b a r e

writing is healing. ask me anything.

Tag: birth

What do you wish you could do over that is part of your illness experience?

Where did it begin? With the pregnancy itself? With finding out it was a girl? With knowing the OB was wrong, that she was in fact still breech. With stubbornly deciding to have a version? With accepting the doctor’s declaration that we weren’t leaving the hospital that day? How could I have changed that? How could I have convinced myself to forgo the natural birth I wanted so badly. To accept it wasn’t going to happen – accept that without trying to do something – and come to terms with a c-section. And mourn the loss of my desire, wish, decision. And prepare for surgery. Surgery. Being sliced open on a table while my arms are tied down. Naked and exposed to a room full of strangers with knives. Helpless. A vessel for a child. A container. Scooped out, wiped down, stapled back together. Then wheeled away. Agony. How do you fix this scenario? Where do you make me a human being in this equation. When do I matter. Not just my flesh, my stats, my numbers. But my humanity. How do you alter a medical situation when once you’re in it you are part of the machine. A business that wants to check off its lists and bill you for it. Don’t interrupt, what you say doesn’t matter, worse, it’s an intrusion. Just let them do their job! Stop asking for things. You’re getting what they planned on giving you, what’s in the budget. Do your time, let us do whatever we want to do to you, when we want to do it, and then get out. Your 4 days are done. Outside in the world of concrete and blistering sun. Figure it out, because you’ve reached the end of our help. Goodbye.


A new mom asked this in a forum:

“Is there really an end to this.. Like 100% healed? I feel like what I have is too disturbing and terrible to ever go away.”

My answer:

I went through an outpatient program at a hospital and they talked about accepting a “new normal”. Now, I refuse to accept that this means my new normal is misery. But I don’t think we can ever go back to the person we were before we had our birth/postpartum experience.

Like any trauma, it has left a mark on our psyche. And so we have a choice about what to do with that. I’ve tried wallowing, and that worked for a while, but it got in the way of joy. I’ve tried hiding from the world, but I missed out on living.

So I’m at a place in the middle between where I used to be and the pit I had dropped into. Sometimes I need to wallow, and I give myself space to do so. But I don’t move back in there. Sometimes I need to hide from the world, and I accept that, that I don’t have the stamina of the extrovert I used to be. But I also challenge myself, just a little, and over time I see progress towards a new me. Wiser, stronger, but also weaker in some ways, and accepting of that part of me too.

And my story, and yours too, becomes something we can share with others who are somewhere along that tough journey of losing yourself and trying to figure who you are now. We bring each other strength because we have compassion and empathy and help heal each other. Because we understand the pain. And we’re not alone anymore.


You think you’re done with something. No sign of it for ages. And then all of a sudden, it comes burbling up, spilling over, a flood. I’m running out of time. I may already be out of time. But there are no do-overs. Doing it again doesn’t make the past not exist. So much pain. So much pain there wasn’t room for love. And now the love is so overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. I can’t breathe. And I can’t let go. I won’t. It’s all I have. It may be painful, but it’s mine. I try to go back into it, relive it but this time change it. Hold her tiny body against me, feel her breathing, and this time I try to enjoy it, adore it. I miss it. I missed it. I missed out on it. I ache for the connection. A connection like that I may never get to try at again. A lost opportunity. Lost to pain and chaos that was my reality. Yes, I know, focus on the now. Connect with her now. I do. Thankfully I can. Much of the time. But it’s not the same. She will never be an infant again. Each day she grows more independent of me, further away. And what could have been is lost. And this well of grief floods me again, and again. I accept it. I know I am mourning still. I bring the past back into sharp clarity. I don’t want to forget. I don’t want it to fade away. Because at least this way I can still go back and hold my baby, and love her, this time.

If you could go back and change anything in your life before your illness, what would you do?

Everything begins somewhere, and if I try to travel back to before my illness, I have to go back to conception. My father was an angry, sadistic bastard. But without him, I would not exist. So it doesn’t work to eliminate him.

So what then.

My first major depression was a result of the traumatic birth of my daughter. I wish I had had my doula with me. She could have calmed me and allowed me to consider my options, rather than just accepting the doctor’s decree that I wasn’t leaving. That I had to have a successful version and be induced, or a c-section. That no matter what the baby was coming out today, and not in a week or so like we expected. If I had had more time to come to terms with having a c-section, maybe it wouldn’t have felt so violent. But would I have changed my mind about the version? That version set the cascade of interventions, for without it, we wouldn’t have gone straight into the OR. Without it, they wouldn’t have given me terbutaline, which caused my a-fib. Perhaps I need to go back just a littler farther. I would like to change my baby’s positioning. I would have liked her to not be breech. To be head down the way she was supposed to, so I could have had a natural birth, like I was planning all along. So I could have felt labor and came out triumphant on the other side. So I could have had her placed right on my chest squalling and I could have held her, skin to skin, right away, and claimed her as mine, instead of going to the ICU overnight, alone in my grief and trauma. So I could have felt like a “normal” mother, delivering the way our bodies are supposed to, healing after and walking right away, instead of laying in a hospital bed bathed in sweat, tears, pain, anger and shame.

