Share Your Story – Ann Kirchner’s Birth Trauma and Postpartum Depression Story

 

Share Your Story – New series from BirthTouch!

Ann Kirchner, CD(DONA) has graciously agreed to share her personal story of her birth, birth trauma, post-traumatic stress symptoms, and her struggle to just get recognition and diagnosis and treatment for severe postpartum depression.

 

Ann & Logan

 

Her story is very important. Spreading the word about mental health during and after pregnancy is important work. A traumatic medical experience during birth is a risk factor for PTS/PTSD, which in turn has concurrent anxiety and depression. Necessary medical interventions can cause trauma, and this is not well known or commonly recognized. The more we band together and talk about it, the more we help others.

 

As a result of her experiences, Ann has now dedicated her life to helping other women and families. She studied to become a DONA certified doula, now volunteers on a warmline/helpline for postpartum support in Minnesota, and is now studying to be a mental health professional.

 

Here’s Ann’s Story:

Having a baby is full of strange surprises. Back when I was expecting my first child, I read all the mainstream pregnancy books, bought every goofy baby gadget, took birth and baby classes and considered myself totally completely 100% prepared for my first child’s arrival into the world….sorry, just pausing to laugh here…I shall now continue. Nothing and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for what would happen the day he was born and in the months that followed.

 

I had a textbook pregnancy. Everything went the way it was supposed to, at least according to the book, “What to Expect When You Are Expecting.” I had morning sickness for the first 12 weeks, gained exactly 34 pounds, the nursery was done on schedule and I worked right up to 39 weeks. My ‘due date’ came…and then it went. A week went by, and still no baby. I was feeling more frustrated by the minute.

 

When 12 days had passed, I stood in my OB’s office and demanded something be “done.” My OB, bless his heart, was not interested in discussing induction until the 42 week mark. However, I must have been very persuasive that day. An ultrasound revealed a “big” baby and a vaginal exam indicated I was not giving birth anytime soon. To pacify my impatience, he suggested a cesarean for 7 a.m. the following morning. Anxious to have this baby, I quickly agreed. That evening, I stopped obsessing about when I would go into labor, and just like that, my water broke.

 

We arrived at the hospital at midnight with labor in full force. Because a cesarean was on the books my OB proceeded to do surgery. At 1 a.m., my son was born–all 9 lbs 9 oz of him! Heavily drugged, I slept through the first seven hours of his life. Logan was brought to me in the morning and placed in my arms. He was a total stranger.

 

I barely slept the rest of my stay. Visitors were constant. Everyone got to hold the baby, feed the baby, and change the baby—except for me. My husband, complaining about the fold-out couch went home each night while the baby was sent to the nursery and I was totally alone. I cried buckets for no reason I could understand. I never tried to breastfeed him. I just looked at him and felt….nothing.

 

Sometime during my last night, a nurse came into my room and awoke me to give me an injection of some kind. When I asked her what it was, she said what sounded like “Logan” to me (it was actually a blood thinner called Lovenox). The following morning I went home, laid down for a nap, and awoke in the worst pain of my life. Unable to move or even urinate, I knew something was horribly wrong. My abdomen was black and blue. The pain was so bad that I wanted to die.

 

An excruciating ultrasound in my OB’s clinic revealed a 22 cm rectus sheath hematoma. The hematoma would resolve itself over time, the pain masked by a mix of narcotics, sleeping pills, and muscle relaxers; however emotional and psychological damage was done. We had not bonded and we were feeling it. I lay in bed, unable to move, and listened to him scream for seven straight hours in the arms of others. Unbothered by the cries, I obsessively replayed the events of the week over and over again. This wasn’t happening. Why couldn’t I sleep? Why did this have to happen to me? Why wasn’t I happy?!

 

I did not bring my baby to my two week postpartum visit. As I sat in the waiting room, I ran into a friend who had given birth vaginally just 4 weeks prior. She was happy, glowing and holding her quiet, sleeping baby. I was jealous and angrier with myself than ever. Other than being tired, everything was going great for her. I told her I was happy for her and then ran off, hoping she wouldn’t notice I didn’t even want my baby near me.

