I made a startling discovery cleaning out closets to make room for our new little one. I found baby pictures of Daniel that I had hidden away. A box full. I saw them and I was overwhelmed by memories of my second born. Painful ones that I would rather have kept hidden away. I saw within them my battle with a two year long depression. I remember swimming in despair for such a long moment. It was a sudden and unexpected turn of events that led to this time. One that I have rarely discussed and one that makes my throat tighten as I think of it now. It wasn't so much a postpartum depression as much as it was PTSD.
It all began within hours of Daniels birth. I received a call from my doctors office that shook me to the very core. One that made a childhood monster rear its ugly head. It was a thing that most women wouldn't have thought twice about.... My doctor was out of the country by then, leaving for a 7 day trip to Germany within hours after delivering Daniel. I was left in the care of the doctors on call and his nurse at the time. It was the nurse that made the call. As I lay in the hospital bed, smiling down at our new little one, I reached to answer the phone. "Kim, I have some news, but I need for you not to panic." I felt my skin turn cold as she told me that my HIV test had come back indeterminate. She followed this with the instruction not to breastfeed Daniel until further notice. With that, she hung up. I remember telling Joe and him telling me it was probably nothing and that we would deal with whatever lay ahead of us. I remember nurses watching me and counseling me and telling me to talk to my pastor, as if I were a sinner that led to this conclusion. I remember one nurse storming into the room as I had forgotten the one warning... Do Not Breastfeed. I had been awakened by my new born calling me in the middle of the night and cradling him to me as a mother will do out of a primal urge to feed their baby. She told me that if I dared to try and breastfeed him again, she would have no choice but to call social services. I remember crying, all alone, as Joe was home with Matthew. Nurses asking me if my husband was faithful, If I was faithful, If I did drugs to bring this about. I remember the feeling of being unworthy and stained. I was told by the doctor on call and several nurses that these tests were very rarely wrong and that it would take two weeks to get the final test results back. I did have one nurse tell me in confidence that she had seen the test wrong on several occasions, but they are trained to stick to the script, so as not to raise any hopes in the hopeless. I was anxious and crying. I explained over and over again that we had been faithfully married for 12 years and that I had numerous negative HIV tests with both of my children, but in the back of my head... Was my childhood fears. What if? I was raised in a culture of drugs and had actually had an aunt who passed away from this horrible new disease. It kept me awake at nights as a child. An ugly unavoidable monster in the closet. I myself, had never done anything to be in a category of high risk. What if?.... What if it had lay dormant through all those happy years? What if?.... What if I had contracted it giving blood for the numerous blood tests a woman has during pregnancy? What if?.... What if the love of my life HADN'T been faithful? The what ifs were back and they didn't feel as if they would ever release their hold on me. I couldn't tell anyone outside of Joe. I told him not to tell anyone. My mother-in-law knew something was wrong the next days and weeks, as I was not the mother I should have been. I was anxious and angry. I didn't want company. I wasn't breastfeeding as I swore I would. The lactation specialist at the hospital told me to pump and dump. Pump every chance I got and dump it out over the next few weeks. I tried, but I was so angry. I gave up within days. It was too painful to see a part of me swirling down the drain.
I remember reaching underneath my arm and feeling a painful lump a week into the wait. I remember the questions swirling around in my head. What if?... I called the doctors office telling them that I needed help. That I needed answers. That I felt that I would go insane. My doctor told me to come in right away. When he saw me he was shocked... and angry. Angry that I was called by his nurse. Angry that the doctor on call didn't call him. Angry that my records... our records.... where never taken into account. He told me that he has AT LEAST 4 false positives a year. He told me that he has more false positives now that they are checking ALL mothers than true positives. He told me that women who have more than one baby can start to make markers that can appear to be HIV, but it's actually your body trying to fight off an invasion of a pregnancy. Its rare, but becoming more commonplace as mandatory testing has become the norm. He sat us in his office and called the lab in another state. He demanded that they get him my results NOW. He told us not to leave the office until he had an answer. Within the hour, as he sits counseling us, the phone rings. It was the lab. Absolutely all markers were clear. I left the office on a temporary cloud of vindication. It should have been the end. But I was angry. I had lost a week. One that I would never get back. I had gained nothing but fear and anger.
I realize now that losing the next two years was my doing. I was so lost and afraid. I dug the hole deeper. I would try so hard to shake it off but then I would see birth pictures or hear a story and it would all come flooding back. What if?.... I began putting pictures away. Daniel would ask why Matt had a scrapbook and his was incomplete. I just couldn't face it. I STILL cry seeing them. Looking back on it now, I realize the insignificance of it all in the grand scheme of things. I see the selfishness in being so lost as I was. My children are alive and healthy. We are blessed beyond measure...
When I found out I was pregnant with Dash, it was this that played over and over in my head. What if?... I remember my throat tightening in that familiar way as I sat having my blood drawn. My hands clammy as he drew vial after vial... I remember the doctors NEW nurse (the other one disappeared shortly after Daniel was born) calling me with all my results. I can still hear her tell me nonchalantly that everything looked great. (HIV negative, Strep negative, Iron level low.) I stopped her and asked her to repeat the HIV result. I told her that I wanted a copy to take to the hospital. She also told me that after my case, the doctor started testing his patients the month before delivery instead of letting the hospital do it. This gives them time to run any final confirmatory tests before delivery. Did I make a small difference? I hope so... There are so many times I wanted to go to the hospital and tell them what they did to me. I still may... I am armed with knowledge now.
I'm not sure what to expect after Dash is born. I think I will surround myself better. I think I will let more people in. I will accept help and talk when I need to. I pray that I do things differently, for my children's sake. I pray that I'm more open.... I'll Pray...
As for now... I'm moving on. I am naming this post Daniels Birth Story - Part 1. I am doing this because I never want Daniel to think that this was the soul of his existence. I want to write about his TRUE birth story later on. The one that reflects the love that we have for him and the joy that he added to our family. THIS was NEVER about him. It was about me. I am also burying it deep into my blog, because I'm not sure if I really want anyone to read it. I had to write it. I had to put into words the monster in my closet. I didn't do it to be read..... I rushed through it, putting the words onto digital paper without a care for style or technique. It's just been there, under the surface for so long... and it's done.
UPDATE: I've had my two blood tests and both have been negative.... of course! :)