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  • Writer's pictureJacqueline Loiacono

Maternal Mental Health Awareness

The month of May is a beautiful time for many of us. It holds parties, and celebrations all while the world really starts to bloom with life again. The month of May also brings awareness to Maternal Mental Health. It's only fitting that while I sit down to write this I'm listening for a cry as I've been nursing a sick baby for the past two weeks. The feelings of anger, anxiety, love and frustration all at once Being a mother is beautiful, but it feels as if my heart is constantly either bursting with love or breaking with bittersweet sadness.

If you research how many women suffer from mental health issues during pregnancy and post-partum you would be boggled by the statistics. 1 in 8 women suffer from Post- Partum depression and only 50% of them are treated. I am 1 in 8. Perinatal Mental Health conditions are the leading cause of Maternal Mortality in The U.S. The trauma I experienced hasn't left my thoughts in the past 20 months. I feel as if it's my shadow and not the good kind like Peter Pan. The more I release it by talking and writing, the better I feel. But at times I think it's a scar that will always be present, just like the one on my abdomen. I've written this story a handful of times and I will continue to write it because it helps to heal my birth story and maybe help you recognize how you can heal your own.

My pregnancy wasn't easy to say the least, I stopped working with clients but still continued to use DIY as therapy, it was my only outlet... I feel a lump within my throat even writing my story; but like a splinter, I know that once it's out it will feel better. The drama that unfolded during the nine months I was growing Vienna was just the prequel to what came after. Constant trips to the hospital for high blood pressure, checking for blood clots, the swelling, chest pains, shortness of breath and mental health distress at every second of the day... not to mention the endless needle pricks for gestational diabetes and the hospitalization for kidney stones. Women would say to me "It's all part of being a mother, just wait until the baby is born" as if that helped to ease any emotional or physical pain.

As my due date approached, I felt as if I couldn't take it anymore. I reached out to my OBGYN and Psychiatrist and begged for them to move up the c-section date. I was grateful to be growing a healthy baby girl, but felt guilty at how I wanted them to rip her out of me so I can breathe again. I was in constant pain, having early contractions and couldn't breathe, my legs and entire body was swollen. I wanted to hit my head against a wall. They kept attributing my shortness of breath to the anxiety and depression I had my whole life. Little did they know the heart issues that lied beneath the surface.

The embarrassment that ensued is something I will never forget. I know I am one of countless women that were misdiagnosed and doesn't make it better but I know I am not alone. At the request of my Dr, I was to go to the hospital and get checked by the Perinatologist since I was a high risk pregnancy and the Psychiatrist would write me a letter to move up the c section date. As I approached the room, the nurse quietly asked the maintenance man inside to leave and closed the door. I noticed that the paintings were taken down, the phone cord, the garbage cans and the blinds were all removed. The nurse then said to me, "Your Dr. said you wanted to kill yourself, are you ok?" I burst into tears. I was led to believe that I was getting help from my health care professionals and instead I was betrayed. Brian and I told the nurse that wasn't true, that I was so exasperated and in pain that I told her I had wanted to hit my head against the wall. I was begging her to help me in the only way I could explain how I felt. I would have never done anything to harm myself or Vienna. What if I were suicidal? Those things I witnessed the custodian removing would have thrown me over the edge completely!

They wanted to leave a person with us to watch over me while they got the other Drs I was promised to speak with. They even wanted to take my bag. Thank God Brian is a Psychologist and told them I was in no danger to myself. We explained all and they completely understood knowing the Dr. was in the wrong. I know she was trying to help, but did not do it in the right way. The Perinatologist and Psych told me to do anything I could to help me get through the next nine days. They told me to take my anxiety medicine that I wasn't allowed to take throughout the pregnancy and just hearing that Vienna would be unharmed, I felt better about finally taking it as it slowed down my racing heart a bit. I went home feeling broken and bullied.

