I told you that June was a busy birthday month for our family – there are 4 in our house alone (including the dog), 3 more of my relatives, and at least 3 of our friends! In short, I make and eat a good deal of cake this month, and there is nothing wrong with that. Today is Leo’s 2nd birthday and Andy’s 37th birthday. I still love that our only boy shares his birthday with his father. How great did that work out?
As I have done with the girls, I’ll tell you a little about Leo’s birth. I mentioned before that we thought for years about if we wanted more children. I had some difficult years with the 3 girls, especially with Andy gone so much, and we had hit a good stage with all the kids. They were older and all in school, traveling was easier, we had at least 2 years without diapers….did we want to start all over again? There was always the “what if?” of a boy, and after a lot of talking, we decided to try for one more. I said that after I turned 30 years old, I was done. I found out I was pregnant 3 days before my 30th birthday. Life is funny.
Leo’s pregnancy was different from the girls. I was plagued with morning sickness and sheer exhaustion. I was also working on getting off my anxiety meds, which are not good for a fetus, and this produces its own side effects. I tried to hide this pregnancy for awhile, just in case, but could not longer than 8 weeks. The girls were noticing that I was constantly sleeping or vomiting, and it was making work a little difficult. I also was seen and delivered at a German hospital, something entirely new but extremely wonderful. My doctor worked with me on my anxiety, let me make my own decisions, and gave me multiple ultrasound pictures of the beloved “boy” shot. She even circled a little penis on one to reassure Andy that this was indeed a boy! Once I hit month 6, I started to feel better and more confident. I worried about labor and my anxiety, but I generally felt well until delivery.
Delivery…as I mentioned, I could be pretty open with my doctor. My due date with 29 June, but at my appointment on 25 June, I told her I was miserable. He was low and my body was getting there, so she gave me this awful prune juice/castor oil concoction that the hospital uses to induce labor more naturally. I did not want drug induction, so great! I took it the next morning, spent the rest of the day walking and contracting, then finally called Andy in the early afternoon to take me to the hospital. Of course, he was not answering at work! I had actually talked about this happening and worried I would have to drive myself to the hospital; he called it an unrealistic fear. My friend called her husband, who then walked all over their office until he found him, and he came home! Andy thinks the most ridiculous thing I did was to make him open his birthday presents before we left for the hospital. My thinking was that if he was going to spend the rest of his day at the hospital, he should at least see his presents!
We arrived, were checked in, and I was confirmed to be in labor. I felt okay, albeit uncomfortable, so my wonderful midwife brought me some dinner and suggested I relax as much as possible. In Germany, you are not restricted on food unless they are certain you will need a C-section, and there are studies to show that having the food and the nutrition can contribute to a smoother delivery. Andy and I played Scrabble and timed my contractions, and I walked round and round my room. Finally, they broke my water, and everything felt awful. Truly, truly awful. Kind of like my lower half of my body was trying to break off from my torso. I asked for an epidural, and I had it within 20 minutes. However, it never took effect. NEVER. The anesthesiologist (who spoke no English) checked my lines, redid my injection, changed the dosage – nothing. My midwife finally broke the news to me that I was going to have to deliver without pain meds.
This was not in my plan at all, and it was a concern of mine going into labor. I coped by telling myself that every contraction was the last one (lies) and by saying “f**k” over and over again. I am not a swearer, but I was that day. The only positive part of delivering with pain medication is that my labor was fast. It seemed like not too long and my doctor was in telling me to push. My sweet doctor was actually on her way home and came back to deliver my baby! In no time at all, Leonard Andrew Michael Carpenter was here, sharing a birthday with Andy. I do not think I will ever top that birthday gift to my husband! *Before you ask, we did not take his name from The Big Bang Theory. He is named after Andy’s grandfather. I get that question a lot!* He was perfectly pink, healthy, and adorable.
Then, the other shoe dropped. I had been talking about my fear of postpartum depression with my counselor, doctor, and Andy. I experienced it with Anya and was worried that it would happen again. I had some post labor complications, which were painful and unexpected. The anxiety started creeping up about 4 hours after this- nothing major, but just minor irrational thoughts. I cried when my girls and mom visited, cried about staying and yet cried about leaving the hospital, and cried when we arrived home. I knew that something was starting, but I wanted to believe that it was just exhaustion. Then, the anxiety and overwhelming depression hit me hard, so hard that I literally shut myself in the house. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep. I woke up every morning at 5:00 am feeling like a huge weight was on my chest, yet I could not figure out what was weighing on me. I cried all the time, and I lost nearly 10 pounds because I could not eat. I loved my baby, my girls, my husband, and especially having my mom there for help. Everything was going well, Leo was a wonderful nurser and sleeper, the girls were angelic and infatuated with their brother…so why so down and anxious?
That is the thing about postpartum depression and anxiety – there is not rhyme or reason to it. I found that mine was a combination of hormone fluctuation, preexisting condition, and medication withdrawal. When you have other children and are a busy volunteer and employee, shutting down in not a viable or long-term solution. I had to get help. I told nearly no one, but I knew that I had to figure this out. It took me about 3 weeks, but I pulled through and regulated with therapy and medication. I have a difficult time admitting that I need help, and I still hate talking about any of this. It NEEDS to be addressed though, as so many women go though it.
After all this – between the difficult pregnancy, the non-medicated labor, and the postpartum – I was and still am thoroughly convinced that Leo completes our family. He is funny, smart, adorable, and the perfect fit for us. I would go through everything above again to get him. It is hard to believe that he is 2 years old today, with so many things that have happened in his short life already, and I love watching him grow and change daily. From his extreme obsession with Star Wars to his love of nearly all food, his beautiful baby blues to his long eyelashes, his persistence in everything he does to his stubbornness – Leo is a joy in my life.
Happy birthday Leo the Lion!