Meg, Crofton MD (USA)

I had my first born 14 years ago. I feel that the first baby was the easiest, probably because I was 19 years old: easier to bounce back, easier to heal from the C-section I had after 36 hours of labor, and easier to get back at doing regular, daily things. I was living at my mom’s, so I had some help too. I nursed him for 6 weeks, and then I felt like I didn’t have enough supply. I didn’t know much about nursing, so I just started giving him formula. It didn’t bother me, because I didn’t know any better – at 19, you don’t know better! Then, 5 years later, I had my daughter via another C-section because they wouldn’t let me have a VBAC. The doctor thought she was going to be too big because my son had been 11 pounds, but she was 7 pounds 13 ounces… I was more informed with her, and I didn’t want to go through the surgery again, but I ultimately had to do what the doctor suggested. With her, too, I nursed only for 6 weeks. Her biological father and I weren’t together anymore when she was born – in fact, I met my husband when I was 4 months pregnant with her. But her dad kept begging me to have her over at his house, in New Jersey, and I couldn’t pump enough, so I had to stop. It was very difficult, still is. We still have the same arrangement than when she was a baby. But she can call me now, and we video chat. Also, my oldest son loves his baby sister. He is a teenager now, and the proudest big brother you can imagine. About six months after she was born, I started working again, but I quit when she turned 18 months old. We all moved in with my husband in Waldorf MD, and three years later, I got pregnant with our first son together.

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It was another C-section because of the two priors. I also had the same doctor. I almost ended up with a hysterectomy then because she was clearing out scar tissue and couldn’t stop the bleeding. She joked afterward that she almost gave me one and I said, “Well I hope you would have said something to me first!” I knew I was losing blood because the anesthesiologist wouldn’t shut up. He was in my ear, talking about all the alcohol he had got from out of the country. I was like, “Really?!” but he was just trying to keep my mind up and keep me awake. The surgery did take longer than it should have and it scared both my husband and I a lot. The healing after also wasn’t very good. I had bad water retention, lots of soreness, and bouncing back into myself was not happening this time. I kind of just parked myself in the living room until my 6-week checkup. They left the stapes in a little bit longer because I wasn’t healing right. It was hard, but at least my son was the best nurser ever. I breastfed him until he was 18 months old. The thing that was also different this time was that I had found breastfeeding support groups via my patient consultant at the hospital. We would meet every other Thursday, and it was great because you could ask your questions and they would give you a straight answer right away. My son nursed on demand and it dried upon itself when he was done. I was sad because it’s a close connection you get with nursing. I didn’t have any kind of depression with him, except for the recovery part, and having a three-year-old and a newborn. I co-slept with him for a much longer time than with the others. We knew something wasn’t right before his first birthday because he was talking and then stopped all of a sudden. He also did weird things that were not normal for a one-year-old. But we only brought it up to the pediatrician when he turned 18 months old. That’s when we found out he was autistic. He’s 5 now, and he's so lovable. He’ll walk up to anybody which is sweet, but also very scary.

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Pretty much after I had him, I stayed home with the kids. I would work seasonal jobs during the holidays, but I was spending more on gas, and the daycare is just ridiculous. I would also have to drive to Baltimore a lot because after we got his autism diagnosis, he went to Kennedy Krieger Institute. It helped him to an extent, but it’s once he got into the ECI program at school that we noticed the biggest jump in his language. I think this was also when my stress started going up, having to drive him and our daughter everywhere. My husband is also working a lot – he’s a hard-working man! – but I felt alone often. Sometimes, I wouldn’t see him for two days, and I can’t sleep if he's not in bed, so I had the kids sleep with me. It also became harder to handle our son by myself. In the grocery store, for example, he’ll walk up to someone and grab his hand. I have a heart attack when I take him out anywhere. He has no ‘stranger danger’ fear. Then when he turned 4, I got pregnant again. He was so excited and kept saying ‘girl, girl, girl!’ We had a gender reveal party, but we knew it was a boy because we had peaked at the ultrasound. I wanted another girl, but how can you be depressed at your own gender reveal party! And then we found out I had placenta percreta. Before the surgeries, I was going to write the god-awful goodbye letters, but I never did. I couldn’t even bring myself to write a will. A lot of stuff is still patchy from that experience. I remember bits and pieces from the day he was delivered and waking up in the ICU after my second surgery. My brain kind of blocked it out, but I don’t want it to be; I want to remember it so I can try to work through it. Also, I know that, hadn’t it been for the research I did and for my sister-in-law who told me to switch hospitals at 28 weeks, I know I wouldn’t be here today. The doctors at my original hospital aren’t trained for percreta or accreta, and they never saw how bad mine was. I’m mad at them for that. I have a lot of anger because they are being careless. They tell you: “You’re baby is going to die, now let’s talk about your next pregnancy.” It’s awful.

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I have a hernia as a result of the surgeries, but I avoided it for a long time. I have bad thoughts when I think about going back under. It doesn’t matter if everyone’s like “Oh, it’s so simple, you'll see it's easy!” Being put under again is terrifying. My doctor wants me to see a counselor, because I’ve been waking up having nightmares, but I can’t remember them. I have also woken up crying, and I don’t know why I’m crying. Just getting to sleep is… I hate it. So I avoided it all: the sleep, the doctors, the surgery. But I made the appointment recently, although I try not to think about it. My family and my friends convinced me and I had to agree because the hernia is bulging out of my stomach, it hurts, and I’m tired of looking pregnant. I’m hopeful, mostly because of the women I met in the near-miss survivors' support group. I read and write when I really need an answer or just need to vent out something. They’re always there, and they listen. The majority of the girls, they’ve been told they can’t have any more children, even if it was their first kid. Mine’s my fourth. We knew he was our last, but we didn't want it to be our last like that. I don't care that much about the hysterectomy, but I feel that the hormones won’t go back. They saved my ovaries, so at least I won't go into menopause. It can be debilitating. But I learned that if you don’t go out and talk about it, you’re going to hold it in and let it built. I don’t need the added stress, so it’s better for me to be around other people, especially with our son being autistic. It’s isolating. Sometimes I feel I need a sign that says: “Hi, I’m autistic.” People judge and that’s what I hate the most: don’t judge people. Are your kids perfect at home? I bet they’re not. So don’t judge me, and especially, don’t judge my children.