Maternal Mental Health Research Collaborative
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Lacey’s Story: I Felt Let Down By My Body

At 17 I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. My doctor prescribed me 10mg of fluoxetine; a tiny little pill made all the difference. I knew postpartum depression would be an issue for me, and I was prepared. Or so I thought. What I wasn’t prepared for was PTSD, thanks to being induced at 41 weeks and laboring for five days only to have it end with a c-section.

Feeling Like a Failure

I felt let down by my body; a failure as a woman and mother (you know, because we’re defined by our ability to birth children). My chart at the hospital literally said “failed induction”. I would lay awake replaying those days in my head wondering what I could have done differently. I could feel everything. It didn’t hurt but I felt it.

I could feel when they were cutting, the blood on me, everything. I felt the tools used to hold my body open and I could feel the suction tube sticking to the tissues inside. I felt hands inside me – not just pressure – but like I could tell who’s hands were there. They never told me that you could feel everything. Just that you feel pressure and pulling.

I grieved the birth experience I didn’t have. Asking for help made me feel like a burden to my husband and family. As I recovered from my c-section I couldn’t pick up my baby, or drive myself to appointments. I never wanted to get pregnant again and getting on birth control as soon as possible was incredibly important.

The Struggle and Pain of Breastfeeding

I was determined to breastfeed my baby, and I thought would make it better – I wouldn’t fail her in that. Breastfeeding was hard, particularly since my baby had lip and tongue ties. I asked nurse after nurse, and doctor after doctor if it was an issue. They told me no, that the pain while breastfeeding is normal. It will go away in a few weeks once you toughen up.

Finally, I booked my baby girl an appointment to get laser revision of her ties, despite being told it was fine. I cried like crazy as the dentist told me that yes she had ties, and they would be cut. I felt like a horrible mother as I let them do the procedure in her tiny little mouth because I was hurting.

But the pain never went away.  I nursed her 24/7, and she was constantly hungry. “Cluster feeding” I was told, which was normal for her age. Despite this I knew in my heart something wasn’t right. I’d weigh her weekly and cry as she never gained weight. I didn’t sleep and I barely ate. The health nurse must have thought I was crazy as I kept calling, asking for more options, and more information as to why it was so painful.

Breastfeeding Challenges Continue

They said she was fine, and that I was fine. It started to feel like it was in my head so I stopped calling, scared they would think I was crazy and would take my baby away. I shut out family, didn’t go anywhere and sat on the couch, day after day, nursing and crying. I went to my doctor to get my prescription for my anti-depressants back. He told me, “ Well we don’t usually want breastfeeding moms to take meds, but if it helps, fine”. So I took the prescription for the medication, but never actually took any of the pills.

Finally I was able to get to a lactation consultant at six weeks postpartum. She told me that the tongue tie had grown back, and that my baby had high pallet and disorganized sucking pattern and this caused my milk to decrease. Her solution was to cut the tie again, pump 6x a day and nurse as much as possible. I wasn’t about to let them cut her tongue again and I felt like a failure – and still do- thinking that I haven’t done enough for my baby.

I get jealous of breastfeeding moms and hate myself for feeling like this way. Many times I feel like I should have tried harder but I know that I did what I thought was right at the time and I am doing what’s best for me and child. But that doesn’t stop the negative feedback my brain suddenly brings up.

Ongoing Recovery from My Experience

I felt like I deserved the pain I felt from my c-section and the scars from nursing, as if those were my payment for failure. Currently, I’m taking medication, seeing a therapist for my mental health and a physical therapist. The physical therapy helps me to heal my core muscles, which has helped me feel better.

Right now I workout daily to give myself something to focus on, something just for me. As a new mom I often feel forgotten and that it’s all about the baby. As a part of my healing a went to a photographer to document my new “mom bod”, c-section scar and all. This was a huge leap for me as I couldn’t even look at my scar without breaking down. I wore bandages on it so I wouldn’t see it. I no longer cover it and frequently touch it to remind myself that I am stronger than I think I am.

I can overcome my postpartum depression and make a new “normal” for myself. While the scars on my body may be ugly, they tell a story of determination and dedication as a mother who sacrificed her body to bring a child into the world and tried her best to give her the best start possible.

We’re honored to share Lacey’s story as part of the Maternal Mental Health Research Collaborative’s Marathon of Moms campaign. Stories of lived experience are one of the most powerful tools we have to combat stigma and the shame surrounding mental illness. They’re also vitally important as we look to develop tools, resources and treatments that work for moms and meet their needs. Thank you, Lacey!