My Traumatic Birth Experience

I got pregnant with my first daughter at 20 years old. Back then, I thought I was grown, but looking back, I realize how naïve I was. The birth of my daughter was one of the most frightening experiences I ever had.

My whole pregnancy was wonderful, no complications at all. If I was tired, I would nap. I never had any pain, even during my last trimester. All I had was horrible heartburn. I didn’t even realize that my gas pains were actually Braxton-Hicks contractions until I was in the hospital getting induced.

My husband, my mother and I went to my final 40 week appointment and it was there that my doctor told me that she wanted to induce labor later that night. I was 1cm dilated for the last four weeks, which was normal. I had hoped to go into labor naturally, but she had explained that there might be complications if we wait longer. I don’t recall exactly what, but I trusted her. This was my first pregnancy and I was young, so as much as I didn’t want to be induced, I believed my doctor knew best.

Later that night, we all drove to the hospital. I was so excited and nervous that I was finally going to meet my baby girl. When we arrived, I changed into a hospital gown and my stomach was strapped with a contraction monitor. My doctor then gave me Pitocin to induce labor.

And we waited.

My contractions started to get stronger and stronger after a few hours. Labor was progressing, very slowly. I wasn’t sure how much longer labor would be and I knew the pain would only get worse, so I asked for an epidural.

It was the middle of the night when the anesthesiologist came into my room. His hair was disheveled and he looked like he had just been woken up out of his sleep. He told my husband and mother that they were not allowed in the room with me and they left.

I had seen a video on how an epidural is performed and I was fucking scared.

I sat off the side of the hospital bed with my nurse in front of me. She gave me a pillow and told me to hunch over. The anesthesiologist warned me not to move and he gave me a small shot to numb the area. But it didn’t work. He started to poke at my back and I felt everything. He told me to stop moving and I apologized but I couldn’t help but wince at the pain. He poked me more than once and at one point said that my “vertebrae were really close together.”

I remember this going on for some time, and I started to get cold sweats and I felt nauseous because I was in so much pain. I looked up at my nurse and told her, “I feel like I’m going to vomit.” It was then that my nurse yelled at the anesthesiologist:

“Can’t you see she’s in pain? Give her some more numbing.”

I got a second shot of numbing and I felt my body finally relax. The epidural was in and I laid back in bed and felt my pain melt away.

Later, my doctor popped my water bag to try and help speed things along. She saw meconium, which is the baby’s first poop, so she flushed my womb. And we waited some more.

I got some sleep and in the morning my doctor came to check me again. I was 6cm dilated. I thought to myself, “great, we’re making some progress.” But my doctor told me I wasn’t progressing quickly enough, and she was having an operating room prepped for me to have a C-section.

I would be down in the operating room in 30 minutes.

Holy shit.

I didn’t speak up because I truly believed she had my best intentions in mind.

We went down to the operating room and my husband was the only one allowed to be with me. The put a big blue curtain up under my chest so we couldn’t see anything. And then they started.

I remember a lot of pulling and tugging. They even pressed down on the top of my stomach to get my daughter out. I know the used forceps to get her head out because she had a bruise later on. Finally her head was out, and she cried right away.

And then I cried. I cried this huge sigh of relief that she was finally here, and that she was okay. They told my husband to look over to see her and I remember asking him if she had a lot of hair, which she did. And I asked if she really was a girl, which she was. She was 8 lbs 9oz, my big beautiful girl.

They gave her her bath right in the room, dressed her and my husband went with our daughter to the nursery while they closed me up.

Jonathan and baby Isabella in the nursery.

And I was all alone.

I was surrounded by so many hospital staff but it was like I wasn’t even there. No one asked me how I was feeling, if I was okay or not.

I remember feeling freezing cold and exhausted. My job was done, I had my baby, and I was tired. So I closed my eyes to try and go to sleep and I heard my own voice in my head scream:

“Don’t go to sleep! Open your eyes!”

So I did. I opened my eyes wide and kept myself from going to sleep. At the time I didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I realized what had happened.

