54. Ep. 324 – Christina Perri , 3 of 3: After – Informed Pregnancy Podcast
Elliot: Welcome to the Informed Pregnancy and Parenting Podcast. I'm your host, pregnancy-focused chiropractor, Dr. Elliot Berlin.
My returning guest today is a singer, songwriter, and mom. She has a thriving career and a growing family. Last time we talked, she was very pregnant and about to deliver. And we’re tuning in for the rest of the story. Christina Perri, welcome back to the podcast.
Christina: Hello, hello.
Elliot: I was just saying before we start recording, it’s amazing to see you.
Christina: I know! It’s great to see you, too.
Elliot: And we had quite the marathon of pre-birth episode on your own right. You’re just super entertaining to talk to. But then, there was all this in very intense journey that you’ve been on with one pregnancy that went great, and then when that ended in a first-trimester miscarriage, and then another one that ended in a late pregnancy loss. And just a big journey in so many different ways in terms of your own health and in terms of understanding, what potentially was causing the issues and also for your babies. And then, finding out about clotting disorders and that you have one and that a lot of people have them and don’t even know that they have them. And that’s one of the consequences is pregnancy loss.
You’ve been working hard, not just for yourself, but for others to get to the bottom of it, to try to help other people learn more about it, and to advocate for awareness and for testing. And it’s a huge kudos to you. A lot of people, I would probably, just get knocked down and never pick myself up and dust myself off and try again. You not only did that, but you’re constantly working to help other people along the way.
So, last time we talked to you, you were pregnant, and towards the end of your pregnancy. A lot has happened since for you. I’m pretty much the same as I was. So, first of all, I mean as the pregnancy got closer and closer to the end, one would wonder if that created anxiety for you.
Christina: Oh my gosh! You know, I don’t even know where to begin. I’m sitting here, we could definitely start with anxiety. It’s interesting I feel like I had my daughter a couple days after I talked to you, because I ended up going a bit early. So, I really last spoke with you at the plot twist, right at the top. And I was definitely anxious. And well let me say this, I definitely haven’t slept for eight weeks, okay. I think it’s so funny. I keep saying to Paul, my husband, “You know, if I committed a crime, I could get off with insanity. Because I’m not sleeping or like some form of Chinese torture to not sleep more than four hours at a time for 68 days, but who’s counting.”
Elliot: Yeah, I know.
Christina: No, I want to preface and say that because A, I might be scattered definitely more than last time. And B, I might forget what I’m saying. But anyway, I’m going to try to make sense. But I want to say I was at the height of my anxiety when I last spoke with you, and excitement you know. It was a mix of both because I just was excited to not be pregnant. And then, at the same time, I just really hoped that the baby was alive. And I think in hindsight now, I think it’s kind of funny because I said to everyone in my pregnancy, “My bar is so low. As long as the baby comes out alive, I’m going to be so chill. I’m going to be such a chilled new mom again.” And I, in fact, proved myself incredibly wrong. I was absolutely not chill. I’ll explain it all.
So, I want to say I wasn’t super anxious only because I was really communicative. You know, not just with the people in my inner circle, but with all my doctors. I felt really, really well seen and taken care of. And I just felt like we did the best we could during the whole pregnancy. We, as in the whole team. But definitely, me with just monitoring my anxiety and trying not to let it sort of win. And then, I will tell you at 37 weeks and four days, I took myself to Cedar-Sinai. First time, I pulled that card. So, basically, Dr. Kumetz said to me, my OB, “Any time you’re worried, come into the office. Anytime you’re worried about fetal movement, come in and we’ll monitor you.” And I was like, “I’m good. I’m good.” And to be fair, I was having extra fetal monitoring because of my history of stillborn. So, I was seeing a parentologist and my OB-GYN every two days.
So, I was very monitored and I just felt confident that the baby was alive up until October 20th. And for some reason, I just didn’t like the amount of times I felt her move that day. So, if you are a mom that has experienced any pregnancy loss after you know you feel the baby moving, you’re really counting every single time. You could say you’re not counting and that you’re chill, but you’re definitely more aware than your first pregnancy. So, to be honest, I was really keeping an eye constantly on how often I felt her moving. And it was the first time that I said, “You know what, Paul? I’m actually worried.” Now, I will say it could be because she was bigger. Her movements weren’t as dramatic, or she was just sleeping because she’s ready to go. There are things that like it could have been. But in that scenario, on that particular day after what I’ve been through, everyone said, “Just go. Just go to the hospital.”