 

At three weeks postpartum I had lost over 50 lbs (I only gained 34!) and I was not sleeping. Craziness was a normal state of mine for me. I cried non-stop. My son was fussy and also didn’t sleep. I called family and friends begging them to take him at all hours so I wouldn’t have him. I ended the week in the ER, depressed and desperate for sleep. The doctor, oblivious to all the signs of postpartum depression, suggested stronger prescription sleeping pills. Unaware of my desperation, he provided me with a lethal dose of free samples. If my mother hadn’t been with me that afternoon, I would have taken every single one.

 

Despite four clinic visits and one trip to the emergency room it took several bizarre phone calls in the middle of the night to my OB’s office for my depression to finally get noticed. It was my admission that I was taking 10 to 12 sleeping pills at a time (and still not sleeping!) and leaving windows open with the hopes that someone would break in and steal my baby that did it. I was finally diagnosed and prescribed antidepressants and therapy. Just knowing what was wrong with me and that there was a plan to get better was like a weight being lifted.

 

I stumbled into a babywearing meet up and was introduced to the concept of attachment parenting Six weeks after his birth, I held him in my arms I began to feel like I might survive.

 

Over time, Logan and I bonded and I fell completely in love with my baby. When he was one year old, I trained as a doula with DONA International. I successfully advocated for my second birth by demanding less drugs, more skin-to-skin contact, rooming-in, and banishing all the unwanted visitors from my hospital room so that I could focus on breastfeeding. My second birth was very healing.

 

Six years later I look back and I find it rather foolish to have read a dozen books on giving birth, but not one on what it was like to have a baby. I skipped the chapters on postpartum depression because I wasn’t going to have that! While a postpartum rectus sheath hematoma is an incredibly rare occurrence, a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD) is not—as many as 1 out of 7 women who give birth will experience perinatal depression or anxiety to some degree.

 

Thankfully there is help available and it is very individualized. For some women, that help is a support group, meeting a therapist, finding balance through yoga, or even reading self help books. In my situation, medication with therapy was the answer. Motherhood is culture shock and we should never think we need to do it alone. Pregnancy is full of surprises. Giving birth is full of surprises. Having a baby is full of surprises. Peace.

 

We’d love your comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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23 Responses to “Share Your Story – Ann Kirchner’s Birth Trauma and Postpartum Depression Story”

  • Janet:

    I love this post. So inspiring. This place is a wonderful way to share experiences and help to not make you feel so alone.

    Thank you Kathy for this.

  • Kathy,

    Thank you for providing a forum for these important voices.

    Ann,

    I am so grateful for your courage and for the advocacy you perform when you share your story. It is discouraging to hear so many women whose PMAD is unrecognized–particularly when there are great tools for supporting and helping women facing this challenge. I appreciate you bringing your story to the forefront. Perhaps it will help another woman receive support even sooner.

    Warmly,
    Ann
    Ann Becker-Schutte recently posted..Just BreatheMy Profile

  • Hi Kathy and Ann–

    Wow–that’s a very powerful story about everything that can go wrong. I guess I’m still in shock that PMAD is not more recognizable today. I mean, did Andrea Yates (name?) not teach us anything in 2001 following the drowning deaths of her children?

    I’m glad you found the support and healing for you and baby Logan (who’s too cute, btw), and I can only hope more woman will be enlightened.
    Linda Esposito recently posted..What Whitney Houston’s Death Can Teach Us About ParentingMy Profile

    • Hi Linda – It is sad that there was so little recognition of her traumatic situation, and no offering from her healthcare providers of “Hey – here’s a list of some mental health people in the area whom I trust, I think you might needs some support here, as a medical emergency is an emotional trauma”. That sounds reasonable to me….it is odd to me there is that silo mentality in healthcare. It is prevalent.
      Kathy Morelli recently posted..Share Your Story – Ann Kirchner’s Birth Trauma and Postpartum Depression StoryMy Profile

    • You know, before I had Logan, I was shamefully uneducated about postpartum mood disorders. When the Andrea Yates thing happened, I recall thinking, what a horrible woman!!!! Now, I feel sadness at how her psychosis went unrecognized despite some very obvious signs that something was amiss. And I no longer think SHE was horrible–just the system and those around her that clearly failed her.