I was brought back to my room and my epidural was removed. I had a heated blanket on me because I was freezing cold. I tried to go to sleep but the pain started to creep in. My incision felt like it was on fire and the damn heated blanket was not helping. I rang for my nurse and told her I was in excruciating pain. She gave me morphine, which felt like a heat wave all over my body. I still felt some of the pain but I was relaxed enough to get some sleep.

Later that day, my new nurse came to my room and asked me how I was feeling. I told her I was really tired, but I had attributed that to the fact that I just had a baby. She had told me that I had lost a lot of blood and kept asking me if I was sure I was okay. I told her yes and brushed it off. But my husband told me later that when he looked over the curtain after our daughter was born, it looked like a horror movie. All he saw was my body there, open and surrounded by an enormous amount of blood.

And I realized why I heard my voice in the operating room, yelling at me not to go to sleep. I probably wouldn’t have woken up had I kept my eyes closed.

It’s unnerving to think back to what I went through over 8 years ago. The pain that I went through before, during and after my daughters birth still haunts me. I had a huge bruise on my back after giving birth that my mother pointed out and she saw four distinct holes where the anesthesiologist had attempted to put that giant needle. I still have pain in my spine where he performed my epidural.

Despite all that I went through, I would do it all again for my daughter. She is the biggest gift I never knew I needed.

My Isabella

To all you mamas who have had a traumatic birth experience, I know your pain. I know how it feels to have your baby born, and suddenly you don’t exist anymore. I know a lot of you have had it much worse than I have, and I’m sorry. Having a baby should be the most magical time of our lives. I wish it was always like that.

Stay strong mamas, you got this.

-Toniann

A Lesson in Gratitude

Hi everyone, I haven’t posted in a while because a lot has been going on. We went to San Diego for Memorial Day weekend to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday. The weekend started off great, we went to the beach, which was my youngest’s first time, so it was wonderful. The next day we went to LEGOLAND waterpark and we were really having a fun time. But as we went to one last area to wrap up our day, my diaper bag was stolen. Someone went into my stroller and stole my bag with everything in it: mine and my husbands phone, my wallet, my car keys and my daughters diapers and change of clothes.

I was fucking furious. Enraged that someone could actually do that at a family park. I felt violated; I couldn’t believe that someone felt they had a right to just take our belongings. And most of all, I was mad at myself. I was mad at myself for being foolish enough to let my guard down. I was stupid to believe that there are no bad people out there anymore. I was so mad, I started to cry.

We spent the rest of the night with security from the park, and later the police to file a report. I knew that since our phones were turned off, there was no way to track them, and our stuff was gone forever.

I went to the LEGOLAND hotel and used their phone to call a locksmith to get a new key cut for my car so we wouldn’t be stranded. I was on the phone and computer cancelling credit cards and trying to get replacement phones. We had to print directions out to and from our hotel. You don’t realize how much you depend on your smartphone until you don’t have access to one.

Since all this happened and my anger has subsided a bit, I’ve had some time to reflect on what happened.

I’m GRATEFUL it wasn’t worse.

I’m constantly reminded that no matter what happens, things could always be worse. I’m grateful that my daughters weren’t injured in any way. I’m grateful I didn’t have any cash in my wallet, whatever money they spent on my credit card can be replaced by the bank. I’m grateful my husband had his wallet on him and not in my purse like much of the day. I’m grateful that while I was on the phone and computer for hours at the hotels in LEGOLAND, my daughters were having fun playing with the slide by the stairs and the countless LEGO bricks. I’m grateful for the staff at LEGOLAND who helped us with everything we needed. I’m grateful for a dear friend in San Diego that happened to have an extra phone that we were able to use for the rest of our trip. And despite being robbed of my possessions, I’m grateful that my daughters still had an amazing time.

Everything that was taken from me can be replaced. It’s easy to stay angry at this situation, but I want to remember this trip as a fun one. That’s how my daughters see it. They’ll look back at all the rides they went on, the prizes they won and all the fun we had together.

And to the person(s) who took my diaper bag: you may have stolen my belongings but I refuse to let you steal my joy. What goes around comes around, so I’ll just sit back and let karma take care of it.