When my water broke on Labor Day night, I was fearful of giving birth naturally as we had planned that c-section due to my gestational diabetes and severe anxiety at 39 weeks. At 38 weeks that night, she decided to start the journey on her own. I thanked God that the time was finally here. I labored for 24 hours before Vienna's heart rate dropped. I was given oxygen as Brian was given scrubs and was rushed alone to the OR for an emergency c-section. I was shaking while waiting to see his face appear in the room. So much so that the anesthesiologist ripped the mask off my face ( stupid covid procedures) as he saw how I couldn't breathe. Apparently her cord was wrapped around her neck four times. The Dr. hadn’t seen anything like it really. I could tell Brian was nervous but he didn’t show it. There were only three thoughts going through my mind...1. I was crying that I didn’t want to die on that operating table and never be able to hold my baby girl. 2. I was afraid I would feel them cut me open and 3. Scared that she wouldn't make it. All I felt was them tug on me and a huge feeling of release. She was here. I held my breath as they sewed me up praying that it was over and I’d be ok. It was surreal. I had my child with me and we survived.

I was discharged healthy and ready to go two days later. We were full of joy as our families visited us the day we returned home and the next. All was well until I took a nap the following evening. I woke up with chest pains and couldn’t breathe. I knew there was something wrong. I was so scared to go to the hospital again, not having the comfort of maternity ward, my husband and new child. The emergency room was full of wonderful people who were trying not to show their worry but it was in their face nonetheless. My blood pressure was 201 over 190. I was at risk of stroke. I was petrified to stay in the hospital alone. Brian wasn’t allowed to sleep on the Cardiac floor there overnight. I was separated from my newborn and felt like I was robbed of the most important time to be with her when she was just born. It turned out I had something called mitral valve regurgitation or a leaky valve. The pregnancy caused me to fill up with fluids so much so that it was around my heart. I had gained 80 pounds and felt even heavier with the weight of sadness and anger. I grew a healthy and beautiful baby girl, but my body and heart had failed me. I knew I had to be brave. I wanted to be healthy to return to my daughter. The thing I wanted most in life.

Brian stayed with Vienna on FaceTime with me while I slept the whole night I was in the hospital. I felt so sad but so lucky to have him love me the way he does and even luckier that my baby girl was taken care of. They gave me a pill that helped me release almost thirty pounds of fluid within the next week. I was put on blood pressure medicine and monitored over the next 12 weeks. Time went on and my heart healed. It's now as if it had never happened. My heart is just as healthy as it was before pregnancy but to me there is still an emotional hole in it that I don’t think will heal as fast as it did physically. We know the risks of another pregnancy, and chose to not have another. The effects of this decision affects me greatly on a daily basis, but we know it is the right one. It is more important that I am physically healthy for Vienna and when I look into her eyes I am grateful because I have everything I ever wanted. This is my journey. With therapy, medication and the love I feel from my little family, I have been able to continue my healing journey. Some people aren't so lucky.

Why do I share these emotions and thoughts? Because I know that out there is someone who is silently suffering. Remember that half of the pregnant and post-partum women with depression don't receive treatment and 20% lead to suicide. Someone out there who is trying to advocate for themselves but is hushed by healthcare professionals, family and friends. Silenced by their own embarrassment and reluctance to look weak or crazy. But you my friend...if you are reading this... you are strong and will endure. You are none of those other things those people lead you to believe you are. Their words matter..and they can do damage, your words matter and can heal. Just like we take care of our babies, we need to learn to do the same for those who birthed them. We need to listen better and treat maternal mental health with gentle care and love too.

For more information and support on Maternal Mental Health please take a look at my May Newsletter.

xoxo- Jacqueline

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May 06

Your journey, though it is not what you could have ever imagined has a purpose. I watched every moment of what you physically and mentally endured and I was torn. I was so happy and estactic to see my first niece, my goddaughter pregnant , but at the same time watch what you were going through broke my heart. The night me and your mother rushed to you to stay with Vienna who was just days old so Brian could take you to the hospital . I will never forget the fright in your eyes , it was devastating and it broke me.

I am so proud of you (always have been), that you are being so vulnerable with all…

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