When I was a little girl, I loved playing the game of Life.
My heart would skip a beat and I would get so excited when I would land on spaces that said, “Congratulations it's a boy,” or “Congratulations it's a girl,” or, my favorite, “Congratulations you are having twins!” I fantasized about what names I would give my children and I would daydream of being a mommy.
I've always been the mothering type. Whether it be mothering my friends and being nicknamed “Mom” by everyone or whether it was helping to raise my two little sisters due to having alcoholism in my family.
I'll never forget the first time I received a Mother’s Day Card from one of my little sisters. She thanked me for everything I had done for her – taking her to doctor appointments, registering her for school, driving her to school dances. Being recognized in that way touched me so very much and really made me feel like I was a mother for the first time. It was an amazing feeling I will never forget.
I met and fell in love with my husband in 2004. We were married three years later and soon we adopted a furry-child – a golden retriever we named Murphy. He quickly became exactly that – a furry-child. He was the center of our lives and I got to practice my mothering skills on him. He was a willing participant and he enjoyed the long walks, the birthday parties, the photo cards I made with his picture on them, and the professional family pictures we had taken with him every Christmas.
They say that the first step toward starting your family is adopting a pet so it was only natural that we started trying for our first child soon after Murphy came into our lives. We adopted Murphy in April of 2008 and we became pregnant in October of the same year.
To say we were overjoyed is the understatement of the year; we were over the moon happy. Jason and I didn't hide our excitement from our family. We told them when we were seven weeks along. Shortly thereafter, I started spotting. I lost our first baby at eight weeks along, in our home. I was devastated. I took a week off of work to grieve the loss of my pregnancy, of my baby. I started blogging; it became excellent therapy for me by allowing me to journal my feelings. It provided the outlet I needed so very much.
The little outfits I had bought prematurely went into a chest of drawers – tucked away out of sight. The picture of our ultrasound when we saw the flutter of a little heartbeat went into a frame and was displayed on my dresser. We knew we would try again, but we waited three months like the doctor advised. I thought we would get pregnant right away again, but it was nine months before I saw the faint line on the pregnancy test that told me I had a positive reading. We were pregnant again! Oh, how I hoped and prayed that God would bless us and would allow us to raise this child.
My pregnancy was very difficult, both physically and mentally. I was very sick for the first 16 weeks. I worried all of the time – about everything – due to my earlier miscarriage. I was hospitalized twice for dehydration; I became anemic and was diagnosed with asthma, as well.
I went into preterm labor at 35 weeks and was put on bed rest. I was so swollen during the last part of my pregnancy that I had to place ice packs on my legs and feet. I did everything the doctor told me to do. My sole purpose at that time was to be everything I needed to be for my baby in order to get him here safely.
Through it all, I was still a happy pregnant woman. I was definitely ready to be a mommy. I read all of the books and took several classes to prepare for the arrival of our baby boy. I bought little outfits and had three showers to welcome our baby. I sanitized every bottle, every toy, and washed every piece of clothing while I was nesting.
After the early labor was stopped, my son became so comfortable, we had to schedule an induction. We went to the hospital early in the morning of August 10, 2010. My husband and I couldn't have been more excited to become parents.
My labor was long and it was trying. I was in labor for fourteen and a half hours and pushed for an hour and a half and still hadn't delivered. The doctor discovered that our son was too big for me to deliver, so they wheeled me in for an emergency Cesarean section. The doctor prepped me and it wasn't long before I could hear the cries of my newborn son, Landon Jason. I was so happy that he was finally here and he was healthy and perfect. The nurse brought Landon over to me and I was able to look at him for the first time.
He was beautiful.
We took our first family photo and he was swept back into the nursery. I was happy, but worried because I hadn't shed a single tear - I'm usually very emotional. What I didn't know is that I was emotionally detached. I was beginning my battle, my own personal war with postpartum psychosis and postpartum depression.
Postpartum psychosis is a monster.
