I’ve been holding off writing this blog post for many reasons. For one, I see so many women who struggle with infertility and I felt guilty discussing my own postpartum struggles.
The First Six Months
Secondly, I wanted to provide a complete picture of my journey from birth to 6 months postpartum. It has been without a doubt the most rewarding and hardest 6 months of my life. I’ve learned a lot and I’m finally ready to share my story. Get comfy, this is a long one :)
My Birth Story
My birth story, like so many, did not go to plan. But in all honestly, I never really had a plan. I told my midwife let’s make decisions as things come up. This meant getting an epidural and IV Gravol after failing to progress due to irregular contractions and intense vomiting. Instead of having contractions every few minutes, I had contraction coupling which meant back-to-back contractions with no break. After a few hours, I was completely exhausted, dehydrated and crushed to learn I was only 4 cm dilated. I had no idea how I was going to push out a tiny human. With that epidural, I was able to rest, hydrate and sleep for a few hours, which allowed my body to relax and fully dilate. Then came the pushing. I consider myself to be in pretty good shape and wow, this was a marathon! It was the hardest thing I have ever done. After almost 2.5 hours of pushing as hard as I could (and more vomiting) Jake’s head simply would not budge. It was stuck and things were starting to get a little concerning. My midwife gave me the option of either trying an episiotomy or calling in an OB for a vacuum. I choose the episiotomy although this was something I was trying to avoid after months of pelvic floor physiotherapy, perineal massage and using the EPI-NO. However, I knew at the time this was the right call.
The First Few Days
The next 72 hours were rough. I was incredibly swollen, sore and had trouble with breastfeeding. Jake would not stay latched for more than a few minutes and it was a constant struggle to fill him up. Every feed, which was every 2-3 hours, caused me intense anxiety and panic. I absolutely dreaded breastfeeding and felt so helpless and defeated. For something that is supposed to be natural, it felt so foreign and unnatural to me. I had no clue how hard it was going to be! I was ready to give up after three days until I had an appointment with the most wonderful lactation consultant. This was life-changing; she spent two hours helping me with positioning until I felt comfortable. Although there have been ups and downs since then, including periods of extreme fussiness and supply dips with back to work, I feel much more confident. My goal is to breastfeed until 1 year, but I am open to whatever happens in the next few months. Jake is also a champ and easily takes a bottle, which gives me freedom and flexibility with work.
The Newborn Bliss
Like so many new parents, the newborn stage was a complete blur. We were running on adrenaline, coffee, Uber eats and Amazon prime. Overall though, I felt pretty good. We were very privileged to have a night nurse for two weeks, people were constantly dropping off food and my parents stayed with us to help during the day. And then the other shoe dropped.
My Struggle With Postpartum Depression
People stopped coming by to visit, our night nurse left, reality set in and a health crisis hit our family. When I was a few weeks postpartum, my dad pulled me aside and told me that he had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. I credit his family doctor for being on top of regular check-ups and early detection through screening. However, radiation was not an option and he would need a full prostatectomy. Even worse, his surgeon could not give him a date as the pandemic had caused a massive backlog.
That was tough. To see my parents under extreme stress while I was dealing with my new role of motherhood was overwhelming. Instead of enjoying a beautiful backyard baby shower with us, my dad spent the day at the hospital getting a bone scan.
Motherhood Is Isolating
At that point, I felt incredibly isolated and lonely. Going back to work at 8 weeks postpartum definitely did not help. I would spend all day taking care of Jake, who still woke several times at night to feed, and then do consults in the evening. Looking back, this was a terrible decision and I was not ready to work. I felt like I had to prove to everyone, and myself, that I was hardcore and could handle it all. I told myself, no problem, I can care for a baby, cook, clean, do the laundry, launch a book, exercise, eat well, lose the baby weight, keep up with social media, answer patient emails, see patients, oh and also take care of myself. Nope. I’ve learned I don’t need to prove myself to anyone. Next time around, I’m taking way more time off.
Social media also did not help; I would watch videos of friends playing volleyball at the beach and I felt like I was chained to a chair breastfeeding all day. I tried a few mom meet-ups and it just made things worse for me. I felt like everyone was judging me for returning to work (which was my perception and not the truth) and would just come home feeling defeated. I would hand the baby over to Dylan and cry in the shower. I couldn’t remember the last time I laughed and wondered if I would ever do anything fun again.
Partner Resentment Is Real
Let’s talk about relationships, I started to feel huge resentment towards my partner. Now I understand why people talk about hating their partner during the postpartum period. Although Dylan is an amazing husband and father, I constantly lashed out and basically only spoke in a condescending tone. He stayed up late every night to do a dream feed while I slept, but I still felt like he had it so, so easy. If he mentioned how tired he was from a long day of work, I would completely lose it. This is when I realized I was experiencing mild postpartum depression and needed help. I enrolled in a study through Women’s College Hospital and had access to an excellent care coordinator and postpartum resources.
Finding Peace With My New Normal
Slowly but surely the fog lifted. Jake started sleeping through the night, and we found our groove as parents. My dad was finally able to get his surgery; his surgeon told him he had an angel on his shoulder as the cancer was on the cusp of spreading. Dylan took a delayed paternity leave and we focused on time as a family. And then the most magical thing happened. No, it wasn’t a day at the spa, a bubble bath or some new self-care routine. It was called childcare. We hired the perfect Mary Poppins nanny and I went back to work part-time.
I have DEEP, deep respect for stay-at-home moms. For me, I need the balance and enjoy the ‘break’ I get at work. I find my job incredibly rewarding and I feel a huge sense of accomplishment after a busy day seeing patients. It also means when I do spend time with Jake, I’m focused on him. I acknowledge that we are in a very fortunate position to be able to afford childcare. This experience has made me realize there are massive gaps in our current society for working moms. It is no wonder women feel completely burnt out and exhausted burning the candle at both ends, we are failing them.
Why did I write this? As I mentioned, I felt guilty discussing my postpartum journey. As someone who has struggled with infertility, I used to be bitter towards moms who complained about motherhood. Now I see both sides. Getting pregnant isn’t easy, pregnancy is hard and being a mom isn’t any easier. They are all hard in their own ways. I also recognize that dealing with postpartum depression does not make me a bad mother. I wish to bring more awareness to this topic and help other women get the help they deserve.
I know all too well that so many women would give anything to be in my shoes. I am grateful that IVF worked for us and I live in a country where we have access to fertility services.
As for the next steps, I change my mind every day. We have good days and I feel like I’m ready to be pregnant again and have multiple kids. We have bad days and I feel content with our family of three. I say this with grace as we have several embryos on ice and many people don’t have this option. For now, I will take it day by day. I remind myself that babies are not robots and try not to take it personally when he is fussy or crying. I’m doing the best I can.