I am 33 years old, I have an amazing husband, two beautiful kids, a roof over our heads and pretty much everything I have dreamed of since I was a little girl.
I was always that kid that wanted to play with other peoples’ babies and endlessly fantasized about the day I would have my own. I have a blessing of a niece who stole my heart the day that she came into this world. I would take her out on my own from the very beginning caring for her with all of my heart. I spent basically every second of spare time that I could with her and would use every excuse in the book to skip out of work to go see her. I was convinced that all of the time that I had spent helping care for my niece and watching my sister in law be a mom was all that I needed to prepare me for the next chapter in my life... having babies. Being the most amazing mother to my children was going to be my thing so to speak. It was something that I had been waiting for my whole life and as a result I had no doubts that it was going to come naturally to me. I was wrong, so very wrong.
I got married in early October 2012 and a few weeks before our wedding I found out I was pregnant. Oops. A few days before our wedding my doctor informed me that the pregnancy wasn't going well and I should prepare myself for a miscarriage. I told my doctor, I was a bit busy that week - using my humour to mask my sadness. (I tend to do that a lot).
The day before my wedding I started to miscarry and by the time I was dancing the horah it became a very bitter sweet evening. I am notoriously an open book. Anyone who knows me would agree. So it's no shock that when someone would ask me the night of my wedding how I was doing, I would reply with, “I'm great, just having a miscarriage, you having a good time??”
That is me... I just say it like it is.
If you talk to me, I pretty much chat about whatever is going on in my life and ask the other person a series of questions assuming that they are as open as I am – which of course they generally are NOT.
A few months later, I miscarried again on New Year's Eve. I really know how to celebrate!
After several months, a series of doctor appointments and the seemingly endless support from my unbelievable husband….Here I was, pregnant again!
For those of you who have ever suffered from miscarriages, you can relate to the anxiety provoking feeling that accompanies finding out that you’re pregnant. Every ache, every twinge, every time you pee, a part of you is just waiting and preparing for something bad to happen. The good news was that after weeks of this self inflicted torture, we finally saw a heartbeat. I took my mom with me to that ultrasound because I couldn't bear the idea of having to watch my husband stay strong for me in the face of more potential bad news.
My mom, husband and all of my friends and family were so elated with the good news. I for some reason was the only one that didn’t feel like celebrating. I had heart palpitations, and a lurking feeling of being down all of the time - somber as I used to call it. I couldn't really explain it because I didn't understand it myself. It would come and go in waves.
By 12 weeks my feet had swelled up from a bad case of edema, by 32 weeks I had gained 77 pounds and by 33 weeks... I was in labour.
There I was in a hospital bed in a room with my husband and a team of doctors preparing me for what was next. A premature baby. I was informed that the baby's lungs were going to be born under developed and he would have to stay in the NICU. A counselor sat there trying to talk to me about how I was handling everything emotionally. Who the hell knows what they are feeling when they are high on an epidural?!?! I said I was fine, I thought I was fine. Turned out, I was not fine.
All of those fantasies of how you bring your baby into this world were shattered. There was no time for skin to skin, there was no time to sit in awe of my new baby boy. They whisked him away to his new home in an incubator. I was losing a lot of blood and Eric was instructed to go stay with our son while they hooked him up to breathing machines. The good news - he came out 6lbs (I fed him well - and still paying for it now).
The nurses were fast to come in and tell me I had to start pumping right away. They started waking me up every 2 hours in the hospital to do this and told me I had to take whatever I got from it to my son in the NICU. I would crawl there. I had a hemoglobin of 60, half of what it was supposed to be. I would cry trying to pump and get this tiny amount to my son at all hours of the night while missing half my blood supply. I would sit in the hallway on the floor trying to get enough energy to get back to my hospital room to sleep an hour and have them wake me back up and hour after that. It felt like torture. They told me if I didn't do it, it would be bad for my son - they said he had to have my breast milk. What did I know? I did what whatever they said.
That was the start of the worst 5 months of my life.
