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A Silent Topic

Before you read my story, please know I am incredibly grateful. I am grateful for my family, my life and the health of my loved ones.

This is by no means a complaint, but more a story I felt I needed to share and write out for my own therapeutic reasons. Maybe it will help some and maybe it’ll be a boring read to others. Either way, it felt really good to write it all out and share something really personal, so here you go! 

C-SECTION.

It’s a term that’s often thrown around pretty loosely. Before I had Ruby, I never even really thought about the actual word. I had heard of it, friends had gone through it, but it had nothing to do with me so it was a whatever subject. After having Ruby vaginally, I went through a lot during recovery, physically speaking. I mentally didn’t feel much different after birthing Ruby aside from the typical emotional moments where I cried on and off for a few weeks afterwards. Physically, on the other hand, my vaginal stitches kept getting infected and I kept getting mastitis when I breastfed. After a couple of months of antibiotics for the stitches and then the mastitis, I decided to stop breastfeeding. I stopped after three months and I quickly jumped back to my old self. I felt great, truly I felt incredible postpartum. I had the most incredible two years watching Ruby grow and began thinking about my next pregnancy. Like clockwork, I did acupuncture for 3 months to get pregnant with Esme and by month 4, I got the positive sign. My pregnancy with Esme started out on the anxious side. When the tests came back positive, I rushed to get bloodwork done which confirmed I was in fact pregnant. They had me wait a week to come back in to do a sonogram to see the baby on the monitor. I went in and while they saw a sac in my uterus, they did not see a baby in it or a heartbeat. My anxiety began. Doctors told me it could have just been too early to detect or it was a blighted ovum, which means the baby didn’t develop. That entire week, I barely slept. I barely ate, I barely did anything, I barely left the house because I was so anxious and nervous that it was a blighted ovum. I remember calling friends in the field and asking friends of friends because I needed answers. Instead of just accepting what life was going to hand me, I needed to know right away. Everything everyone would tell me only heightened my anxiety because I was looking for an answer that could not have been given to me until that week was up. 

It was the Friday of Michaela’s rehearsal dinner and wedding weekend. It was time to head to my appointment with my mom. I sat in the waiting room shaking because my anxiety was so high. Will the baby be there? What will I do if it isn’t? This anxiety is probably hurting it if it’s there, I need to relax, I need to take deep breaths. They brought me into the room and had me change and lay on the bed. She came in and put the stick onto my belly with the gel and looked onto the TV. I just stared at the doctors face. “Is it there?” “Is the baby there?”

My doctor looked at me and said, “it’s there and has a beautiful heartbeat. You can relax.” I can’t even tell you guys what that felt like. Everything just squeezed in my body. How could I be so lucky? How did I get so freaking lucky?! My baby is there and its heart is beating. But then something else came over me. Why? Why did I get so lucky? I already have a healthy baby at home. Do I deserve this? I have friends who have been trying for years, why should I get another healthy baby? It was a really horrifying feeling because in that moment I wanted so badly to allow myself to be so incredibly happy, but a new wave of anxiety washed over me saying, when will my luck run out?

I spent the entire first trimester worrying that I was going to lose my baby or that something in the blood work would come back not right. Once I got out of the first trimester and I announced my pregnancy to my IG family, I ended up in the hospital that night. I had some sort of food poisoning or stomach virus that left me almost unconscious. I was vomiting and experiencing diarrhea to the point where I had nothing left inside and I basically passed out and had to be rushed to the hospital. I was put on tons of fluid IVs when I finally came to. The doctors asked me if they can give me anti-nausea medication (controversial when pregnant) and I remember just saying to the doctor, “is the baby okay? Is my baby alive?” They told me they couldn’t give me that answer, but assured me that babies are resilient. Anxiety set in again.