But would that have fixed it all? I may have had severe PPD anyway. I may have felt distant from the tiny screaming creature, or resentful of her existence, anyway. I may have tumbled down that hole no matter what. There’s just no way of knowing. So I find this kind of question useless, though I chose to write on it anyway. The past can not be changed. I am still mourning this story, and its what-ifs. I look forward to one day being able to accept it and let it go.

I want my baby back

As I sit there holding you in my arms, this long legged long armed 3 and a half year old, I look at you, and I don’t know who you are. I’m singing you the songs I sung the baby in my belly. And you are supposed to be the baby that was in my belly. But you are not a baby. You are mobile and opinionated and loud and energetic. You are non-stop motion and sound. And you are overwhelming. And you are not my baby anymore. You’re a full person. And all I can do is sit there and cry, and be glad it’s dark so you can’t see, and miss the baby I once had. The baby I didn’t, I couldn’t appreciate because I was so severely depressed. Back then I looked at you in my arms, and I felt nothing. And if I did feel something, it was pulverizing anxiety. I couldn’t wait to get you off of me. And now, I can’t get you to sit still on me. You’re off in the world exploring and testing out your independence. As you should be. It’s “developmentally appropriate” my therapist would say. I’m supposed to be excited about who you are, watching you experience the world around you more and more intelligently every single day. But instead of being in the present moment – I’m too tired to be in any present moment – all I want is my baby back. I want that teeny, tiny, wobbly, uncoordinated, non-verbal lump of warmth and cuddleness. But she’s gone. She’s GONE. I can’t go back. I can’t go back!! And I can’t resolve that period of time where I was unable to be present, unable to enjoy. And it’s tearing me apart. And it’s taking away from my now. Leaving me with the knowledge that not being here now means: wanting to come back to this moment some time in the future and regretting I couldn’t be in the moment, again. How do I climb out from under this heavy load of sadness. How do I release you, my poor, sad self from 3 and a half years ago. How do I forgive you for not being the mom you wanted to be. How do I forgive me for not being the mom I want to be now.

Do you feel you see any significant changes in your personality/thinking as a result of your illness? What? Why?

All I’ve ever wanted was to be “normal.” Up until the age of 12 – when my mom, sister and I ran away to a shelter for battered women and children – I thought everyone’s home life was like mine. I only ever left the house to go to school, never had friends over, never went to anyone’s house. I didn’t know that most people didn’t live in fear while trying to love someone who could erupt and beat you with words and belts at any moment. When my eyes were opened at 12, I was angry, I was liberated. And I was very different than anyone I knew.

I tried, really tried to fit in. But now were were in an Orthodox Jewish junior high. And I was not like these other girls who came from wealthy families and had lived an orthodox Jewish life always. We didn’t live like that at home. And I didn’t have the benefit of years of indoctrination. I felt like I didn’t belong. Half of one thing, half of another, really neither of both. Finally, I begged to go to public school. And now, I was really not like anyone else. And since I couldn’t be like the others, I reveled in being different. I went goth. Black trench coat  black hair. You don’t want to know me anyway, so I’ll make it even harder. That way if you do become my friend, I’ll know you really wanted to.

Thankfully, my college years and beyond cured me of this intentional distancing. And truly, I still never felt like I belonged. But I was okay with that. I could live with it.

Then came my husband and my pregnancy, and despite pain and discomfort and exhaustion, I was doing something normal! I had joined a club of women who had gone through what I was going through. I was accepted! I was embraced as one of them.

Then came my traumatic birth and the lowest place I had ever been. And I felt utterly alone. And even though this too has been experienced by many many many women, I didn’t know. I was lost in worthlessness, shame, and guilt. It wasn’t until the ray of light shone in, and I hauled myself out millimeter by millimeter  that I finally saw the faces of those who had gone before me. I was not alone.

Well this second episode is not related to that birth, not exactly. It has shown me that this depression and anxiety is here to stay. Not in that I’ll always feel it. But in that I will always have to fight it, watch out for it, be careful because of it.

And now I am different again. I am not “normal.” And that does make me sad, sometimes. But I have also met some truly amazing people who are fighting these demons too. And they inspire me. They are brave and caring, they are generous of heart and mind and words. They accept me, as is, with no judgment whatsoever. They are mine. I claim you. You are one of me. I am part of you. Together we form a different normal. Together we are strong. Together we know we will succeed. And we know it’s okay too if sometimes we don’t succeed. Because ultimately we are family. Different backgrounds, different families, different cultures, different religions – no matter. We are one. And just knowing that you all exist bouys me with strength and fortitude to not give up. I reach out and you are there. And I know you will always take my hand. And I know that I am safe.