I’m grateful either way.

Birthday dinner with my favorite people in the world.

-Toniann

Dear Anxiety, You’re a Bitch

This weekend, we’re going away for the weekend to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday. A trip that I am really excited about. But today, checking the weather for the weekend at our destination, I see that it’s going to be a chilly weekend. Our plans were to go to the beach and to a water park. So I couldn’t help but feel like our weekend’s plans would be ruined. But I know that’s my anxiety talking.

It all started when I was pregnant with my second daughter. I was so scared of having another C-section because my previous one with my oldest was horrible. But being pregnant, I was in a constant state of worry for my baby, which I think is pretty normal. But on top of that, we decided to move across the country, WHILE I WAS PREGNANT! My husband was in Arizona while I was still in Florida with my daughter. I talked to my midwife about my anxiety but I opted not to take medication. I just assumed once I was in Arizona with my husband and daughters, things would go back to normal.

But my anxiety hasn’t gone anywhere.

It’s not just worrying. My heart races, my chest feels so tight I can hardly breathe, I’m tired and irritable. Lately I’m noticing that there is little or nothing to prompt my anxiety. And I’m trying to manage my anxiety on my own but it’s so exhausting.

I exercise 6 days a week for at least an hour, I have a healthy diet, and I try to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine are all bad for anxiety. The three things I turn to when I’m feeling anxious and stressed out are making things worse. So I’ve managed to cut out my beloved morning cup of espresso, which was fucking painful. I’m still working on cutting out nicotine (yes, I vape and am a former cigarette smoker), and working on keeping my alcohol consumption to just weekends. Which is so hard because I love having my red wine!

I haven’t been consistent with my meditating either, but I’m starting tomorrow. I’ve already started waking up earlier to make time to meditate, my problem is just getting out of bed.

It’s hard for me to reach out and talk to people about what I’m going through. Especially when my anxiety makes me worry about trivial stuff. Honestly, even writing this blog post right now is making me anxious. But I’m trying to find a positive outlet, so here I am typing away. I knew I wanted to write about my anxiety at some point, so I figured now was a good a time as any.

I’m a work in progress, I always will be. Managing my anxiety is just something I have to deal with everyday. Some days are better than others. But I’m getting better at realizing which situations make me anxious and I’m making an effort to stay away from those situations.

I am more than my anxiety.

-Toniann

Cherishing Time with Your Kids

I remember the day we brought Isabella home from the hospital and I had her in my arms. I was doting over her and in complete awe of how beautiful she was. And my mother said “Enjoy it, soon she’ll be starting kindergarten.” I looked at her like she was crazy, “Ma, she’s a newborn, kindergarten is a long way off.” That was almost 8 years ago. Isabella will be 8 years old and four days after, Emilia will be turning 2. And ever since I became a mom, I keep asking myself:

“Where has the time gone?”

2 month old Isabella

When my daughter first started kindergarten, I knew exactly what my mom meant that day four years previous. She warned me about this, time going by so quickly. It’s unbelievable how fast time can go by once you have kids. I cry every year on my girls birthdays, the start of a new school year, and any significant milestone. But I’m realizing just how important it is to cherish the day-to-day as well.

In her big girl bed

Throughout the day I find myself waiting for the day to be over. “I can’t wait to put the girls to bed and relax” is the usual thought in my head most days. But I don’t want to be like that anymore. I want to appreciate all the moments I have with my girls, even the not-so-great ones.

Sisters

I know that one day from now, honestly not that far into the future, my girls will be grown and out of the house. There won’t be toys for me to trip over, messes to clean up, or the sound of them screaming and laughing as they play. And honestly, the thought of that breaks my heart.

They get along… mostly

So I’m going to play with them more, hug them more, kiss them and memorize how they look at this age. I’ll gladly read another story, change the poopy diapers, and cuddle my girls as much as they’ll let me. They will never be this little again.

Now, if you need me, I’ll be with my girls.

-Toniann

Birthday Anxiety

My birthday is a time that I’m always excited about. I count down the days and look forward to celebrating with the people I love most and going on great adventures. But coming up on my 29th birthday this year, I don’t feel the same excitement that I usually do. Last week I was anxious thinking about this being the last year in my 20s.