So, it was 10 p.m. on October 21st, actually not 20th. And I went to Cedars-Sinai with Paul, and we didn’t bring everything. Because I was like, “Let’s just do the fetal monitoring. And then, go home and try to wait until Monday.” She was scheduled to be induced that upcoming Monday. So, I was only four days shy of my scheduled induction. And so, I was like, “Let’s just go and check out the baby, and then we’ll come home.” I also want to mention that for the first, I felt very brave at the hospital to ask for exactly what I wanted and needed. And I specifically ask the nurse to give me an ultrasound before she looks for the heartbeat. And I want to say that too for any other moms that have gone through this, or hopefully, you don’t but may go through this, I was very traumatized when Rosie died while they were looking for the heartbeat with the little monitor. You know, that they put on your —
Elliot: The little Doppler.
Christina: Yeah. And I said to Paul on the drive over, I was like, “Hey, I can’t survive that. I don’t think I can lay there and have them looking for her heartbeat and not find it.” So, Paul was sort of my knight in shining armor, really, the whole weekend. He was the one that said — because he’s better, he’s from Jersey. He’s better at being a little brass and whatever. And Paul, I call him “Paul, #2.” Because he’s a Gemini and his like number two personality will go, “No, don’t mess with my family.”
Elliot: I have three Gemini. So, this is great.
Christina: Oh gosh! You know, it is very real, that Paul #1 and Paul #2. But anyway, different podcast. So, he said, “Hey –” Well, we got there because you know they pulled out the thing right away. And he was like, “Hey, I’m sorry. We lost our last child and it’s really triggering to look for a heartbeat. Can you please bring in an ultrasound technician?” And they did. Like, within minutes. This guy came in and he immediately found her heartbeat. I could breathe.
Elliot: On an ultrasound?
Christina: On ultrasound. Then they hooked me up to the monitor and decided to do a whole non-stress test while I’m there. And while I’m there, they say, “Call your OB.” And then, a woman comes in who is a doula, like for the — I guess at Cedars; they have a doula who’s around that helps out.
Elliot: A midwife.
Christina: Midwife. So, she came in to talk to me. But Dr. Kumetz was like, “Look, you’re already there. This is your intuition. You felt something was off. You’re only four days away from induction. I recommend, let’s just do it.” And there’s a lot of things I struggle with when I think back and try to think of doing things differently. I’m not good at sometimes going back and thinking what could have been, or should have been, or would have been. I’m pretty guilty. I feel like everyone does that. And I do feel like — and this is just my trauma talking. I want to say I think I have a lot of trauma from what happened in the next five days. And I am going to do EMDR. I have yet to do it because I’ve just been in newborn land, but I think I’m traumatized. So, I still think I could have done it differently. But I feel like if I have this chat in six months, I might say I would never do it differently or I forgive myself for thinking I could do it differently. I’m going to get emotional.
It’s funny. I was kind of procrastinating talking to you because I was like, I really want to be put together. I want to be fine when I do my next episode. I want to be, “Oh, and here’s what was hard and here’s what I did to get through it.” Because I’m such an analytical person, and I wanted to talk to you, and I was so put together, and be like, “Here’s what I did to be better or to help myself.” And the truth is I’m still in it. I’m so in it. So, maybe it’s good that you’re going to get this really honest, raw version of me. And then, maybe we should do a part three, after the healing.
Elliot: First of all, a couple of thoughts through my mind. If you’re not ready, we don’t have to do it.
Christina: No. Please, I think it’s good. I actually think it’s better and more honest that I give this story in this place than the super healed version of me that I think will forget.
Elliot: I just want you to know it’s always you. Whatever you want is what we’ll do.
Christina: Thank you. I’m just like —
Elliot: And I will have you back in six months for next stage perspective, for the retrospective experience, yeah.
Christina: Okay, cool. I just want to say that because, honestly, this is my thing. I’m just honest all the time. And if I pretended I was fine, I wouldn’t be me.
Elliot: Wouldn’t be you.
Christina: Right. So, I think I had to forgive myself for choosing to induce when I did. And I think that I have to just let it go and I think I’ll eventually get there. We induced that night. The reason why I’m so disappointed too — because I have to say, I was disappointed in pretty much everything. I joke around now and say like, you know, because we had the worst experience with Rosie. Paul and I just thought we deserved to have a magical experience with Pixie. By the way, my daughter’s name is Pixie.
Elliot: So, beautiful.
