Katie had two vaginal births and had no reason to expect anything different with the birth of her most recent daughter. But the funny thing about birth is that it's always unpredictable, even if you've done it 12 times before. So when her labor failed to progress at the speed of her OBs liking, she was told that her baby would need to be delivered via cesarean. An unplanned cesarean mixed with an unexpected NICU stay makes for an emotional postpartum healing process.
The birth of my third child 6 weeks ago was a complete 180 experience and emotional roller coaster compared to my first and second births in 2009 & 2011. With my first two children, I ADORED my obgyn, trusted her 100%. Both pregnancies were essentially perfect with zero complications (not even a moment of morning sickness) and both births were full-term hospital inductions with pitocin, vaginal deliveries, about 12-14 hours start to finish with zero complaints or complications. I was younger, and didn't know a ton about birth, but I have no regrets with either of them. All I knew back then was that I did not want a C-Section.
Late July of 2016, the day before I was starting a new position with the bank I worked for, we discovered we were pregnant with our third child (funny thing about my pregnancies- I have always found out the day before an 'event'. With my first, it was thanksgiving, and my second, it was Valentine's Day). We were a bit surprised because we weren't actively trying, we were taking precautions at the time, but we were happy and excited to finalize our family (3 was always our 'number'). I am older now so I started to do a bit of research on birth options, I watched 'The Business of Being Born', and listened to pregnancy podcasts galore. I was beyond inspired about the possibilities of this birth. Honestly, I knew that a completely pain-free birth wasn't for me, so I decided my goals were to go into labor on my own, avoid an epidural until 6cm, have a quiet, low lit, emotionally supported birth, and have immediate skin-to-skin with delayed chord clamping (this was a HUGE want of mine), and of course a perfectly healthy baby girl.
Out of 8 birth goals, I got 1. It's still difficult to emotionally process.
Aside from being borderline GD, my pregnancy was easy. My previous dr moved away after my second was born and although I didn't dislike my new doctor, I certainly didn't feel the same connection, and sometimes my appointments felt like a long wait for 5 minutes of time, but it didn't weigh on me too much during pregnancy. At 36 weeks, I was checked and was about 1 cm, and the baby was low. I was excited at the thought that things were getting started and maybe I would go into labor on my own close to my due date. I was walking a ton at work, and was planning to begin red raspberry tea at 38 weeks. At 37 weeks, I was still 1 cm but baby's head couldn't be felt. I had a suspicion that my daughter was posterior, based on the movement I was feeling, and asked how that affects L&D. My dr told me it can stall labor or make it more difficult to push the baby out, but she mentioned we would do an ultrasound at 39 weeks to see where she was at. That Saturday night (37+3) I realized I was beginning to lose my mucous plug, but I didn't think anything of it because I knew that losing it doesn't determine that labor is beginning. I didn't know it at the time, but I was having contractions occasionally up in my ribs, I just thought that I was being kicked or that her foot was sort of 'jammed' in my rib cage. The next morning, around 11 AM, I started to notice very small trickles when I would walk around as I cleaned the house, but I assumed it was still my plug. Turns out, my water had broken!!! At 11:30am, I called my mom and said "so, please tell me that I haven't been peeing on myself for the past 30 minutes. That's not possible, right?" Because I was in disbelief that my water was breaking. I called L&D and they told me to come in. We told our older kids what was happening and started getting things ready. They were so excited, and It was crazy timing because I had taken the next week off of work for my kids spring break to spend extra time with them, while giving my MIL her own week 'off' from the big kids before the craziness of a new baby began. By the time we headed to the hospital, I had soaked through 2 pads, so I KNEW this was real and I had gone into labor at home (that's my 1 that I got). I never felt anymore contractions or discomfort other than the leaking of my water.
We arrived around 1pm and we were checked and in a room by about 2. I was 3cm at that point. I was told that the on call dr would be notified, and I didn't love that at all but understood the reality of it. The on call dr was a male which I was also not used too, but didn't mind much. I just hoped he would be kind, patient, and not make me feel like I was interrupting his weekend lol. Although my nurses were awesome, they were definitely ready to get the pitocin going and get this baby out!! I was on board with that as well because I haven't experienced any issues with that course of action during my previous births, and I was excited to meet my baby girl! Things were progressing slowly and I got my epidural around 6pm. By 7pm, I was only at 4.5 and we were trying different positions, including using the peanut to try and help open the cervix. We couldn't attempt it for very long because baby girl did not like it, and her heart rate would drop. By 9 pm I was only 5cm dilated and her heart rate would drop from time to time, but nothing seemed to be a problem. At 10pm, the doctor came in and said "well, things aren't progressing, and with her heart rate dropping, I don't think it's going to happen....we're going to need to do a C-section". Two things I noticed in that moment.