It comes on sudden, takes its powerful hold, and strips you of everything you have ever known yourself to be. I started displaying symptoms almost right away. My husband and I had never heard of postpartum psychosis, so we were ill prepared. I couldn't sleep. When I did, I had terrifying dreams that led me to fear sleep. I was obsessed with keeping schedules of diaper changes, visitors, breastfeeding - you name it and I developed a schedule for it.
I thought I was dying.
I was so afraid that something was going to happen to me, that I would leave my husband without a wife and my son without a mother. At one point, I was left home alone with my son (he was five days old) and I was pacing back and forth. I didn't know what to do. The voices in my head were telling me to do crazy things and I knew – somehow – that my son was not safe with me.
I made the choice and called my mother and told her to get to the house right away. I had my psychotic break at home, scaring my husband and family enough that they had to call 911. At that time, I was a danger to myself. By the grace of God, I did not harm myself and I never did want to harm my son. I thank God every day that I never wanted to harm my son.
My husband admitted me to the hospital against my will. I was hospitalized for seven nights and eight days; it wasn't long enough. During my hospital stay, I had to start the process of piecing myself back together again – just like a puzzle. I was separated from my son during my hospitalization, which was difficult. I was so happy when I found out that they had little bottles of baby shampoo. I carried that around with me and smelled it whenever I really missed my boy. I wanted more than anything to be “the old Tina” – to be a good mom – to be a good wife. I could not believe that I had finally been blessed with a child, but was so very sick that I could not enjoy the first part of my son’s life.
Postpartum psychosis robbed me of that.
When I was released from the hospital, I found I was still terrified to be alone with my son. I didn't have any self-esteem and I didn't believe in myself as a mother. I thought that everyone else could do a better job than I could do and Landon didn't need me. I felt so hopeless and the suicidal thoughts began. I formed a plan; my husband and Landon are the two things that stopped me from carrying out that plan. I couldn't allow my husband to be the one to discover my body. Thank God I didn't remain silent and shared what I was thinking.
I was hospitalized again, but this time for only four days. It wasn't long before I went back to work. I was still unstable, but coping. I was on another mix of medications and seeing my psychiatrist regularly. I quickly discovered that I had gone back to work too soon. It was overwhelming and I felt like I was failing as a wife, as a mother, and as an employee. I felt so worthless; the feelings of hopelessness and despair returned along with the suicidal thoughts. I had to take a leave of absence from work and returned to the hospital. We went with a different hospital this time along with a different psychiatrist. I stayed for eight days -it was the longest stay and most beneficial.
I haven't returned to the hospital since.
I've really started enjoying my son. I still feel guilt and shame over missing out on the first two months of his life. I was there for some of it physically, but mentally I was checked out completely. Since I've begun the journey of healing and finding myself again, I've really enjoyed motherhood. My son is happy and healthy. He is surrounded by love and I could not ask for anything more than that.
Please, know that if you are suffering from postpartum illness that you are not alone. There are many women who have experienced it. We've survived it. We have made it to the other side.
Life can be and will be good again and you will look forward to your tomorrows again.
Just for today, live life moment to moment. Celebrate taking a shower, doing the dishes, getting grocery shopping done. All of the little moments help in the healing process and help to pull you out of that depression. You are going to be okay.
And you ARE a good mother.
The creation of human life is one of the most complex and shockingly beautiful things that our bodies are designed to do. The microanatomy that goes into this task is so astonishingly complicated that it's a miracle any of us walk around at all. And yet, most of us do. Most...but not all.
When a baby dies, we are fragmented. Shattered, we must pick up the pieces and put them back together as we pay tribute to our children, our tables forever missing one, our families incomplete, our treasures in heaven, our babies alive only in our hearts.
It is through our stories that they live forever. These children were here and they mattered. They were loved. They are loved.
I found out I was pregnant with our first baby on July 9, 2007.
I remember the day precisely because I was several weeks into an archaeological program in Rome. It was my first time abroad, and although we'd been trying to get pregnant, we'd had no luck for several months. I was... thrilled. Ecstatic. Overwhelmed. Grateful. Excited. I just wanted to be home. A friend who was in the program with me came with me to a payphone to call my husband and parents.
