The brave and beautiful Michelle Everett, and Colton (2).
Michelle says that she didn't realize how much she wanted to be a mom until she learned she was going to be an Auntie. The week of her sister-in-law's baby shower she went into preterm labor, and although her prenatal appointment just two days prior found them both to be healthy, her baby arrived nearly two months early, and very sick. Michelle's brother had to make the impossible decision to cease efforts on restarting the babies heart, to focus his energy on his wife who was quickly fading. Twenty minutes after his birth, her nephew passed away. "The weeks following this destroyed my family, I tasked myself to call everyone and cancel the shower, to take down the nursery at my brother's house, and played the middle man between the ever increasing tense family gatherings as no one was quite capable of dealing with their feelings other than lashing out or simply not talking. The world sort of stopped for everyone."
She decided then and there if she ever had the chance of being a mom, she wanted to stay unmedicated and as present as possible should anything happen. Three months to the day they buried her nephew, she found out she was pregnant which came as a surprise as she was on birth control pills, and was told that due to her inconsistent periods and thyroid issues pregnancy may be difficult for me. She saw her baby, and heard his heartbeat the day after Christmas but says that her joy was instantly overshadowed by her guilt, and her guilt soon overshadowed by fear.
The autopsy reports came back inconclusive for her nephew's death, and she feared if it was something genetic, there was a risk her baby may be predisposition to it as well. Michelle did her best for the next 10 months to casually play off her excitement and fears of being pregnant so she didn't hurt anyone's feelings. "I didn't want to be too excited, or post too many pictures on social media, I felt like I couldn't talk about the changes to anyone in fear that I would bring up painful memories. Things only worsened when we found out we were having a boy."
Michelle's husband was gone for his Company Officers Academy for the last 6 weeks of her pregnancy, so she moved back in with her parents as they closed on their first home. Michelle struggled emotionally as she went to prenatal classes, and appointments alone and continued to work full-time until she was 38 weeks pregnant. She felt that everything seemed to become twisted back to her nephew; when they would shop for baby clothes she had to be careful that it wasn't something he had and he was brought up constantly even at her baby shower. Michelle understood, but it was also painful.
Michelle carried Liam until she was 42 weeks pregnant when she had to be induced against her wishes. The induction didn't take until they introduced Pitocin and while she eventually progressed to 5 cms, everything stopped. The doctor broke Michelle's water and they tried three folly bulbs before the doctor suggested an epidural noting her body was "too tense" to allow her to labor effectively. She struggled with low to dangerously low blood pressure throughout her pregnancy, and knowing epidurals could further lower her blood pressure was cautious but reluctantly agreed. Within minutes of receiving the epidural, they couldn't locate Colton's heart rate and she felt like her worst fears were all coming true.
Michelle remembers getting rushed to the OR, looking for her husband, and slowly feeling her body go numb. She began convulsing and panicked when her hands got strapped down. Her husband grew concerned and she struggle to hold on and stay awake to listen for her baby's first cry. "I remember feeling jerking and tugging and then hearing "He's out, 3:14 am" and listening, listening for that first cry so I knew he was alive...and I heard it, and thought to myself" ok, now you can close your eyes". I remember Colton getting placed on my chest, and me immediately saying "Get him off I can't breath, I'm going to be sick.." they flipped the table sideways and all I saw was blood, then vomit.....then nothing. I was asleep for hours after."
After discharge, Michelle and her family moved into their new home and her husband returned to work after about 3 weeks. She struggled with packing, and unpacking, painting, and fixing up their foreclosed dream home all while healing from a traumatic cesarean, and the impending fire season which would take her husband away for 37 days straight. When she mentioned anything about her cesarean or labor she was told, "at least you got a baby from it, at least the baby is fine..." She felt like anything she said was met with a sharp catty response that basically implied she had no right to complain. Michelle returned to a job she hated after 8 weeks, and struggled with pumping at a male dominated office. She tried but struggled to find a balance between work and home and motherhood.
At 8 months postpartum her husband urged her to set up an appointment with a therapist but she was afraid. She was worried they would medicate her, note that she was an unfit mother, or take her baby away. She found an amazing doctor and during her first session she did what she hadn't allowed herself to do in a year, she cried. "I cried for losing my Nephew, for the anger and resentment I felt for months of pent up complaints and frustration, for the loneliness, the sheer exhaustion, I cried for the joy I hadn't allowed myself to feel in fear it would hurt someone else--and I felt so much better. I am learning to accept my feelings, and allow myself to accept the frustration that comes with motherhood (bad days don't mean you're a bad mom), and learning to become less codependent and not allowing others to control my happiness. I am learning not to internalize this crazy world, and the things people say and do, to become apologetically joyful."
Michelle nursed Colton for nearly 15 months, and says that the relationship grounded her in the darkest, loneliest times. She is currently working through online classes and hopes to become a IBCLC. Should she have more babies she would love to try for a VBAC.
"I wanted to participate to celebrate the time I spent pretending that being pregnant and becoming a momma wasn't the single best thing that has ever happened to me. To tell other momma's to please realize PPD comes at all times, and has many faces. And, finally, to let women know it's OK to be happy, to smile in the chaos, to be joyful; you always, always deserve to be happy."