I had thought about the possibility of a C-section because I thought she was posterior, but I hadn't actually prepared myself (is it even possible too?). I was TERRIFIED of the recovery while having a newborn and two older kids at home. I've never had a surgery prior to this and had no idea what to expect. My husband and mother were at the hospital of course so I immediately wanted my mom while I CRIED about what was about to happen. 3 more nurses came in the room at once, one to shave me, one to give me the nastiest thing I've ever consumed, and another to do whatever she was doing. My assigned nurse was amazing to me through all of this and she did her best to comfort me.
Being wheeled into a surgical room-alone-for the birth of my child, was surprisingly one of the scariest moments of my life and I didn't expect that feeling. From the moment I was in that room, any ounce of excitement or joy for this birth completely left my body and i was filled with fear and discomfort. It was just a bright, cold, metal room. I had the shakes from meds, I was freezing cold, and I simply felt like I had so much happening around me and to me, yet I wasn't even there. I was given more meds to further numb my stomach, and I remember crying when they laid my arms away from my body. It all felt SO out of my control and I couldn't do anything about it. After I was 'situated' I started coughing a little and because I was numb up to my chest, I couldn't get any power behind my cough, which was maddening. I then began to throw up about 5 times. The doctor confirmed her posterior position to me while delivering her and At 10:50pm March 12th, my daughter was born. I heard her cry, and I cried. That moment was a mixture of joy and sorrow for what was happening to me. The loss of almost everything I wanted for myself and her birth hit me in that moment. My husband was of course by my side but wouldn't have been able to stomach watching a c-section, and I didn't think to ask anyone to record, so I have no images of the actual birth. The first picture we have was once she was being cleaned up by nurses and my husband was with her. He brought her over and I was able to kiss her and calm her down. I was so upset that I wasn't the first person to hold her, and have those first few minutes of skin to skin. We got back to the room, my mom was able to see her and then she left shortly after because it was so late. My epidural had been removed, I was a bit groggy and so uncomfortable. Within 15 minutes of being in my room, my uterus was massaged (SO painful), I was asked a handful of questions about my pain and General status, and I was attempting to breastfeed which was a bit of a struggle. I was beyond tired and the nurse wanted me to football hold, and I don't do football holds. They don't work for me. The next 24 hours was essentially typical, breastfeeding, diaper changing, the family and sibling meeting the baby, and I also learned about using a binder around my stomach-that thing is a god-send! At 11pm that Monday, my night nurse came to take my daughter for her newborn screening. Thankfully for my nurse (Liz), she noticed that my daughter was making what the dr referred to as a grunting noise, and she took her straight to the NICU. I was woken up shortly after to be told that she had brought her there just to be checked out, and by 5am, the nicu dr (who I loved) came in and let us know that our daughter had a tension pneumothorax in her left lung and they had to give her a chest catheter to relieve the air and pressure in her chest. The first 48 hours in the nicu were a bit rough for her and we weren't able to interact too much with our daughter, but the nicu staff was amazing and they took great care of her (and us)! Knowing she was in the best hands made it a bit easier to go home without her. I was excited to see big sister and brother again, took advantage of the extra rest when I wasn't at the hospital with her, and I pumped around the clock to bring milk for her when she was able to eat again. The catheter was removed after 4 days, we held her again the following day, and she came home on march 22nd.
We are now 6 weeks PP. Life with 3 kiddos is currently crazy, but I'm thankful that the big kids have school, which give me more time to bond with Ellie and rest! Physically, I have healed quickly and well (although I really hate the numbness above my incision and I'm wondering if I'll ever wear anything but maternity pants again). The emotions surrounding my birth experience are still a bit all over the place, but I feel that I'm navigating them well. Our breastfeeding journey luckily was not too rough after going 8 days unable to breastfeed. I used a nipple shield for a few days when needed, and supplemented with breastmilk in a bottle when I was unsure about how much she was eating. When my husband went back to work, I was convinced I couldn't do it all and I thought I would do half formula, half breast milk and begin bottle feeding, but I realized I wasn't emotionally ready to stop breastfeeding her. We both quickly got back on track and we are exclusive breastfeeding successfully now! Ellie healed up beautifully while in NICU and doesn't require any follow ups in regards to her lung issue at birth.
