In some ways, my mental health journey with Sophia was the worst because I didn’t say anything and took no steps to help or prevent the fallout. I also was in a toxic work situation which meant I was a mess all around. With Nina, in many ways I was so much better... until COVID hit. Given my pregnancy and beyond journey until I got pregnant with Henry goes until this June, the world falling apart came into play. TW: I will continue to talk about mental health issues as well as potentially triggering events in the world.
I got pregnant with Nina in October once again and shortly thereafter I lost my milk supply completely. While bittersweet, my nursing journey with Sophia had ended. I was just as anxious and full of Googling, but I was able to function better. At 4 weeks along, not only did my Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction return, but the next day I fell down the stairs and broke my tailbone... again. I had broken it twice in high school and it was definitely a longer heal time as an adult. I decided to give Baby Center forums a try again, but was very careful to avoid triggering posts. That did help, and for awhile I was actually able to handle the forum. When I was 9 weeks pregnant, I took the Sneak Peek DNA test to find out if Sophia was getting a sister or brother. I told no one I did it. When the result came up girl, I was hesitantly thrilled. I knew there was a chance it was wrong, but I also knew girl results were more likely to be correct. This was something I enjoyed talking about on the forum.
During this time is also when things with our home build went from bad to worse. I won’t go into many details, but I will say there was a major personality conflict between my husband and the contractor. About a week before moving in (2 months behind schedule), the contractor said something to my husband that was beyond unprofessional and we had to fire him. Dan finished the last essentials required for us to get our permit of occupancy a mere ten days before we needed to be out of our apartment. The carpet literally was put in the day prior. Moving while 11 weeks pregnant, having a 17 month old, and racing against the clock in Minnesota winter is behind miserable. The comment made also affected my husband more than I think he wanted to admit and I felt the need to give him more support.
This is when I realized how bad Baby Center really is when you are struggling and reaching out for support. I had talked a bunch about the things I was experiencing and how my mental health was tanking. Cue the sancto moms and mental health shamers. Apparently they missed Thumper’s lesson on not saying anything if you can’t say anything nice. I’m not talking constructive criticism here. I’m talking pure, unadulterated mean. I realized then and there Baby Center was poorly moderated and in a community of vulnerable pregnant women it was a toxic waste dump. I left that forum and have never, even to this day, returned. However, the damage was done. I had hit the spiral.
In March, we got to get the anatomy scan to find out (or in my case confirm) the sex of our baby. She was 100% girl, but there was also a problem. Her intestines were showing up as bright as her bones; a condition known as an echogenic bowel. This can be an indication of many issues. While I had gotten the quad screen at 16 weeks that was clear, the MFM (due to family history on both sides of my family of spina bifida, I always have one present at the anatomy scan) felt more in depth testing was necessary. This meant many blood tests that checked for multiple genetic conditions. While they came up normal, we did learn that as I do not carry the gene for Cystic Fibrosis like Dan’s sister, we would not have to worry about having a child with the condition. Multiple ultrasounds followed to keep an eye on the bowel. At 30 weeks, her bowel mysteriously corrected and we never found out the cause. The many prayers seemed to have worked.
Thankfully my current job is not as toxic and work life was much better. There were some issues going on that thankfully were just specific to that year, but I just kept doing what I knew I needed to. My boss is amazing, so I was able to leave that drama at work. I did have a student in severe mental crisis which was extremely hard. I’m talking a very young kid trying to kill himself at school, spending time at a child psych ward in Mayo, and still being aggressive beyond belief. I promise you, having to tell parents that their child’s needs cannot be met in a regular school and he needs a higher setting until he stabilized is no fun task. It isn’t the first nor last time I’ve had to have that conversation, but I never enjoy that part of being the social, emotional, behavioral teacher. I was already pregnant and emotional so it was something that did follow me home.
Eventually that school year came to a close and I was good to enjoy the rest of my pregnancy at home. Right after work ended, Dan and I took a baby moon to Quebec City. I was 34.5 weeks pregnant, but we had so much fun. Apparently I like to prove I can still hike like the rest world while pregnant because I hiked the water falls there and walked the Old Town portion with minimal sitting. It was a great trip and we returned refreshed and ready to wait the next 5+ weeks until Nina arrived.
