Christine’s Story, North Carolina

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The day I gave birth to my first child was the most traumatic day of my life. It was horrific.

Let me back up for a minute. All my life I dreamed of being a mother. I wanted nothing more then a baby to call my own.
My pregnancy was textbook. Nothing crazy or high risk.

My water broke at 40 weeks and 2 days.
We arrived at the hospital and got checked in. All the monitors where placed and my IV started.

I labored for a few hours with little to no progress. We made the decision to start pitocin to help speed things up. The clock was ticking because the risk of infection goes up when your water breaks.

After being in labor for 17 hours, it was time to push. I’ll spare you all the gory details but Jonathan was face up (occiput posterior) and we could not get him to turn. I pushed for over 3.5 hours with no luck. His heart rate began to decline. The situation was getting serious. The doctor gave me two options. We could either rush to the OR and have an emergency c-section or we could try a vacuum extraction.

This is when I made the wrong choice.
I chose to try the vacuum extraction. I didn’t want a c-section. I just wanted to be done laboring. I was totally exhausted.

Thankfully, they were finally able to get Jonathan out with the vacuum. I was so relieved to be done with labor, that in that moment, I didn’t even care that he was born. I remember there being a lot of people in the room. Jonathan was immediately whisked away by the NICU team. He had contracted an infection during my labor and had a head laceration from the vacuum so he needed additional care.

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At that point, I realized that in order to save his life I had sustained a 4th degree tear.

I was taking back to the OR where the doctor spent over an hour in surgery with me.

I’m so thankful for the amazing doctor. She saved my baby and helped put me back together.

After the surgery was over and Ryan and I were in a recovery room with both broke down in tears.

My recovery didn’t take very long but the complications will last a lifetime. Emotionally I dealt with a lot. I needed to go to therapy to help work through the trauma.

When I look back at pictures from that day and the weeks that followed there is a person missing from almost all of them, me.

I was disconnected and withdrawn. I didn’t see that my hardest struggle was yet to come.

After Jonathan was born he was in the NICU so the nurse brought me a pump so I could start getting milk for him. This began my long experience of pumping.
I was determined to breastfeed. Everyone I knew had breastfed, or so I thought. I knew it would be hard but I felt like I had already failed my baby by not being able to birth him on my own, so I would feed him.

My milk took over 5 days to come in so we used donor breast milk while he was in the hospital.

I needed so badly to rest after my exhausting labor but I needed to pump every 2 hours to get my milk to come in. I was so stressed out. I hadn’t even gotten to hold my baby yet but here I was trying to provide for him.

When I was finally able to hold Jonathan the next day the nurse tried to get him to breastfeed right away. He refused. The Lactation consultant came, still no luck. We tried so many different things. He just would not nurse.

After we were released from the hospital a friend came over and helped me. Jonathan finally nursed a bit. I was so relieved. Maybe I wasn’t a failure after all.
But the struggle continued. I met with three different Lactation consultants and they could not get him to nurse. I felt defeated.

I was so desperate to do the ‘right’ thing. I was ‘failing’ at motherhood.
I decided if my baby wouldn’t nurse I would exclusively pump for him.

I pumped mercilessly. I spent over 35 hours a week pumping. I was so focused on pumping that my child could have ‘the best’ that he was being neglected. I couldn’t hold him and pump, so often I’d just sit there pumping while he cried. I cried too, but mostly I felt upset or numb. Is this what motherhood was like? If it was, I hated it. I was miserable.

On top of that, Jonathan had colic. He cried every moment he was awake. I heard that babies slept all the time, well my baby didn’t. He would take 15-20 minute naps and then start crying again. Night and day. I was getting 2-3 hours of sleep max in 24 hour period.

I was starting to fall apart. But no one realized it, including me. I though I was just a bad mother. Why was my baby miserable? Why couldn’t I seem to do anything right? Everyone else seemed like motherhood was a dream. Why did I feel like I was in a nightmare.

I didn’t realize what was happening until the suicidal ideation started. It’s hard to talk about it to this day but I wanted to die. Postpartum depression is silent but deadly. It almost took my life. Once I realized how bad my mental health had gotten I made an appointment to see my doctor. I didn’t want to take meds, but I decided it was better than the alternative.

I started medication and therapy when Jonathan was 6 months old. Slowly, very slowly the fog began to lift. I kept on pumping for him but slowly stated cutting back. I finally weaned from the pump at 10 months but he was able to use my frozen supply until he was over 12 months old. Once I weaned completely I felt like a different person. I was finally able to enjoy my baby, who was almost a toddler by then, and bond. It breaks my heart that I couldn’t bond with him for such a long time. I can never get that year back.

The darkness didn’t last forever. By the time Jonathan was 18 months old I was being to feel like myself again. I still have days I struggle but they are fewer and farther between. Life does go on.

If you are a new mother who might be struggling, reach out to me. I’m here night or day. You are not alone. Modern medicine is amazing. There are resources to help you. Your family needs you. You are stronger then you know. Life isn’t long but it’s hard. I hope I’m able to help one person not go through the same pain by sharing this with you.

Christine Reynolds Coy ~ North Carolina USA

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2 thoughts on “Christine’s Story, North Carolina

  1. Hello! I just wanted to say I identify a lot with this story. Funnily enough my baby was born a day before this was posted. I had 3rd degree tearing and really struggled with breastfeeding/pumping every 2 hours for my little one in the exhausting days that followed. All while dealing with the pain of healing. She is not even 3 months yet but I finally decided I could not go on like this anymore. Her weight gain has been slow and I was crying and worrying every day about feeding her enough. I am slowly switching to formula, but struggling with the fact that I “gave up” so quickly. On the other hand maybe a crazy, depressed mom is not any better? In any case, thanks for sharing your story.

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    1. Your mental health matters! Formula is an excellent way to feed a baby, and if that is what is best for you (and possible your daughter, with the slow weight growth) then it is the right thing. I breastfed for over a year and used formula and different points throughout. Breast, pumped milk or formula can all feed your baby, but nothing can replace their parent! And if you are struggling then feel free to make a change, there is nothing wrong with that! And please try to get one solid chunk of sleep each night, your body and mind really do need it. Hugs!

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