‘Looking at me, color left his face. ‘I’m going to get my mom!’: Woman shares postpartum trauma, ‘My growth as a mother has just begun’

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Disclaimer: This story contains mentions of postpartum depression and suicidal ideation that may be triggering to some.

“Looking back, it’s crazy to me how much I’ve changed since the day I found out I was pregnant. I don’t even think I would recognize that girl. My journey into motherhood was very quick. My husband and I got engaged four months after we started dating, and marriage came only a few months after. We honestly didn’t have a plan for when we wanted to start our family. We decided to leave it up to God, and knew we would get pregnant when we were supposed to.

Well, I guess that plan was two months after we got married. I remember secretly hoping I would get pregnant quickly. When I got the first positive, I was so shocked. My husband and I were so scared and excited. My pregnancy in one word would be ‘awful.’ I was glued to the toilet and had every horrible pregnancy symptom in the book. It took a toll on our relationship because of how sick I got. We moved multiple times and my husband stressed daily about finding work to support our family. At times, I really regretted not waiting to start our family. I asked myself, ‘What did we do?’ so many times. It was a really hard and scary pregnancy for me. I still get anxiety thinking about being pregnant.

Courtesy of Tori McCain

My daughter’s birth was beautiful and scary. I have never been more terrified and excited in my life. I had nightmares leading up to the birth, and at the time, it was my biggest fear. But when she was finally in my arms, everything I went through didn’t matter. There are absolutely no words to describe how it feels to hold your baby for the first time. It was also the biggest sigh of relief to know I had done the thing that scared me most. Unfortunately, my recovery wasn’t as smooth as the delivery. My doctor failed to clean me out properly and sewed me up without thoroughly checking. I started hemorrhaging very quickly and blacked out.

I remember only bits and pieces, but one thing that is still stuck in my head is how many nurses were in the room, rushing all around me. There had to have been at least ten. When I woke up hours later, my mom told me they had to reopen my stitches to see why I was bleeding so badly. She said, ‘They pulled five fist-sized clots out of you.’ My mom told me later she went home and cried because she was in shock seeing me like that.

Because I had blacked out for hours, my daughter’s first meal was a bottle of formula. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me, until we had trouble getting my daughter to latch. I had nurses and multiple lactation consultants try to help me with breastfeeding. My daughter just refused to drink from my breast. One of the lactation consultants even said, while trying to force my daughter’s head to stay on my breast, ‘I don’t understand why this baby won’t latch!’ It was a very uncomfortable experience for me. I tried to tell myself not to worry about it, I could just pump. No big deal, right?

Courtesy of Tori McCain

Except when I got home and sat down to pump, I had the worst panic attack of my life. I felt so badly about myself, and even felt negatively toward my own daughter in that awful moment. It was horrible, and I never want to relive this again. I remember it was the first time I felt like a failure. My daughter wasn’t even a week old, and I was already screwing it up. I didn’t understand why I was having such a hard time feeding her. I just wanted to enjoy my baby so badly. I so desperately wanted to feed her without feeling like I was going to have a breakdown.

It took my husband reassuring me it was okay to give her formula for me to finally make the decision to stop forcing myself. For the first time since my daughter’s birth, I enjoyed feeding her. It was the greatest feeling in the world and I’ll never forget it. It took me a couple of months to (sort of) get the mom thing down. I was so insecure and unsure of myself. I was constantly focused on losing the baby weight and battling severe postpartum depression at the same time. I found myself getting angry easily, and it was so hard for me to find joy in being a mother.

Courtesy of Tori McCain

When my daughter was about two months old, we went on a trip to visit my in-laws so they could meet their grandchild for the first time. During this visit, something really traumatic happened. On one of the last nights of our visit, I started cramping very badly. It felt like I was having contractions. I thought it was just my period. The next morning, after a long night, I had the urge to go to the bathroom and then felt something literally drop in my stomach. I immediately knew something was off. I went to the bathroom and saw a huge piece of flesh sticking out of me. I panicked and called my husband in. He knelt down in front of me, while I was sitting on the toilet, and I could see the color leave his face. ‘I’m going to get my mom because I have no idea what that is.’

