By Mikaela DiBerardinis
My now husband and I had our first baby during our second year of college at MSU. We were broke college students going to school because the recession was in full swing and we really just needed to do something.
Okay, rewind a few months, I had just had surgery for a disease I suffer from, Endometriosis, and was told I would probably not be able to have children of my own given the amount of scar tissue present. This was kind of a shock. I grew up in a huge family and so did my husband. I just took it in stride like the rest of the mountains life puts in front of me and we just stopped being careful about not getting pregnant. Jokes on us, we conceived a baby pretty dang quick, and we were college students, and it was the middle of the recession, but hey another mountain right?
We were lacking support from my side of the family. My family specifically was horribly mean about the whole thing as if I had met my "baby Daddy" on the street one night, when in reality we had been living together for 5 years. I was 23 and plenty ready to become a mother, just not ready for all the negativity that came with it. We had my brother at one point tell us we had a 100 to 1 odds of making it. People telling us there is no way we would do cloth diapers, we would give it up. There was no way we should expect our parents to be raising our child, and the negativity continued, and we pressed on.
On the day of my daughters first birthday we had a doctors appointment to see the next little bean cooking inside me. We were excited to share the news with everyone at the birthday party a few days later. Unfortunately we didn't hear a heartbeat, the screen was shut off and we were handed a packet. Handed a freaking packet of articles, and options and resources like this was just normal, and then told to schedule a D and C as soon as possible because the stuff in my uterus could have been cancerous that my body was treating like a pregnancy. The tests and labs were run for a solid week after this. After a very scary week, and a blurry one at that, tests came back that it was just a mass of fibers. No cancer and no baby. It was this roller coaster of emotions. But I had a 1 year old and a husband who could not find a job because the recession was still going strong.
I worked endless hours, cleaning houses, making pizzas at a local pizza place, watching other kids in my home and starting my photography business in our "guest room". I worked endlessly and I just buried my struggles in work. IT was working, I couldn't feel the pain of losing what I thought was going to be another baby. I couldn't feel my husbands pain because I was so busy working. I couldn't feel. I began smoking cigarettes again, began not eating again and life just went by day by day and we clung on.
Nearly 3 years later, when we had given up hope that we would ever have another child, I did a yoga course on recovering from PTSD due to birth or birth related trauma. It was monumental. It shifted me in the way I viewed myself and my mental health and it gave me the tools to really FEEL again. I tried one last tubal flush (it is what is sounds like and its awful!) and I ended up getting pregnant shortly after.
This was different. I was sacred. It was scary and I didn't want to tell anyone. I didn't share it with many people early on and I didn't see a care provider until I was almost 6 months pregnant! I roll my eyes now and shake my head! I was terrified to cross the bridge of losing another baby so I just didn't accept that I had one in me. Her birth was long and hard and her personality totally matches her birth story - she is a healthy 4.5 year old and we were surprised with another girl who is totally different from our first girl!
I nursed her. I actually nursed her exclusively - no bottles of formula. I was and still am damn proud of that. It was a struggle I faced with my first and wanted just one more chance to do it over. I got that chance and I just let that girl live on my boob. Until it was too much. I had to get sleep eventually. At 17 Months old I weaned her. I needed my boobs and my bed back. She actually slept so much better after that too.
Valentines day rolled around a few weeks later and I got pregnant AGAIN, this was a big old shock. MAJOR SHOCK. I had just stopped nursing and it took us 3 years to have our middle kid. WHAT!?
My joy of being free from nursing went right out the window. I was angry and resentful. I had just started working at a job I loved and my kids were in school and daycare. Life was seeming a bit more normal and scheduled and easy. I was not ready for another baby. Not to mention, my best friend was trying for 2 years to have her first and here I am getting knocked up on a whim and then not being ready for it. I remember working one day, I worked at a baby store so I saw a lot of parents. This was a sale day and we were sitting outside. I was pretty pregnant then and it was so hot outside. I starting chatting with this Mom who I knew had struggled with fertility and I just felt awful. How can I try for so long, then have a baby then be satisfied and then get pregnant so quickly? And this person can’t get pregnant and would do anything to do that. I mean my best friend ended up getting pregnant shortly after me and so I could finally tell her, which was such a huge relief. Ironically she got pregnant about a month after me and we ended up having our babies on the same day about 12 hours apart. Unplanned and very wild.
