A Life Raft in the Mayhem

My Spero Experience

Me and husband had been trying to get pregnant for a while and it just wasn’t happening. I got to a place where I didn’t think it would happen, so when I got that positive result on my pregnancy test I was in shock. That shock was quickly followed by excitement and then anxiety. I was already having the worries of not being a good parent, of not taking care of myself well enough for the baby. I mean I had just found out this little person was growing inside me. Everything I did, everything I ate, had a direct effect on this little life that I was entrusted to bring into this world.

The WIC program required proof of pregnancy. I didn’t even know what that was. I had asked the WIC lady on the phone if she wanted me to bring in my pregnancy test. She told me Spero would be able to handle the proof of pregnancy and that’s what got me through the door to the center.

Entering Spero was a different environment then what I was expecting. I guess I had imagined more of a medical clinic type. A place with a few pictures, lined up chairs, people talking quietly while in the waiting room. I didn’t get the anxiety or feeling that I often get when walking into a doctor’s waiting room. There was no silent feeling of, I have to be here, this is a requirement, or just another task done in life. I wasn’t expecting the welcoming home like environment I walked into.

The thing about first finding out your pregnant is that a whole new world opens up. You’re sort of thrown into this whirlwind. Suddenly you have people throwing piles of pamphlets and paperwork in front of you, there are tests, doctors to find, appointments to make. It’s a mountain of information overload on top of all these new hormones changing things in your body. I was still just trying to process the information that I was actually pregnant, and everyone was just tossing all this information on me like it was normal. To them it was, they see people every day, doctors and clinic workers may be a little disconnected from their clients. When it’s something you do every day, I feel like it becomes automatic.

Spero was my reprieve in the whirlwind. For the first time since I found out I was pregnant someone asked me “How are you feeling?” When you are in that state of confused chaos, and everyone’s throwing information at you from all directions those four words are very powerful.

Spero made me a person, I wasn’t just another number or client.

How was I feeling? In a word, overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed, anxious and still just trying to make sense of things. It was that admission that had the Spero advocate asking if it would be okay if she prayed with me. It’s that kind of care and compassion you don’t see every day. I was never rushed, I was listened to, I felt like I mattered. I learned that Spero offered classes during my intake, it was their kindness that brought me back to them.

The staff has always been great about making me feel almost like family. They know I have more than one child, they know what’s going on in my life. They not only care, but they pay attention. As someone with high anxiety, having someone familiar touch my arm, or ask if I need something, or even offering me a bottle of water helps bring my anxiety level down. I don’t think the staff even knows how much that gesture means to me.

To put the impact of that into a better perspective. My anxiety didn’t allow me to go anywhere without a support person until recently. It may have taken a long while, but Spero is the only place I am comfortable enough to go to alone. I know so many of the staff and I am made to feel so welcome that those smiling familiar faces help to ground me. If any of the staff has ever had a bad day, I have never seen it.

Spero offers a full circle of support. Yes, I understand moms go through a lot during pregnancy. There are so many changes that take place during pregnancy and after for women, but men go through a huge amount of change as well. After I delivered, I did suffer from postpartum depression. I had just given birth to this incredible little miracle and while I was overjoyed, I was also struggling with all these different emotions. I was very vulnerable and in no head space to check on my husband to see how he was adapting to this huge change in our lives. Spero made sure my husband didn’t fall through the cracks and for that, I am forever grateful.

I struggled with feeling bonded to my daughter after she was born. Everyone always talks about how they feel this immediate overwhelming love for their child when they first see them. I didn’t feel that, and I probably would have panicked about it had I not remembered from a prenatal class at Spero, that not being immediately in love with your child is okay. Yes, you grew this precious life inside you, but at the same time you know them as well as you know a stranger. Sometimes those bonds take time to form as you learn more about your baby and your baby learns more about you. That was one of the best lessons I learned from the Spero classes.

Coming home.