Hey there! I'm Katie, 29, I am myself, an IVF triplet born via c-section at 31 weeks and a nicu grad. I am a mom to 3 awesome kiddos (7yrs, 5yrs, & 6weeks old). My husband and I have been together for 10 years this coming September. We live about an hour north of Houston TX and we both grew up here. I've worked in banking for the past 9 years, but now I am embarking on the crazy/awesome stay at home life, while working my home business (thank you baby#3 )!
Facebook: Katie Hertsenberg
Julia was one of my Doula clients. Right from our first consult I felt like we clicked. She's sweet and laid back and working with her and her husband was a treat. Her birth, for the most part, went really well. It was fast, and smooth, and she got the vaginal birth she had hoped for. But just because someone has an easy pregnancy and birth, doesn't mean that the postpartum period will continue that smooth transition. I was a little surprised when I had her email sitting in my inbox. I had NO idea that her past few weeks had been this hard. After briefly lecturing her about not reaching out to me in her time of need (you guys that's what I'm here for!!) I thanked her for opening up and sharing her story because for real, postpartum is hard
As a first time mom-to- be I was so looking forward to the early postpartum days with my newborn. I had dreams of sleepy days filled with cuddles, smiles, cute outfits, and quiet strolls through the neighborhood. Perhaps we would even wear flower crowns. And I would drink lemonade. Looking back, I think my expectations were a bit too high. But I certainly did not expect what has happened during this time to happen. I absolutely love my daughter and think she is the most perfect being; but damn, this has been the fourth trimester from hell.
Sure, I had read about the fourth trimester and how tough it can be on various blogs from veteran moms. But I feel like the details were a bit minimal. I didn’t understand just how tough it can really be. So here is my story, which is actually not complete as I am still in the throes of it all. But I wanted to shed a light on the not so sunny side of motherhood because in all honestly, I’ve found it to be a completely raw, vulnerable, visceral experience and I know there are women out there who must feel the same.
Right from the start of my labor, things did not go according to plan. I had hoped to labor at home for a bit, to see if I could handle it naturally. But when my water broke at 3am with an overdue baby’s meconium along with it, we decided (with the guidance of our doctor) that it was safer to get to the hospital ASAP. Not to mention my contractions felt as though they went from 0 to 60 mph in just 45 minutes. I quickly hit 5cm dilated and started writhing on the hospital bed like I was possessed by a demon, so I made the best decision for myself to get that epidural! I thought I was in for the long haul of labor, being a first time mom, and I just really wasn’t into the idea of being in all that pain for an extended period of time. But the little one decided she had waited long enough and boom, 30 minutes after being told I was 5cm, I was 10cm and ready to push. The passionate, persistent, and particular Elodie was born an hour and a half later.
While I was blessed with a relatively straightforward and fast delivery, my recovery was somewhat traumatic. No amount of prenatal classes could prepare me for the difficulty that was learning to breastfeed for the first time while aching from a third degree tear on very, very little sleep. During my pregnancy, my nipples suddenly morphed “flat” so a lactation consultant gave me a nipple shield to use. Little did I know that the nipple shield would cause Elodie to only intake foremilk, never stimulating a true let down for the prized hindmilk. For the first two weeks I thought she’d been getting her fill, however, her pediatrician informed me otherwise when she hadn’t gotten back to her birth weight.
Freaking out, I quickly weaned us both from the nipple shield and endured the hell that is sore, cracked nipples and milk blisters. A couple weeks without the nipple shield and Elodie started to gain some weight. However, I just felt like something was still off; I still wasn’t feeling the “let down” and breastfeeding was still incredibly painful. I did some research on the handy Google machine and discovered Elodie had a slight lip tie that was potentially hindering her ability to latch correctly. Within a week we had confirmed this with our pediatrician (um, hello, why didn’t you see this before?) and an oral surgeon. The oral surgeon took care of it same day with a super cool high tech laser and Elodie didn’t even shed a tear.
But I sure shed a few tears the next day when all of a sudden I was engorged, again! I thought going through engorgement after my milk first came in was enough – but no! Now that Elodie’s latch had improved, apparently it was time for round two. The good news being that this engorgement also came with a letdown and Elodie started to gain substantial weight. The bad news? I developed a stubborn clogged duct in my left breast that just wouldn’t go away.
