Wednesday, August 18, 2010

An Update, a Correction, and the Aftermath

I lied. Zach's birth story was not my last post.

First, the correction:
I later discovered that my due date was off by several days. Zach was not born at 36 wks, 3 days like we thought. Instead, he was born at 33 wks, 5 days. Which means everything I blogged was off, too. Sorry. I have since gone back and tried to adjust the dates, but some of it will still be off. We didn't know this until I went for my postpartum check-up.

The Update:
Zach is now 3 months old--13 weeks chronologically, 8 weeks old with the adjustment for his prematurity. And he is absolutely perfect. Our angel. The easiest baby ever! He ended up having a few issues from his prematurity, such as an abnormal newborn thyroid screen. He also had a few feeding issues where he would mix up the suck-swallow-breathe routine and sputter and choke while eating. And difficulties latching on. We are continuing to work through all of it. Developmentally speaking, he is just a couple of weeks behind on his milestones, but that is to be expected.

He lights up our world with his beautiful smiles, loves to be "worn", and is the apple of his big brother's eye. We cannot even remember what life was like before he came into our lives.

The Aftermath:
It turns out that my relief I felt at the end of the pregnancy would be false. Instead, I find myself having difficulties with coping with the pregnancy. I feel like I am a failure as a woman as a result of the whole experience and have a bitterness I did not expect to feel once I held my baby in my arms. This is not something that has interfered with my ability to mother my children or carry on with my life, but rather serves as a sort of hang-up. Not really postpartum depression and not a simple case of the baby blues, it has no label. About the closest thing I can find is "Traumatic Birth Experience", in that the pregnancy and birth served as a sort of emotional trauma. I find myself resentful toward other pregnant women who get to have a positive experience, which in turn makes me feel guilty for feeling the way I do. And I simply have not been able to let it go. And despite all of the pain I felt in the last months leading to Zach's birth, I wish I could go back and do it all over again. Only this second time, things would go as they are supposed to. I would get to leisurely shop for the baby, not be in the hospital over and over. Maybe even have a baby shower. I would be able to spend more quality time with E before Zach's arrival instead of having such physical limitations or being submerged in the fuzziness of painkillers to get me through. I would be able to bond with my baby through a more natural childbirth instead of the cold and calculated world that is a scheduled c-section. And it would all be perfect.
As for the mathematical aftermath: My pregnancy cost my insurance company over $484,000. Thank God for Humana. My family's share? $15,000. By the time I delivered, I had exhausted every resource I had to compensate me for maternity leave. My FMLA job protection had long-since run out, and the only reason I had a job to which to return was because my supervisor likes me. I ended up returning to work at 5 weeks postpartum, just 3 days after my due date, simply because I was worried for my job and also because I needed the financial compensation of my full salary. We were scraping the bottom of the barrel. That in itself was a source of emotional difficulty: I simply was not ready to leave my baby yet. We still needed each other.

I have been back to work about 2 months now. I still run into people in the halls of the hospital who ask me where I have been. I was off of work for 21 weeks, from start to finish, and when I tell people this, they always reply the same way: "That must've been nice!" And then I want to scream. No. There was nothing nice about it. Not the needles, the pain, the hospitalizations, the tests, the bills, the fear, the tears. I honestly cannot think of one positive thing other than the gift I was given when Zach was finally born on May 13th. Not one thing. I don't tell these people the details. They don't want to know. The details are my burden to carry. Instead, I just smile the fakest smile in the world, and hope that they never have to endure what I did.