People often talk about the trials of postpartum depression that sometimes face a new mother with a baby. Your hormones are going through lots of intense changes, your body has gone through some huge trials, and you are beyond exhausted. Any woman who has ever had a bad case of PMS (and any man in her life for that matter), should understand on some level how hormones can play serious havoc on your mind and well being. I did not deal with postpartum depression after our son was born, but I have faced something similar on many occasions now.
As I wrote about in this previous blog entry, miscarriage is often a topic we do not discuss much as a society. It is an unfortunate fact since I feel strongly that women who have gone through a miscarriage probably are even more in need of strong postpartum support. Women who have gone through a miscarriage have all of the same factors listed above that can contribute to postpartum depression. The only difference is the new mothers who are diagnosed with postpartum depression have one thing the other women do not…a new baby to hold.
With all of my miscarriages before our son was born, each one was devastating. I felt inadequate, deformed, incomplete. I felt like there was an innate ability that most women possessed that I just did not seem capable of, carrying new life into this world. I even read one article that claimed that women with my particular uterine birth defect were not completely female and were somewhat akin to asexual beings. I happened to read that article right after a miscarriage, and I cried for days after I read that and didn’t get out of bed. That idiot medical “professional” obviously has no clue what he is saying, and if I ever met him I would probably punch him in the face.
With this most recent miscarriage, I had a different situation than in the past. I finally had a child of my own to give me comfort. This time around came with its own set of challenges though. The day of the miscarriage was a traumatic event for all of us. I think I was in shock when it happened, and I kept yelling “it’s a baby, it’s a baby,” over and over. I felt awful that our son came into the room to see what was wrong. The bathroom was a frightening scene and he started crying horribly. It reminded me a little of the traumatic scenes in the show Dexter where he (and later his own son) were traumatized by witnessing such a gruesome scene. I felt horrible that the whole thing affected our son so much. I felt guilty that somehow I was not able to shield him from this traumatic event. The weeks since the miscarriage have been really difficult, and his sleep patterns have definitely been disturbed. He is finally settling back into a normal routine, but for the weeks since the loss, he has woken up every night with a nightmare, crying and yelling, “baby, baby!”. I have been running on empty trying to soothe him, and being filled with guilt for the fact that the whole event upset him so much.
In addition, this particular miscarriage left me in an unusual amount of physical pain for quite a long time. Normally with a miscarriage, the physical pain starts to go away after the bleeding finishes. Unfortunately, with this case, the pain continued for weeks. One day in particular, it got so bad that I was concerned something was wrong. My doctor had not ordered a follow up ultrasound after the miscarriage (we aren’t sure why it wasn’t ordered), and I was starting to get concerned that there may be some problems with lingering tissue. I went to the urgent care, and after several hours there, I was sent to the emergency room. I wanted to avoid the emergency room at all costs since I hate exposing our son to all of the germs there, but the urgent care center did not have an ultrasound machine. Thankfully, my parents came to bring Edison out of the E.R. waiting room.
After a bunch of tests and ultrasounds in the E.R., the doctors had no conclusive answers about why I was still in excruciating pain. They could definitely pinpoint from the ultrasound that the pain was coming from my uterus (the area was extremely sore to the touch and I was wincing in pain every time they put the ultrasound wand near that area). They told me that unfortunately they did not know why I was still in pain, but there was no remaining tissue and no cysts currently on my uterus or ovaries. I could see from the ultrasound that my uterus looked a little stretched out still compared to its usual (abnormal) shape. Since this miscarriage happened in the early second trimester, my uterus must have started to stretch out a bit.
