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Recovering from a Traumatic Hospital Experience & PPD
Ashley Clarkson shares her hospital birth experience, which was very traumatic. She gave birth in Winnipeg, Canada when there was a really bad flu going around, and the hospital wouldn’t let her have more than one person with her. She felt like she needed to choose her husband even though her mom might have been a better support person during birth. She ended up having a cesarean and struggled, feeling unconnected with her baby. She suffered postpartum depression, and wanted to share her story with other women to empower them to find help and advocate for themselves. Read more from her story at the bottom of this post!
Read More: Ashley wrote her Birth Story as well
First off, we had a big flu epidemic going on here right around the time I was due with my daughter, and because of this they were very worried about the premature babies and just all the newborns in general getting sick. So, I was told only 1 person could be with me throughout my labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum. The same one person my whole hospital stay. No switching out people was allowed. This decision was incredibly hard for me but, of course, I knew it would be Chuck (my husband) with me but I was nervous at the same time to go through everything without my mom, because being first time parents I knew neither of us would know what to do, and I knew in my heart I really needed my mom there for support and as my advocate.
Also, while this sounds crazy to some, I really had no “birth plan”. I knew the only kind of pain relief I would accept would be an epidural as I just wasn’t sold on morphine or anything of the sort. I knew I just wanted my daughter to arrive safely and that I would try my hardest to have a vaginal birth and if it didn’t happen I wouldn’t be disappointed. I really didn’t have a plan because I didn’t want to disappoint myself. My cousin had had a baby 9 months prior and was still struggling with the fact that her birth didn’t go as planned and seeing her go through that was very hard and I guess I felt that by not having a plan I would be less disappointed with my outcome—boy was I wrong.
That being said…When I went for my OB visit at 41 weeks and my OB checked me I was still 0cm dilated and 0% effaced (talk a or disappointing) I had tried to go as long as possible without any intervention but I ended up getting induced at 41+1 because at that appointment I had slightly elevated blood pressure and my OB would only “allow” me to go 11 days overdue anyways. So, on February 13, 2013 at about 4pm I went in and they started the process with the gel they put in your cervix to ripen it and then I was sent home while it worked so i went to my mom and dads and slept there.
I started with contractions around 10pm and made my way back to the hospital as I was told to come in either at 11pm or if contractions started.
While I was waiting for a bed in triage, sitting in the waiting area my water broke at 1230 and they brought me back and admitted me and i got moved to a room in labor & delivery. It was at this point that I had to say goodbye to my mom and dad and take Chuck back with me. As soon as my water broke my contractions seemed to intensify by what felt like 100%. I was already in what I felt like was so much pain and because it was offered I took my epidural right away even though I was only about 2cm. My plan was to not take any pain medication except an epidural and I had heard sometimes if you done take it when they offer the anesthesiologist might not be available when you really do need it. So I took my chance and got it early.
They started on Pitocin at 2am to get things rolling. And we waited….and waited….at this point my epidural was only working on one side but I was so frozen I couldn’t walk or change positions so I just had to lay there. And wait. I labored and did the best I could laying in the bed but my husband really didn’t know what to do to help me and I feel like cause it was nighttime, the nurses were a bit more sparse and not around as much so and advice I needed or support was lacking.
So we kept waiting and I hoped my body was doing what it was supposed to….By 10:30am I was only at 4cm and around 130pm I was at a 6. At that point I was exhausted and the doctor came to talk to me about a c-section because when he checked me my cervix was extremely swollen and at that point there was a very small chance I would deliver naturally. I was so tired at this point I agreed and they got everything ready for a c-section.
Finally around what I think was 3ish, I got wheeled into the operating room all prepped for surgery, strapped down and frozen up and Chuck was brought in and put beside me. I thought this was it and it was time. To my surprise, as soon as they were about to get started on me the doctors got called to an emergency. Just my luck. I had to wait on the operating table for another hour before they could start.
Chuck was able to stay with me but I was extremely uncomfortable, nervous and ready to get everything over with. It felt like the longest wait of my life. Finally they came back in and got started. I don’t remember much of the surgery or what was going on at all. I was in and out of consciousness and felt so drugged up that I was in another world.
Finally Londyn was born at 4:12pm and the last thing I remember faintly was hearing her cry. I passed out in the OR table and woke up in recovery 5 hours later and had no idea what had happened to me or where I was. Thinking back, I do remember hearing people talking over me while I was half passed out discussing a blood transfusion and arguing over whether I was going to get one or not. Then I was out cold.
Finally a nurse came in and I was told Londyn was perfect, 7lbs 7oz 20 inches long and with her daddy, but I had lost twice the amount of blood than the average person during my c-section and my blood pressure plummeted which caused me to lose consciousness. I also think having to be frozen twice wasn’t very good for my body either.
After being checked over I finally got to meet my perfect baby girl Londyn. Chuck and I stayed together with her for a bit while I waited for a room in the postpartum unit.
I am so proud of chuck for being strong when I crashed in surgery and taking good care of our little girl for the first few hours of her life when I couldn’t.
The recovery nurse told me that I should send Chuck home to sleep and they would take care of Londyn in the nursery while I rested that night as well as my body had been through a lot and I was still very weak.
So, assuming we were both about to get a good nights rest while Londyn was taken care of, off went Chuck and they eventually moved Londyn and I to the postpartum unit.