I tried everything to clear this sucker! Massage, vibration, combing, hot compresses, warm compresses, cold compresses, nursing upside down, pumping upside down – you name it, I did it. I also called my OB looking for guidance when the duct persisted after a week. I was feeling very fatigued and achy and the area around the duct had become quite red and painful. It was pretty obvious to me that mastitis was on the way if it had not already arrived. But the OB’s nurse wouldn’t budge with an antibiotic prescription until I had a fever.
So, being a newbie to breastfeeding I decided to listen to the professionals and tried to wait it out. But another week passed and while I still had no fever, the duct and lump in my breast had gotten worse. And by worse I mean, really bad. Tones of bright red and purple were taking over the left side of the breast and were starting to creep up towards my chest. The skin was so stretched over the lump it was starting to crack and peel.
At the same time this was all going on, Elodie had started to show symptoms of GER (gastroesophageal reflux). She was frequently choking on my surprisingly forceful letdown which seemed to encourage excessive spit-ups and gas, re-swallowing, fussiness at the breast, and colicky behavior. All of a sudden, getting her to sleep had become impossible and she would scream for hours on end. This was quite a low point for my husband and me. Elodie was a hot mess and although I was 6 weeks postpartum, the clogged duct had become so painful I was a hot mess myself. I decided to take matters into my own hands called a breast specialist. Unfortunately they wouldn’t see me until the following week. My husband decided that was not good enough and sent me to urgent care on a Thursday night.
I was seen by a doctor who immediately diagnosed me with mastitis (still no fever, mind you) and then she told me it was on its way to abscessing. So with that lovely information, she sent me on my way with antibiotics and orders to follow-up in 48 hours if conditions had not improved.
ell, of course, conditions did not improve and I wound up in the ER Saturday night trying to get the quickly progressing abscess under control (no fever, y’all). I got an IV drip of a stronger antibiotic and the doctor stabbed my breast with a needle in hopes to drain some of the abscess. Ah, but no luck, nothing came out until the day before my appointment with the breast specialist while I was in the shower - and let me tell you, it is pretty disturbing to see puss suddenly come out of a hole in your breast made by a needle while you are trying to relax in a nice hot shower. This newfound drainage surged every time I fed Elodie or pumped, so you can imagine how much of a pain in the ass it was.
By the time I was getting an ultrasound before my appointment, I was pretty over the whole ordeal. I just wanted someone to fix my breast. To make matters worse, the ultrasound technician called in some random doctor to assess me. He then decided to try to squeeze my breast to get additional puss out. He apparently got a lot out. And while in the long run this turned out to be a good thing, it hurt more than anything I’ve ever experienced. Seriously. And I just had a baby.
But, I finally, FINALLY, saw the breast specialist that afternoon. She attempted to drain it with another needle in another hole, did not have much luck, and sent me on my way to finish my antibiotics and “hang in there”. The next day instead of puss, blood was coming out of the needle holes and I just wanted to curl up into a ball in my bed, but wait, there is a very uncomfortable newborn to tend to!
We got Elodie on the generic of Zantac and started using gas drops. The gas drops definitely did not help and the Zantac seemed to only help a bit. But as time went on her colic symptoms got worse and worse. By week 8 the poor girl seemed to scream 90% of the time. I’d take 5,000 pictures and videos during her short periods of contentment so that I could look back and remind myself of the sweet girl she truly is.
One night a little over a week ago she was literally spitting up every meal, screaming at the breast, and broke out in a bad rash on her chest and cheeks. I was so close to taking her to the ER (new mom alert) but I settled for a call to our peds nurse who said it was just her acid reflux really acting up. So her doctor upped her meds and I decided to take a break from dairy to see if that will help. So far, it seems like it is working. We’ve had a couple great sleeping nights in a row and her rash is beginning to fade. We head back to the doctor tomorrow for her two month check-up.
Two months! All of this has happened in two months. The fourth trimester is not even over but at this point I really feel like I can handle whatever is to come. You truly haven’t lived until you have a baby purple crying in your face feeding from a bleeding breast. By the way, the abscess is still fading away slowly (I got the clogged duct on February 23 rd for reference). It will be amazing when it finally disappears and I so long for the day.
Everyone tells me “it’ll get better” and I know it will. But sometimes it is truly necessary to vent and grieve for the experience you thought you’d have. Now I can move forward and laugh about what we’ve gone through and let me tell you, when I look at little Elodie and see her smile back at me with her blue eyes sparkling, I know I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Julia is a proud INTJ, data analyst, lover of food & wine, video game fanatic, barre & yoga enthusiast, Francophile, and the mother of a very spirited babe named Elodie. They are currently residing in Northern Virginia.
