How My Puking and Postpartum Depression Helps You Be a Better Parent
Written by Sarah Coffin, Owner, Tulsa Family Doulas
A few days ago, I saw MaryAnne, a friend of mine I used to work with 10 years ago at the Philbrook Museum of Art. My postpartum client and her babies and I were strolling through Anthropologie as we were out enjoying the beautiful weather in Utica Square. I got to quickly catch up with MaryAnne and tell her a little bit about what has occupied my life since I had left the Philbrook to be a stay at home mom. One of the first comments MaryAnne made when introducing me to her friend, was about how awful my pregnancy was. Yep, it was that memorable.
Almost every time I meet with a client or tell people about Tulsa Family Doulas, I am asked how I got started in the birth business. And since MaryAnne brought it up, I know I needed to share.
it's important to tell your story
Well, there isn’t a glowing story to tell you about when I was pregnant with each of my 3 beautiful little children. I didn’t float through pregnancy on a cloud of bliss at the wonderment of creating an entire new person and enjoy the special feelings of my body expanding to accommodate their growing forms as they pulled their nourishment from me.
I fought puke. I was about to puke. I dreaded puking. I got really good at puking. So good, that I could puke up whatever I had eaten or hadn’t eaten (it didn’t matter) into a 32 oz. cup while I was driving down the highway on my way to or from work. That is a life skill, people. Resume' changer.
I hated puking. My body literally disintegrated because of my pregnancies.
Every second of every day that I was giving life to my children, they were killing me. My body responded like I was allergic to the baby inside me. If you haven’t ever experienced Hyperemesis Gravidarum or known someone that has gone through this trauma, it is hard to grasp the magnitude of suffering that comes with being pregnant. Just imagine feeling like you have a perpetual flu, stomach virus, food poisoning, and the world’s worst hangover. All at the same time, every second of every day.
I found some relief in the sweet burn of Sonic cherry limeades, so that was what I drank - the big ones. I got so tired of wasting healthy food that I simply stopped eating healthy food. I had more value for our hard-earned money than to watch the best of the best go undigested and wasted down whichever toilet, sink or floor I was closest to at the time.
You know what happens when all you ingest is processed sugar and junk food and you stop any and all physical movement? You gain weight. A lot of weight. And then no one believes you when you say you puke at least 5-6 times a day and fight the urge to vomit every second of every day. I got tired of talking about the sheer misery of my life, and people got tired of hearing about it. It made them feel uncomfortable and awkward, and then they would say things like, “It can’t really be that bad.”
Well, it really was that bad, for the whole pregnancy. I really wish I had known about antepartum doulas when I was pregnant. If anything, so my husband didn’t have to bear the burden of caring for me and taking over every blasted task around the house.
the misery of pregnancy
Nothing about my pregnancy had been like anything anyone had ever told me. I had constantly felt lied to when people would say this suffering would go away in time, or whimsically rub my growing belly uninvited and say, “Don’t you just love being pregnant?”. No. No, I don’t. Now, where is your bathroom? Let’s hope I can actually make it into the toilet this time instead of the floor, or not have to wait for someone to finish pooping before I stick my pregnant face where their butt just sat. Not fun at all.
No one, not even my doctor, had solutions to the misery. And I quit talking about it - even with him. I suffered in silence. He didn't believe me anyway. So when he would ask how everything was going, I'd sigh, force a smile, and say, "Fine." This was 10 years ago, before social media was around or local support groups had formed. I had been given so many suggestions on medications, supplements, acupressure, food, drinks, old wives tails, positive thoughts and nothing worked.
Get this baby out
So when I asked my doctor, through very real tears, if I could please just have my baby, and he said yes, I knew there was relief in sight. Insert induction number 1 here, and everything that went with it. I didn't know it then, but her birth was traumatic. I didn't know that nurses rushing in and turning me from side to side, telling me not to move, and putting me on oxygen for the duration of the labor wasn't normal. I didn't know that NICU taking my baby away immediately before I even got to hold her for possible aspiration of very thick meconium wasn't standard. I didn't know that a very tight double nuchal cord that caused the doctor to struggle and gasp, with a true knot in her cord wasn't what everyone had. And I didn't know that three 3rd degree tears with a bruised tailbone wasn't standard.
And I was sad and oh, I would cry. And I didn't know why.
I had no one to talk to about any of this. I had just quit work and walked into stay-at-home motherhood alone and without any other new moms to surround me in pure isolation. Nothing about pregnancy and parenthood was what anyone ever told me it would be like. It was a struggle. A struggle of emotions, fatigue, pain, extreme sorrow, expected joy and never-ending guilt for not having any. My experience with nursing was just as much of an epic failure as pregnancy was and that heightened the emotions. Postpartum doula anyone?
And that was just the first baby. I have 3 children.
I'm not in this business to save anyone
I don’t wish for my experiences to change because they made me who I am and gave me an insurmountable amount of compassion to each of the individual experiences of my clients. And I certainly did not become a professional doula in 2009 to save anyone from anything.
Right before my delivery with my last child, I had an educated friend offer a different perspective about childbirth and it helped me find my own confidence and cancel an unnecessary induction. My labor and delivery nurse, with whom I had an established relationship, knew what my goals were and helped me have a childbirth experience that soothed old wounds. I felt what it felt like to be supported in childbirth and that made all the difference in the world.
It wasn't my natural childbirth that brought me to being a doula. It was hearing my nurse's voice tell me, "Keep going", "You're doing it." Her voice in my head, and education that I had received and the confidence I had built. I didn't even know what a doula was when he was born, but knew I needed to find some way to help other women know that birth doesn't have to suck.
Tulsa Family Doulas was founded to positively impact growing families in our community by transforming pregnancy, birth and life with a newborn, into a time filled with confident support. We provide highly trained, professional doulas whose primary goal is to over-deliver with compassionate enthusiasm.
Our mission is to increase confidence in birth and in parenting for every family we serve. To accomplish that mission, every service we offer is centered on providing tangible skills to educate and pamper our
clients, help reduce stress, enhance bonding with your new baby, and easily adjust to a new normal.
We understand that a woman is more than just a belly and a birth, and honor your whole family while being your strongest supporter.
So yeah, my puking and postpartum depression does give you the resources that can help make you a better parent. You should totally use them.