I came home from the program a little over a week early. I felt good, had an easy pregnancy, and enjoyed every minute. I had a little queasiness here and there, but no real sickness. I tried to eat well and stay active, knowing I was starting pregnancy out overweight.
I just wanted to be the best mom I could be.
We slowly started buying things, little pieces here and there, and designated a room in our tiny apartment as a nursery.
We picked out names, struggling over a boys name for weeks and weeks.
We finally settled on Aodin, a play on Odin and pronounced like Aidan, as a unique spelling of an otherwise relatively normal name. We wanted something different without condemning our kid to a life of easy jokes.
Everything was awesome.
We were planning and dreaming.
I felt great.
My sister came to visit on a beautiful weekend in the end of September.
The leaves were starting to change and the weather was cool enough for long walks. We walked the 2 miles or so down to the beach, right after lunch on September 30.
After the walk I laid down for a nap, only to be immediately struck by the now-familiar feeling of needing to pee.
I stood up and immediately I knew something was wrong. Before I could figure out what, I felt... wet. I thought I'd wet myself, but when I got to the bathroom I was soaked. My water had broken at the brink of 18 weeks. I yelled for my sister and husband, and I called my mom. We tried to be calm about driving to the hospital, with me sitting on a towel as I continued to seep fluid.
I was immediately admitted to the antepartum ward, specifically designed for women who shouldn't yet be giving birth. I got a scan. He was happy in there, his heart beating strong. It was then we found out it was a boy. The doctors were encouraged by his strong heartbeat, and they let me know that I might have a chance since fluid replenished sometimes. They'd watch me, measure my fluid levels, and keep me comfortable.
A week passed. No infection. No continued loss of fluid. No contractions. A strong heartbeat still beating away. They warned me that he might have issues from the reduced fluid, that his limbs might not develop properly. I didn't care. I laid in the hospital bed every night and prayed for him.
I sang to him.
I begged him to stay.
It wasn't enough.
Here's what I posted on October 8th:
Aodin R. Hurd was born at 4:02 am on Sunday, October 7th, 2007. His strong, tiny heart had ceased to beat hours beforehand, just one and a half days before his nineteenth week of gestation. He weighed 9.6 oz and had beautiful, big hands and perfect tiny feet.
He was beautiful.
His father and I, as well as my parents, were given the precious opportunity to say our goodbyes to him while I held his tiny, perfect body in my arms for the first and the last time.
Our hearts are broken, but Aodin’s life will be celebrated forever. He is our son.
I am his mother.
Thank you all for your sweet thoughts and fervent prayers. I firmly believe that he awaits us in heaven, wrapped securely in the arms of the loved ones we have lost over the years. No child will be better kept, and in his short time here he knew only love. Not a moment of pain or fear or sadness ever crossed his sweet, perfect heart.
Healing is a process that we are only just beginning. The hospital sent us home with a beautiful memory box including a butterfly bracelet, symbolizing new life flying away, and some beautiful pictures of our son. When I am stronger, I will post them.
For now, every time we see a butterfly, we will consider it a tiny hug from our tiny, perfect son.
Healing is a process that we are relearning every day. It's been four years now, and I find myself assaulted by the grief even now. Dive bombed, ninja attacked. It takes me by surprise every time.
I'll be in the middle of something - work, television, a phone call - and it hits me, like being side-swiped by a locomotive. The pain never stops, but it does get easier. I've finally stopped being angry with God, furious at the world, and begrudging other pregnancies.
I'm not going to lie.
Every time a friend or family member shares a picture of their new little boy - it hurts again. I don't begrudge them their children. In fact, I take joy in their happiness. But still... it digs at me a bit, reignites an ember of that anger, reminds me that it's always there.
I still say hello to butterflies.
