Part 3: How accreta affected my life
My experience with placenta accreta really rocked my world…and not in a good way. While I managed to escape the beast that is postpartum depression with my first son, my second was totally different. Of course there were other contributing factors, like a slightly traumatic birth and a predisposition to mental health issues, but I believe the main source of my postpartum depression was due to my placenta accreta diagnosis. Looking back, I’m almost relieved that I did not get this diagnosis during my pregnancy, but rather after. I can only imagine the mental toll this would have taken on me and my family had I had to think about the possibility of dying on the operating table for several months of pregnancy.
Pretty quickly after I had Benjamin and went through my placenta accreta experience, I realized I was not me. I did not recognize myself. In fact, the depression gripped me so tightly that I hated the person it was making me. Yes, I had the typical things that come along with PPD like struggling to get through every day life. Not wanting to get out of bed, take care of my family, or my house, or even myself. Self care became a real struggle. While most people think PPD is just sadness, mine was a little different. It made me angry. Full on rage type of anger. I would find myself lashing out at people, especially my husband and sometimes even my kids for sometimes the most irrational reasons. I always felt terrible after an episode. It made me hate myself. I felt like a monster. I was afraid I would eventually physically harm someone. I cried constantly. I just wanted it to stop. But despite the fact that I realized this was going on, it felt like it was 100% out of my control. I could not stop myself from lashing out. I knew I had to do something if I wanted to save myself and my relationships with my husband and family. I brought up my troubles with my doctor and got prescribed medication. While my symptoms never fully went away, they became much more manageable. I slowly started to gain back some sense of normalcy. I didn’t feel like the terrible angry monster that I had just weeks before.
Although I was never officially diagnosed, I also believe I may have had PTSD. My condition was rare and unexpected. Learning that my blood pressure got dangerously low and that I hemorrhaged and gave my medical team and family a big scare really left me scarred. For the first several months, not a day went by that I didn’t replay every little detail of that day in my head over and over. I was constantly thinking about it. I constantly tortured myself with reliving that day and also always coming up with the “what ifs”.
There were so many possible outcomes, including death, and yet, I made it through. I always thought about the other women with this condition. The other families struggling with this diagnosis given to a woman they loved and cared deeply for. How did they handle it? I would think of the people in my online support group for the condition. The women who had to leave their families for weeks or even months at a time while they waited in the hospital for delivery day. The women who had scares at home with episodes of bleeding throughout their pregnancy. The women who had an extremely premature baby that ended up in the NICU. The women who had tons of IVs for vein access to transfer the units upon units of blood that they needed to survive. The ventilator they were put on during their extensive surgery. The months of recovery with catheters placed because of their bladder damage. The sadness they had to face every day that they were forced to lose their fertility for the sake of saving their lives. One mom from my online support group was especially on my mind frequently. Her name was Maribell Sanchez. She unfortunately loss her life to placenta accreta during the delivery of her third child.
How could something so amazing, an organ that literally creates itself to support your baby’s life while their in your womb, also be capable of taking the mother’s life away? Why did this happen to me? I didn’t have any risk factors. Will I get it again if I try for another pregnancy? Is it worth the risks? Why would I be so selfish as to even think of risking my life and risk my children losing their mother and my husband losing his wife, just so I could carry another child? Will I now have more complications like Ashermans Syndrome because of the aggressive D&C that I required? Why is it that the procedure I had to help me overcome placenta accreta also contributes to my risk of getting it again? I bombarded myself with questions like these daily for months and months. Many of these thoughts still run through my head, but not nearly as frequently as they used to.
I am now one year postpartum. Benjamin’s first birthday was emotionally hard for me. I thought that the one year that had passed was going to be enough for me to fully recover from my experience. I thought my postpartum depression would be gone. It is not gone, but it is much better than it was a year ago. I realized that this experience is something that I will always carry with me, no matter how much time passes. And although it makes me very emotional to think about, the emotions aren’t all bad. I get emotional because I am so dang thankful to be alive. I will forever be thankful for the people that took the time out of their lives to go donate blood, so that it could save me when I hemorrhaged. I am thankful for my team of doctors that were able to handle my surprise condition in the OR and save my life. I am thankful for my family, who was always there for me, even when I was at my lowest and I wasn’t myself. I am thankful for friends, who lend an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. I am so so thankful to have two beautiful children that I love so much it hurts. I am thankful for my husband that didn’t just choose to walk away when things got tough. I am thankful for God. Yes, he allowed me to go through something really hard, but he has also given me great rewards in my life (see my “thankful” list above!).
My experience with placenta accreta is not something that I will ever easily forget, but it is something that will become easier to process as time passes.