My 3rd baby was not an easy kid. She was born with several health issues and a GIANT birthmark on her forehead. This was harder than I think anyone thought it was. I would cry and stare at her. Not because she had a birthmark but because of how mean the world is. I felt like people went out of their way to tell me how beautiful she was, and certainly she is, but I just felt angry. This pattern of anger seemed to be building up.
After weeks of being told she was "failure to thrive" (which is so hard on a mama) she was finally diagnosed with Laryngomalacia coupled with reflux aspiration and tongue and lip tie. Her birthmark has faded and was really the least of our worries with her. She has had a handful of hospital stays since her birth and now at 2.5 is a fairly healthy, wild and loving kid.
In all of this the last birth and her short 2 years, I have found the lowest of the lows and the meanest of the mean girls. I have been picked on while my kid was literally in the hospital. I was sent messages like, “Do you think her recent vaccination has to do with her illness?” Or “Why would you be asking for money and not asking for help from family?” This was after a gofundme site had been set up to help with childcare while I was in the hospital with her. The drama, the lies and the attacks I felt on top of everything else was unbelievably challenging. It makes me sad that I felt this way and could feel the rage building up and I still just tried to bury everything. I work daily on it and bury a lot.
I remember a day when my baby was almost 1. I got a text message from a family member, I had just gotten out of jaw surgery (that had been planned for a while). It was probably nothing super horrible, but also nothing that needed to be said, considering I was recovering and had 3 kids to care for. I literally lost it. I RAGE lost it. I screamed to the police on the phone. I was so angry that someone would pick on me at such a vulnerable time when I could not even talk. I am surprised the police didn’t come to my house because they probably couldn’t understand what I was trying to say. I screamed at my father-in-law. I screamed at my mom on Christmas eve. I have this rage. No one ever talks about this until you do, then you realize its so common. And no one talks about it.
I have created an amazing business of being the Valley's only in-house birth photographer and in working with a ton of new parents. I notice this HUGE missing piece that is education that its okay to have these wild emotional swings, but its not okay to not get help with it. We have the resources in the valley and plenty of parents to talk about things with.
Most people associate baby blues and postpartum anxiety and depression with just sobbing on the floor and hyper worrying about your baby. That happens too, but no one ever told me about Postpartum RAGE. This is something that I learned about after my 3rd child when I needed a change. I was kind of getting by on a weekly wine night with my sister in law. We vented about kids and life. It was a good break. She moved and I was just done having social time. It was hard to make it happen. I needed help. I needed to just talk about how I felt. I couldn't talk to my husband because we were both kind of on the same page. My Mom is just past this phase and said, “I remember those days” as if it would just go away. I was scared to tell my doctor. Let that sink in.
I WAS SCARED TO TELL MY DOCTOR!
This is what I want to focus on. I love our family doctor. She is a blessing. She is one of a kind and she is someone I trust completely, and I was scared to share this with her. I didn't want CPS showing up at my door as I was not a bad Mom and I was not beating my kids. I just felt like I was going to explode at the sound of my child whistling out of nowhere, and that was not normal for me.
I ended up being so worried I was making myself sick. I was so tense. I felt like I had a brain tumor. I literally went to the doctor to make sure I wasn’t dying of something. I felt like I was dying. All of me was dying. This is not a good place to be. Thankfully my doctor saw the signs and asked me some questions. She suggested medication but I wanted to try some other things first. I saw my chiropractor who helped with my neck tension, and suggested 5HTP it is a natural supplement to assist in boosting my serotonin. In addition to that I began taking a ton of vitamin D every day. This was HUGE.
Getting outside every day and finding a safe place to talk about my feelings and my progress and my shortcomings. I found Roots Family Collaborative and realized after a Re:Born meeting, I was more normal than I had ever thought. As I said before, its ok to feel this way, but it’s not ok to not get help for it.