Postpartum PTSD

*Please excuse any writing errors. This was a post I couldn’t read back.

It was the third week that my newborn daughter was in the NICU. I was waiting for my husband to get home so we could visit her in the hospital when I started feeling nauseous. Anxiety came crashing down on me and my heart started racing. The more I thought about the drive to the hospital where I gave birth to my daughter, the worse I felt and I ended up getting sick all over the bedroom carpet.

On the way to the hospital, my nerves start getting worse and by the time we enter the hospital parking garage, I got sick again and couldn’t stop shaking. The closer we got to the NICU on the 6th floor of the hospital, I was in such a panic and started crying.

My husband assumed it was because of our daughter being in the NICU for 3 weeks because of low blood sugar. I didn’t say anything like I should have but it was that day that I knew something was very wrong. It wasn’t until a year later that I first heard of postpartum post traumatic stress disorder.

I had always assumed that when it came to PTSD, it was something only soldiers got when fighting in a war. Then the pieces started coming together.

I wasn’t happy with the prenatal care I received but couldn’t do anything about it. My husband is in the military and at the time we were in close proximity to a couple of military hospitals. If that’s the case, our insurance won’t let you see a “civilian” doctor.

Every time I had a prenatal appointment, I had a different doctor and was never able to put my trust in one. That was when I started to feel like I had little control over the care I was getting and would be very frustrated that there was never a time when I could actually sit down with one of these doctors and discuss my first time mom jitters.

At 37 weeks, I had my monthly appointment and the doctor was really concerned about my blood pressure. She was worried that I was starting to develop preeclampsia and by that afternoon, I was checked into the hospital, waiting to have a baby. I was pretty reasonable about my birth plan. I was hoping for a natural childbirth but there was no way in hell I was going to say no to an epidural.

During my labor, I had several medical interventions and was very frustrated that most of the medical staff coming in and out of my hospital room seemed to be burdened when my husband or I would ask questions about what they were doing.

I ended up having an emergency c-section and while they were pulling my daughter out of me, it felt like a cement block was starting to crush my chest. Then my daughter was brought to me and the joy of that put the way I felt physically on the back burner.

I was wheeled into a recovery room and across the room, my freshly baked babe was getting her first bath while my husband stood there in awe while filming it.

I started to have trouble breathing and my nurse got the oxygen mask. The cement block that I felt I had on my chest turned into a cement wall and I was having more trouble breathing. It was getting more difficult to talk with the nurse and that’s when she said it appeared that my lungs were filling up with fluid and I had pulmonary edema.

She told me she was going to get medication for it but first she needed it approved by a doctor. I still have absolutely no idea who delivered my daughter so I didn’t have any idea who my doctor was supposed to be.

Medical staff was walking in and out of the room and finally the nurse spotted a doctor that I’d never seen in my life. My nurse rushed over and quickly told him the situation while I was trying so hard to stay conscious. It was at this point that I couldn’t even say a word because I felt like I was drowning.

The doctor sauntered over and started asking me several questions. I was trying to keep my shit together because I was absolutely terrified over what was happening to me. I couldn’t answer any of these doctor’s questions so he stood there beside the hospital bed I was in and was waiting for me to answer.

Some of the last things I remember was hearing my gorgeous new baby crying across the room and my husband comforting her. I was feeling so dizzy and knew I was losing conscious and couldn’t stop it no matter how hard I tried. I remember the nurse leaving my side and the same damn doctor kept on asking me to describe my symptoms to him.

I truly believed this was the end for me. I don’t mean for it to sound so dramatic but I thought I was going to die right there in the recovery room with my daughter just several feet away from me. My husband had no idea what was happening in my corner of the room as he was understandably so wrapped up in our beautiful baby girl.

That’s when everything went blank and I remember the nurse shaking me and saying my name. When I came to, that asshole doctor was still there but standing farther away from me. I don’t know if the nurse gave him a piece of her mind or what happened but after I came to, that doctor just walked out of the room without saying a word.

When I was finally able to speak again without the oxygen mask, I said “Please tell me that wasn’t a doctor but instead a janitor”. The nurse replied “I wish I could tell you that”. I don’t remember the nurse’s name but I will forever be so thankful that she didn’t put up with this doctor’s bullshit and instead jumped into action.