Now I struggle with our sweet daughter. She's three. She knows about Aodin, but she doesn't really understand. It's only this real; this visceral to me. Me alone. It's lonely.
It's a lot like this.
Don't Sweat The Small Stuff
And It's All Small Stuff
I sit with my hands at the ten o'clock and two o'clock position. Focus. Control. Don't get angry.
Don't get angry at the guy in the yellow Mercedes waiting to take a left. Without creeping out into the intersection so that I and the four cars behind me can squeeze past. My car's not that big; he only needs to roll forward a few feet. Instead, he remains stubbornly behind the faded white stop line with his left turn signal blinking, blinking, blinking.
I am turning left, left, left. I am turning left. And have you read my bumper sticker today?
Don't Sweat The Small Stuff
And It's All Small Stuff
I read it over and over. And over. I look at the back of this man's head, his dark hair curling wildly, brushing the roof of the car. His eyes reflected in the rear view mirror. He doesn't look back and see the line of cars behind him. Maybe we're small stuff to him. Don't sweat us. We're just stuck behind you as you sit there in your bio-deisel car with your zen-like patience and your complete unwillingness to actually GO! GO GODDAMN YOU! Just! Go! I could have driven a herd of three legged cattle through that gaping hole in oncoming traffic.
Don't Sweat The Small Stuff
And It's All Small Stuff
As I sit there, I think about small stuff. The smallest stuff. A tiny baby so small that he fits into the palm of your hand. Tiny lungs too weak and immature to take a breath. Tiny trachea just too narrow for life saving intubation. Tiny heart that stopped beating before he was even born.
Tiny dead future.
Look, asshole, it's not all small stuff. I mean, I know what you're trying to say. Don't freak out over the dishes in the sink or never being able to find your left shoe when you need it. Just let go of the anger and anxiety that wells when you're stuck in traffic or get a parking ticket or whatever it was that you used to get worked up about before you found god at the bumper sticker emporium. But it is not.
Not all of it is actually small stuff.
So okay, it might not all be gargantuan Earth shattering stuff. Asteroid killing the dinosaurs big, or bubonic plague big, or World War 3 big. But there is deep catastrophe.
Losing your job big.
Having your family torn apart by loss and grief big.
Dead baby big.
And there's all the other stuff that doesn't stop just because you lost your house or your kid or your job or your mind or whatever. Bills keep coming in whether you can pay them or not, and I don't just mean financially.
You have to write the check to the hospital for the delivery. You have to write the check to the funeral home for the cremation. You have to get dressed and start the car, even though it's the last thing you want to do.
You have to exchange pleasantries with the receptionist at the funeral home. You have to drive home with your son's ashes. And through all of that, you have to not rage and claw at every smug assface who wants to tell you that everything happens for a reason. That things will turn out okay in the end. That God doesn't give any of us more than we can handle.
Don't Sweat The Small Stuff
And It's All Small Stuff
Sometimes small stuff is decidedly not small stuff. Sometimes you hate and you seethe and you feel absolutely defeated by the left shoe that refuses to be found on the day that you need to get out of the house while you can still breathe. By the man in the stinking yellow car with its chirpy little message telling you that the small things aren't worth the hassle, the fight, the worry. That your ache and your anger are misplaced. Your feelings, invalid.
He finally goes, on the yellow. I'm up next, but for me the light is red.
When I fell pregnant with Bear, my sister-in-law, Aunty J, found out that she was also pregnant for the tenth time.
She only has one child.
She was due the same day as I was, and, for a few weeks, we excitedly started planning our births and pregnancy-related things together. One night, I had a phone call just as we were putting Flower to bed.
It was Aunty J.
She sounded very calm when she said, "Can you take me to the hospital, please?"
I was a bit shocked and asked what was the matter.
Then she said the words you never want to hear a pregnant woman say: "I'm having a miscarriage."
I dashed over to Aunty J's house, where her husband, Uncle P, was putting their son to bed. We left immediately. On the way down, I tried to make small talk, but inevitably the topic of the baby came up. I suggested that she could be wrong.