Christina: The little pixie dust that we needed in our family, and oh, my God, there’s so much to her name. But, anyway, she is here and she is healthy and safe. And I am safe and healthy, and fine. I want to say that too. But the story is pretty traumatizing for me. My experience with it because I was so prepared. And maybe in my last episode, you can hear how I think, and how, of course, I was super prepared. I had everything lined up the way that I hoped it would go. And I had wiggle room for real life to happen, but I guess just not enough.
And what happened is, you know, I prepared for this birth. I was doing all this yoga, and doing all this meditating, and working with a doula who was so spiritual and feminine. And I just wanted this like super, feminine, goddess, strong, try not to do it with, you know, drugs. I wanted to just be present, wanted to meet my daughter in a way that was so different than my last experience. This was my intention, right? And I do think it is worth noting that women have this idea or ideal birth situation. And I’m sure with all the episodes you’ve done, I’m sure you’ve heard all of them. And most the time, it doesn’t go as planned. And I just feel a little silly for even thinking I could just plan it and have it be absolutely perfect. But I did certainly try.
And so, when I was at the hospital on October 20th, I called my doula and she was in Utah on a mountain at a retreat. She was standing naked under the moon and she was sending goddess vibes to me. And I was like, “Cool, cool, cool. But you’re not here.” And it was the only day she was like, “Just don’t have the baby on this day.” And I was like, “Yeah, of course. I’m not going to go early. We’re already inducing early.” Well, I did go early. And so, there I am at the hospital. And so, she’s not there and I’m like, “It’s fine. Paul’s here.” But, you know, I have to say, you know, it’s just a guy versus, I don’t know. You know, say that she’s like a fairy, you know, my doula. So, it was going to be — it’s a totally different thing. And so, I was like, “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
So, basically, they started inducing me. They gave me a balloon, which along with the balloon, they gave me Fentanyl. I mean, I’ve been sober 10 years and I’ve never had Fentanyl. I just want to say —
Elliot: Whoa. Well, can we back up a drop?
Elliot: Do you remember anything about your cervix check from before you started the induction?
Christina: I was two centimeters.
Elliot: Two? And soft, like a face?
Christina: I think so, yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Elliot: And do you know if the baby was kind of higher or lower in your pelvis?
Christina: I want to say lower.
Elliot: Okay. And there’s also you’ve had vaginal births.
Christina: Yeah, yeah. I had two twice before this. But I wasn’t induced like this before. This was my first experience this.
Elliot: I’m just saying seemingly a good candidate for induction. I have no idea where this is going to be. We’ve deliberately not talked. I know you’re holding on to a lot of emotions. I’m already getting a little weepy.
Christina: Oh, gosh.
Elliot: I wanted you to have a beautiful redeeming experience, too. And so, now I see, it’s not exactly like that.
Christina: No. But this is much important for me, to be honest. Because I feel like even in our Instagram-perfect world, I took the drugs. Do you know what I mean? I did immediately the thing I said I wasn’t going to do.
Elliot: So, I’m just thinking to myself, right. With Rosie, you had a fetal heartbeat in the morning.
Christina: Yeah. At 11:30 a.m., I was monitored, yeah.
Elliot: There was a complication in the Thrissur, right? A small hole that was too small.
Christina: No, it was a block in her intestines.
Elliot: So, a block that’s essentially like stuff can’t get through.
Elliot: And everything was good in the morning. And then, the afternoon or later that day, there was no heartbeat.
Elliot: Like, if you were concerned about the heartbeat even though it was there and it was good and it was four days early, I mean it just seems like you could look back and say, “Maybe we shouldn’t have done now that Pixie is here and healthy.”
Christina: You’re right. In that moment, there was no other choice.
Elliot: Yeah. And I don’t know where this is going to go. But I’m sad if you’re hard on yourself for that choice. Because you would have, in a flash, made the choice to induce with Rosie.
Elliot: Now that you know the outcome.
Christina: Yes, totally fair. Thank you. Thank you for saying that. I think because so many things went wrong. I think as a mom, I’d imagine maybe any mom would feel this way. I just keep going back in my brain, “Could we have done it different?’ And you are 1,000% right that there is no way we all wouldn’t have made that choice. Like the doctor, the midwife, Paul, me. You know, my body even. I was already dilated. It was definitely the right time. It’s just that because of what occurs in the next couple days in the story, it’s like, you know, was she ready. And the thing is, okay, what I think bothers me the most about inducing her early — and I did just talk to someone on Instagram about this who had a very public stillborn experience recently. And that’s only how we know each other because I reached out to her. And she was asking me a question and I said, “Look, you know, if I could do it differently, I think I wouldn’t have induced based on my history.”