Unplanned pregnancies can be scary and emotional. It doesn't mean that you aren't thankful for this new life you're carrying, but hi folks, having a baby is a huge freaking responsibility. And so when that news of "here you go you're life is about to change forever' shows it's face with those two pink lines, emotions can be all over the place. Paige's third pregnancy was unplanned, so from the very start it was difficult for her. Throw in the fact that she was physically ill, had a hard birth, trouble with her breastfeeding relationship, it's no wonder that sings of postpartum depression started showing up. Thank you Paige for sharing your story, I know it hasn't been easy, but you're doing it right.
I found out I was pregnant with my 3rd baby a week before Christmas 2014. It was a shock and 100% unplanned, and unfortunately we were not thrilled by the 2 pink lines at first. It took us a while before we were actually excited for another baby. We have a 5 year old with moderate non verbal autism and a 3 year old non stop talker so adding another baby wasn't in our life plan AT ALL. My pregnancy with Lucy was a nightmare from the start. I was never sick with my first 2 but with Lu I was vomiting (and also peeing myself because mom bladder, whaddup!) at least twice a day for the first 4 months. I had lost about 20 pounds that first trimester and then my second trimester was pretty normal, other than extreme exhaustion. My third trimester hits and my blood pressure slowly starts to creep, but that's pretty normal for my last trimesters so we weren't too concerned until about 35 weeks when I started vomiting again and getting severe headaches. I was sent to the ER a couple times for monitoring but nothing was too serious until 39 weeks. I went in for my regular appointment and had a terrible headache and pretty bad swelling. My midwife came back from checking my urine sample and did my blood pressure and it was off the charts high, along with very high protein levels in my urine so we talked to the high risk OB and he sent me to be induced right away because I had pre-eclampsia.
The induction was fine, I was already 4 cm dilated when I got there but since I was high risk and a seizure/fall risk, I wasn't allowed to move out of my bed unless I had to use the bathroom. I held off the epidural despite being told it would help lower my BP because this was my last shot at a natural birth, but I stalled at 4 cm for 12 hours, and became exhausted and got my epidural. About 30 minutes after my epidural was placed, I heard a loud pop and felt my water break and instantly felt the urge to push. I had dilated completely in 30 minutes, which is crazy. The midwife barely got there in time to catch Lucy after a couple minutes of pushing. They took her right away to make sure the seizure medication I had wasn't making her breathing labored, but she was perfectly fine so we got a couple hours of skin to skin and breastfeeding right away.
Her latch was never a good, full latch and I ended up getting blisters on my nipples while in the hospital. I didn't realize how bad her latch was until a month after she was born when she was hospitalized for enterovirus and a LC came to help me. Lucy has a high palate, deep tongue tie, and a lip tie which was causing the bad latch and her colic. We got her ties fixed but ultimately she still had a shallow latch and we struggled for 13 months to breastfeed. I exclusively pumped for 3 months while she had a nursing strike, but she ended up nursing again.
I never had that peaceful feeling while nursing her like I did with my other kids. Everything with her feeding was stressful and labored for me. I had a really hard time postpartum with Lucy because of the constant struggles throughout her first year, on top of taking care of her siblings. I didn't realize how bad my PPD was until she was about 7 months old and I saw a candid video of myself and I didn't even recognize who I was. My midwife was great about helping me and is still following up with me, almost a year later. I chose to go on Zoloft and it helped me tremendously although there are still days that it creeps in and consumes me. I never knew depression could be anything other than just being sad all the time. I didn't know my depression was showing itself as anger and resentment towards my baby. You're always told depression is never wanting to get out of bed, or just always crying, but I wasn't like that. I didn't know anyone who had admitted to having PPD so I just assumed I was just having a hard time adjusting. I regret not getting help sooner. Lucy's first year was a fog to me. I don't remember a lot because I wasn't present in my mind for her, and that is heartbreaking for me. I plan on training to become a postpartum doula so I can help other parents transition through the rough patches and know that things will be ok even on their darkest days.
If you or someone you know is struggling with postpartum depression please reach out and get help
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My name is Paige Carroll, I'm 27 years old and live in Arizona. I'm a mother to a son and two daughters and wife to Chase. I am an autism advocate for my son and a stay at home mom for all my kids. I also suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety. Paige can be found on Instagram @paige_carroll