After a few hours of being in the E.R. without our son, I started to notice a slight lessening in the pain. When I started thinking about the way I described the pain to the doctors, I started to realize it was sounding a lot like contractions. The pain got worse the more I was on my feet, etc. Our son had a particularly rough day when things got really bad for me, and he had been binge nursing around the clock. I started to realize that the breastfeeding must have been triggering prolonged postpartum contractions. I also started thinking back about my pregnancy with our son. My uterus has a birth defect and is classified as t-shaped, and comprised of what is called nonelastic tissue. This means that it is extra small, and when it does stretch, it hurts like crazy and I ended up getting lots of tiny little tears throughout my second trimester with our son. I realized that I was probably really sore now because it had started to stretch and tear with this pregnancy as well, and then the contractions were happening, aggravating the already intense pain from the little tears. Once I figured out what was causing the pain, it made it easier to deal with. I have a very high pain threshold, and have been starting to feel a lot better. Things also seem to finally be healing up. I am still a bit sore, but the contractions have finally stopped.
With this miscarriage, I spent a lot of time cuddling our little guy, which really helped with the emotional pain of the loss. I am so grateful to have him, despite all of the odds, and just spending time playing with him really helped me a lot. This miscarriage was very traumatic in ways that my previous miscarriages were not, particularly because I saw the tiny baby intact, and had deep regret for not trusting my gut instincts, despite what the doctors were telling me about whether or not I was pregnant in the first place. I kind of felt in a certain way that only the three of us that had been in that room really understood the pain that we were all going through with this loss.
I am not a medical professional or a professional in the field of psychology, but I know that different people deal with depression in their own ways. I knew that I was starting to feel symptoms of severe depression after this miscarriage. When I have gone through previous miscarriages, I have gotten very depressed, not leaving the house for months at times. I didn’t want to be a depressed mother, so I tried to figure out what works best for me personally to help get myself out of a slump of depression. I am naturally more of an introvert by nature, and I am most comfortable just with my two guys. I also am happiest when working on my garden, so that is what I did. Edison and I spent extra time working in the garden, and I used the gardening to work through my physical and emotional pain. I have always found so much joy in gardening because there is something so wonderful about nurturing life and beauty. I feel strongly that my gardening has helped me work through the pain and emotional struggles with our battle with “infertility”. Even though I have had a really difficult time nurturing new life in my body, I have no trouble nurturing new life and growth in my garden. My plants are my other babies (my roses even joined in on signing my mother’s day card too). Also, hard physical work can really help distract you from chronic pain. To my friends, I apologize if we have been a bit antisocial. It is nothing personal…this is just how I work through things best. Edison is definitely more social than my husband and I are, so he was not always happy about being at home so much, but he loves working in the garden too.
I also started thinking about my goals for the garden, which reminded me about how I had wanted to enter a vegetable in the “biggest specimen” category at the Orange County Fair. When my big squash won first place and division winner, I felt such a sense of joy, pride, and accomplishment. There is something so refreshing for the soul to set a goal and meet it. As silly as this may sound, this particular squash plant felt like a gift from God just for me, to lift my spirits. I was so sad that we installed our new raised beds so late in the season this year, and I was convinced that I would have nothing to enter in the “biggest” category for the fair. This little squash plant sprouted on its own from my homemade compost, and with a little love and care, my mystery squash grew quite large. When I stood there that day with my ribbons, I started to feel the heavy weight of depression lifting off me.
For any other women out there who have gone through a miscarriage, I strongly encourage you to seek help if you need it. Don’t be ashamed to ask for support from those around you, or consult with a professional for help. Do some reflection and think about what you enjoy most in life, and do it. Do that activity as often as you can, whether it is working out, gardening, singing, crafting, whatever. Draw your loved ones close. Put distance from others for a bit if you are more of an introvert and that helps you. Do whatever you need to do that helps you feel more like yourself again and helps you acknowledge and deal with the loss. Give your body ample time to rest too…the massive blood loss has always taken a toll on my energy levels. Eat as healthy as possible and replenish your body. Postpartum support for women with a miscarriage is so important, and so completely overlooked in our society today. For all of you ladies who have suffered a similar loss, know that you are not alone.