Early last year, I found out I was pregnant.  At the time, our little boy was three years old  and our daughter had just turned a year.  Parenting them seemed to take all the time and energy my husband and I had.  Needless to say, the pregnancy was a surprise and it took some time for me to get used to the idea of three kids four years and under.

With my first two, I spent time planning the pregnancy, reading about it, trying to eat healthy and take care of myself.  This time was different.  Pregnancy was almost an afterthought.  No time to read “What to Expect” and Babycenter and count grams of protein and write birth plans.  There were also some difficulties in our family at the time – nothing that others hadn’t been through, but stressful just the same.

Toward the middle of my pregnancy, I felt myself slipping very quickly into a very dark and lonely place.  I had never before experienced depression, but the signs were there and I couldn’t deny what was happening.  In a matter of a couple of weeks (interestingly, during the exact time I weaned my 19month old daughter), I had lost my appetite, I couldn’t sleep, I was having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning.  Perhaps most difficult, I felt completely disconnected from other people.

I frantically began looking for help out of that scary place.  I was having a hard time connecting with my baby and I was worried the baby was going to be harmed because of what I was feeling.  Could the baby feel what I was feeling?  Was the baby scared too?  Am I giving it enough nutrition?  Would it be born premature (a risk of babies born to depressed mothers)?  Would we have trouble bonding?  These anxieties weren’t helping me get better, and certainly weren’t helping the baby..

I reached out to friends and family. When I think back on that time, I get emotional remembering how much love and support was demonstrated to me….  Putting one foot in front of the other was a struggle, but with my family and friends and even some strangers there for me, I pulled (or maybe was pulled) through. Slowly, I began feeling better. And the last month or so of my pregnancy, thankfully, I was functioning enough to feel pretty close to normal. Still though, the worries were there about my baby.

At about 1:45 in the morning on my baby’s due date, I woke up to go to the bathroom and my water broke. Right on time. My son had been born almost 2 weeks past his due date and my daughter 3 weeks before. This baby was going to be different, for sure. I eased into contractions (not that they were easy, but they built up steadily and predictably and I was able to manage the pain).  We arrived at the hospital at about 7:30 a.m. I was 5 and a half centimeters. Very good news. But even better news was that surrounding me in the room that morning, was my husband Bryan, doula Ann (who had helped during the birth of my daughter as well), my dear friend Elise (in town from Boston, hoping to be there for the birth), my mom and my two sisters. Each of them had helped me so much in those months leading up to the birth…it seemed natural they would be there for the conclusion as well, you know?

The rest of my labor went smoothly and quickly, and yes, it hurts and you’re tired and you reach a point when you think you can’t do it anymore, but then someone whispers in your ear “You’re almost there, Jora” and you simply can’t wait to meet your baby face to face and put her in your arms and the next thing you know, you’re pushing and everyone you love is in that room cheering you on and laughing and crying and smiling and witnessing the most wonderful thing a person can hope to witness on this earth.  And then you get to say, with the most delight imaginable, “It’s a girl!” A perfect, beautiful, healthy, screaming baby girl. Pink and round, clenching her fists, looking around for the first time.

I cried and cried that morning for my baby girl. When I held her for the first time, I looked deep in her eyes and told her, “I love you so very much and I am so, so sorry for what we went through and I will never, ever let you go.”  It was only my baby girl, Emilia Rae, that was with me the whole time during that dark, lonely time and I knew our connection was different and somehow…maybe….deeper.  I love her more than I could have ever imagined, and I will never, ever, never, ever let her go.

From Jora of Domestic Reflections

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Note from Design Mom: for the duration of my pregnancy, I’ll be posting advice, memories and stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family on Wednesdays. You can find them all by clicking here. I’d love to hear your story or memory or advice, feel free to submit it to gabrielle@designmom.com.