Now, that’s maybe controversial because again, in the moment, we all would have chosen to take the baby out because it made the most sense. Because it was heightened. Everyone was a little bit worried. Even my whole pregnancy with Pixie, you know because of my history with Rosie, and even though yes in fact, I did have a stillborn at 34 weeks, and I do have a blood clotting disease, and I am on Lovenox and heparin, I didn’t have any complications with Pixie in reality. So, I sort of wish I got to carry her full term without the fear of what could happen. Now, again, you’re right. It’s easy to say now that she’s here. Because in the moment, you’re weighing your risk. So, it’s like, “Do I take the risk and see what she’s like at 40 weeks and potentially lose her before then? Or do we just take her out now?” And of course, we took her out now.
Elliot: It’s like Deal or No Deal. If you knew that the million dollars was in the case, you wouldn’t have settled for $36,000, right? But in that moment, nobody would have gone on. I understand the feelings of guilt, and remorse, and looking back and wanting to know, “Did I do the right thing?” But you did the right thing, 100%.
Christina: Well, thank you. Thank you for saying that. Honestly, I haven’t shared my story with anybody yet. So, I’m happy that it’s you because you’re making me feel better. And also, it is true. I really haven’t totally looked at it with a 2-month postpartum brain, you know. I’ve been sort of upset about it since it happened, but I’ve been traumatized. And then, I’ve been sleep deprived, you know. Now, I’m a little bit clear-headed than I was eight weeks ago. But I’m being totally honest. This is the thing that hurts the most is thinking maybe I did the wrong thing. But I’m glad I’m sharing it because, you know, either someone else feels this way or might feel this way. And I’m unbelievably grateful that she’s here and that she’s alive and she’s safe.
So, also in the moment, I have to say I couldn’t wait to get her out. Do you know what I mean? I wasn’t fighting them and being like, “No, I want to keep her in!” At that point, I was super uncomfortable. As you know, I had that pinch in the back of my SI joint. I was ready to be done being pregnant. And I thought —
Elliot: Was that why you went through the induction?
Christina: No. But I was definitely excited. I remember when we started inducing, I was like, “I’m so excited that she’s going to be here.” Because I do want her out rather than in if something’s wrong. I remember thinking that. But at the same time, I was not ready for what happened. And I don’t think anybody can be ready. And I’ll say this, I saw this really funny meme because I’m totally going to deflect with some humor. Because it’s pretty heavy, but —
Christina: I saw a really funny meme online that was this guy — it’s a famous meme where it’s this guy with glasses and a flip phone, and he’s looking kind of upset. And the meme said, you know, it’s him on the phone with God. And he says, “Dear God. Hi! Can you not make me one of your strong soldiers in 2023? Thank you.” And I swear to you that resonates so deeply with me because I was already a part of the miscarriage club, and then I became a part of the stillborn club, and now I’m a part of the NICU mom club. And I honestly just want to stop joining clubs. I really just want to coast a little, and stop being so enlightened, and stop being given these experiences to grow, you know. I just want to chill for a second.
But I will say Pixie came out. I don’t know how much you want to get into the birth, it was kind of a blur. They gave me the Fentanyl, which by the way I hated. I was in the middle of talking to midwife, and I’m like did a lilla, lilla, lill. And then, I was like, “I am so sorry. I’m extremely high.” I don’t know what’s happening. It came on so fast. Some people call it like taking drugs at the hospital free lapse when you’re sober. Because it’s a free relapse, which is really not funny but it sort of is. And I know that they always say sober people are the only people that like surgeries because they get to go under, you know. But I didn’t like it. I really didn’t like the feeling.
Elliot: Was it a conscious choice? Because you had the other options, you know.
Christina: Yeah. I’m pretty sure I was like, “Sure. I’ll take the Fentanyl.” I was so disappointed and upset. Poor Paul, because he didn’t plan on being my support person. I mean, obviously, he planned on being in the room but we were like so ready to do this with Setha, and me, and him, and just this other vibe. And I kept crying because my ball —
Elliot: I see it behind you.
Christina: My birthing ball. I didn’t bring it because I thought the hospital would have one and they didn’t have a birthing ball.
Elliot: Since there’s COVID.
