Sara Elizabeth Strassenreiter (35) and Bea Elizabeth (6 months)
Long Island, NY | Photographed in Portland, ME
Sara shares -
"I had a miscarriage at ten weeks on 9/30/15. I had a D&C for a missed miscarriage, and then developed a uterine infection and had an emergency D&C four days later. The experience was incredibly painful for me emotionally. I felt the need to start trying to conceive again immediately, but I had taken a course of estrogen to build up the lining of my uterus in order to prevent adhesions from developing, and didn't get my period for about three months. During that time, I developed extreme back pain and ended up needing to have back surgery in February 2016. I conceived three months after my back surgery, and Bea was born February 20, 2017. Because of the miscarriage, I was extremely anxious during the first trimester--which was compounded by some spotting at eight and twelve weeks. Bea ended up being born twelve days late, and perfectly healthy, much to our delight!
Like many women, body image has been a constant struggle for me, from the time of my early teens. To my surprise, I felt wonderful during pregnancy. It made me feel beautiful and powerful and vulnerable all at the same time. I didn't gain a ton of weight during pregnancy, and I lost most of it fairly quickly after Bea was born, but a few extra pounds remain, which I struggle with a bit, but I try not to let the feelings dominate. I find it absolutely incredible that I have been able to successfully breastfeed and to know that my daughter is perfectly nourished from the milk that my body has produced.
My pregnancy was (mostly) extremely easy, and after the anxiety of the first trimester, I felt about the best mentally that I've ever felt in my life. The postpartum journey, on the other hand, was very rocky. I was in a state of wonder and bliss the first few days after Bea was born, but about ten days after her birth, the anxiety that took over was the worst that I have ever experienced in my life (and anxiety is something that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember). I couldn't sleep, even when the baby was sleeping, and I felt like I was losing grip on reality. There were times that I was so panicked that I felt like I couldn't swallow and couldn't take a deep breathe. I didn't want to be alone with Bea because I was petrified that I would intentionally hurt her, yet I didn't want anyone else to hold her, either. I felt like I was slipping into a black hole. I was so ashamed that I didn't tell anyone until the week of my six-week postpartum check up. Once I shared with my husband and primary care provider, I started getting the help that I so desperately needed. I started to see a maternal health pyschiatrist, who prescribed me an antidepressant, and within weeks I started to feel so much better. Now that we're six months in, I feel like I'm back to my baseline "normal" level of anxiety.
Our journeys are unique, yet there are some universal experiences. I wish I had known more about postpartum anxiety before I gave birth so that I didn't have to suffer in silence and shame for more than a month. There are people who can help you to get better if you speak up. Be open with your partner, parents, family, friends, whoever. Also, this is a cliche, but having a baby is the most incredible experience of my entire life. Labor and delivery were indescribable in terms of what your body can endure, and the sheer and utter relief and joy that comes from meeting your baby for the first time.
I wanted to share my journey through miscarriage and postpartum depression/anxiety. I feel a bit like a warrior and want other women who have and will go through these experiences to know that there's no room for shame."