The story of my experience with IUGR, premature induced labor, postpartum depression, and a mother's love for her son.
Hey there, my friends. Today, I'm gonna stray from the usual recipe mumbo jumbo and get a little, um..... personal. It's wordy, emotional, long, and a bit dark. But very real and heartfelt. This is a post that I've been trying to write for months now. Trying to figure out the best way to express everything. Well, I just went for it. Here goes:
Rhubarbaby is now 6 months old. Closer to 7 actually. Him and I are finally sharing that crazy/intense/unique/amazing/googly eyed love for one another, but it took us a while to get here. I briefly mentioned the issues I had with his birth about a month after he was born, but I wasn't ready to talk about all that quite yet. It was just.... still too dark for me to let it all out.
I had a rough pregnancy. Sickness. Special diets. Low blood pressure. Issues with pubic pain. And then... IUGR. IUGR is short for Intra Uterine Growth Restriction. In a nutshell, it means your baby has stopped growing in your body.
It all started when I went in for my 35th week appointment.
The doctor noticed something strange. Rhubarbaby hadn't grown at all during the week. She didn't seem too concerned and sent me on my way. So, he was a bit small, ok.
Then, at my 36th week appointment. The same. Rhubarbaby hadn't grown since week 34. Definitely odd, and I was beginning to freak just a bit. Again, the same. Not too concerned and sent me on my way.
Then, at 37 weeks, he was exactly the same size, and much too little for a full term baby. WHAT?! The worrying started. Big time. The doctor immediately sent me in for testing. I spent 2 full days in the hospital getting tests done. Ultrasounds, monitors, hospital gowns, belly bands. All to discover what I already knew, my little dude had stopped growing, but no one knew why.
I was discharged while my doctor consulted a high-risk OBGYN. Then I got a call pretty late in the evening that night. After a tearful and intense discussion with the doc, it was decided that I had IUGR, and that Rhubarbaby wasn't safe inside me any longer. I would need to check in to the hospital early in the morning to be induced for labor. I spent hours googling IUGR. The risks, real life stories, the causes. You know what freaked me out the most? Racking my brain trying to figure out what I had done in my pregnancy to hurt my baby. I couldn't think of anything. I had done everything right. Everything I was supposed to. So, then I worried that no one would believe it. I worried that the doctor and everyone around me were secretly wondering what I had done too. How would they know I wasn't lying? Would my husband believe me? My family?
I wish I could more elaborately explain the emotions I felt, but labor began very quickly afterward, and I don't think I really had the time to mentally and emotionally process the whole thing. All I knew was... I wasn't ready. My husband wasn't ready. More importantly, my baby wasn't ready. It wasn't time.
But, it was time. It had to be. Once the labor started it was..... really intense. I won't go into it too much, but it all happened so fast. I dilated so quickly, that I didn't get the epidural until I was fully dilated. And Rhubarbaby started coming out before the doctor even arrived. Just a few hours later and Jared and I were parents. Yep.... that quickly.
And then, I had a baby. A tiny, early for gestational age boy.
I was in shock, and honestly don't remember the first moment I laid eyes on him. I really wish I did, and always will, but instead I was given an oxygen mask and just needed to let my brain catch up with my body. It hurts me to know that I'll never have that moment. That first gaze upon my first born son. I only know what my husband has told me about those first 20 minutes or so. I'll never have that memory. Then, our son was whisked away. To be cleaned, weighed, measured, all the usual stuff.
But, there were also complications. Our little guy was only in the 3% range for weight. He wasn't regulating his temperature or his glucose levels. Once I came to, my baby had to be hooked up to monitors under warming lights. He had to be pricked with needles and strapped to IVs. But, what hit me the most... he couldn't be held. I couldn't hold him. Couldn't comfort him, soothe him, lay with him. Couldn't BOND with him. After a handful more hours, he was taken to the NICU. To a small little room with a twin sized metal cot and a chair. Let's just say.... I was a mess. For those of you who have had a baby, you know how foggy the day after labor is. I had been awake for days, and felt like it was all a dream. But now, we couldn't go home and cuddle and recover and get to know each other. He had to recover while hooked up to IVs and monitors. I had to recover from labor on a metal cot with no shower and a public hospital bathroom. Jared, well, he had to recover by driving back and forth to our apartment to feed our dog and take her out. And by making sure I ate, (tried to) nap, and basically just didn't lose my shit. I had 2 hour windows of time to feed my son, pump, feed myself, and sleep. I was averaging about 3 20 minute naps a day. That's all the sleep I got.