A few days later, I was able to go into the doctor and see my baby on the screen with a strong heartbeat. The rest of my pregnancy was great until later on when they kept telling me that the baby was head up (breech position). Anxiety set in again. Every 4 week check up, I’d hope she would have turned but she didn’t. I kept reminding myself that everything works out in the end regardless and we’ll be okay, but the anxiety was always hovering. Finally, at 37 weeks – I went into the hospital to see my sister in-law’s baby. My doctor was also her doctor so I was able to see her in the waiting room. She looked at me and said, “you’re next!” She came over and felt my belly and told me that the baby was head up still. She said, “let’s schedule an ECV in the hospital at 39 weeks and we’ll induce you so you can birth her vaginally.” We had a plan. I was happy. No matter what, it would work and I’d birth the baby vaginally like I did with Ruby. 

3 days later, I started feeling weird contractions. They felt unlike anything I had felt before. Anxiety set in again. It was Saturday night and we were about to head down to Brooklyn for my mom’s 60th birthday party. As I sat in bed waiting for Brandon to finish getting ready, I kept getting a sensation like the wind was being knocked out of me. I called my doctor’s emergency line and spoke with her. She asked that I go up to the hospital just to get checked out because my baby was breech and she wanted to be safe. I went up in my dress and no hospital bag because there was no way I was in labor. It didn’t feel like labor. I got there and they hooked me up to a machine to see my contractions. They said they were super light and a little off beat so they didn’t think anything of it really. They also did a sonogram to see the baby’s position and she was still breech. They checked my cervix to see if I was dilated and they told me I wasn’t at all. I was sure that I was going home. Brandon started ordering sushi on Postmates so it was there for when we got back. (I would always get the chicken teriyaki). 

As we were getting ready to leave, the nurse came back in and said your doctor actually lives a few blocks away and she just wants to come in herself and check you out. I remember thinking that’s strange, but okay. She came in around 15 minutes later, put her hand up to check my cervix and said, “we’re going to meet your baby tonight.” My heart dropped. This is when it all started and I didn’t even realize it. This is when those feelings came in that would later haunt me for the next 16 months without me realizing what they were stemming from. 

I was happy, I was sad, I was crying, I was confused. It happened so fast. I kept screaming for Brandon, “please, please, Brandon come with me, come with me.” They assured me he’d be in in 10 minutes and that he just needed to change and I needed to be alone when they did the epidural. They put a shower cap on my head and walked me into a very bare and empty room with a metal table. They sat me on the edge like they did the first time around with Ruby. I curled my back over and they inserted the epidural. I remember laying down on the table and they put up a curtain in front of my face. I wanted to panic, but I almost couldn’t. They kept rubbing an ice cube on my chest asking if I felt the cold. They wanted to make sure the numbness didn’t go past my chest. My body started convulsing. It was a shake I’ve gotten before when I’m sick with a fever, when I’m incredibly anxious before a rollercoaster or a flight, it’s an inner body shake that isn’t from being cold. I can’t explain it. This time though, the shake was uncontrollable and I couldn’t stop. My doctor, who I love, kept talking to me to help relax me. Brandon came running in in his gear and sat down right next to my head with a chair. I shouted to my doctor that she could start now because he was here and she laughed and told me she had already begun a few minutes ago. This made me feel weird. I felt like everything was sort of just out of my control. Aside from the shaking, I didn’t feel anything. Until I did. I felt my insides moving and being pushed around. I was incredibly nauseous and kept asking the anesthesiologist who was standing by my head if this shaking was normal. “Is this normal? Is this normal?” He assured me it was and that a lot of people shake. They put a pan by my head because I kept saying how nauseous I was. The pushing of the organs up into my chest was literally giving me the feeling of severe food poisoning, but with no vomit coming out. Within 15 minutes, I heard the cry. A big rush and the baby was out of me. I felt emptied. I saw her quickly but the shaking and the nausea was fully taking over at this point. I was so relieved and so freaking happy that she was here, but it was that moment that I began to cry. They asked me if I wanted to hold her and I said no. I couldn’t. I was so sick and so unwell that I couldn’t hold the baby. With Ruby, she came out and was right on my chest and I didn’t feel any nausea. But with Esme, I couldn’t touch her or hold her when she came out. Brandon held her and held my hand with his other hand because I was not okay.

