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.
**This story first appeared in a blog post back in May.**
The story of ours began like most; I heard your heartbeat and joy propelled me from dreamlike stupor to scheduling baby shower and maternity photography sessions, deciding on nursery decor and what names would match you.
When I received my preeclampsia diagnosis, my heart sank and everything on my carefully crafted to-do list dissipated, along with the idea that this story of ours would be easy.
Motherhood welcomed us at 31 weeks.
It also welcomed strength, unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. There would be no crying at our reality or our missed bonding time as you were wheeled away into a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) over an hour away. Instead, I had to summon whatever will and adrenaline coursing through my body and demanded it heal so I can be closer to my heart. Tears would come later. And as I sadly learned, tears would come in waves that crippled and made me wonder where that strength went all those days and weeks I spent by your isolate in the NICU.
The story of ours paralyzed me.
I don’t know for sure how I lived to see you celebrate your first birthday, when every image I’d see, you were surrounded by tubes and wires and your heart monitor constantly beeping.
Somehow I did learn to move freely. I learned to save my tears in the shower. I learned to whisper prayers of gratitude every night as I watched you sleep.
As I started to accept the idea that there would only be the three of us - you, me and your dad - I learned I was again expecting.
This did not bring me joy. I met this news with anger and I tried for a long time to be happy. You were a beautiful four year old. I survived our first year and I was becoming less afraid of your future.
When I heard the heartbeat, I didn’t want to know the sex. I couldn’t give this heart a name.
I didn’t want to write to-do lists and there was no dream like stupor, either. I was a mom on a mission and my mission was to live so I could go home to you and our life.
A history of preeclampsia could mean I was a ticking time bomb again.
A history of premature birth meant I would be revisiting my nightmare in an enclosed NICU space.
A history of traumatic birth meant the possibility of not surviving.
And history usually repeated itself.
I packed my bags at 30 weeks and waited anxiously for 31 weeks.
It came and went. I wept and almost believed we were going to make it to ‘full term,’ at 38 weeks.
When I woke up with a headache and felt nauseous at 34 weeks, I knew it was time. My vision blurred and my blood pressure was elevated. My heart had already shattered when I was told I’d be welcoming another bundle in a few hours.
I thought I welcomed him in my arms. I thought I kissed his head as he was wheeled to the NICU. I thought I was doing okay until I wasn’t.
Until I didn’t hear him crying even when he was next to me.
Until suddenly, the idea of leaving you and him seemed like a rational action.
Motherhood has defined me in ways I never knew I'd be defined by.
While I knew motherhood gives you a different identity and purpose. Mine came with a two time Preeclampsia survivor, a parent to premature babies, and NICU graduates. I also had to include on postpartum depression survivor - an identity that I didn’t know I’d endure and survive.
And while the story of ours is still writing itself, I am hopeful that you and your brother can overcome any obstacles in life. After all, the strength I had to push through my storms were reflected in your eyes. You gave me courage. I choose to live bravely because of you. My purpose isn’t to understand why the story of ours began the way it did but how our story could give a voice and comfort to another.
My purpose in advocating for maternal mental health came because of the way our story began.
For more of my preeclampsia and postpartum depression story, please see here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B073MVG4R4/
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Before we discuss, know that I am a cradle Catholic. Know that that means I was born, baptized, and raised as a Catholic. Know that that means, I am fully aware of the sanctity of life, the preciousness of it all, and the repercussions, should I violate that.
But also, know this about me.
Know that I have had 2 high risk pregnancies.
Know that I am truly blessed and grateful for my medical team and experts who took care of me and both my premature babies.
Know that I was fearful at 26 weeks when I was told about my preeclampsia diagnosis.
Know that I prayed and prayed and bargained to keep my baby inside my body every week until I had her unexpectedly at 31 weeks.
Know that I couldn't hold my 3 pound 4 oz baby for 5 days because doctors and nurses didn't want me to disturb her Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC) line - a line that was monitoring her life.
Know that I had to watch my 31 weeker grow in this tiny space, surrounded by machines, for 6 weeks of her life.
Know that before she turned 1 years old, she had to wear a chest monitor that beeped when it didn't pick up her breathing or when her heart seemed to pause for the infinite minute microsecond.
Know that she was seen constantly (and still to this day, 9 years later) by several specialists.
Know that in the years following her birth, I was broken by this trauma.
Know that this kept me from singing joyfully when I found out about being pregnant again.
Know that I watched my girl hug my belly and wondered if this time - my preeclampsia - I would be unlucky.
Know that this pregnancy anxiety paralyzed me.
Know that at 26 weeks, I felt myself slipping.
Know that at 31 weeks - my trigger week - the week that I had my daughter - I threw up, cried in the shower and that this is the first time I have acknowledged any of that.
Know that I wrote goodbye letters for her. For my husband.
Know that at 34 weeks and change, I knew that my headache, my nausea, my morning would put me in triage that night.
Know that all Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)s are the same, no matter what hospital you are in.
Know that those 11 days, he was in the NICU, I had to hold my daughter and answer all of her questions about why babies don't automatically come home after you have them.
Know that I had to revisit those nightmares of her NICU stay and pretend everything was fine.
Know that coming home with my 5 pound 34 weeker, my anxiety became too much to bear.
Know that I had postpartum depression in the weeks that followed.
Know that I continued writing my goodbye letters.
To my 4 year old and to my husband.
Know that I wanted to just run away and never look back.
Know all this about me.
Know that I do not wish this upon anyone.
Motherhood can be a burden. It is a burden for the woman in an abusive relationship. It is a burden on someone so young. It is a burden for someone who have absolutely nothing to her name. Motherhood - in my struggles - is a burden that only I carry. My husband didn't know what was going through my brain. My doctors only relayed information I asked for. Help is a resource that I knew about and had access to. What if I didn't have any of those things?
Know that there are resources.
There are people who understand what you are going through and have been on the path you are on.
Know that you are absolutely not alone in your thoughts, in your darkness;
you are not alone.
If you or someone you know needs help for a maternal mental health disorder:
The Postpartum Support International (PSI) warmline can be reached at
Press 1 for Spanish or press 2 for English.
You can also text “Help” to 800-944-4773 (EN)
Text en Español: 971-203-7773
Volunteers offer encouragement, information, and treatment resources in your community.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact:
The National Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the USA, anytime, about any type of crisis.
The National Suicide Prevention Phone Hotline and Website:
1-800-273-8255 or www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
911 or your local emergency number
Take action & join the #MomsAreNotImmune Remembrance Candlelight vigil live tonight at 5:30pm PT on @2020Moms FB, YT or LI channels. Light a candle tonight for moms lost, their children & to send hope to those suffering now.
Visit https://www.2020mom.org/maternal-suicide-awareness-campaign for more
2020 Mom is celebrating 10 years of support and advocating mamas and spreading awareness on Maternal Mental Health! I am beyond proud and grateful to be a part of 2020 Mom as a Mom Ambassador.
For the next 2 months, I will be blogging through my motherhood journey and how I wound up in advocacy. And should you feel moved, you are invited to partake in the celebration.
Click here to get the details.
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.
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