Invisible Wounds: I Never Felt More Lonely Than After I Gave Birth To A Child I Desperately Wanted

The pressure on postpartum moms is immense.

Woman postpartum dealing with trauma the rest of the world sweeps under the rug tzahiV, damircudic, AleksandarNakic | Canva

I gave birth to my first child when I was 29 years old, but I was nervous about the delivery long before that. Whenever I would ask other women about what it was like, their eyes would glaze over as they proclaimed it to be the best day of their lives. It was like they had completely forgotten the trauma they went through.

Unfortunately, I didn’t fare as well. Delivering my son left me with a fourth-degree tear, and I almost bled to death. Once my son was born, they gave me a strong pain medication and performed surgery right there in the delivery room. My son was taken to the nursery before I had a chance to hold him.


In the recovery room, I remember feeling incredibly weak from the loss of blood. My mind couldn’t conceive of what my body had just been through, and I blocked the memory of the trauma and went on like every woman who had birthed a healthy baby.

I remember my husband calling his mother from the hospital to ask her to bring him a sub from his favorite restaurant. It became a family joke, the poor husband who had been through so much that all he wanted in the world was that sub. Meanwhile, since I was recovering from surgery, I wasn’t allowed to eat yet. He ate beside my bed like a soldier who had just come back from the war.


His family came to see us and the new baby a few hours later. I honestly was happy to see them, but I felt pressure to be the same Glenna that I always was, in a good mood and making jokes.

My father showed up the next day and spent an hour telling me to "get out of bed." It was his strange idea of humor, but I could tell it bothered him to see me incapacitated and not up and around.

When the family was all in my room, I had to go to the bathroom. My husband helped me out of bed, and I painfully limped all the way there and back. I remember how embarrassing it felt not to even be able to walk after giving birth. I doubted the other moms on my floor had the same problem.


I had planned to keep the baby in the room with me and my husband full time, but the first night I had trouble getting out of bed and taking care of him. I didn’t want to let my little love go, but my husband ended up doing most of the work, and I didn’t think it was fair. When I was alone, I cried because the lady across from me had her baby in her room and I didn’t.

When we took our baby home, my doctor told me I still had to stay in bed because of my injury. My husband and his family camped out in the living room to care for him while I was stuck upstairs alone. I knew the baby came first, but caring for him made everyone so busy that I didn’t have much company for myself.

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There were visitors to the house before I knew it. Everyone wanted to see the baby. People would come over, and I’d limp down the stairs and put on a happy face.


My aunt and uncle drove from the other side of the state to see us along with several of our friends — all of their visits wearing me out.

It felt rude, but the longer people stayed, the worse I felt. I was tired and in constant pain. I couldn’t wait to be back upstairs in bed where nobody could see me cry. I didn’t dare cry in front of them. What kind of mother would they think I was?

In my mind, I wanted to be the perfect mom to my son, giving him a bottle with one hand while changing his diaper with the other.

I was embarrassed about my injury and downplayed it even though it was painful. Trying to keep up appearances, along with my severely fluctuating hormones, caused me to crash into severe postpartum depression. It kicked off a lifetime of anxiety and depression that I still deal with today.


Why didn’t I tell anyone how badly I was hurting? It’s because I didn’t want anyone to feel sad or awkward. I didn’t want to be seen as anything but strong and happy about the birth of my son. Truth be told, I don’t remember the pain of that day anymore, just like my friends had advised me. However, I’ve never forgotten the way I felt inside.

I thought I was useless because I couldn’t get up and care for my son. I didn’t cut myself any kind of a break. I didn’t talk to anyone about the damage to my body and instead acted as if it didn’t exist. I never felt more lonely.

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There is a certain pressure that women experience after going through trauma.


We’re expected to be strong, caring, helping, and motherly all at the same time. Not only that, but we also have to be happy while doing it. We can’t have a pity party or ask for anything that might actually help us. By the way, this is true for all trauma and not just having a baby. We may have been through the worst things of our lives, but not smiling and not being okay about it are still no-nos.

A few years after my son was born, my husband and I got divorced. It was heartbreaking to me and hurt me so bad I could barely function.

Our neighbors became curious and asked me where my husband had gone. As rude as it was of them to ask, I felt pressure to be upbeat about it even when my life was falling apart. They likely just wanted to gossip rather than actually care about how I was really doing, and I refused to let them see me break.

After all, I wasn’t the first woman in the world to get a divorce, as personal as it felt. I also had two sons to raise by this time, and I had to be constantly strong for them. There was no time to wallow because everybody expected me to get over it sooner than later. They moved on, and they thought I should, too.


I’ve known women who lost their husbands and had to be strong for everybody else. They sat stoically at the funeral without crying and then fed everyone lunch at their house afterward. After that, nobody really called them because they either didn’t know what to say or moved on to other things. The women, however, were still suffering.

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There are times when women have to be the world’s cheerleaders and forget their own problems. Time simply doesn’t allow us to grieve and heal the way we should, mostly because without us everything would fall apart. We need to be a wife, a mom, a daughter or a friend almost all the time. I’m not here to say those are all bad things, but I always feel like I’m playing a role for somebody.

I can’t say I’m checking out for the day because I’m healing from trauma. There’s always too much to do. Being able to process feelings is crucial when we have been through hard times, yet we’re not allowed to stay in that space for too long.


Imagine if women didn’t put so much pressure on themselves and conform to society’s expectations. Being allowed to heal makes us so much stronger if we’re given the chance. Instead, so many of us walk around with broken bodies and minds pretending everything is okay for everybody else’s benefit.

The best hope a woman can have is people who really listen to her and try to understand. When most people ask, "How are you?" they don’t expect any response other than "fine." Every woman needs somebody in their life who cares enough to hear their stories of pain and fear and let them talk. That is where true healing begins, no matter whether you’re a woman or a man.

My first baby is an adult now. I’d go through the delivery all over again just to have him in the world. His birth really was one of the best days of my life, and I never thought I would say that. I haven’t forgotten the trauma I went through, but every day he reminds me what it was all for. I’m so grateful to have him in my life.

My hope is that the next time I meet a woman and say the words, "How are you," I will really stop and listen to the answer. The world would be better off if women really heard and helped each other. I plan to be part of that.


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Glenna Gill is a writer and blogger from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her articles have been featured in Scary Mommy and P.S. I Love You. When I Was Lost is her first full-length book, a memoir of love, loss and hope.