My motherhood and postpartum journey began in 2012 when I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. I was at 26 weeks gestation. I didn’t know anything really about preeclampsia. At the time, I worked as a WIC Nutritionist and counseled moms about prenatal nutrition and infant feeding, breastfeeding, and general nutrition education. So I knew what to do to maintain or lower my blood pressure. However, when I was diagnosed, everything I thought I knew went out the window and this, I believe is where my guilt and anxiety began.
When I had my daughter at 31 weeks, my first thought was, wow, we survived preeclampsia. My second thought was, what did I do to my body?
To my daughter? Why couldn’t I just keep her inside my body for a little while longer?
My subsequent thoughts after that was of survival. She would stay 6 weeks in the NICU and I knew I didn’t have the luxury or wherewithal to process what was happening to me mentally and emotionally. I just pumped what I could and essentially lived and breathed in the NICU with her.
Fast forward to 2015, when I found out I was pregnant again. I cried.
I was upset and I never had the joy that came from wanting a baby.
I felt like a ticking time bomb and my anxiety counted us down to 26 weeks when I was first diagnosed with preeclampsia with my daughter and than 31 weeks, when I had her. The closer I got to those milestones, I started writing goodbye letters to my 4 year old. I thought the first time, I was so lucky. This time, maybe we won’t be and this was it. When those weeks passed without a diagnosis, I made myself believe that we were going to have a full term healthy baby. And then I woke up one day with a headache, I was nauseated and throwing up and I just knew.
He was born at 34 weeks, 6 days. And stayed 11 days in the NICU.
And I thought that was the end of that chapter but at some point, my body, my brain and all these emotions that I had buried and kept at bay for essentially 4 years, came crashing on me and I was later diagnosed with postpartum depression. Instead of writing goodbye letters, I lost the ability to care what happened to me, where I would go.
That was 5 years ago. In that time, I had written more; poetry, prose, anything to try to purge my thoughts and make sense of what happened to me, to us. And some days, I’m fine and feel like I’m moving forward. And some days, I still get so angry and so guilty about what my body couldn’t do. What I couldn’t do.
My motherhood and postpartum journey started off rough. And I am so grateful to be doing more than surviving. I wouldn’t say I’m thriving, just yet.
But advocacy is the next best thing I could do.
I joined forums, became a peer support provider for an organization and became a peer mentor for PSI. Volunteer for Preeclampsia Foundation whenever and however I could. I found wonderful organizations like 2020 Mom who gathers women with this lived experience of maternal mental health disorders and make tangible change happen. While I believe I had a great medical team - in 2012, they didn’t sugarcoat preeclampsia and told me what to expect. I believe in 2015, that my doctor, when she saw that I had a preexisting history of preeclampsia, should have given me the resources and support to find ‘life after preeclampsia groups,’ or taken the time to talk to me about what this pregnancy would mean for me, emotionally and mentally.
So that is where we are today. Finding meaning and a purpose to life after preeclampsia and postpartum depression. But I’m here and my children are healthy and that’s what matters.
Thank you for being here. Please look through my Resources tab above, under Advocacy. But for your convenience, I am listing them below.
In 2012, my daughter was born at 31 weeks due to Preeclampsia and spent 43 days in the NICU. When I found out I was pregnant again, I became anxious about history repeating itself. He was born at 34 weeks in 2016. I had another premature baby, another NICU stay, another preeclampsia diagnosis. This time, I added postpartum depression to my history.