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This story is a part of our Raw Motherhood series, a collection of true accounts from real moms. We hope these stories will help shed light on real issues, but we are not medical professionals and are not offering medical advice. If you are in need of immediate help or feel you could be a harm to yourself or others, please call 911.
My little peanut was born at 34 weeks on February 5th, 2017.
She was 3lbs, 11oz & 17in long, had 10 fingers and toes, and had a head full of dark hair. It was love at first sight.
My daughter was born at 3:56 pm, but I didn’t get to see her again until almost midnight.
At that time a nurse took me into the NICU. Seeing my baby lying helpless in an incubator with machines all around her and an oxygen mask on her face broke my heart. I didn’t know how to deal with or understand my emotions or what was going on with my daughter.
She was born early because of me. IUGR, high blood pressure, and preeclampsia created so many complications, and I felt like I was to blame. I thought my husband looked at me like a failure because I couldn’t carry our kid full term.
What would I tell my daughter someday about her traumatic birth story?
My baby did well during her first 24 hours of life. She didn’t need full oxygen, but she needed a feeding tube with extra nutrition (higher calorie intake). She had a hard time regulating her body temperature, but who wouldn’t at that size and unable to wear clothes or blankets.
One of the hardest things was not being able to hold her. I didn’t get a family photo holding the baby, and she couldn’t stay in our room the first night. Instead of feeling joyful after my baby’s birth, I felt fear and anxiety. I got the ‘what ifs’ and worries.
After 24 hours, she took a turn for the worse.
As I entered her room they were transferring her to the PICU for more intensive care. They couldn’t get her oxygen controlled and she needed a high flow oxygen mask. I was beyond worried about my daughter.
There was my baby, being rolled away from me, and I was falling apart emotionally.
I didn’t get to hold my daughter until she was 3 days old. Most moms get to hold their babies right away. I couldn’t. She wasn’t stable enough. But the moment I finally held her was full of mixed emotions.
There was fear because I had this tiny little baby laying on my chest full of tubes/cords, but there was also happiness. She was mine, and I finally got to feel that connection with her.
She stayed in the PICU for a week before she got off full oxygen and was transferred back to the NICU.
A few days after being transferred she was completely weaned off oxygen. She had gotten lots snuggles by mom, dad, and grandparents, but in her two weeks of life, she had missed so much. The nurses began working on bottle-feedings, just 10 ounces every 3 hours.
At 3 weeks old, she was transferred to a different hospital.
The doctors at Children’s Hospital Minnesota were finally comfortable with our baby being transferred to Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia, MN, a lot closer for us and family. It was exciting to know our baby was a step closer to being home, but it was also terrifying at the same.
I was a first-time mom to a baby under 4 pounds who was struggling with eating and breathing. My anxiety was constant.
But just a few days after her transfer, Hadley Grace came home!
Our little 4lb girl full of strength and grace was finally home, and we were going to feel like a family, nearly a month after giving birth.
But the anxiety and stress were still there. Honestly, I even don’t know how I did it. Somehow I kept my strength and faith going. My heart was breaking and I constantly felt like I was suffocating. I worried about my family, and emotions swirled around me constantly.
I lost my uncle the week before my daughter’s birth.
He was a fighter and a family man who lost the battle with cancer. Words can’t express how amazing he was.
The 3 days after my daughter was born, my grandmother passed away.
How is anyone supposed to keep going through all of that?
I was breaking down trying to cope with the loss of two incredible people, while also staying strong for my daughter as she fought for her own life. Hadley Grace was keeping me going. She kept showing me what strength, grace, hope, and faith was all about.
I never asked for medical help for my mental health.
No one asked how I was doing or checked up on me after having my daughter. My doctor at follow-up appointments was only concerned with my blood pressure and physical recovery. No one asked if I needed to talk or share my emotions.
I was a first-time mom. Why didn’t anyone ask if I was okay?
Then one day a close friend came to visit and asked how I was really doing.
She put words to my feelings and helped me admit that I was struggling. Tears fell down my face; I no longer felt like I had to hold it all together as the world around me crumbled.
There had been anxiety leaving my daughter at the NICU, taking a shower, going to bed, and even going to the gym when she was with her daddy. I was scared, worried, and my heart hurt. Even when I needed to take a break, I was too afraid to leave her.
I became a stay-at-home mom because my daughter was too high of a risk to go to daycare. At times I felt like it helped my anxiety because I got to be with her. I wanted to be part of everything because I felt like I “missed” so much for her first 3 weeks of life. The nurses had gotten her on a feeding and sleep schedule in the NICU, and though I loved the doctors and nurses, I felt left out.
I still have anxiety.
My daughter is 22 months old now and my anxiety hasn’t changed.
I’ve thought about asking for help but I hate feeling like I am being judged. I’ve never let her stay over at our parents’ houses for any long length of time (even though one lives right next to us). I always feel like she is my responsibility and if she can’t come with me, then I am not going.
One of the hardest parts is that my husband doesn’t understand. He thinks I need to move past my anxiety and trust that everything will be okay. I understand where he is coming from, but it’s easier said than done.
I do feel that I’ve made some big steps to change and better handle my anxiety. We started going to ECFE twice a week, we do gymnastics once a week, and one night a week she goes over to my in-laws’ for an hour or two to work on our separation. But I am not ready for a night away, yet.
Unfortunately, she will be my only child.
With the horrible pregnancy I had and her NICU start, I know 100% I can’t do it again. People always say that I will change my mind or regret it, but no one can understand how I feel or what my experience was like.
Four different doctors have told me that a second pregnancy would be high risk. I would need to be on medications by 12 weeks, I’d have double or triple the doctor visits, and they’d put me on bedrest. And I wouldn’t be able to do any of that at my local hospital.
I have a lot of emotional, physical, and mental damage I need to heal. I’m not where I want to be, but each day I feel like I’m improving little by little.
This is a battle I won’t give up.
Every time I share my daughter’s story, I want to cry. But who wouldn’t? Time heals all wounds, and I just have to take it one day at a time.
Like my favorite quote says, “Start each day with a grateful heart,” and that’s what I am doing. There are days when I watch my baby sleep or we cuddle and I cry. I never pictured this was possible at the very start, but God knew.
I am thankful and blessed to have this little girl in my life!
For more stories about anxiety, read Kaitlyn’s Struggle with Postpartum Anxiety and Perinatal OCD, another addition to our Raw Motherhood collection. You can also join the Facebook group, Raw Motherhood, to find more support and resources.
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