Thanksgiving to me is almost as big of a milestone as your upcoming first birthday. It’s the beginning of your birth story. It’s also the beginning of when I thought I might lose you. This is why I have been more anxious as your mom than I was the first time around, even though most will tell you second-time moms are more relaxed.
If I hold you extra tight tomorrow, it’s because as we sped to the hospital last year while the bleeding continued, I couldn’t feel you move.
If I obsessively change your diaper or put my hand gently on you to check for breathing every time you sleep, it’s because I sat in that hospital room for eight days fearful and uncertain for your life and, at times, mine.
If I seem subdued or extra giddy—it could go either way–as we put the Christmas tree up, it’s because I burst into tears a year ago looking at a picture of your sister, grandmother, and daddy decorating the tree as I felt loneliness and sadness coming crashing down.
With a second, scarier bleed as an antepartum patient, those feelings intensified, and new equally unpleasant ones emerged–feeling like a burden to family and new friends, to name one.
If I hold you too much as the holiday season begins, it’s because the night before you were born, I could barely feel you move and we failed kick counts. I had to call for nurses to find your heartbeat twice.
Mercifully, you decided to come on your own five weeks early. My body should have been the safest place for you to grow, but it simply wasn’t anymore.
I tried not to blame myself.
After your birth on December 2nd, we focused on your health, the infection raging in your body from GBS (this, too, felt like failure). We worked hard on helping you gain weight and do all of the things you needed to do to graduate from the NICU. Then you came home days before Christmas, and we were so grateful.
The focus was on you, as it should have been, but I was struggling. Because you were doing well, it seemed like those eight terrifying days faded from everyone’s mind. All’s well that ends well, right?
But I couldn’t forget about them. In fact, I relived them often, sometimes in my dreams, but mostly awake. My heart raced as I drove by the hospital. I froze as memories came rushing back from something as simple as pulling out a nursing tank worn in the hospital.
I knew I didn’t have postpartum depression, so I tried to shove the feelings down.
You were okay, so I thought I should be, too.
Hindsight is 20/20, but I now believe I experienced a degree of postpartum PTSD—something I didn’t even realize was a thing until you were 10 months old. Tears filled my eyes as I read an article floating around Facebook that described almost perfectly what I experienced, and may yet again.
I can already feel the flashbacks growing more vivid as we get ready to hit the year mark of that fateful Thanksgiving afternoon and the days leading up to your birthday. But now I will be able to recognize and name those feelings. Instead of ignoring the emotions that surface as I think about where we were a year ago, I will try to work through them, with you crawling by my side.
So get ready for a lifetime of Thanksgivings of your mom blubbering on to you and anyone who will listen about how grateful I am for you, our miracle baby.
And how all of it was worth it.
If you have a friend who is an antepartum patient, there are ways you can offer your help and support. Visit if you can, or check in with calls, emails, or texts. Drop-off treats or magazines or other pick-me-ups like lotion, slippers, and ChapStick. Also support the family at home with food or play dates. When she is home, ask if she wants to talk about that time with you or if you can help research a professional.
A traumatic event may pass, but the feelings, emotions, and memories remain. We need each other’s support to process and come to terms with them.
One site estimates that nine percent of women experience postpartum PTSD. Did you experience trauma around labor & delivery and experience any of these symptoms, too?