I was put right.
"I know how it feels! I'm sure!"
We managed to find a parking space and ran up to the maternity suite. The nurse checked her over while I stayed in the waiting room, trying desperately to hide my own growing bump.
However, people noticed and asked why I was there so late on a Sunday night. Everyone thought I was there for me, but then I explained what was happening to Aunty J. I felt terrible because even though they knew we were there for the worst of reasons, they'd always draw attention to the fact that I was pregnant; how marvelous it was.
I couldn't lie about how happy I was as we'd been trying for seven months to have a baby, but I also felt horrified that my baby was thriving and healthy in my womb, while down the corridor, Aunty J was losing hers.
She came out while I was talking to a lady who had literally just given birth, and I was cooing over the little soul.
I felt so guilty.
Aunty J simply said, "Let's go," and walked down the corridor.
I rushed after her. "What did they say?"
"Go home. If the blood loss gets any worse, phone an ambulance."
"Is that all?!" I was horrified that they hadn't even offered her counseling.
"What did they say about the baby?" I asked.
"It'll probably come out in the next few days," she replied.
I couldn't believe how nonchalant she was. But she wasn't, not really. When we got back to her flat, she left the room for a few minutes and when she came back her eyes were red with tears.
Two days later, she lost the baby. The life that was growing inside her died. She cried and so did I. I couldn't understand why it happened to her and not me.
Over a year later, I still cry.
Every time I look at Bear, I'm reminded that he should have a cousin the same age. I think things they should be doing together; how they'd be friends as they grow up.
Now Aunty J is twenty-six weeks pregnant with twins, and she keeps going in and out of labor and they've rushed her to the nearest hospital with two open incubator beds for the boys.
So again, we are praying for little unborn children. I hope they'll all be okay, including Uncle P who is still a child at heart. He's doing his best, but the stress is taking hold.
I suppose I'd better get a shift on with the premature clothes and hats I want to make because it looks like I don't have much time!
Prenatal and postnatal complications are not as rare as we'd like to believe, even in the United States. This month, Band Back Together is bringing this to light in our spotlight series.
We invite you to share your stories of any type of complication before or after the birth of your child. Whether it's preeclampsia, a cord trauma or an infection like Group B Strep, we want your stories.
Have you experienced complications during pregnancy or immediately after?
You want prenatal and postnatal complications?
I've had them in spades. My son just turned a year old, and I can't stop thinking about what happened after his birth every single day.
After having a miscarriage in 2008, another in 2009, and a third in 2010, I was desperate to have a pregnancy.
I have PCOS and hypothyroidism, and my doctors had told me that if I wanted to carry my own child, I needed to do it ASAP.
I couldn't get affordable health insurance due to my pre-existing conditions. The policies I could get didn't cover infertility treatments anyway. So I hit blogland to see what real doctors prescribed for women I thought were similar to me.
I found that some women had luck trying to conceive while on Clomid. I gave it a try, but after several cycles and too many stark white peesticks to count, I decided it wasn't working.
One day I woke up feeling worse, worse than I'd felt since the miscarriages - crampy, achy, downright vomity - and I knew I had to test just one more time. It was positive!
The next day, I was admitted to the hospital for the pain due to a suspected ectopic pregnancy. I spent the next three days there until an intrauterine sac showed up on ultrasound.
Guess what also showed up on the ultrasound? My right kidney, very inconveniently nestled up to my uterus.
Hyperemesis hit immediately, as it had with the other pregnancies. It sucked, but at least there was a constant reminder that lucky number 4 was still hanging in there. I was given an anti-emetic and remained on it for the remainder of the pregnancy.
It made things so much better. Even on the medication, I weighed 45 pounds less after delivery than I did before I got pregnant. (I've never been so happy to be fluffy in all my life. Imagine if you didn't have those 45 pounds to spare!)