I would never have considered myself an anxious person, but since I got pregnant with my last daughter over 2 years ago, anxiety seems like a normal (and horrible) part of my daily routine. But despite countless anxiety attacks, I was happy about my birthday last year.

Why is this birthday different?

Turning 29 was a happy thought at first, but then I realized that this is the last year in my 20s, and I only have a year left to accomplish certain goals in my life. And that was frightening. I started to think about my best friends, who are earning their masters degrees, one of whom has 2 kids. I started to compare what I have accomplished in my life, and I couldn’t think of anything.

What have I truly accomplished in this decade, besides raising two wonderful daughters?

And panic set in at this thought. So I began to dread turning 29, my last chance at doing something meaningful with my life. To create lasting friendships in my new home state, to get my career and education back on track, and work on becoming a better version of myself. Its overwhelming to think about all I have to work on.

I spoke to my sister-in-law about this. I told her all my worries and how I’m feeling lost. And that I’m scared to pursue my own goals, because my anxiety has convinced me that taking care of myself meant that my relationship with my husband and children will suffer. But I owe it to myself, and my family to work on myself and my goals. She reminded me of all that I have accomplished in my life already. And I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

In this past decade of my life, I’ve lived in 4 states: New York, Massachusetts, Florida, and now Arizona. It’s such a big achievement in my book that I’ve moved out of my hometown, something that many people will never do in their lives. I’ve met some amazing, and not-so-amazing people, and they’ve all taught me something. I’ve realized my passion for fitness and while I have neglected that passion these past few years, it’s a goal of mine to become a personal trainer again. I’ve become vegan, something I never thought would happen, ever. I married the most amazing man in the world and we’re coming up on our tenth anniversary. I’m proud of the work we’ve put into our relationship and we’ve become better people since we first got together. I’m raising two children, a job that is so important, and I’m doing a kickass job (even though I feel like I’m not most of the time).

And most important of all, I’m learning more about myself. I’m learning the kind of person I want to be, and I’m taking steps everyday to become that person. I’ve realized what kind of relationships I want in my life. And because of that I’ve let go of relationships and set boundaries with people. I know that I alone am in charge of my happiness. I’ve realized how strong of a person I am. The most difficult thing I’ve gone through was losing my father. I deal with the grief of that loss everyday. And all the struggles I’ve faced have made me a stronger person.

So I write this blog post to remind myself, and anyone else reading, not to compare your timeline to someone else’s. We’re all on different paths, dealing with our own struggles. It’s only natural to compare ourselves to others, but it’s unfair to do so. I’m trying to focus on my own journey, to count my blessings and to be okay with imperfection. I hope the same for you.

Alright 29, I’m ready for you.

-Toniann

My Experience with Pregnancy Loss

Last night, we were sitting around the dinner table talking about babies. Isabella, my oldest daughter said “Mommy, you’ve been pregnant two times and you’re not having anymore babies.” I hesitated at the “pregnant two times” part of her sentence but I told her she was right. My daughter, and so many other people, do not know that I’ve been pregnant 4 times but only have 2 children.

When my oldest daughter, Isabella, was about 18 months old, I went through baby fever, and it was bad. I wanted to have another baby, I wanted Isabella to have a sibling to play and grow up with. But my husband wasn’t ready, and he knew deep down, I wasn’t either. So we decided to wait. I was taking birth control pills after having my daughter. The birth control was covered by Medicaid, but as Isabella’s second birthday was approaching, my medical coverage was ending. My birth control was $90 a month, an expense we couldn’t afford at the time, so I had decided to get an intrauterine device or IUD.

I made an appointment with my gynecologist, and I told her I needed to get an IUD as soon as possible, before my insurance coverage ended. We talked about different IUD’s and I decided on ParaGard, which is has copper and no hormones. It was supposed to be more effective than the hormonal IUD’s and I was more comfortable with a hormone free one. I wasn’t sure how I would react to the hormones in other IUD’s and I couldn’t chance it. And the copper IUD would last 10 years and I could just make an appointment to get it removed whenever Jonathan and I decided to try for another child.