Our NICU stay was only 5 days in the end, but I'm not sure the shock of it all ever wore off while we were in there. That dark, quiet room full of tears, anxiety, beeping, and pumping. But also, a safe environment full of reassurance, help, hope, and the most determined little boy fighting his way through all of it.
And then we all went home.
It seemed like our whole world had changed. Even stepping foot out of the hospital, the world seriously just seemed.... different. I was different. Jared was different. Our entire world really had changed. Maybe it was the severe sleep deprivation, but even our apartment looked like a different place. I wish I could say that things all went uphill from there, but we still just weren't prepared for life with a premature newborn.
My son wasn't ready. He wasn't ready for the light, the cold, the..... world. He just screamed. and screamed. and screamed some more. He was sometimes quiet if he was being held close by me or Jared. Safe, warm, secure. So, one of us had to be awake at all times holding him to our chests. Putting him down just wasn't an option for the first few months of his life. Jared and I took sleeping shifts while the other held Rhubarbaby and (tried to) stay awake. You guys, it was rough. Really, really rough. And the screaming...... well..... it lasted for months. 4 months, actually.
I'm gonna be honest. It was a dark time. I always read about how happy and amazing mothers feel with their newborns. I guess I expected to feel that right away. But, my son and I hadn't connected at his birth. Hadn't developed that bond yet that everyone gushes about. Yes, I loved him. Yes, every fiber of my being told me to keep him happy and safe. But here's the thing: I wasn't happy, and neither was he.
Jared went back to work within a week, and then we were alone most of the time. I spent hours and hours trying to connect with him. Trying to bond. Trying to communicate with my newborn baby. But, newborns aren't like that. And it wasn't working. So, my days were filled with tears. Both from Rhubarbaby and from me. There were many days I had to call Jared and have him come home. I just couldn't emotionally and physically deal with the demands of being a new mother. I was failing. I felt like a horrible mother, a horrible person really. Like I just.... wasn't cut out for all of it. Like I had made a big mistake. Why was this whole thing so hard for me? Shouldn't I be calm and patient and starry eyed in love at all times? If I was, he surely wouldn't be screaming like this right? If I was a good mother, this wouldn't be happening. It was all my fault. It had to be. Right?
Postpartum depression took over my life in a way that I never expected. In a way that didn't even occur to me to be depression. It came in the form of self-doubt. I felt like I had caused all of the issues. I felt defeated. Hopeless. Claustrophobic. At the time, I assumed that since I still had a sense of humor and didn't want to cause him any harm, it wasn't REAL postpartum depression. But, it was very real. I recognize that now, but at the time, I just thought I didn't have what it took to give my son the love that he deserved. That he needed.
And then, we had a moment.
I can't remember exactly how old Rhubarbaby was, maybe 3 months or so, but I remember the moment we first fell in love. We were laying on the couch together, and he turned his head a bit to face me and just looked into my eyes. It was then. That exact, mundane, yet extraordinary moment. I felt it. That spark that I was waiting for. We were both ready. Ready to connect. Ready to heal. Ready to fall in love with each other. My eyes filled with tears of happiness. I was so in love with this little dude.
It just.... got better. It didn't happen overnight, but now.... him and I are growing closer and closer every day. I have never been more proud of anyone or anything in my entire life. He has quadrupled in size, and is now in the 65% range for weight and height, and is growing at a rapid rate even still. He somehow manages to be a joyful, happy, giggly little baby, even with the memories of his birth and those first excruciating months he went through. He inspires me every single day, as I see him learn and try new things. I love him with my entire self. My entire body, my entire soul. I get it now. All of the stories I hear about a mother's love. It's real.
Let's get this conversation happening
If you've read this far into this post. Thank you. Thank you for listening, for hearing me. I was hoping to have some take away for any of you out there needing to hear how to pull yourself out of a difficult 4th trimester. Some advice for how to get through all of it. All I can think to say is, it gets better, but I hated hearing that when I was going through it.
So, let's get this conversation happening. In a time when women are empowering themselves more than ever (Women's March WOOOT!), let's support each other. Talk about the difficulties of motherhood. Get the word out there that it's NOT our fault if things aren't as easy as they seem on TV or on Facebook. Lend a helping hand, or just a helping voice.
Was your birth story similar? Completely different? Do you need a helping hand? Just need someone to hear you without judgment? I'd love to hear your stories, your thoughts. If you'd like to, let's chat in the comments below, or send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's do this.
From a mother who has been there, and is still figuring things out,