My mother-in-law came in and knelt down, just like my husband had. ‘Okay, I think you need to go into the hospital because I’m not sure what that is… it’s going to be just fine though, I promise!’ She was so calm and it immediately made me feel better. Later, she told me she was freaking out but didn’t want me to see she was. I was trying to keep it together, without having a panic attack, the entire ride to the hospital. When we got admitted into our room, the nurse used a speculum to open me up and look inside. She said she didn’t see anything unusual and she would go get the doctor to take a better look. I was so confused, because an hour earlier this huge chunk of flesh was sticking out of me.

When the doctor came in, he did the same thing as the nurse, and immediately saw the huge chunk of flesh. He looked extremely shocked. I was in the most pain I had ever been in my life and it honestly felt worse than giving birth. The doctor said, ‘Okay, I’m going to gently pull this out of you and figure out what we need to do next to get whatever that is out.’ But when he pulled the speculum out, the piece of tissue came out with it. Everyone’s face in the room was of shock. The tissue turned out to be a piece of my placenta the previous hospital failed to get out of me, even after cleaning me out a second time. I was told I could’ve died if it was inside of me any longer, and my body actually went into labor again to try and get it out.

Courtesy of Tori McCain

I was also told if my daughter had eaten from my breast, she would’ve gotten very sick. At that moment, I knew it was a blessing breastfeeding didn’t work out for us. The next day, my milk came in full force for the first time. But at this point, I wasn’t in a place mentally to try breastfeeding again. On the way home from that visit, I slipped on ice and landed on my tailbone. I didn’t think too much about it until weeks after. My back would start to randomly lock in place and I wouldn’t be able to stand up straight. I could always get it unlocked, but one day when I got stuck at a 90-degree angle, I couldn’t. A chiropractor near my home took me in as an emergency and did a scan to see what was wrong. My entire pelvis had shifted out of place.

It took many painful months of physical therapy to be able to fully stand straight again, let alone walk normally. I became extremely suicidal during that dark time because I was in immense pain every hour of the day, and felt completely useless as a mother and wife. The last chiropractor visit, I was referred to get an MRI because the chiropractor wasn’t seeing any progression over the last couple visits. My results came back from the MRI. I had early signs of degenerative disc disease, meaning the cartilage between my nerves and bones were going away, resulting in nerve and joint pain. I honestly felt so hopeless, because everything I had read said it would only get worse.

Courtesy of Tori McCain

During my first year of motherhood, I battled self-hate, chronic pain, severe depression, and crippling anxiety. On one of the lowest days of my life, when I got to the point of thinking death would be better than living, I made the decision to change my attitude toward myself, and my life in general. I was in a scary place mentally, and knew if I kept up this cycle of constant negativity I wouldn’t survive. I knew I needed to for my husband, my daughter, and myself. So I began to open up to others and be more honest. I started posting pictures of my postpartum body and my struggles of being a new mother on my social media.

Courtesy of Tori McCain

I was shocked at the love I was shown and the community I was beginning to grow. I started to really accept I was beautiful the way I was, even with the massive changes that had happened to my body. When my daughter was about half a year old, my husband joined the military. Just when I thought I was comfortable, a new bump was in the road. Those five months of solo parenting really opened my eyes. I learned I was a great mother and I could overcome my crippling anxieties. I realized I could do hard things and be okay in the end. I grew so much while my husband was away and I’m truly grateful for the experience, as hard as it was.

After my daughter’s first birthday, we finally moved into our first family home. The year of hardship and endless struggles was worth it. My family had become so strong, and I am so grateful for the woman I have grown to be. For the first time in my life, I love the person I am. I want my daughter to grow up seeing a mother who tried her best, and knew her best was enough. I want her to see a happy mother who still struggles. I’m excited about this next year, because I know my growth as a mother has only just begun.”

Courtesy of Tori McCain

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tori McCain. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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