I laid there on the table, my feet in the stirrups while my gynecologist prepared to insert my IUD. She was having some trouble but after a lot of poking and prodding at my cervix (ouch) I finally had my IUD inserted. And I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that I wouldn’t have to worry about getting pregnant any time soon.

Or so I thought…

It was about a year after having my IUD and I had no issues with it. My husband occasionally felt the string from the IUD when we would have sex, but overall, no real problems. Then one day, I had just finished working out at home, and it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t gotten my period. I ran to my calendar in the kitchen to count the days since my last period.

29 days…

Not very late, but late nonetheless. “Fuck, could I be pregnant?” I went to the store and got a pregnancy test. A faint positive appeared and I cried on the toilet. How? How did this happen? I know the IUD is still in, did it move?

I called Jon and told him I was pregnant and he thought I was joking. I told him “no, baby, I’m not kidding. The pregnancy test is positive and I’m scared.”

I started looking up the chances of getting pregnant with a copper IUD, less than 1%. What are the chances of having a healthy pregnancy and delivery with an IUD? Mixed research. I made an appointment with my gynecologist and I remember telling the woman at the office “I’m pregnant and have a copper IUD.” She couldn’t believe what I was saying.

I had to wait until the next week for my appointment, which was hell. Even though I didn’t want to get pregnant at the time, knowing that I was in fact pregnant, I wanted my baby to be okay. But I started spotting, and the bleeding got worse as the days went on.

I heard blighted ovum at one appointment and ectopic pregnancy at another. I honestly don’t know what it was and I was in too much shock to ask questions. Either way, I was not going to have another baby.

And I was crushed.

I got my IUD removed because it didn’t work for whatever reason. Maybe it moved or wasn’t inserted correctly. It could be possible since my gynecologist at the time had trouble inserting it. I’ll never know and the answer wouldn’t make me feel any better.

I was heartbroken. And I wanted us to try for another baby. But every month, my period came and my heart broke all over again. I tried to act like it didn’t bother me, but it did.

And a year later, I got pregnant again. I was excited, but I was wary. I made sure not to tell anyone but my husband and mother. I wanted to go to the doctor before I said anything. But I’d have to wait until at least 8 weeks to have my first appointment and I was only 5 weeks.

When I got to 6 weeks, I started spotting. And my heart sank. I went to the emergency room and sure enough my hCG (pregnancy hormone) levels were low. I stayed at the hospital for a few hours so they could test my levels again, and if they were continuing to lower, that meant I was having a miscarriage. I tried to hold on to hope that things were fine, but after a few hours and another test, we found out I was miscarrying.

I remember how direct the nurse was. Quick and to the point, and not sympathetic. I was told, just like the first time, that my body should “take care of it” and my body should expel all remaining tissue. And to follow up with my doctor in a few weeks. My husband, daughter and I made it to the car before I started crying. And I kept crying.

When we got home, I was crying in my husbands arms and I looked at him and told him…

“…I feel broken. I’d rather never get pregnant again than to feel this pain one more time.”

I didn’t tell anyone, no one knew I was pregnant, so why should I share my loss? I convinced myself that I was lucky. I was lucky that my body would take care of things and I wouldn’t need surgery like other women have. I was lucky not to have gotten so far along in my pregnancy. I was lucky to have one child, when so many other women struggle with this loss and still don’t have children. I told myself that my grief wasn’t valid because there were other women who have endured much worse than I have. And maybe that helped me cope at the time, but my loss was real. My pain was excruciating, both physically and emotionally. And it’s a pain I still carry today.

I didn’t realize at the time that I was going through something called secondary infertility. I found out later that it’s common for some woman to have trouble either getting pregnant or carrying a baby to term after giving birth to a child previously. It was over a year later before I got pregnant again. And four years total after my first pregnancy loss before I got pregnant for the last time.

