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My Story of PTSD After Childbirth


Jodi

My name is Jodi Kluchar. I live in Ohio and I have two wonderful children, Alex, and Meghan. I was a volunteer support group coordinator of our local chapter of Postpartum Support International from 2006-2009. Postpartum Support International is a non-profit organization, founded in 1987, to educate and support women suffering from postpartum mood disorders. Here is my story…

It was Thursday morning, September 23rd, 1999. After a sleepless night, I got up around 7:00a.m. I was hit with a contraction that stopped me in my tracks, then another one. They were about three minutes apart. I told my husband, “I think we need to go to the hospital.” I called my OBGYN and she met us there. She examined me and I was only dilated 3 centimeters, so she broke my water to get things going.

I had very high expectations. I dreamt of a perfect natural birth with no medication, and no complications. I dreamt of breastfeeding my son, and I was so convinced that I even bought the special breastfeeding tops. I went to childbirth education classes and I knew what was supposed to happen. I had no idea what would lie in store for me.

Several hours after my water broke, there was still no progress. So the resident doctor gave me Pitocin to speed things up. An hour later I was in a lot of pain. I began screaming, over and over again. I felt like my body was being torn in half. Then the baby’s heart rate dropped below 100.

It was 3:00 p.m. and they called my OBGYN. They had me laying flat on my back and told me to start pushing. I repeatedly asked to be able to sit up. I was ignored. It was like I wasn’t there anymore, no one listened to me. Then a nurse got on top of me and started pushing on my stomach. I wanted to punch her!

“The head is crowning,” the doctor said. All of a sudden the baby’s heart rate dropped to about 50. Everyone was worried, especially me. The doctor said, “You have to get this baby out, he’s not handling labor very well. Now push!”

I pushed with everything I had in me. I felt myself tearing open as I pushed. Then all of a sudden, I couldn’t push, the baby was stuck. His heart rate dropped again. My OBGYN was still not there. The resident doctor tried to use the vacuum extractor to get the baby out. I’ve never felt such pain in my life. I screamed as I tore even more. Unfortunately it didn’t work. My baby had too much hair and the suction cup kept popping off. It popped off three times and each time, blood spattered everywhere. Then his heart rate dropped to about 50 again.

The resident doctor said, “We’re going to have to do and emergency C-section.” My husband was terrified, and had my blood all over his shirt. He was ushered out as I was prepped and taken into the operating room. Still, nobody was talking to me, and I was very afraid of what was happening.

A frenzy of activity was going on as they prepped me for surgery. My arms and legs were strapped to the operating table. “I hope my husband is okay, he seemed really scared,” I thought. The nurse put a mask over my face and told me they were going to administer the general anesthetic. I could hear it hissing.

Then, I stopped breathing.

The nurse said, “Come on honey, breathe.”

I couldn’t breathe.

“Jodi! Breathe!” She yelled.

I was paralyzed but still conscious. “I can’t breathe!” I thought. “I’ve got to tell them that I can’t breathe! Oh God! I’m going to die! I’m going to see Jesus today! I’m going to die! My poor husband, how’s he going to take care of a baby?”

I felt the doctor make the vertical incision in my abdomen. I was thinking, “Oh God, I’m scared! I’m so scared! I’m going to die! Oh Matt, I’ll miss you. I hope you know how much I love you. How can I tell them I can’t breathe? I’ve got to tell them I can’t breathe!”

All of a sudden, I felt my right hand move, then my leg, and then my head. I had entered respiratory failure and went into convulsions. Someone finally intubated me and I could see the nurse squeezing the air bag to the right of me. The last thing I remembered was one of the nurses saying “Oh God!” Then I blacked out.

When I opened my eyes I was surprised to be alive. I asked the nurse if the baby is okay. She told me he is fine and asked if I wanted to see him. Of course I said yes! My baby and I were alive and I was so relieved. (I later found out that my OBGYN arrived just in time to sew me up.)

The next day, a Lactation consultant at the hospital tried to show me how to breastfeed. She proceeded to grab and squeeze my breast and shoved it in the baby's mouth. I was not happy about that, and I told her not to touch me. Then she said sternly, "Do you want my help or not?" I felt very demeaned and violated. I had to breastfeed him with the "football" hold and she kept telling me that I was doing it wrong. I didn't know that there was no milk there for him anyway, and I got very frustrated. Even when I pumped, I only got a bit of colostrum.

When we got home, everything started to fall apart. I tried breast feeding, but it didn’t work. I tried until my nipples were cracked and bleeding. Due to the trauma I went through, I wasn’t producing enough milk. The baby had colic and was jaundice, so we were forced to switch him to formula. I was devastated. No one ever told me that motherhood would be this hard. Society paints a picture of happy mothers with content babies, and that is so far from the truth.

