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MAMA; Marissa

I’ll never forget when I found out that I was pregnant. I was in shock and disbelief. This couldn’t possibly be happening, not now, not after all this time. I don’t want this. I’m scared, I’m anxious. It felt like my world was caving in, all from those two blue lines on the pregnancy test. This can’t be right, let me try again. It indeed was correct. For someone that suffers with PCOS and endometriosis, and who has been told they would not be able to have children naturally, if at all, this should have been a happy occasion. It was anything but for me. I had given up on that dream a long time ago and put it behind me. I loved my life, and it was all going to change. I think looking back, this is where my anxiety and depression amped up.

I had so many thoughts and conversations in my own head. I played out every scenario. I lost sleep because of the thoughts racing through my mind. If only I could just shut off my brain and get some rest. In my mind it was always worst-case scenario no matter the situation I presented to myself. This was going to be the end of me, the end of life as I knew it, the end of my relationship. There was going to be something wrong with the baby. I wasn’t going to be able to afford a child. I wasn’t going to live long enough for this child. You name it, and I thought it. The thoughts were taking over and consuming my life. It made it impossible to live my life. I couldn’t focus at work, I couldn’t sleep, and I had no enjoyment in life or any activities, only worry, fear, and anxiety. I would snap at the littlest thing and had very little tolerance for external stressors. Any issue that was presented to me whether in my personal or professional life, was too much for me to handle. I wanted to scream and cry at the same time. I didn’t know how to handle the emotions that I was feeling. Neither are appropriate reactions to situations at work or at home. I needed to get a handle on myself and my emotions. I always thought I had a good poker face, but that clearly was not the case. People would ask me if I was okay or how I was doing, and my eyes would well up with tears as I was about to lose it and bawl uncontrollably. I had just started a new job and lord only knows what they thought. “Who hired the crazy girl?” That’s what I thought to myself.

Bursting out into tears in my OB’s office and every office for that matter, she recommended me speaking with a doctor from the Day Hospital at Women and Infants. I declined as I was already in therapy. However, I wasn’t getting any better so after a few suggestions I agreed to speak with someone. I spoke with a doctor a from Women and Infants, but my appointment was virtual. I did of course bawl my eyes out and could barely speak because I was crying so much during my appointment. I had a few virtual sessions with her, and she started me on medication. I did not stick with it though because it was virtual. I think that my situation with my pregnancy and mental health was worsened because of the pandemic. Virtual appointments just did not cut it for me and I’m sure that others felt the same way.

Scared, alone, isolated, anxious, depressed. My pregnancy progressed, and so did these feelings. I attended all my appointments solo. I would get so angry, and it did not make sense to me why my partner couldn’t be with me for support. The depression and anxiety made me so rageful on the inside, and it sometimes flowed over onto the outside. I did not like the feeling of not being in control of my emotions. There were concerns about the baby’s growth and I had to have monthly ultrasounds at the Prenatal Diagnosis Center. Again, all alone. The anxiety any person experiences here is compounded when you are waiting all alone in that room for the doctor to come in and potentially deliver life-altering news. It was overwhelming.

I trudged on through my pregnancy. To say it was one of the hardest times in my life is an understatement. I felt no connection to the baby growing inside my belly. I was honest about this, and I remember telling my mother, and her reaction was to cry. This did not help my situation and made me feel so much worse. I felt like a terrible person and the only pregnant woman in the world who wasn’t overjoyed about being pregnant. It seemed as though everyone I knew was pregnant. There were so many happy announcements on social media, all elated of course. The captions on photos with their loving hands on their bellies that read “so loved already” or “love at first sight” alongside their ultrasound photos. This made me feel even worse. What was wrong with me? Why do I feel like this? Once again, I feel like I am alone in these thoughts. There really must be something so wrong with me! What kind of evil person does not love their baby the moment they are conceived?!

My due date was quickly approaching. Don’t get me wrong, there were some happy moments sprinkled in with the anxiety ridden ones. The joy the news brought to friends and family was received by me with mixed emotions. I was so happy that they were happy. Tears of joy were shed by everyone but me. My tears were mostly anxiety, stress, fear, and depression. I wondered what people thought of me when my reaction did not match theirs. Just another instance for me to wonder what was wrong with me and if I would always feel like this. The first time I remember being genuinely happy during my pregnancy was at my baby shower. Seeing all my loved ones, my friends and family, all there to celebrate this new little life. I think that afternoon gave my brain the day off. For a few hours, I only felt happiness and cried tears of joy. I will never forget the feeling I had that day and I only wish I felt more of that throughout my pregnancy.