Christina: Yeah. And so, I just said gave up. I almost I want to say disassociated a little bit. And I will say this has to do with my trauma. So, I did birth Rosie and meet her. And as soon as we started the birthing process, I just couldn’t wait to get it over with. Like it was not something I wanted to enjoy. First of all, I didn’t even mention. So, we’ve got Paul, and in walks my nurse who happens to be a gorgeous man. And I was like, “I’m sorry. Hi. Are you here for me? Are you going to see my butt?” Like what? Literally looked like “Grey’s Anatomy.” Paul and I were laughing like, I mean if he ever heard this, he was so wonderful and lovely and a great nurse. But what? I wanted to have a feminine goddess.
Elliot: That’s the thing. Everything you described.
Christina: Supermodel man, and then, Paul. And I was just like, “Man!” I was like so sad! I was like, “What?” I just kept crying because it wasn’t what I wanted. And then, I was texting my mom group, okay. I think I mentioned before how paramount my mom friends are in our group chat. And they’re going, “Christina, you’re not upset about the birthing ball. You’re traumatized. You’re about to have a baby. You’re scared she’s not alive. This is not about the birthing ball.” And I’m like, “No, it’s about the birthing ball. I need my birthing ball.” Because I thought I was going to labor longer without the Epidural, or I thought I wasn’t going to take any drugs. And then, here I am on Fentanyl. I was kind of just like, “*** it!” Pardon my French.
Elliot: Oh, I speak French. I’m fluent.
Christina: Great! So, again, I just want to be the voice for the people that do exactly what they said they weren’t going to do. I mean, I just was like, “Yeah, sure. Okay, fine.” I just wanted it to be faster and over. And I will say, I did go fast. Within 11 hours, Pixie was here. And what happened, because she came down so fast. And because she came out so fast — because once I did the balloon, I was 5 centimeters, then they broke my water. I labored until 7 centimeters without an Epidural. But without a birthing ball, I was on the bed. I was just like, “Couldn’t do it.” They gave me an Epidural at 7 centimeters. I want to say within two hours, I was at 10. Like, it was fast. I mean this is my third birth, so I figured it was going to move kind of quick once the Pitocin kicked in, my body kicked in, you know, my own chemicals kicked in.
In [roles 00:23:40], in Dr. Kumetz, my doctor, and gorgeous guy. I think his name was Andre. Paul’s a stand-up comedian and he really wants to talk about it on stage, and I just refused to let him. But anyway, there we are. I’m 10 centimeters and I push. And then, I wanted to be squatting. I was on my back. I’m telling you, every single thing I wanted to do, I didn’t do or didn’t go my way, you know. I definitely wanted to get up and get on all fours, but I was like, you know, had the IV in my hand because my veins burst. I just want you to imagine just like a sitcom at this point. Everything that hopefully was going to go well, just didn’t.
Elliot: You couldn’t really script it.
Christina: Yeah, I know. And I was just going along with it just like I said. I didn’t disassociate in the most unhealthy way, I just sort of let go. Because I was like, “Ugh.” I couldn’t hold on. I certainly [unin 00:24:35]. I had two options, so I just went with it. And all of its bad vibes. I just didn’t like the vibe.
Elliot: So, is it both, you know? Is it like, “Hey, you’re giving birth now and last time this happened was really a tragedy.”
Elliot: And then, also more surface level, you had a vision on how you wanted this one to go.
Christina: A 100%. I think there is no way that I wasn’t the most traumatized — or no, I should say trauma response or triggered. Because I didn’t know I was being traumatized. A whole new trauma I was remembering, right? The body remembers. I was in that memory and in that triggered state of, “The last time I did, this my daughter was dead.” Yes. And the joy someone should feel when they take the baby out and give the baby to you. I didn’t feel it. I was terrified. I mean, I don’t think I was breathing. I don’t know when I breathed, honestly. And Paul was hysterical. And he was trying so hard not to be hysterical, by the way. He’s holding my leg and he’s in my face, and he’s crying. But he’s looking at me like, you know, “Push. Breath.” whatever. And I hardly remember it because you know I’m also terrified. And I just want it to be over. I just want it to be over. I just want it to be over. I think I pushed so freaking hard and fast because I just wanted it to be over. And she came out so fast that her body was still filled with fluid. So, she comes out covered in the goo. What’s that? Vernix?
Elliot: Yeah, the vernix.
Christina: They slapped her on my chest and she’s blue. I mean she was like really blue and white, and grunting. Grunt, grunt, grunt. So, those first seconds, right? I mean, obviously, she’s alive. She’s a girl. They put her on my chest. I’m sort of present for this. Paul’s hysterically crying. I’m not breathing, but she’s not breathing. So, they take her. So, I had her on my chest for maybe 45 seconds, maybe. Maybe less because she just wasn’t coming out. She went through the birth canal too fast.
