My first pregnancy seemed like a breeze from the moment I saw the plus sign on my pregnancy test. I only had marginal morning sickness with only one episode of vomiting, and in my second trimester, I was full of energy and happiness about becoming a mommy. I didn’t have much experience with children, having been an only child myself. When I had an ultrasound and found out the baby would be a boy, I felt thrilled but a little nervous. What did I know about little boys?
“Hi Brandon,” I’d whisper to my growing midsection. It was the name I wanted most for my newborn son. My friends who already had kids kept telling me what an amazing experience I’d have while raising a child. I read every parenting book I could get my hands on. I’d never even changed a diaper before, but reading the books made me feel more ready to do all the tasks Brandon needed.
I was 37 weeks pregnant at a routine obstetrician’s visit when my doctor informed me that I was 4 centimeters dilated and already in labor. The news shocked me as I hadn’t felt a single contraction yet. I already packed my suitcase for the hospital, and there was only time to swing home and grab it before being admitted. I’d been nervous about delivering the baby since the beginning, afraid of the pain that surely awaited me, but my nurse Kathy was so comforting I relaxed and even joked around with her and my husband while we waited.
When my nurse asked me if I wanted an epidural, I said yes immediately. It wasn’t bad having the needle in my back but, unfortunately, the epidural only worked on the left side of my body. On the right, my pain was steadily growing by the minute. I asked for another epidural only to hear it was too late. It was already time for Brandon to be born.
I pushed for nearly an hour with the right side of my body on fire. Kathy, my husband, and the doctor encouraged me the whole way. My doctor told me he could see the top of Brandon’s head so it would motivate me to work harder. He and Kathy were worried that I wasn’t making steady progress and that there could be shoulder dystocia, a complication where an infant’s shoulders get lodged in the pelvis. While they were discussing it, I suddenly pushed as hard as I could, and Brandon landed in my doctor’s arms.
Suddenly, everything became urgent. My newborn son was passed off to another nurse. I could hear him crying, and then he was taken out of the room. My doctor informed me that I had a fourth-degree tear that he had to fix immediately. By then, I was thoroughly exhausted and crying as hard as Brandon. The last thing I wanted was to feel more pain, so I scooted away from the doctor and told him no.
“Glenna,” my doctor screamed at me, “scoot back down here right now or you’re going to die of blood loss.”
The doctor called for more staff in the room. A nurse injected me with a sedative, so then I did what the doctor said. He spent nearly two hours repairing the damage to my body while I drifted in and out of sleep from the shot the nurse gave me. I was a mother, and I’d never even held my baby in my arms. I was told it would be several weeks until I was up and around again. How was I supposed to take care of Brandon if I couldn’t even get out of bed?
Once I settled into a regular hospital room, my new nurse finally brought Brandon to see me. It was hard to sit up, but she settled him into the crook of my arm so I could get a better look. Brandon was beautiful with stunning blue eyes and wisps of nearly white-colored hair, and he fussed and wriggled until my husband took him back and set him up in his portable bed. Our new baby was supposed to stay with us in the room, but the nurse bundled him up and took him back to the nursery a few minutes later because I couldn’t yet sit, stand, or walk to take care of him.
My husband went home a short time later, and I laid in bed looking at the ceiling trying to ignore my roommate whose baby was right next to her. Tears formed in the corners of my eyes as I heard her cooing at her newborn. I desperately wanted to do the same. Being away from Brandon felt like a cruel form of punishment and seeing another mother loving her new baby was torture.
For the next three days, my family and friends swarmed the hospital, excited to see Brandon. I was in remarkably high spirits, chatting with people for hours while they took turns holding the baby and taking pictures. It became a little easier to get out of bed, and I played hostess to everyone who came by. I tried to sleep when I was alone, but I was full of too much adrenaline. My mind raced constantly, and I couldn’t control the excitement I felt. It was almost like a manic type of high. The nurses encouraged me to rest, but I was far too wound up.
Everything changed after we took Brandon home. I still needed time to heal my injury, so my husband’s mother and sister took turns coming over to take care of him. While lying in bed upstairs, I heard everybody playing and laughing with my son. Every time my husband brought him for me to breastfeed, Brandon appeared freshly bathed in one of his brand new outfits. I should be doing that, I thought as tears welled in my eyes. What kind of mother can’t even take care of her own child?
My head began to fill with negative thoughts, and every one of them chipped away at my broken heart. I cried frequently when I was alone, trying to hide it from the rest of the family. Sleeping and eating fell out of my daily routine, and I felt an unrelenting sadness whenever I thought about Brandon. I’m not bonding with him, was the subject I used most often to shame myself. He deserves better than a mother like me.
“That’s not Glenna!” my mother-in-law told my husband about a week later. She was right. I’d turned into a zombie who did nothing but cry. I felt I was a total failure at the most important job I would ever have. The thought of losing my mind also scared me, but I didn’t share that with anyone. That same day, my husband left the house for an hour to get pictures developed, assuring me I’d be fine with our son by myself for a short time. He returned home to find Brandon and I crying on the couch together, neither one of us able to get up and move.
Things seemed bleak until my six-week checkup. When I told my doctor how horrible I’d been feeling, he took a prescription pad out of his pocket and wrote “Zoloft.” He told me postpartum depression was common among new mothers. When a woman is pregnant, her HCG level builds to an astronomical amount as the pregnancy progresses, but it virtually plummets the minute she gives birth. This can trigger postpartum depression from a mild to severe degree in some women.
I also discovered a family history of postpartum depression from my mother, who had the same thing happen when she was pregnant with me. My next action was to find a therapist to help me through the negative thoughts I was having all the time. The combination of medication and therapy would make a world of difference.
It was somewhat of a relief to find out there was a reason my brain was going haywire, and even more so that the condition was treatable. It was also important for me not to have such high expectations as a new mother. I wanted to be the perfect mommy until I told other women my story and found out there is no such thing. We all struggle at times.
What I learned as I took over more responsibility for my baby was that even though other people helped take care of Brandon, a mother’s relationship with her child is unique. Nobody knew Brandon the way I eventually did, and he taught me the best way to handle his needs and his moods. As we bonded, I realized he was his own little person who depended on me to figure out what he wanted most.
Once my brain chemistry was back to normal, I finally experienced the joy of being Brandon’s mother I craved for so long. I never became a perfect parent, but as Brandon grew older, I loved him as hard as I could and tried to teach him right from wrong. He’s a grown man in college now, and he knows I’ll always adore him and have his back. He's taught me lessons I'll never forget and has given me more than I could ever give him. I'm so proud to be his mom.