‘All women deserve this level of care and attention. The one-time, 6-week check-up isn’t enough.’: New mom candidly shares personal postpartum journey

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“On June 30, 2021, I woke up at 4:45 a.m. to my water breaking. My due date was still 18 days away. Completely in shock, I woke up my husband, called my doula (who happens to be my mom), and headed into the hospital. The moment I had been anticipating for 9 months was finally here.

mom and dad holding the baby bump of pregnant wife
Courtesy of Shannen Kennedy of Tall Firs Photography

When I was pregnant, I felt strong: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. At our anatomy scan, we were told we were having a baby girl, so for 4 months, I planned everything in our future around a daughter. During my pregnancy, I saw a midwifery team for my prenatal care who catch babies at the local hospital. I loved every midwife that cared for me and my baby during those 9 months. My husband, Nick, was able to come to each appointment. Even though we were in a pandemic where the capacity for hospitals was normally limited, the midwifery clinic saw one couple at a time, allowing partners to come to appointments. Each appointment during my prenatal care was about an hour long. My midwife would take my vitals, take measurements, and spend as much time as I needed answering questions about birth and postpartum.

During one of those visits, I brought up that my dad had passed away from cancer when I was 12 years old and I had recently had a lot of anxiety surrounding death (something that was common for me). My midwife encouraged me to see a therapist during my pregnancy. ‘Having a child of your own can bring up a lot of emotions, especially if you’ve lost a parent.’ I had a limited understanding of postpartum depression and anxiety, so I knew seeing a therapist could help equip me to prepare for the 4th trimester.

Starting at 28 weeks, right up until the night before my water broke, I saw a therapist weekly. We talked through my anxiety, grief, and she helped me find coping strategies for some of the hardships that can come with postpartum life. I felt ready and I was thankful for the support team around me and my baby. So when June 30th came and we packed up our bags and headed to the hospital, I had complete peace that whatever the next several hours entailed I could trust everything would be okay.

mom holding her baby belly smiling in the sunset
Courtesy of Shannen Kennedy of Tall Firs Photography

Nick and I were giddy with excitement checking into the hospital that morning. Although I wasn’t in active labor, I had tested positive for Group B Strep, which meant with my water broken the risk of infection was high and I needed to come in to start antibiotics. Upon getting situated in the labor and delivery room, a test confirmed my water had broken. We were having a baby! But… I didn’t FEEL like I was having a baby. All I felt was the burning penicillin running through my veins to combat the GBS. Contractions were reading on the monitor but I wasn’t feeling a single one.

Nick and I walked the halls, did the miles circuit, and within 12 hours of my water breaking, I finally started to feel those contractions I had wondered about for 9 months. My mom arrived and with her and Nick’s help, I was able to breathe through each wave of contractions. Around 12 a.m. the nurse started to notice our baby’s heart rate was going down during contractions which started to become a concern. Around 4 a.m. my midwife told me she was going to get the OB to have a closer look at the baby’s heart rate. For most of the night and early morning, I was in labor land, unaware of the chaos around me. But at that moment, I fully became present again and looked at Nick. ‘Oh no… this is going to end in a c-section.’ At that moment, our baby’s heart rate dropped to 34BPM.

My midwife ran out of the room, and before I knew it, 4 more nurses and the OB were in the room. My mom and midwife were at my shoulder telling me everything that was going on. ‘Marin, we are going to have to go into the OR for a c-section.’ This isn’t what I wanted at all, but I felt completely at peace and prepared. I didn’t have an epidural so I assumed with the need to get the baby out as soon as possible I’d have to go under general anesthesia. ‘I won’t be able to be awake for it?’ I asked. ‘I don’t think so. We need to go now and there isn’t time to get a spinal block,’ she confirmed. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, but then suddenly the anesthesiologist was in the room handing me a clipboard for consent. Shaking, I signed the paper and asked him, ‘Will I be able to be awake?’ ‘Yes. I believe I will have time to place the epidural,’ he calmly told me. My mom prayed for me as I was wheeled out of the room, Nick closely behind with a gown and cap.

‘Is my baby going to die? Am I going to die?’ These were the only thoughts I had as the small needle pricked my back and numbed my body. I looked up at the bright lights in the OR wishing I was anywhere but there. The pain of fear wondering if my baby was okay was far worse than even the most painful contraction I had just experienced. Suddenly Nick was by my side holding my hand. He brought peace and confidence into the OR as he assured me everything would be ok. The anesthesiologist told us, ‘The doctor is starting. Your baby will be here soon.’ And then I heard the cry, ‘That’s our daughter, Nick!’ A moment passed as my midwife said, ‘Marin, it’s a boy!’

baby boy showing the gender reveal was wrong
Courtesy of Marin Whiting

WHAT?! A boy?!? Nick then went to be with our son as he was checked out. He had been wrapped in his umbilical cord and his oxygen had been cut off each contraction I was having, so they needed to make sure he was healthy. The whole OR erupted in laughter about the surprise gender. ‘No! You’re lying!’ I said. But nope, it was a boy! Our anatomy scan was wrong!