Now, I was doing fairly ok at this time. I had prepared myself to go right up to 40 weeks again so while I was feeling very uncomfortable, I wasn’t impatient. I did start to doubt this theory at 37 weeks 4 days though when she dropped significantly. We’re talking waddling to the 200th power here. However, I just blew it off... until around 3 am the next morning when I started getting prodromal labor. I went to my dentist appointment and everything because they weren’t major. Just every 7-13 minutes for about 30 seconds. Nothing was progressing so I just chalked it up to false labor. Again, until 4 when they switched. Suddenly they were pretty regularly at 5-7 minutes and I couldn’t talk through them easily. I didn’t even eat dinner as I wasn’t hungry. Finally when we put Sophia down around 8, I decided to call the hospital to see what they said. They suggested coming in. They figured the false labor had started to move to early labor and since it was a 2nd baby better to check. We left around 8:30ish after I sort of threw a bag together. I figured I was going to get sent home anyways. I have friends who have had false labor for weeks before it does anything. Yeah... that didn’t happen.
When I got to the hospital, I was decently dilated and showing signs things would move fast. My contractions were much more minor than they wanted, but they figured that would pick up. My doctor was shocked to hear I was there. The nurse told him to come right away as she didn’t think it would be long. I’m super thankful for her intuition. He decided to break my water around 9:30 to increase contractions. That did the trick because they picked right up... so much so that around 11:30 I had reached the very dreaded transition and was no longer rational. I’ll spare the gory details, but at just before 12:10 am the nurse had to yell for the doctor to walk across the room because she was coming. He barely made it across the room in the 30 seconds from that announcement to her being completely born. I’m not exaggerating. She was born so fast she didn’t get the fluid out of her lungs and had to be put on the CPAP for an hour to clear her lungs. This is something that is typically only needed for c-section babies who aren’t “squeezed”. This meant I did not get my golden hour, nor was I really able to process I had just had a baby. I went from thinking I was going to be sent home at 9 pm to showering after giving birth and not seeing my baby at 12:30am. This messed with me a bit. I was so sad I didn’t get that time.
Things were pretty decent at first. I had a bridesmaid dress to fit in 13 weeks later and I wanted to lose weight. However, I wanted to be healthy so I set small goals for all the way to the end of the school year to reach my goal weight. My first goal was my sister in law’s wedding. I made that goal and fit perfectly into the dress that was a typical size too big for me. Until November, I continued with this method and I was doing awesome. Then the holidays came... I wasn’t doing things right anymore. I wanted the delicious holiday food. So I would eat what I wanted then purge. Yep, my eating disorder resurfaced. I told myself it was just until after the holidays. Well, it didn’t happen in January. Too much trying to compensate for the holidays. It didn’t happen in February: Nina had the flu and it took a full 6 weeks for her to recover from influenza b and a double ear infection. She stopped all milestones at that time. She just moaned on my lap for a week and wouldn’t do anything but nurse.
Finally Nina started to get back to herself. Any guesses as to when this was? Yeah, it was March. Right around the time the whole world shut down. I won’t go too deeply into what made me such a mess since we all know what a disaster 2020 was, but suffice to say the stay at home order, teaching from home with no notice or training, taking care of a toddler and an infant, etc. was not conducive for good mental health. I did seek counseling online at this time, but BetterHeath isn’t the best platform. I had more therapist no shows than appointments. However, I was trying. In May, people started showing the effects of social isolation. So many things happened in the world, especially in my home state and the division and hatred became way too much for me. Think of the world I created in my book. Peace, kindness, helping more than harming. Our world was (and still is) the stark opposite of Ternaro. I decided the best thing for me was to stop looking at the news and to limit social media. This was an excellent idea. I still was purging, but I was better. Nina’s first birthday came (she started walking at a very young 9 months and was very active) and my best friend had her 3rd little girl. I was feeling baby fever but thought maybe a bit more stability was warranted. Plus, I wanted an April or May due date. This is like prime teacher due date time. There are 2 teachers at the school I’m at due this school year at that time.
He big man upstairs did not agree. One morning between Nina and Sophia’s birthdays, I woke up feeling hung over and like someone had taken an axe to my pelvis. I rarely drink let alone enough to get hungover. It had been months since I had any at all. And the pelvic pain was just like the SPD I only get when pregnant or healing postpartum. My thought, “No, I can’t be.” I had one test in the house and figure I was about to waste it. I didn’t. Dan came home from work that day asking his usual “what’s new.” He was not expecting the answer I gave. And that starts the mental health journey with Henry. He’s not due into March 2021, so you’ll have to wait for that one. But I promise, it is no less a journey than with his sisters.