Hindsight is always 20/20

When the doctor put my daughter in my arms for the first time, I smiled.  She was beautiful. And I remember being amazed at how soft her skin was.  The whole thing was amazing.  The drugs probably didn't hurt, either.
One minute old

What a contrast to my birth experience with Winston (W1).  He came fast and furious, which had a detrimental effect on me.  I don't remember any of those first moments after he was born.  I was in too much pain.  It was the kind of pain that I will never forget and wasn't even comfortable talking about until almost two years later.  I remember really seeing W1 when we were settled in our overnight room several hours later, after the narcotics kicked in.  When I found out I was pregnant with W2, I had all kinds of issues.  I started having panic attacks at work anytime I thought about delivery.  My heart would race, I would become hot, I'd get a headache, and I couldn't function for the rest of the day.

Eventually, I brought this up with my therapist.  She had me tell her my experience with all of the gory details.  This led to me being diagnosed with PTSD from W1's delivery.  Never saw that coming.  She also met with John separately to get his version of the story.  The next time we met, she said we both were traumatized.  She said usually patients tend to exaggerate their experiences but after talking to John, she thought I might have downplayed it.  (In all fairness, John remembers more than I do and he watched the entire event.  I had my eyes closed, so I was unaware of some things like the total chaos, a nurse passing out, or amount of blood I lost).  I do remember that shortly after W1 was born, John said to me "If you don't want to have any more kids, I will never ask you to go through that again."  From that guy that always wanted two kids.

A precipitous labor is one that is defined as labor that lasts 3 hours or less, from the first contraction to delivery.  With W1, it was 1 hour and 45 minutes.  I never knew there was a name for it until I was pregnant with W2.  People will say things like "you're so lucky your labor was fast!"  When in reality, precipitous labor increase the risk of trauma for mom.  It increases the risk for PTSD and postpartum depression by significant amounts.  There is nothing "lucky" about it.

I didn't know any of this and looking back, I can almost guarantee I had postpartum depression.  I couldn't talk about it, because even thinking about delivery made me sick to my stomach and want to vomit.  I burnt out at work and changed jobs about 7 months after returning to work.  I almost left engineering entirely, but luckily John talked me down.  I didn't talk about how I was feeling because I had this beautiful, healthy baby and I felt guilty that a healthy baby wasn't enough.  Goddamn you Facebook and Pintrest and all other social media that portrays new motherhood as being all sparkles and glitter.  I felt like I wasn't living up to expectations.  I felt isolated and ungrateful and completely alone. 

All of this came crashing back when I was pregnant with W2.  The fear was like a lead weight on my chest.  I was afraid of the pain, of the loss of control.  Every piece of research and anecdotal information is that subsequent deliveries are faster than the previous. I could not fathom having a delivery any faster.  There were new fears to consider: what about W1?  Who will take care of him?  What if I go into labor at home and scare him?  What if we have to take him to the hospital with us and I have to deliver without John?  What if we don't make it to the hospital on time and I rupture blood vessels again?  

Thank god for licensed therapists.  And thank god I was able to get in at the hospital for a scheduled induction at 39 weeks so W2's delivery was completely controlled (and fully medicated).  

Looking back, I should have gotten help sooner.  Two years is a long time to carry around that kind of fear and trepidation.  I should have gone to a new mom group or breast feeding support group.  I wish someone would have told me that being a new mom is hard.  Really hard.  And while there are great moments, they aren't all great moments and you shouldn't feel guilty for that.  I wish I had been kinder to myself and had more realistic expectations.

At the same time, I am a firm believer that there really are very few mistakes in life that should be regretted.  Everything we do or don't do, every decision and mistake we make, take us down life's path and mold us into the people we are.  I have very few regrets in life because that would mean I regret where I am today.  Like I said previously, maybe I needed to break down completely to be able to build myself back up and really feel whole.

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