As Nick and our baby boy were at the table across the room, 1,000 thoughts ran through my mind. I thought about the pink rainbow nursery, the clothes, the pink baby showers I had, the name I picked out, the journal I wrote for a daughter, the dreams I had about her wedding. It was all gone. That wasn’t my reality. I prepared for the wrong baby. I didn’t have a boy’s name or boy’s clothes. I hadn’t had a baby shower with his name on blue cookies or a single card with his name written on it with best wishes. I felt like I failed. I felt like I gave birth to a different baby than I was pregnant with.

But then I saw him as they laid him on my chest and I knew everything was exactly how it was supposed to be. This was my son and everything was perfect.

At 5:00 a.m. on July 1, 2021, I became a mom to a beautiful baby boy. We named him Paxton, meaning peace.

mom with her new born son in a dress
Courtesy of Marin Whiting

We came home and the reality of recovering from a c-section hit me hard. I felt like I had been run over by a train. I’m used to being independent and active, now I was unable to even get out of bed on my own. The reality of not having a daughter also hit me as I brought our son into his pink nursery with bows and dresses hanging in the closet. I felt so much guilt and grief for not knowing my own baby’s gender. I felt like I gave birth to a different baby than I was pregnant with. I kept having to remind myself that it was always Paxton all along. As I dealt with the emotional physical struggles of postpartum and recovery, basic tasks began to overwhelm me.

Thankfully my mom, stepdad, and sister came to visit the first 2 weeks of Paxton’s life and helped with everything. When we went to doctor appointments, they cleaned and went grocery shopping. Friends brought us baskets of boy clothes, meals, and things like pillows and step stools that help when recovering from a c-section. Instead of having the typical 6-week postpartum check-up, my midwives saw me 2 weeks postpartum, 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 10 weeks, 12 weeks, and answered any phone call for questions I had. My midwife went above and beyond for me. When I was diagnosed with severe postpartum anxiety, they didn’t just send me off to care for it on my own. They gave me specific tools (see my therapist again, talk with Nick about it, spend more time relaxing with baby) and two days later, they called me to check in to make sure I was doing okay.

The support system I had inspired me to advocate for women to receive the same level of postpartum care. When my midwife told me she would be checking in on me for the whole first year of Paxton’s life, I was blown away. All women deserve this level of care and attention. The one-time 6-week check-up isn’t enough.

During this time I also started to dive deep into reading about the postpartum mortality rate in our country, and how astonishing the rate of suicide among mothers in the 1st year of postpartum life is. I realized not enough women feel supported, and although there are so many resources for pregnant women, it was hard for me to find authentic stories centered around postpartum. So I decided to share my story – the highs and the lows. The weeks of crying and the unmatched joy of newborn snuggles. I wanted to share that struggling with postpartum doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby. I wanted to affirm other women’s hardships and let them know, ‘You are not alone. I will listen. Your story matters.’ Without shame or mom guilt.

mom holding her son close smiling
Courtesy of Marin Whiting

Around 2 months postpartum, my breastfeeding journey began to come to an end. I felt like a failure. I saw several lactation consultants but no one could tell me why my supply was going down. After months of only producing 0.25 ounces of milk a day, Nick and friends encouraged me that it’s okay to formula feed my baby. The affirmation and support was all I needed to step away from breastfeeding guilt-free and feed my baby the way he needed to thrive. I learned that support is best. Fed is the minimum – every good mom wants to feed their babies but not everyone has support. Whether it’s breast or bottle-feeding, every woman deserves the support that the decisions she’s making are what’s best for her baby because she knows her baby best.

There’s a lot of shame in motherhood. There are a lot of people who want to tell us ‘the rules,’ but I truly believe all our babies need is our love and our best. We are all doing our best with the information and resources we have. It’s so much better to support a mom and encourage her than to judge her because she isn’t doing things the way you did them. I want to be a mom who encourages other moms, hears their stories, and supports them because I’ve received amazing support through pregnancy and postpartum – I want to love others the way I and my baby have been loved and cared for.

Now, I am 6 months postpartum. Have I lost all the baby weight? No. Is my anxiety completely gone? No. Do I feel guilt over not knowing my baby’s gender? Sometimes I still do. Do I grieve the birth and breastfeeding journey I wanted? Yes. But I cannot dwell on what should, could, or would have been. My son needs me to be healthy and happy. I need me to be happy and healthy. Every day I rely on my husband, family, and friends to remind me of who I am – that I was chosen on purpose for a purpose to be Paxton’s mom. God knew what he was doing when he gave me a son. He knew the significance of me finding out at birth instead of at the anatomy scan. He knows a c-section was the safest and best way to birth my baby. Remembering these things and relying on my faith lifts me up on days I feel stuck in the darkness of postpartum anxiety and depression.

Moving forward, I want to continue to share my story and hear other women’s as well. The prenatal, postpartum, and birth care needs to change in this country. The systems in place are leaving women feeling lonely and traumatized. I want to advocate for those changes and be in the trenches with women as they navigate this time. I’d love to take this passion of helping women and become a prenatal, birth, and postpartum doula. In the future, I would love to create a doula practice centered around caring for moms for 21 months – from the first month of pregnancy to the first birthday of their babies. I believe that when women have more support we have healthy and happier families and communities. Bringing life into the world is beautiful and important work. Women deserve to feel validated and supported during this time and I want every woman to experience the support I had because it truly saved my mental and physical health.”

parents holding their son on a balcony
Courtesy of Marin Whiting

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Marin Whiting from Rocksprings, TX. 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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