Fast forward to my delivery. It did not go as planned. I had two epidurals that did not work. I labored for close to 18 hours feeling every contraction. The baby was not progressing, nor had he even entered the birth canal. I was given the choice to keep pushing, for hours, another day, the doctor did not know, or opting to have a c-section. I told the doctor that we could go ahead with the c-section. Once he left the room I immediately started crying. I had failed already. My first task as a mother and I couldn’t do it. As I was wheeled into the OR and hooked up to the machines, I remember telling them that the only thing I wanted was to be awake for the delivery. I wanted to see and hear my baby take his first breath and let out that big cry. It was going to be a special moment that I would never forget for the rest of my life. This was going to be my light and make what I’ve been going through a little better.

I would never get that moment. To this day, I still deal with that and feeling cheated out of that moment. I had felt every little bit of them slicing me open and sewing me back up. When I could no longer take the pain and my throat went numb and I could barely see from all the medication, I finally gave in and closed my eyes. The last thing I remember was screaming that it hurt, and I could feel it. I succumbed to the darkness when I could no longer take the pain. I remember thinking that that was how it was going to end, and I wasn’t going to wake up. I had no more power against the immense pain and nausea that I was feeling. Alas, I did wake up and came to while everyone was telling me to open my eyes. I saw a fuzzy image which looked somewhat like a baby being held over the curtain. I only had the strength to open my eyes for a second until I was out again. That was my moment. The moment that I had dreamt about, and that was how it happened. I felt cheated, and I still do.

The hospital stay was a blur, and I was in so much pain. I was so anxious to get home that as soon as they said we could go, we did. If the hospital stay was a blur, I don’t really know how to explain those first few months of Quinn’s life. They were filled with pain, lots of sleepless nights, and tears by both of us. One screaming to convey his needs, and the other out of pure exhaustion, anxiety, and frustration. Trying to take care of a little one when you can’t take care of yourself and your basic needs aren’t being met, is near impossible, but it has to be done. I think people try to tell you this, but you don’t realize the depth of what this means until you are in it. They always tell you to let people help and that you need to take care of yourself too, but the difficult part is executing both tasks. It took me a long time to be able to do this. When I ended up back at the hospital due to excruciating pain and an infection, I had no choice but to accept the doctor’s orders and rest. I felt so guilty for letting my partner take care of me and the baby. I felt like I was the one who was supposed to be able to do everything. I cried because I couldn’t physically do it. Once again, I thought myself a failure.

Things wouldn’t get easier from there. Though my stomach did eventually get better, and I could somewhat move again. I was still hanging on by a thread and crying at the drop of a hat. The baby never slept unless he was held. He would cry if you put him down. He was what the doctors called colicky and also suffered from reflux and gas. This made for long days and even longer nights. The situation was so bad, we ended up taking him to the Sleep and Colic Clinic at Women and Infants Hospital. We went there for the first six months of his life. I continued my streak of breaking down in tears in doctors offices. While I was there bawling, it was again recommended to me to reach out to the Day Hospital.

I figured they might be on to something and maybe I should inquire more and stop saying no. My anxiety and thoughts were out of control. Nothing about this pregnancy, delivery, or post-partum experience had been easy for me. I was trying to manage it myself and with the help of a few dear confidantes. I couldn’t control the horrific thoughts and images popping into my head. I was so depressed, and it felt like all I did was cry. I couldn’t take feeling this anymore and I had to do something. By this time, the Day Hospital was in person. I went for my initial consult, again broke down in tears, and they wanted me to start attending that day. I didn’t, but I did start a few days later.

I’m not really sure if I would have made it to where I am now without their help. I still attend therapy sessions with my counselor from the Day Hospital as well as group sessions with other mothers who are having similar experiences. It has helped immensely to know that I am not alone in these feelings. Just because it isn’t being talked about, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

What I would have given when I was pregnant to hear someone say that they had felt like me. That I wasn’t alone in these feelings. That I wasn’t evil and heartless and that it was going to be okay. We always hear how tired we will be for the rest of our lives. How our entire world will change, but it will be for the better. Nobody ever talks about the struggles of motherhood and the toll it can take on you mentally.

There needs to be more open discussion. You need to know that you aren’t alone. You need to know that it is okay. You aren’t evil and heartless. This is your depression and anxiety getting the better of you, and there is help. I remember thinking that I would never be better again. I felt hopeless. I felt like it was the end of me. Thanks to the Women and Infants Day Hospital and the continued support of my therapist from the program, this isn’t the case. Please reach out and ask for help. You are not alone, and you do not have to live like this. Each and every day, the light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter and brighter.

My son is now the light of my life. I could not imagine him not being here. There is nothing more heartwarming than seeing him see me, and watch a big grin come over his face in recognition of his mama. I am so overcome with emotions about him that my eyes are welling up as I am writing this. I live for his sweet, pure, innocent laugh. I know that he is feeling nothing but pure happiness in that moment and it brings me tears of joy. I wish nothing more than he will always be this happy in his life. If, by chance he is not, I will be here for him. I will show him that it is okay to not always feel yourself, to feel depressed, anxious, scared, or alone. It is all okay, and there is help, and there is hope.

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