My husband snapped this photo as we got ready to leave the hospital with our third born, although he would be the fourth child under our roof. Neither of us had any idea what was about to hit, knocking the breath out of me and changing me into someone I don’t recognize when I try to look back.
I had a little post-partum depression with my first baby, a tad more with my second. I really didn’t want to go through that again, so with my third I planned a home birth, hoping that if I went about things differently I would feel differently in the end.
But insurance pays for hospital births and home births are out of pocket. We were a single income, single car, barely making it through the month family of five and it felt so very selfish to have a home birth. The thought of owing the midwife money and heaping more strain on our already strapped budget was unbearable. And I was afraid I couldn’t do it, that I would chicken out at the last second and end up with a hospital bill AND a midwife bill. I had little faith in my ability to do hard things or to access the grace and strength of God.
So at the end of my 38th week of pregnancy, that point where all mothers are exhausted beyond belief and in pain and just really ready to be done, I met with a kind OB who gave me the option of an induction a few days later. I had already birthed two babies, we knew my body responded to Pitocin as it should, so I jumped at the opportunity to let my insurance company foot most of the bill and let the nice doctor handle the details.
I wasn’t dilated, I wasn’t contracting much, the baby was still pretty high and now I realize that my body likes to have babies around 42 weeks. My body does not like to have babies at 39 weeks. My body protested greatly before finally submitting to the rough treatment I signed up for.
Nothing went as I thought it would. His birth was traumatic for both of us. We survived, but I was cracked under the surface where no one could see.`
I don’t remember much about the next eight weeks, except that I kept all the blinds closed and didn’t answer my phone or leave the house much. I remember how every little thing felt rough and loud and cruel. There are few pictures of me from this time and I can’t look at them anyway because of the pain in my eyes. I can feel it when I see it and I don’t ever want to feel it again.
I do remember my friend showing up, uninvited of course, and checking that tiny, fragile baby over about two months after he was born. I had fallen so deep down inside myself that I couldn’t see my tiny THIRD baby wasn’t growing, changing, developing at all. He was nursing every three hours and swallowing little to nothing and I just couldn’t see. I don’t know what would have become of us if she hadn’t shown up, pushed her way in, taken him from me and called the pediatrician’s cell phone after hours herself.
The next morning, I dropped my three big kids off at school for their first day back after that long and miserable summer and this doctor I’ve never seen before or since told me I could give him formula and come back tomorrow to be checked again or he would have to be admitted to the hospital immediately.
I was so far down that I couldn’t compute and I stood there actually thinking through those two options as if they really were options.
I took him home and cried all the way to Target for Enfamil. I had failed, I had one job and I failed completely. I felt so alone, so ashamed, so worthless and I didn’t want to die but I also didn’t want to exist anymore.
The voice of the God I wasn’t speaking to rang in my ears clearer than I can describe, clearing the clutter and I heard...
“The very best you can give your child is going to kill him. Keep giving him your very best and he will die. Give him formula and I will make him ok in a way you never could have. I will make him strong and healthy and it doesn’t depend on you or your ability to sustain him.”
I never looked back. I nursed him for comfort for a couple of months longer but I knew his sustenance came from God, not me.
I knew I needed to stop nursing him and focus on getting better and that meant I needed medicine for a while and I needed herbs joy and rest. And so I took what I needed and it turned out there was enough for both of us. I didn’t need to be a martyr after all. That baby is seven and kind and smart and healthy and strong. God made him that way without my help
I got to do it all over again a couple of years ago, and this time I had a really healing home birth and a truly restful and supported fourth trimester and I am stronger and better than I was before, due in large part to the women who circled around me when I finally allowed them to see me.
If you know that black hole I’m talking about, please reach out. Sometimes medicine helps, sometimes other things do, but you do not have to suffer forever and you can be well. Just reach out and if you don’t get the response you hoped for reach somewhere else. Just don’t stop reaching because this really is a tunnel and you really can get to the other side where the light is waiting for you.