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Chanelle: I started feeling like I don't remember my purpose anymore.
Ashlee: I need my OB, I need to have a c-section.
Chanelle: Sometimes I feel guilty that I wasn't happy.
Annie: Like, how am I gonna tell my daughter that I didn't want to hold her for the first two months of her life? How do you tell your child that?
Chanelle: My name is Chanelle, I live in San Diego, California. I'm originally from Orlando, Florida. We're a military family, so that's how we ended up in Cali. I work in healthcare – worked for the same company for about 10 years now. I work from home. I have three boys. They are Xavier, he's 14; Isaiah, who's 7; and Micah, who's 1. And my amazing husband, his name is Luis.
Annie: Hi, my name is Annie, and I have an eight-month-old daughter. I was maybe three weeks away from my due date, and a fire started in the area, and we ended up having to evacuate. And thankfully, my husband's parents live like 45 minutes away, so we just went to their house. But it was very stressful. In the middle of that, one day my baby stopped kicking, and we ended up having to rush to the hospital because we thought something was wrong. And we went in, and they were like, "No, it's just the stress, she's fine in there." But it was just a really crazy last few weeks of pregnancy.
Ashlee: I'm Ashlee, and I am a mama to Juniper, who is 14 months, and a midwife. A dream birth would be like six to eight hours, I'd work through the wee hours, and then at sunrise we'd have a baby, and then we'd all have a breakfast burrito, and it'd be great. This is our dream, right? This is gonna be the ideal birth. And why wouldn't it be like that? Because I'm a midwife and I've been to so many people's births, of course I'm gonna have a beautiful birth experience.
Chanelle: I actually had my first son really young. I had him when I was 19, so I literally went high school, parenthood. By the time I had Isaiah, I was already done with school. I had my degree, I had a steady job, we were getting ready to move to San Diego. So the difference is that we were more on our own. And I found out six years later now that I'm pregnant with my baby, Micah. I mean, it was similar to Isaiah – we were in our own house and established and fine at this point. Xavier and Isaiah are older now so they were helpful, no trauma, nothing that would make this last pregnancy any different from the others.
Annie: While the fire was coming toward our house, it was also coming toward how we make our living, which is extra terrifying when you're about to bring this child into the world that you're responsible for and you have to provide for.
This is where Tommy has done all of our brush clearance, and it didn't have any fuel, and it kinda just slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly went up this hill, and they were able to stop it.
Ashlee: So the midwife set up the birth pool, and then I was rocking and rolling. And labor had hit really full force, like within 20 minutes of them breaking my water. And so we were super hopeful. The whole black cloud lifted, like the mood shifted, everything felt really hopeful and really positive, all those days of labor where I was like in agony of, "When is this baby gonna come, is everything gonna work out okay?" And we were just in it.
I was on my hands and knees on a blanket. And the baby had meconium when the midwives came to me and said, "I want you to draw a line in the sand." And, sorry, this is gonna be emotional. "I want you to draw a line in the sand of where a vaginal birth lies for you and where the safety of your baby lies. And I know this is a really hard and crappy decision to have to make, but, like, draw a line in the sand. Because I'd much rather you have a healthy and safe baby than your baby also go to NICU after all of this." And so I said, okay. And I thought I would have time to sleep and be with Ryan, but within five minutes when her heart rate tanked I had to draw the line.
Annie: So the first day was good. We were settling in, just kind of getting used to everything. My mom was stocking the fridge and cooking us meals. But the first night was like one of the worst nights of my life. I was trying to breastfeed. She wasn't getting enough, so I would feed her and put her down, and about 30 minutes later she'd start crying again.
Chanelle: I just remember coming home from the hospital and sitting on the couch, and my mom was here. And I just started crying. And everyone's like, "What's wrong with you? Why are you just crying for no reason?" I just couldn't explain it. In that moment like, oh my God, like I have three kids, it wasn't the same type of joy that I had bringing my other babies home.
Ashlee: When I came home from the hospital and like, you start to really play it all over in your mind. I played the story over in my mind every day, all day, for months, like, "How can I be a midwife and have had a c-section?" So for me I felt like a complete and total failure.
Annie: When I'm out running errands I keep fantasizing about someone crashing into my car. And I was like, "I don't wanna die" – none of that – "I don't wanna die, I don't wanna leave. But I just want to go to the hospital for like a couple weeks so that I can't take care of Harper, so that she's not my responsibility. I don't have an option but not to, like someone else has to take her and I can just have a break and just escape it all. And that was when he said, "We need to call your doctor."
Chanelle: My mom and my best friend were like, "Do you think you have postpartum depression?" And I was like "No, what? Me? No, I could never have that. I've never had that." And they were like, "I think you should look into that."
Ashlee: And then we had some difficulties with breastfeeding. She had a tongue and a lip tie There was just so much going on and so much sadness about, like, I can't even do these things. How am I supposed to be a woman and a mother if I can't even do these things?
Chanelle: I might in conversation be like, "Well, you know, I suffered from a little bit of postpartum depression, but it's nothing." And it's because I've always been the type of person where I've been really strong, so to feel weak was really hard for me.
Annie: Of course, my mom and my husband, they don't know what I'm feeling. I wasn't expressing it very well. And none of us knew what postpartum depression looked like.
Ashlee: I really grappled with my identity and grappled with who I was as a midwife, who I was as a woman, who I was as a mother. Maybe I shouldn't exist anymore, maybe I am so broken or so in the trenches that I'm beyond repair. Finally for me, speaking that out loud and getting that out of my system and not letting that sit and stew in my mind anymore released the power of it.
Annie: Just the guilt of the idea of, you know, her talking to me like, "Oh my gosh, didn't you love having me as a baby?" Like, I don't know, you talk to your mom about that kind of thing. And me having to be like, “Yeah, no, I actually really, really didn't enjoy the first two months of your life. I wish I would've recognized it sooner so I could've started enjoying you sooner."
Ashlee: The thing that saved me when I was in the underworld was having other people to talk to. Any time I hear of a mama that's having a hard time now, I immediately say, "Find your people."
Annie: I went to my doctor I think around the two-month mark. We got me on some medication that like, the first one we tried helped, and it's – I feel great now. It was so nice hearing, she was like, "We're gonna fix it. It doesn't matter how long it takes, we're gonna figure this out."
Chanelle: I started feeling like I need to get out this house. I'm always in the house, I wake up, I work in the house, I take care of my kids in the house. And I was like, "You know what? I'm gonna join the gym." It was an immediate change.
Ashlee: For me, it was in the sharing that I realized how normal and how often this is happening to other women, and how much it was happening to other women.
Chanelle: I don't want women to feel embarrassed or be ashamed about it. It's really more normal than people think.
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