball in my nether-regions.
Another visit to the doctor confirmed that things had gotten much worse. She suggested a hysterectomy to fix the uterine and vaginal vault prolapses along with another specialist to perform surgeries to address the posterior and anterior prolapses. Very suddenly, I was faced with the reality that there would be no more children in my future. Enter more feelings of failure and likely some undiagnosed acute depression. I am grateful now that I didn't have anymore children with my ex-husband, but at the time I was devastated (and of course, he blamed our inability to conceive on this, even though all the doctors said that wasn't it). My doctor was GREAT and kept touching base between appointments to check on me. Honestly, she is one of the few reasons I feel like there are ANY good apples in the medical field.
I had the surgeries to remove, tack and mesh my way to everything being back in place again. More rehab to recover and lots of self-reflection on why things happened as they did.
I could also mention here that, being in the US, I had to go negative into my PTO bank for both the birth of my child (8 weeks) and this procedure (another 8 weeks). There was no maternity leave, no disability pay, only FMLA to protect my position at the company. My team was super supportive, but damn if that's not an added stressor that is SUCH BULLSHIT!!!! Had I not been able to go so far into the red on my time off, I wouldn't have gotten paid at all.