Finally the surgery was over and the nausea subsided. They gave me my baby and I put her right onto my chest and my nipple. I was drugged from the pain meds and the numbness from the epidural that it feels like a blur, but I remember feeling her on my chest. 

I remember the next day, I saw a friend of mine who had her baby the same night as me vaginally with the same doctor. She was up in a robe and holding her first child (a 2 ½ year old) in her other arm. I remember feeling guilt and shame. Why did she get to have her baby vaginally and I can barely stand up? Why did I have to get a C-section? I cant even sit in my bed let alone reach down to hold Ruby’s hand and my friend is standing up, moving around, hair blown out, makeup on. The gas pains set in and I couldn’t move an inch. My door was open and the nurse was coming in giving me blood thinner injections into my shoulder and shoving Advil, Tylenol and Gas-X down my throat. Through the door I saw my friend talking to some other parents in the hall who just delivered babies, while playing with their toddlers at the same time. I didn’t realize the feelings then and there but when I look back – I see how it all began. 

I went home and had to stay put to recover. I couldn’t get out of bed without help and I could barely feed my baby because of the pain from the surgery. On top of that, I barely could be with Ruby who wanted me so badly. The pain I felt when I would watch my baby nurse rock my baby to sleep was traumatizing. I cried and cried. I just want to feel good again and be able to do the things I always do. When I breastfed, I felt like I was going to faint. I felt sick and shitty and the anxiety was bad. I decided to stop breastfeeding and stop fighting it. I wasn’t going to be that mom. And that was okay, but I felt super guilty that not only did I not birth my baby, but I’m not breastfeeding her, either. Three months go by and I’m feeling better every day. Finally coming back to myself, spending time with my girls, getting back into work, having some wine with friends, enjoying summer. I felt good. Until I began to have serious stomach issues. I attributed it to postpartum hormones getting back in order and decided to just ride it out. It began happening frequently as well as new migraines. This caused my anxiety to spiral out of control. I felt like I was dying from a disease and no doctors are catching it, to a point where I was so scared of how deep of a hole I was going into that I believed that maybe I would need to be checked into an asylum. Every doctor I would see would tell me that my symptoms were coming from my severe anxiety. I would talk to them about what I was feeling and the second I would bring up the word C-section, I would cry. I’m not sure why because I didn’t think much about it, but whenever I would share my story of how Esme came into the world, I would cry. I sometimes would sit at home and think that maybe I didn’t really need to have one. I love my doctor, but maybe she just wanted to cover her ass (like some Western medicine doctors do). She didn’t want to take the chance that it would eventually turn into labor and we wouldn’t be able to get the baby out safely. Maybe she had a free Saturday night and wanted to bang my birth out. I asked to meet with her to ask her all of these questions and like always, she assured me that it was the safest decision in the moment. I still question it every day. 16 months out and I’m still mentally not well. Maybe it’s from the C-section, maybe it’s not. But my anxiety always leads me back to my C-section story no matter who I tell it to or why. It’s a topic that isn’t talked about as much and should be. There are classes that help you practice and learn about birthing a baby vaginally but there is nothing out there that talks about preparing for a C-section or the postpartum process of a C-section. It’s one thing to have your first baby through a planned C-section or even an emergency C-section (still can be traumatizing), but it’s all you know if it’s your first. Having gone through a vaginal delivery with my first and an unplanned emergency C-section with my second has been incredibly traumatizing for me. It’s something I deal with every single day as I try to learn and understand who my body is today. I don’t know her, but it’s still mine and I’ve learned that I need to accept it. 

Instead of fighting my anxiety and the changes in my body, I’m trying to accept it and ride it out. Ride the wave and learn this is the new me, this is my story, my journey and my new normal. Once I can get there, I can have my life back again – my new life which is pretty fucking incredible. And guess what, I will still go for that third baby no matter what path it takes me to get there. 

For all the moms out there who may be dealing with postpartum depression, anxiety or who have had an experience with a C-section that they’d like to talk about. I’m here and love sharing stories. I truly believe sharing and talking to other women can help in more ways than you could possibly imagine. 

 

By Arielle Charnas

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