Coming home from the hospital was incredibly stressful for me. Shortly after giving birth, it was discovered that my daughter couldn’t keep her temperature up. She had an infection somewhere and was taken from my room to the NICU for antibiotics. Imagine, going through this whirlwind of emotions, seeing this little face you helped create only to have it whisked away. Sure, I didn’t have that immediate, overwhelming sense of love, but I wasn’t even given that precious time of bonding most mothers have right after birth. To say I was confused would be an understatement. I felt like I was spiraling and at the mercy of the surrounding storm.

We have laws for a reason and if we chose not to follow those rules there are consequences. Jail. If you break a serious law, going to jail is a reasonable punishment, yet here, in the hospital, I felt like I was in prison. Yes, I could leave at any time I wanted, but my baby couldn’t. I had to call the NICU to see if it was an acceptable time to visit my daughter. If there was a doctor accessing another baby in the room or my daughter was sleeping I was told no. I couldn’t pick my daughter up when I wanted to. I couldn’t watch her sleep. I couldn’t lay her against my chest and savor her smell or feel her little fingers curl around my thumb.

I don’t think I could identify it then, but when I was discharged from the hospital, I felt robbed, empty, and angry. While in the NICU with her infection my daughter was not allowed to eat. I had voiced my concern about the possibility of jaundice and was reassured she would be fine. The infection had cleared, but my daughter’s bilirubin levels had skyrocketed. She had jaundice, and I was discharged without her. That first night when I was no longer a patient, but my daughter was? It was heart breaking. I refused to go home. They had finally let my daughter start eating, and I was set on breastfeeding her. I spent my first night discharged in a hospital waiting room on the maternity floor. Not the ideal place for a mother recovering from birth, but closer to my child. By morning, I cried if anyone even looked at me and despite my resolve to live in the waiting room until my daughter was discharged, I was talked into going home. My poor husband had to pick up what was left of my emotional shell and get me home to properly rest.

Easter Sunday, April 24th, 2011, in the early hours of the morning, on the day my daughter was supposed to come into this world, we got the news she was coming home! I was so excited I nearly shook my husband right out of bed! I kept rushing him to get ready, to shower faster, did he even really need to shower? To say I was ecstatic would be downplaying my emotions. Finally, my daughter was in my arms again and this time no one would take her away from me.

I think I had this preconceived notion that once my daughter came home that intense bond would suddenly overtake me. Yes, I loved my daughter, yes I took great care of her and studied her every feature intently. I bet you can imagine my surprise when that feeling still didn’t come. I had forgotten that this was completely normal. I had so much going on in both my head, heart and body that I felt like I was drowning. The tears came and while my husband was incredibly supportive, he didn’t know how to help. How could he? I didn’t know what I needed at that time either. I had to wait for the antidepressants to build up in my system and take effect. In the meantime, I had to endure this wild emotional tornado flinging me all around.

A life raft in the mayhem.

The phone was ringing and in my depressed state I wasn’t going to answer it. I’m so glad something inside me made me pick up that day. It was Spero, once again offering me a much-needed reprieve. “How are you feeling?” Words that are insanely powerful when you’re in a vulnerable state of mind. The truth was, I didn’t know. There was too much going on for me to even begin to process what I was feeling. I just started talking and before I knew it, everything poured out of me like a waterfall. My frustrations, my fears, my confusion, my birth story, which I would later discover was a very traumatic experience, and my sadness.

It felt good to let it out. It felt good to be listened to. Not only did my Spero advocate sympathize with me, she validated my feelings. She didn’t say “Well at least your daughter’s here safe and you got to take her home in the end”, like so many others had. She understood, she told me it was perfectly acceptable to have these confused feelings. She assured me, some of the things I was feeling were normal. Then, when I felt like I had emotionally spent everything, she asked if she could pray with me.

This is my experience at Spero and that is why they are so close to my heart. That is why whenever I find out someone is expecting or has a young child, I recommend Spero. That is why Spero is so important to me, and I am grateful to everyone that helps keep the doors open. Spero is so much more than just a place that offers information, financial relief with their baby boutique, or free testing. They offer a true, caring support system for mothers and fathers. They offer a safe place to rest during a very emotional journey. They offer hope, understanding, and love.

Watch Jennifer and Bert’s Story Here!

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