It took them three days to figure out that I needed a blood transfusion. People were coming down to the hospital eager to meet the baby. I just wanted to stay in my hospital bed. My husband would take them and he would help change his diapers and get excited for bath time with the nurses. He became the mom I thought I would always be. The worst part was having to answer to all of the people who would ask me constantly “How in love and obsessed are you with your new baby?” and “How happy are you?” I wanted to reply with - NO, none of the above, go away!
For the first time in my life, the open book was closed! I couldn't even talk. I couldn't say what I was feeling or thinking. I was mortified. I could hear my heart beating out of my chest against the bed. The anxiety felt like a fire burning in my chest and I would just hold my breath until the tears would pour out. Five days later I was released from the hospital. My job - go home, pump 9 times a day and bring all of my breast milk to the hospital. I quickly figured out that a good mom would just spend all day and night at the hospital with their baby pumping and if I did that nobody would know something was wrong.
Sure, I would go home at times, but every time I left I felt this anxiety come over me. Who would rather leave their baby to go home and be alone than with their newborn? Me. The guilt just kills you. I literally felt like it was eating me alive every passing day.
By the second week, the ones who knew me best had become suspicious. I tried to hide it. I would pretend like I was happy or that cooing at the baby was my idea of fun, when really I just wanted to cry under my sheets and throw a tantrum. It was becoming impossible to hide from the ones closest to me. I mean, how do you explain crying on the bathroom floor every day and not being able to leave the house with your baby? I've been called out about a lot of things in my life but this was by far the worst. How do you admit that you feel no connection to your baby and that the mere thought of spending a whole day alone with him sends you into a state of sheer panic?
These are the times in your life when you really get to know who your real friends are. There are people in your life, if you are lucky to have them, that stay strong for you, that talk to you in their sweetest voice to make it clear that you are not being judged and suddenly opening up and telling you that they've been there too. These are the kind of people who show up even when you don't ask them to and are the ones who want to keep you company while you sit in the NICU staring at your baby all day and night. Those people say to your face, “you're not ok, I love you, let me help you.” Those are the friends that make you turn around and say, “Ok. I surrender.” It's amazing what happens when you say the things out loud to the right people. They listen. They talk back. They care and it helps.
Months went by and it was an uphill battle. I have a husband who I would marry ten times over. He is a solid loving man who managed to hold my hand and exercised unimaginable patience during those times that I was crying and couldn't for the life of me explain why. It is because of him and the people that rallied around me that I was slowly but surely able to get back on my feet again. One day, I decided I was getting up and going for manicure (always a sign that I am headed in the right direction) and I sat down beside a woman and we started chatting. I told her that I had just had a baby and she asked how it was being a new mom. I decided I was just going to be the old Casey in that one second and I blurted out, “it's ok- I have postpartum and I've been miserable but happy to be out having a manicure.” She looked a bit stunned and who could blame her. I’m sure it wasn’t exactly the response she was expecting. Although it was me that got the real shock when she replied with, “oh, I had postpartum also with both my kids.” I sort of chuckled and thought to myself… ‘of course she did.’ Because here I was trying to get back to the old me, and the old me would have told anyone and everyone that I had a problem, sparing no detail. It’s always been pretty clear to me that people are generally going through similar things in life, they just don't talk about them - but I do. After that day, I decided to open my book again. I decided that people will relate as long as I tell them the truth. Sure enough, left right and centre were people telling me they had been there too. All I had to do all along was be honest.
A year later, I became pregnant with a baby girl. Once again I found myself scared, anxious and faced with that ever so familiar somber feeling. She too was eager to grace us with her presence a month early. As I lay there in the delivery room ready to go, I remember turning to my husband and apologizing in advance for what was to come.
This time... there were no secrets to be kept, no lying and no pretending. I spoke up right away and right away I knew it was time to speak up because I knew I had all of the support that I needed and it was all going to be ok!
When I heard about The Dialogue Projects, I immediately thought about writing this piece. I rehearsed it at night in my head but never followed through. Once in a while I have to remind myself that postpartum isn't some shameful secret for you to keep from the world, it is something you should share with the world to help make it easier for others to do the same.
So you might ask me today if I'm happy in love and obsessed with these little blessings of mine? I would now say... Absolutely!!!!
Thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope someone out there finds it helpful.
living the life I always dreamed of.