  • Dear Ann & Kathy,
    Very powerful story. Amazing that it took so long to get adequate help. I am sure that both of your efforts will help many others.

    Arlene H. Johnson

    • Hi Arlene – I know, it is so strange to me that the trauma piece was not accounted for at all. EMDR is such an effective tool for trauma, it would be so easy to suggest counseling & medication for the trauma and resultant depressive symptoms. thanks, Kathy

    • Kathy is so right! Some OBs are better than others at screening for PPD but most of them it seems still miss PTSD and even anxiety or OCD. Why don’t they consider PTSD as a risk factor? It’s frustrating, thats for sure! I felt like I reached out for help so many times to different care providers only to hear “Of course you aren’t sleeping! You are a new mom. Here’s some sleeping pills.” Grrr..

  • Kathy and Ann,
    Powerful Post I am sure that all that both of you do will help many women to recognize the signs of PPD. Thanks to both of you for your important work.

  • Dear Kathy and Ann,
    Thank you so much for sharing this story. I hope that putting this story out will be another voice to help people recognize postpartem depression. How sad that an OB would be so uninformed. And grand that when you got the help you needed you and your son could bond.
    Best,
    Carolyn
    Carolyn Stone recently posted..You’re too soft! You’re too harsh! When Parents Can’t AgreeMy Profile

    • Hi Carolyn –
      Thanks for your reply. It is so sad to see the silo mentality in healthcare. I try very hard to be noticed by local pediatricians, obs and PCPs and it is an uphill battle. I think it is not much to ask to be on a referral list of known mental health professionals. It would help patients tremendously.
      Kathy Morelli recently posted..Share Your Story – Ann Kirchner’s Birth Trauma and Postpartum Depression StoryMy Profile

      • My OB gave me the name of one therapist when my depression was recognized. I went home, called her and found out she was booked for THREE MONTHS! I finally found someone on my own, but the bottom line is that Kathy, you are so right…there NEEDS to be a list of mental health professionals who are qualified to work with perinatal mental health available to every OB and midwife!

      • My OB gave me the name of one therapist when my depression was recognized. I went home, called her and found out she was booked for THREE MONTHS! I finally found someone on my own, but the bottom line is that Kathy, you are so right…there NEEDS to be a list of mental health professionals who are qualified to work with perinatal mental health available to every OB and midwife!

  • Oh, my heart just goes out to women who suffer so much and are ignored. I was lucky, I recognized the signs of PPD immediately and asked for Zoloft before I left the hospital with my newborn. Even so, I was told that there’s no way I could know I had PPD because my hormones hadn’t regulated yet. “True,” I replied, “But I know my depression and this is it.” I’m so glad this site and others are out there to help new mothers take care of themselves.

    • Hi Colleen – My goodness what an empowering story. You really know how to advocate for yourself. It is so sad, as most women dont know what depression feels/looks like and would not have the personal power to ask for they believed in, especially after a healthcare provider resists.

  • Dear Kathy,

    I love the idea of this new Share Your Story series. It is very important to educate the public about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders and the focus on trauma in this article is a sorely neglected aspect of this problem. I have worked with many women who experienced traumatic pregnancies or deliveries and felt shame and guilt about their suffering because they were “supposed to be” happy about their new babies.

    Thanks to Ann for sharing her story. I am inspired by her courage and ability to transform a painful experience into a lifelong mission to help others who are suffering.

    Namaste,
    Andrea

  • Hi Kathy,

    I love your idea for this new Share Your Story series. Educating the public about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD) is so important and this way of conveying the information has a much more powerful impact than facts and figures. I am also glad that Ann emphasized the impact of a traumatic delivery on mood and bonding because so many women feel shame about having such a hard time when they are “supposed to be” happy.

    Ann’s story is inspirational and hopefully will encourage others to get the help they need.

    Warmly,
    Andrea

  • Laurie Kirchner:

    Hello Ann ,

    I think we might be related. Ithink that was very brave of you to share your story with everyone . You are a true inspiration to everyone. Your story was very moving ,powerful and very informative , so it will help people get the right help they need, Stay positive.Your baby Logan is adorable .Keep up the good work.

    Warmly,

    Laurie

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