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13 February, 2014

Here it Goes: My Fears of a Repeat Labor, Delivery and Recovery Experience

With the countdown less than ten weeks until Baby Buergler #2 is due, I had a sudden panic of all the things that "went wrong" with the end of my pregnancy, the labor & delivery, and my recovery.  I am terrified of a repeat.  I have been doing my best to mental prepare, should they, but it was just SO MUCH last time that I am almost in tears again just thinking about a repeat experience.

1. Preeclampsia   

I was diagnosed with preeclampsia around week 36-37 with Evie. It only occurs in about 5-8% of pregnancies. Fortunately once you've had it you're not more likely to get it. Each pregnancy is unique. Still, I know more about now than I did then. It's dangerous (Lady Sybil anyone?).  I am terrified to repeat that: The headaches. The bed rest. The edema. The blood pressure feeling like my body was going to explode.  After a short stint on bed rest I had to be induced. I was also passed back and forth between the doctor and midwife, and neither of them really explained the importance of certain steps of recovery.  In hindsight I think this contributed to my post-partum depression. (See below)

2. Labor & Delivery 

Like I said, I had to be induced. The nurses started the first part of the induction, swearing no one goes into active labor for 12 hours and therefore offered me not one, but two Ambien and Benedryl to help me sleep.  6 hours later I was in full, active labor, and in within 11 hours I was holding my baby girl in my arms.  While I had a Pitocin and Epidural free labor like I wanted, I barely remember any of the process (some say this is a blessing and I agree to a certain extent).  

Honestly, I am terrified. I don't know what to expect as far as real labor goes, nor do I think I can really do a natural child birth again because, well, I don't really remember it.  I feel like a first time mom all over again.  I am letting my head get in the way.  Instead of feeling empowered by a previous natural birth, I am actually overwhelmed by it. 

3. Nursing 

Because of the preeclampsia and the Ambien, it took me a full 24 hours to feel human after having Evie. All I wanted to do was sleep.  I was so, so exhausted.  Meanwhile, the lactation consultants and nurses were forcing Evie on my breast.  My body was so swollen and exhausted.  Evie had a hard time latching... it was all down hill from there.

In hindsight part of our issue was my exhaustion for the first two weeks.  Part of it was the mechanics. My breasts were really swollen and Evie has a lip tie.  All of these contributed to a really challenging experience that landed me exclusively pumping for 6 months.

Looking forward, my breasts have not grown as large as they did last time. I'm also more comfortable with the idea of formula and bottle feeding, so the emotional fight isn't there.  I have also done a lot of reading on some of my errors with Evie, but also more tricks to try and more options we have for success.  Though, all of this is still a huge unknown, and is frustrating for me to try to plan summer activities. I hate not having a plan!

4. Recovery and weight loss

I did not take my recovery seriously.  I did not nap when the baby napped. And because I was trying to both pump and bottle feed Evie, my nights did not include much rest either.  This led to migraines, exhaustion, short tempers, and binge eating to make up for the endorphins normally found in rest and exercise.  The baby weight didn't come off as could it if I wasn't sleeping or walking, and was binge eating junk?  And this contributed to a horrible body image for several months to follow.

Of these five fears, the likelihood of this "repeating" or not going according to plan, this is the least likely. I know I need to rest, shower, and walk.  And this time I am not afraid to ask for help.

5. Postpartum Depression and Anxiety 

It took about 6-8 weeks for me to admit that I was suffering from this horrible disease.  Having since done research I now know that women who suffer from preeclampsia and/or are on bed rest are more likely to have PPD.  Being cooped up in the house in the winter, and the huge lifestyle change of having a newborn compounded the problem.  And I also now know that binge eating sweets & grains causes many, many Americans to suffer from depression and/or anxiety.  I was put on a series of medications for a little over a year to help break the cycle of depression. In the meantime, I learned which foods can trigger these things so I stopped eating them, and therefore finally lost weight. I was able to get outside again not only to exercise but to interact with people. And so on.  

Folks with a history of depression are more likely to have it again, so I am genuinely concerned about this.  I talked to my midwife, who suggested placenta encapsulation, but I just don't know if I can stomach the idea of that.  I am not above taking the prescription drugs again for a short while, but I hear you should start them in the hospital immediately after birth.  Well, how do I know if I really need them yet?  So, that leaves me with trying to eat low grains, low processed foods, and hope that it continues to work.

What worries me the most is that PPD&A was an underlying factor to my recovery, weight loss, and breastfeeding issues.  It was interwoven into my life for several months.  I am fearful of those panic attacks, or crying spells, or hating my child.  It was heartbreaking.  I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

While this is a very serious, very long term concern, it's also something I am humble enough to admit and quickly ask for help should the need arise.  I hope that if it happens again I will be able to recognize it sooner and have a better starting point with a medicine and dosage to get the most relief the fastest. 

More on these issues as they unfolded two years ago -- Expectations of Motherhood and On the State of Me: Four Months Post-partum


  1. Oh, Elizabeth. Thank you for your incredible honesty. I think evaluating all of these issues now will help SO much in labor and post-partum time. You have a strong self-awareness, which is always the first step. I will be praying for your peace!

  2. I second that - thanks for your honesty, I think a lot of women share your same worries and it's refreshing to know we're not alone.

    I think just talking about what scares you and thinking about how you can feel more in control or deal with the situation is a huge advantage. Are you taking another birth prep class? I am taking one geared toward women who are having a second (or more) child - apparently we will process our last birth experience and talk about doing things differently, and especially talk about the fears. Maybe something like that could be useful?

  3. Oh, I so hope that this delivery goes differently for you. Also, I had to be induced too, they gave my painkillers so I could sleep and I hallucinated through my middle of the night active labor. It was ... a joy.

  4. Oh goodness. Your fears all make so much sense after what you went through with Evie, but I'm still so sorry that you're struggling with them. It's really brave of you to discuss them so openly, but I imagine it's also probably really cathartic. I really, really hope that Baby Sister's birth gives you all of the peace and healing you need!

  5. I struggled with ppd after my first too and I started the meds in the hospital - literally baby's out, popped the pill. I wasn't sure if I needed them or not, but I was so afraid of spiraling again that I went ahead with it. I think I took them for about 2 months and figured I was fine so I quit. I definitely was more scared for my second delivery than my first. I think I was more "ignorance is bliss" for the first one and by the second I knew what could go wrong. But if it helps, I also didn't worry about as much with the second as I did with the first. I had learned to let go of more. And definitely sleep when she sleeps. Evie can watch tv for a bit if you need to rest. Normally I am a little ocd about screen time, but I figure a little bit of extra tv time is better than a mom that falls asleep while driving, or is overly irritated, sick, etc because she's not sleeping. It will be amazing to you how much easier things are for you because you've done them before. Not that babies are easy, but you won't be so stressed. I remember counting the minutes that my first napped. Ack! Her nap was only 43 minutes long! With the third now I think, "oh, he's fussing. I guess he napped? OR was he just quiet? How long ago did I put him down?" Second child syndrome can be a good thing. Good luck!


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