Susan Marchioni, LMHC
Maternal Mental Health and Wellness
The Adams Building, 372 Granite Avenue, Milton, MA 02186 and home visits within 20 minutes of Milton, MA
Giving birth almost killed me. I was 28 and 30 with my first two pregnancies and it was nothing like the storybook fairytale I had expected.
As long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a mom. Having children and raising a family was my childhood dream. I couldn’t imagine any other choice and eagerly looked forward to this time of my life.
When I became pregnant with my first child, I expected that labor and delivery would be long and painful. I assumed that any discomfort would be quickly replaced with nothing but joy, happiness, and love for this new baby.
That’s not what happened. Delivery with my first child, while difficult and painful, was manageable. I delivered vaginally and naturally. I then experienced the rare, and life-threatening complication of postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). PPH is the leading cause of maternal mortality in childbirth. I required an emergency dilation and curettage (D&C) to stop the bleeding. And because I had not received an epidural during labor and delivery, the D&C was done without anesthesia. The pain of labor was minor in comparison.
Delivering my second child, also vaginally and without medication, I experienced severe back labor due to my baby’s face-up position, or occiput posterior fetal position (OP) in the birth canal. The OP position causes extreme pressure and can cause severe pain along the mother’s spine during labor and delivery. My baby’s position, combined with the force of my pushing, broke my coccyx (tailbone) during delivery. I hemorrhaged again and needed another emergency D&C.
Despite the complications, I was discharged from the hospital only 48 hours after each birth. I was deeply traumatized, torn, stitched, and very sore. After breaking my coccyx, I could barely sit, hold my older child, or drive. I returned to a new house I barely knew in a town I recently moved to. I lacked family and friends for support. My husband was building a new business and had little time to spare.
Exhaustion, isolation, loneliness, intense sadness, and the intrusive thoughts of running away and never coming back became my world. I felt numb, going through the motions of daily life. Where was the joy? The bliss? The feelings of bonding and falling in love with my baby I had expected? What was Wrong With Me? I felt ashamed and a failure as a mother. When I saw other mothers, they appeared better equipped and adjusting well. I felt a crushing sadness and intense guilt. I thought these feelings would last forever.
Eventually, I did learn about the signs and symptoms of PPAD. But it took the tragic death of a local woman from PPAD to seek help. I received the help I needed, and three years later, in collaboration with my ob/gyn and counselor, I became a mom to a third child. I had a beautiful birth experience and the joy and contentment followed.
My experience of both the trauma and triumph over PPAD motivated me to pursue a career in mental health counseling. As both a mom and mental health provider specializing in maternal mental health, my desire is to support and educate other moms about mood disorders that may occur during pregnancy or postpartum.