I am the mother, I am in labor, so why do I feel so out of the loop?
I remember waking up from a nap mid-labor (yes I had an amazing nap during the height of my contractions…thank you epidural!) to a darkened room, spa-like music playing from the TV, and some woman I have never met before massaging my feet and staring intently at the readings on the monitor. I remember asking her what was going on in my lethargic stupor, and although I do not remember her exact response, I do remember feeling like something more serious was going on. This is the moment I have identified as the trigger for my postpartum anxiety.
When my husband was allowed to come back into the room, I asked him what was going on and he told me that my contractions were becoming too frequent, and because of the epidural, I was unable to feel a thing. The baby became in distress. The reflexologist was consulted to help slow down the contractions. So why wasn’t this explained to me?
When it was time to begin pushing, I knew something felt off. As a dance/movement therapist, I have a good sense of my body. I know when something does not feel right. My job is centered around kinesthetic awareness and utilizing that in a therapeutic setting, but for some reason, I immediately felt disconnected from my body. I remember after my first round of pushing, I collapsed into the pillow and felt like I was going to faint. Oxygen was placed on me and I was asked to turn on my side and try pushing again. Second round of pushing and that feeling of weakness and defeat fell over my body once again. I looked at the nurse, probably with sheer panic in my eyes, and she stated “I don’t like what I see. I am calling the doctor in.” I looked to my husband for an answer once again, but this time, he was unable to provide me with one. We were both out of the loop.
The doctor came in and told me I was going to go in for an emergency c-section. Baby was in distress. I was whisked away, separated from my husband almost immediately, feeling so anxious and scared. While they began the operation, my husband recalls being asked to wait in a small room by himself and told to put on scrubs. He says that was the worst fifteen minutes of his life. My support, my rock, the one person that knows how to calm me down, was now separated from me at the scariest moment of my life. Am I ok? Is the baby ok? My plan of having a seamless, stress-free vaginal delivery was now crumbling down right before my eyes.
In the end, we had a beautiful, happy, healthy baby girl. She brings such joy into my life it is unfathomable. But after my birthing experience, I was struck with postpartum anxiety almost immediately. I have often wondered whether or not I would’ve been struggling with it if I was informed about what was going on during my labor rather than feeling like an outcast. I had always imagined this experience to be about me, my husband and our new addition to our family. When in reality, I essentially felt invisible.
I read somewhere that the key to happiness is to accept the present moment as if we chose it. While this is a personal struggle for me because when dealing with anxiety, that state of total powerlessness is a scary, scary place. I have come to accept that is it ok to not have all of the answers. I could ask myself “what if I was better informed about what was going on, would that have helped my anxiety? Would that have alleviated my severe anxiety after the birth of my daughter?” Perhaps. Who knows. But I do know after the birth of my daughter, I have learned to advocate for myself more. To not ever feel left in the dark again. In all aspects of my life. And I have this experience to thank for that.