At eight weeks, I started seeing spots. My blood pressure had started to rise, and a 24-hour urine protein sample showed I was already emitting large amounts of protein in my urine. The blood pressure medications made me incredibly dizzy. For the rest of the pregnancy, I couldn't stand up for longer than 15 minutes without feeling as though I might pass out.
At twelve weeks, my husband and I thought we were in the clear.
Suck it, first trimester!
I went to the bathroom one night at work, feeling slightly crampy. I found that I was bleeding and had passed a large clot. I rushed to the hospital, all the while thinking, "We shouldn't have bought the crib. We tempted fate and now it's all over. I'm sorry, baby."
It turned out that I'd had a small fibroid that grew larger from the pregnancy hormones, too large for its own blood supply. It was dying from the inside, hence the blood and pain. I went on the first of several stints of modified bed rest.
At 18 weeks, the bleeding from the fibroid finally stopped and I was released from activity restrictions. I promptly got food poisoning and ended up dehydrated and in preterm labor. Cue modified bed rest, part two, which ended at 22 weeks.
My blood pressure had risen to dangerous levels at 23 weeks. I was already maxed out on the amount of blood pressure medication I could take. I was also emitting even more protein in my urine. Enter modified bed rest, part three. On the ultrasounds, it showed that baby was getting smaller and smaller for gestational age.
I tested positive for gestational diabetes at 24 weeks. That, combined with the other complications, ruled me out of all care options in my hometown.
We're in a rural community, and a maternal-fetal-medicine team flies in once a month to do level two ultrasounds. They took on my care, seeing me when they were in town. I drove 220 miles one way to see them for the rest of my appointments. I caught bronchitis in their office and broke a rib coughing. Unpleasant at the best of times, downright intolerable when there's also a baby kicking you those ribs.
At 26 weeks, my blood pressure spiked some more. I was seeing spots in my vision all of the time. I had a constant severe headache. I was having epigastric pain, but I thought it was just heartburn from throwing up all the time and wondered why antacids weren't working. Due to miscommunication between my care providers, this went unnoticed until 28 weeks.
At the 28 week appointment, I was put on full bed rest after an abnormal EKG and some bad cardiac laboratory testing. It was only then that the maternal-fetal-medicine team realized that they'd never done a urine protein check on me. It came in high of course, but nobody could decide if that was because of my crappy pelvic kidney (that had been emitting protein for the entire pregnancy and was now getting damaged further by constant baby headbutts) or if it was the beginning of preeclampsia.
We monitored it for several weeks. The levels rose slowly, as did my blood pressure, and they decided to keep me home on bed rest with a blood pressure monitor. They would induce labor as soon as the baby's lungs were ready.
At 37 weeks, his lungs were ready, which was good because labs showed I was in the early stages of heart, liver, and kidney failure. He was deemed fully cooked. He thought differently and refused to make his appearance.
After 84 hours of labor (GBS+, 37 hours since my water broke), I had a c-section. I had a bad reaction to the spinal on the operating table. Our son's heart rate hit 30 and mine hit 16. I thanked them for the blessed pain relief. Labor sucks for most (if not all) people, but I didn't know it would also make me flashback to the sexual abuse I suffered as a child.
I never thought I'd really have a baby at the end of it all. Not until I saw him alive and screaming. I thought that was the end of the nightmare called reproduction. But after two hours in the recovery room, his blood sugar was a little low, so they took him for monitoring.
Eight hours later, when I could stand and walk again, they let us have our son back to feed him. We thought he was just sleepy when he didn't want to eat.
His blood sugar had tanked after they forgot to check it during those eight hours, and he was lapsing in and out of a coma. He was rushed to the NICU for IV dextrose.
He was also jaundiced from ABO Incompatibility and had to be on phototherapy. He stayed in the NICU for the next five days.
He's a determined, stubborn little fighter to this day, and we are so lucky that he made it unscathed through all of the complications.
Mama, on the other hand, still can't process the enormity of all of it - more than a year later.
But on the bright side, the PTSD symptoms from the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period have almost completely eclipsed the symptoms I had from other life events.
Yes, glitter, dammit!
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