It took me nearly a year to tell my husband what happened after I gave birth. I didn’t want to ruin the experience for him by letting him know what happened but was so relieved when I finally did.

I’ve been trying to write about my experience with Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for 3 years and 2 month but would panic each time. It wasn’t until I read this by Tricia that I finally felt “safe” enough to go through the emotions of my experience. Even as I type this, my heart is racing and my hands are shaking.

I’m currently in therapy and finally getting more control over this but it’s still a struggle each day. One I’m finally getting strong enough to fight.

Have you experienced Postpartum Depression or Postpartum PTSD? If you’d like, please share your story in the comments.

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11 Responses to Postpartum PTSD

  1. LeeAnne June 20, 2012 at 16:17 #

    Elle – I am so glad you finally spoke about this and are getting therapy. While I haven’t had Postpartum Depression, I have the panic (anxiety) attacks. Same symptoms – cinder block wall on your chest, hard to breathe, uncontrolable shaking and very nauseous. They started in 1990. They hit FULL SPEED in 98 when my son moved. After arriving where I now live, my very kind Doctor changed my meds and had me see a therapist. Keep up with it and know you will always be in my prayers. The cinder block on my chest only comes VERY RARELY now and the hard to breathe hasn’t happened in a long time. Good luck to you, Buttmunch and the little hummingbird on crack!!!

  2. Melissa June 20, 2012 at 17:16 #

    Oh my – how terrible!!! i didn’t have Post Partm PTSd bt my first birth (also an emergency c-section), pt me into horrible PPD. So bad that I didn’t hold my son and had a really hard time taking care of him let alone myself. To this day, I feel that he’s closer to my hsband than he is to me (whereas my daughter, who was a VBAC with no meds and I bonded instantly and more strongly). Seeing a therapist and increasing my dosage of antidepressants has helped bt it still isn’t easy! Rock on!
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  3. Stephenie Stone June 20, 2012 at 19:32 #

    I am wishing the best for you on this. My first pregnancy went well but with my second I had preeclampsia and had to be sent directly to the hospital as you describe. My husband was traveling on business and my daughter was born premature. She was in the NICU and it was the most traumatic thing I’ve ever experienced. I made it through, and although I still suffer from depression it is not to the extent you describe. I consider myself very lucky. I think if it had been my first pregnancy, it would have been even more traumatic to me. I hope the best for you and I’m really routing for you to pull out of this on the other side.
    Stephenie Stone recently posted..Girl Baby/Toddler Room- Pink and GreenMy Profile

  4. monica June 20, 2012 at 20:02 #

    so sorry, elle. 🙁 that had to have been horribly traumatic. i cannot imagine it. thank god i have had four fairly normal births because i am not sure my feeble brain could have handled what you went through. good for you for getting help and fighting the good fight. i am thinking of you and hoping the best for you. :o)
    monica recently posted..Are you smarter than a raccoon?My Profile

  5. Jen @ Concrete And Coffee June 20, 2012 at 21:42 #

    Sorry to read about this and what a struggle it’s been. I hope that writing it out as part of your recovery process is helping you get through what happened that day.
    Jen @ Concrete And Coffee recently posted..Day Four – "Homeward Bound"My Profile

  6. Monica Geglio June 23, 2012 at 18:05 #

    What a scary and unfortunate time. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. You seem to be a very nice and loving person because of how long it took you to tell your husband. I would have been very selfish if I was in that situation. I would have needed my husband right there next to me while I was going through such trauma. Thanks for sharing your story and informing me about Postpartum PTSD.
    Monica Geglio recently posted..What I’d Do If I Was Childless and SingleMy Profile

  7. Elle June 24, 2012 at 22:35 #

    Thank you all for your kind words. It means a lot. xx

  8. Kerissa September 1, 2013 at 22:29 #

    I had a similarly frightening experience after a c section. Different in a lot of ways but I completely understand the moment of this is it. This is my time… I’m almost 3 years out and still have flashbacks and panic.
    Best of luck to you in your healing!


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