I'd like to start off with how long it's taken me to get this birth story organized in my head and give it the focus it so deserves. Today marks 2 months since Baby D made his entrance into this world, 2 months since I walked into the hospital room to support my long time friends and now clients, Mr. & Mrs. B. This is going to be a different kind of birth story, yes I will talk about the birth itself but it's so much more than that.
Mrs. B went in for induction on August 22, 2019 with the support of her awesome husband. I joined her at 5:45 am the morning of the 23rd to begin continuous care since I live roughly an hour away. Baby D would be the final child for this beautiful couple and it was an amazing experience to be by there side and know that it was being documented by an amazing photographer as well! Early labor went just perfectly. We laughed, we danced, we snuck Mrs. B sips of iced cold Coke, her biggest craving at the end of this pregnancy.
See...Mrs. B and I are close, basically everyone we meet thinks we are related, and we like it that way frankly. Stepping into a doula role with her was as natural as breathing. I massaged her back, squeezed her hips, whispered words of encouragement, and sat quietly..whatever she needed in that moment. When intensity began to kick up, Mrs. B decided to try nitrous oxide for pain management, which was a first for me to see! It definitely helped to take the edge off her pain and allowed her to keep progressing. I watched her power through wave after wave that came at her like the badass goddess she is!
Finally, exhaustion and slow dilation progress prompted the request of an epidural. Once that was in Mr. & Mrs. B decided to rest, as did the photographer, and I decided to run to the cafeteria for food since I hadn't eaten. Well Baby D had other plans and I soon was running back to the room in perfect time to be able to watch him pass Earth side with such grace by his momma! Tears were shed by all and it's something I will carry with me forever.
Now, this is where this birth story is different. As I mentioned earlier, Mrs. B is more than a client, she's family to me. The first couple of weeks postpartum passed with only some small hiccups. As time ticked towards the 1 month mark, I began to notice some changes in her. Lack of communication, distracted, a little withdrawn. I just kept up talking to her and made a mental note to keep an eye out for anything more. Let me just say that postpartum depression is a sneaky thief that hides in the dark, building intimate knowledge of your insecurities and fears until it's time to strike. Then strike it does, and with a vengeance. The calls and texts became less and less frequent. Then consistent cancelling or changing of plans. Then disappearing for days at a time. It all came to a head and there were some very real and tough talks had. I think what worried me the most was watching her pull away from the support system she's had in place for nearly a decade.
I'm not proud of the way I handled the situation. It's a very gray area to be a best friend and a doula...sometimes not knowing which hat to put on for that given situation. I should have said something sooner, I should have shown up at her door and not given her a choice to hide, I should have mentioned it to her husband. I should have, I should have, I should have.
After those tough conversations and tears came something bright, something fragile and new, but breathtakingly beautiful. It was growth. Mrs. B is now openly talking about postpartum depression on social media, she's seeking help, and shes's fighting. Just like she always does. Just like that birthing goddess I saw in that hospital 2 months ago. Just like the Veteran wife she is. Just like the mom she is. Just like the woman she is. She is strong, stronger than she realizes right now. Hopefully, just maybe this will serve as a reminder of that for her in the days and months to come. Mrs. B, you ARE strong, and brave, and vulnerable, and beautiful, and broken, and all of these things make you just perfect to so many of us!
If you are struggling with not just postpartum depression, but any sort of mental illness, please do not be ashamed to seek help. If you see signs in a friend, don't just ignore them. If you are unsure of how to help, there are many resources available to help you learn how to approach the situation. You are never alone.