Once I got there my new nurses informed me they couldn’t take her to the nursery for the night and she would be staying with me. Hospital rules say baby stays with you the whole time. So I was stuck alone with my newborn after a rough c-section for my first night, Chuck was at home sleeping, and I wasn’t allowed to have anyone else come to stay with me. I tried to call Chuck to come back but he was at home, clearly out cold.
I didn’t sleep a wink and it was very rough being in so much pain and taking care of Londyn. My nurse that night was excellent and helped me with everything because I was still bedridden but it was still a very rough night. I was so weak I was scared to drop her or that I would pass out again and not hear her cry.
Finally at 8am Chuck came back and it got a bit better with an extra set of hands but he still was learning what to do so I was trying to help as best as I could instead of resting. It was a long day followed by another long night but we made it. I remember in those days feeling like I was a prisoner like I was stuck in jail, not a new mom. I will say now I think this is what led to a lot of my later problems. I wasn’t allowed visitors to share the joy of a new baby. I often felt forgotten by the nurses and would have to send Chuck begging for them to bring me my pain meds, and I was still so weak. I remember calling my mom crying and telling her I felt so neglected and not taken care of.
I have a lot of allergies so I was recovering from the section on Advil alone which was really hard, I couldn’t take the usual “c section cocktail”. When meds were forgotten it was excruciating. They forgot to empty my catheter bag a couple times and I was so pumped with fluid from receiving 2x the normal about of anesthesia that I only noticed cause I felt full and lots of pressure.
I got discharged on February 16 around 6pm, my mom and dad FINALLY got to see Londyn and I. My dad drove is all home and I unpacked and got settled. Chucks parents & sister got there about an hour later and everyone was so excited.
After being home for about an hour and a half I got really faint and dizzy and before I was discharged I was told if I felt lightheaded, dizzy or sick I had to come back immediately because my blood hemoglobin levels were still half that of a normal person. So I had to leave Londyn & all the excitement and my dad brought me back to the hospital.
It turns out I was so sick from sleep deprivation and the effects of the blood loss and surgery that they had to readmit me to the hospital. At this point I had a severe nervous breakdown in triage because even though I needed sleep I needed my baby with me. Even though I knew she was in the best care with my mom & chuck the separation was too much.
I told the new nurse in triage everything I had been through and she fought for me and chuck and my mom would now be allowed in my room with me together. So they let my dad go get my mom and Londyn and they came back to the hospital with me and chuck stayed home to get a good rest so he could be with us the next day if I had to stay long at the hospital.
My new nurse was livid that I had been left alone the first night after surgery (which was the recovery nurses fault for telling me she would be taken care of) because I hadn’t slept at all and my sick body couldn’t recuperate. I needed sleep to fix my blood and my body due to just having major surgery.
My mom, dad & Londyn got back to the hospital at about 1am and I was sleeping. My dad went home and my mom stayed up with her all night while I got a few hours of sleep. However, sleeping in a hospital is nearly impossible so it wasn’t the greatest sleep and I woke up every couple hours or so.
Chuck got a good sleep at home and came back to the hospital around 1230 the next day and shortly after I found out I was being discharged and my dad and brother came and got us from the hospital.
As soon as I got home I had a shower and went right to bed while chuck and my mom took care of Londyn. At this point my mom told me she would stay with me at our house for the next couple of weeks at least while Chuck returned to work.
Having my mom with me for the first two weeks was amazing. I was still very sore and had a lot of trouble getting around but mostly I needed her there because I was a barrel of emotions.
It took me about 4 or 5 weeks and the self realization but I knew I needed help. I knew I had PPD. I felt like I had no connection to my daughter, I would busy myself with anything I could find instead of taking care of her while my Mom did everything. My patience was low and I was definitely not enjoying my baby. I was moody, irritable and more sad than I have ever felt in my life. I didn’t feel like I had birthed this baby at all. I felt like I passed out and she came out of nowhere. It was a strange feeling and I never had any “violent” or “urged to hurt” my daughter but I had no connection. She could have been anyone’s.
I made a doctors appointment on my own and told my OB what was going on.
She prescribed some medication, told me she would refer a follow up to my family doctor and I went on my way.
I would like to say the medication helped but instead it just put me into a fog to help me get by for about 4 months. I made an appointment with my doctor and she told me “I didn’t need to be on that stuff and she wouldnt refill my meds”. So I quit them. Cold turkey. Which I know now is one of the worst things you can do. And it was. As soon as they left my system I felt like the reality of 4 months slapped me in the face. It was the worst weekend of my life but once it was over I felt so different and felt like I could finally start bonding with Londyn.
It took time to get where I am today, we have a very strong bond now that took a lot more work than I assumed it would me. I do still carry some guilt for not having that bonding experience sooner but I am working through it and have gotten much better.
My feelings surrounding my birth are getting better but definitely still hard sometimes. Especially as we get ready to plan on having another child eventually.
There was so much I wish would have gone differently, which is a lot to say for someone who went in with no birth plan. I wish I would have had more support during labour, I wish I would have had someone to advocate for me when I needed that blood transfusion so I could have recovered better, and mostly I wish I could have had my mom with me. I know SO much more now than I did then and I do still have a lot of questions surrounding the birth that I will hopefully get answered when I feel the time is right to talk to my OB.
I am happy to say my daughter, Londyn is almost 3 now and the best kiddo I could ever ask for.