Nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced after giving birth to my son in 2014.

While I had struggled with depression and anxiety most of my life, my postpartum journey was more intense than anything I had previously experienced.

It started with a complicated pregnancy and birth.

At 27 weeks pregnant, my water broke. Full of fear, I went to the emergency room, where it was confirmed I was now at high risk for delivering prematurely. They informed me I was to be admitted to the hospital and placed on bed rest in the hope I could delay giving birth.

Things got worse a few days later, when I started experiencing shortness of breath.

Over the next few hours, my oxygen saturation dropped to levels that were dangerous for both the baby and me. I was rushed to the ICU, wondering if I would live.

While I had a competent and compassionate team of medical professionals, there were more questions than answers, and I can’t tell you which fear was worse: that I would die and leave my baby without a mother, or that I would live and my baby would die. Both fears seemed like real possibilities, and I couldn’t bear the thought of either.

My whole life I had dreamed of being a mother. Now that was at risk.

I told my husband if things got worse, and he had to decide between saving the baby or me to choose the baby. He said he didn’t want to think about losing me, but tearfully he agreed.

Emily and son at the beach sunset
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Thankfully that decision never had to be made.

The doctors discovered I had an infection that had spread to my lungs. It was also likely the reason my water had broken so early. With antibiotics, I started feeling better and was able to carry my baby to 33 weeks.

While I am forever thankful I didn’t deliver at 27 weeks, the time I spent in the hospital on bed rest was exhausting. In addition to being extremely ill and in the ICU with the infection, I was monitored every few hours day and night for weeks on end. By the time I started having contractions, I was exhausted.

I was also afraid.

They scheduled me to give birth via C-section at 34 weeks – and I almost made it. I went into labor one day shy of 34 weeks and delivered via an emergency C-section. My baby boy was the smallest thing I had ever seen, and still, I fell in love instantly. I held him for a brief moment before he was taken and placed in the NICU.

Emily and son at the beach sunset
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It was supposed to be the best day. My baby was born! Instead, we were left wondering if he was ok. We quickly learned that when an infant gets admitted to the NICU, you don’t get a lot of information – not at first. Family and friends wanted to visit, and we turned them away.

No one had any idea how scared we were or how sick I had been. Even when we told them, people seemed unable to grasp that we continued to live in fear for the life of our son and that I was barely hanging on.

I lived in paralyzing fear my 4lb baby wouldn’t make it. At the same time, I was recovering from a C-section, spending countless hours in the NICU, and trying to make some sense out of everything that was happening.

Emily and son at the beach sunset
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I imagine the experience of being a new mom is confusing and scary, even when the pregnancy isn’t complicated.

I, however, was barely keeping it together when things took another turn for the worse.

I started experiencing a lot of pain.

Not knowing what it was like to recover from a C-section, I kept pushing through until one week after giving birth, I was in so much pain I couldn’t continue.

I returned to the ER and was admitted. The next day I had emergency surgery. During surgery, they discovered my C-section had become infected, and consequently, it was necessary to remove my gallbladder, appendix, and part of my stomach.

Emily and son at the beach sunset
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After the surgery, I started feeling better, and a couple of days later, I was released from the hospital. A few days after that, my son was discharged after 16 days in the NICU.

Suddenly I found myself at home, sicker than I’d ever been, with a four-pound baby boy, now wondering how on earth I was supposed to be the loving, attentive mom I always dreamed of being.

It was less than a week later when my dreams of motherhood were replaced by a single, terrifying thought, “my baby and my husband would be better off if I weren’t here.

And once this thought took hold, I entered the darkest period of my life.

It would be almost three years before I’d start to see the light again.

Click here for My Story Part 2.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I’d love to connect with you in the comments below!

 

Peace and Love,

Emily

 

 

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