Then the flash backs began. Several times a day, especially at night, I relived my labor experience, going over every detail in my head again and again. I couldn’t go near my baby because he reminded me of what I went through.

Only 2 weeks after the birth of my baby, I was thrust into a pit of depression. I wanted to die. I felt so empty. I was also having horrible, disturbing dreams about killing my son. I dreamed about cooking and eating him, cutting him up into pieces, drowning him, and smothering him. Dreadfully, these thoughts started to manifest themselves during the day, sometimes while I was holding my son. I would have to put him down because was so afraid I would hurt him.

These horrific thoughts, the flashbacks, emptiness, and depression plagued me on a daily basis for about six months. I truly thought I was going insane. I began thinking about what would happen if I did kill my son, “If I kill my son, my husband will be upset, so I’ll kill him too, and then I’ll kill myself. Then we’ll all be in Heaven together and everything will be alright.”

So for six months I isolated myself from the world. Every night I would go to bed, praying that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. The only reason I would get out of bed was that my son was hungry. I was a shell of the woman I used to be. I just wanted it to stop. I wanted to die.

I convinced myself I was the worst mother on the planet. I didn’t dare tell anyone what I was thinking or feeling, because I must be crazy and I knew for sure that they would take my baby away from me. I was paralyzed by fear, so I trudged through the months after he was born completely alone.

Fortunately, as my son got older, the flash backs, nightmares and terrible thoughts slowly subsided. But I still wanted to kill myself. I fantasized about it. I planned how I was going to do it to the last detail. Even the thought of my husband finding me in a pool of my own blood didn’t make me want to live.

When I got pregnant again, when my son was about 15 months old, I was overwhelmed with fear. I knew that there was a good chance I would go through the same emotional torture after I had my daughter that I went through after having my son. I opted for a scheduled C-Section and a tubal ligation because I just couldn’t go it again. But this still didn’t calm my fears.

When I was about five months pregnant, I started having panic attacks, and I couldn’t sleep at night. I cried all the time. I knew how empty I felt after I had my son and I dreaded feeling that empty again. I couldn’t go through the depression, the nightmares, the horrible thoughts and the solitude. I tried to tell my husband what I had gone through, but he just didn’t understand.

Finally, I did reach out to a friend from church, and I told her everything. She referred me to a Psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by my son’s birth, and put on medication. I reluctantly took the medication and went to counseling.

I felt somehow guilty for needing help. But, out of fear, I took the medication anyway. I couldn’t survive another episode like that again. Still these thoughts plagued me daily: “If I kill myself, I won’t have to go through any of this. It will just be over.”

On August 7th, 2001, my water broke with a sneeze and I had my daughter about a month early by elective C-section. I also had my tubes tied, so the whole thing took about 45 minutes. I was awake and vomited the entire time. Once they got her out, they showed her to me and she was purple. It took a long time (it seemed) for her to start breathing. (She was diagnosed with asthma at 10 months.) Finally she cried and I was relieved. She was not colic and was a very pleasant baby.

Two weeks after I had my daughter, however, my worst fears were realized. The depression and the emptiness set in. I was in the dark pit, the place I never wanted to be again. Then thoughts of smothering her began. I couldn’t even be in the same room with her because I was afraid that I might hurt her. Again, I wanted to die.

One night at about 1:00 in the morning, I was holding my one month old daughter, and saying goodbye. I had decided to kill myself. I couldn’t do this again. Then, as I looked down at my daughter, I just started sobbing. “My daughter needs a mother.” I thought. I cried for about an hour, just holding her. Her entire life flashed before me… growing up, getting married, having kids of her own. I couldn’t bear the thought of her growing up without a mother. My focus had shifted from my needs to her needs. I put her to bed, and that night I cried myself to sleep at the thought of what I almost did.

I called my Psychiatrist the next day and told him what happened. He increased my medication and I saw my counselor two days later. I started doing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and it helped tremendously. After about 2 years, I was finally on the road to wellness.

I am still on medication and I go to counseling when I begin to feel depressed or out of control. After my experiences, I don’t think I will ever be the same. I feel that, almost like a recovering alcoholic, I am still in recovery. I’ve simply learned how to cope.

Today, I love my son and my daughter with all of my being. I could never imagine hurting a hair on their precious little heads. When I look at my scar, which stretches down from my naval, I still remember the fear, the pain, and the despair, but I am not crippled by it anymore.

Because of my experiences I created this website, and I also run an online support group of the same name for women who have had traumatic births. The message I try to spread is that, “You are not alone, what you went through is real, and there is hope.”

Read My EMDR Therapy Experience

Read Help for new moms suffering depression An article about me in our local newspaper, The Vindicator.

© Copyright 2006 Jodi Kluchar

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