But I am lucky. I got my rainbow baby, my Emilia. When I got pregnant with her, I was wary yet again. I was careful not to let myself get excited. But I made it to my 8 week appointment and explained to my midwife that I needed to have an ultrasound since I had 2 previous pregnancy losses. And I got my ultrasound, and we saw that heartbeat flicker and I breathed a sigh of relief. Not a big one, because I knew I was not through the woods, you never are when you’re pregnant. But I was relieved and I was excited. And she’s here, and one of the greatest joys in my life. I am incredibly fortunate to have 2 beautiful children.

But some women never get their rainbow baby, and for that I am truly sorry. To anyone reading this who is struggling to have a baby, I see you. To those who have endured countless pregnancy losses, I feel your pain. And to the women, suffering in silence, trying to put on a smile at the news of other women getting pregnant, I see you too. There are no words that can ease the pain of losing a pregnancy. Grieving a life that could have been.

You are not alone.

Below, I will include a link for pregnancy loss support or if anyone who wants to chat about pregnancy loss can email me.

NationalShare.org

-Toniann

Spending One on One Time with Your Children

My oldest daughter was an only child for 6 years before her baby sister came along. My husband and I referred to her as “the baby” up until that point, and we’d probably still refer to her that way if she was an only child. I am happy about the age difference between them. I feel that Isabella had a lot of time as “the baby” and got my undivided attention most of the time. So when I got pregnant with Emilia, I was very worried about Isabella getting jealous of her baby sister. I remember talking to other moms who had more than one child and the one thing they all told me was to make time for her once her sister came. That having one on one time with her is important so she doesn’t feel jealous or feels that she has to compete for my attention.

Then Emilia was born. Fast-forward to now.

I was recently scrolling through old photos and videos on my phone and I came across a video I took of Isabella meeting Emilia for the first time. I made it a point to record this moment because I knew how special it would be. And it was special. And then Isabella looks at her dad and says “Daddy, Daddy, you were holding me when I was a baby too.” I didn’t notice when she said it but watching the video recently, I realized there have been so many more moments like this since her sister was born.

Isabella does compete for my attention. I’ve noticed it a lot more lately with her baby sister getting older. Emilia is doing new things, adorable things like talking and being silly. And when we all dote over Emilia for being cute, Isabella will rush to do the same thing.

So even though my goal was to make sure I spent one on one time with Isabella, I’ve been failing at keeping up with that promise.

It’s difficult to get one on one time with Isabella. My day usually consists of making sure Isabella gets to school, cooking, cleaning, work out, getting Isabella from school, grocery shopping, then home to complete homework (which gives me the most anxiety), then cook dinner, hubbs comes home, eat dinner, bath time and then bedtime. And when both of the girls are together, I yell A LOT. A lot more than I would like to but I’m working on it. Anyway, during my weekday, there really isn’t much opportunity for actual one on one time. And admittedly, I need to try harder.

I make it a point to have one on one time with my husband by going on date nights. I should be doing the same for my daughter.

She needs to have me to herself sometimes and her dad to herself as well. Emilia is almost 2 years old and during these last 2 years, we’ve probably had less than 5 planned one on one outings. And she still talks about them. She loves the time when the two of us went to get our nails done. I had a great time too. So yesterday I made sure to take her out to lunch, and it was great. Smoothies and quesadillas.

I want to continue having one on one time with Isabella. It won’t always be lunch or getting our nails done, it might just be the two of us jumping on the trampoline together. But my goal is to have one planned outing a month with Isabella, and her dad and I will trade months.

First Daddy daughter dance!

Its important to make her feel special and try to keep her from competing for our attention. My hope is that spending more one on one time, not just monthly, but even 10-15 minutes each day will help strengthen our bond. And not only Isabella’s bond with my husband and I, but also her sister. She might be less resentful towards her sister if she feels that she doesn’t have to fight her sister for our love.

Isabella and I have a good relationship. But my hope is that our bond only grows stronger, and that when she’s a teenager and an adult, she will still want to spend time with me. And I’m realizing more and more that I need to lay that foundation now. To make and effort to spend time with just her so she knows without a doubt that she is loved and she is special in her own way. I know that I love her, but she needs to know that by me showing her. And I’m promising myself to be better at spending one on one time with my daughter.

-Toniann