Elliot: They take her out of the room or off your chest to the warmer?
Christina: Yeah. They take her to the warmer. Paul goes with her. I am staring at the warmer, right? The doctor is talking to me. I don’t know what she’s saying. I’m staring straight through her to the baby, to Paul, to the nurse because three other nurses came in the room at this point. An older lady was with the baby. The handsome guy was near me. And so, I’m staring through her that I’m looking. And Pixie is on the thing, and they’re watching her. They’re sucking, you know. They’re sucking with the bulb.
Elliot: Suction, yeah.
Christina: She’s breathing. She’s just grunting. Grunt, grunt, like crazy. I hear her grunting, grunting, grunting. So, they look at me and go, “Do you want to wait?” Because she might be okay. This is very normal for how fast she came out. She’s like, “You know, her lungs, whatever. She’s transitioning. Do you want to wait and see?” And I was just like, “No. Why would I want to wait?” Because then the NICU team came in. So, this must have been within five minutes, I’m not sure about time. But the NICU team came in and analyzed her, and said it’s up to me.
So, she must have just been on the borderline of she might work it out or she might not. And I was like, “Please take her. Please help her work it out.” I don’t know anyone who would have said, “No, let’s wait.”
Elliot: Not anyone in your shoes, for sure. Two things popped into my head. One is that I used to work in ambulances. I did volunteer ambulance. And I was in college, and there was a college kid, my age, who had called for abdominal pain and it was the craziest thing ever. So, I opened the door to his dorm room, and he was white as ghost, freezing cold. Kind of stuttering his last couple of words and went unconscious and we couldn’t save him.
But in the ambulance, on the way to the hospital, we’re trying desperately everything under the sun. And he had an artery eruption, and he bled out completely, and he had a disease that set him up for that. But I remember while we were working frantically to try to get IV started on him and give him a chance, the ambulance driver made a quick turn. It was in New York City. And I hit my head just over my eyebrow on the little shelf that comes down. And it was painful from the moment. I didn’t think twice about it. I never stopped working on this guy. And we got to the hospital and they tried for 20 minutes to bring them back and they just couldn’t.
I would say 10 years later maybe, I’m getting a massage and someone touches me on the eyebrow right there. And the second they touched that part of my eyebrow, the entire experience came back to me. The sounds, the smells, the emotions, all of it. And that was just my little eyebrow. I can’t imagine what’s stored up in your body. And when you have to do that whole thing again, I just can’t imagine, Christina, what that feels like on any level. Physically, emotionally. And again, I’m not a therapist. I’m not a trauma person. But just as a human being that you are just so strong and powerful for everything that you’ve done. Your kids are so, so lucky that you’re their mommy. That you’re so strong and powerful. And when you have a deck of cards in front of you, and you dealt a hand, you make the decisions you can with the cards in your hand.
Christina: Oh, thank you. Thank you, thank you.
Elliot: I don’t know what happens next, but let’s take a tiny little break so we can get some Kleenex.
Elliot: So, we’ll be right back.
Elliot: Welcome back to the Informed Pregnancy Podcast. We’re talking to Christina Perri. Mama Christina.
So, you have this intense birth. And then, the baby’s gurgling in blue. And you have to make the choice. “Should we just keep her here and see what happens or send her off to the NICU?” So, you sent her off to the NICU. The other thing is I’ve been to birth many times with none of this history. When that happens, it’s a tough scary call. A lot of people, most people I would think, don’t want to be in that position, you know. But some people intuitively think that, “Hey! Put the baby on me. The love and the warmth of me versus an incubator or things like that.” And sometimes, it works great. It’s still a tense moment and scary even with no history.
Christina: Yes. And also, because I had only the experience with Carmella who was completely normal and healthy. And then, Rosie who is not alive. I definitely didn’t know the in-between, which is like a kid that needs a little help transitioning. So, I didn’t have that experience before. I didn’t know what that looked like. I didn’t know what it sounded like. I didn’t know anything at all. So, because I didn’t know, I just said, “Yes, please take her.” I don’t want to take any chances or I don’t know what is wrong, you know. And in my mind, I mean just from the conversation you had with me last time, you know I was very worried that Pixie was not going to be okay for multiple reasons. I thought, one, there’s my history of not just the blood clot, but the mold. And also, just any birth defects. I didn’t know. I didn’t know if I got pregnant too soon after my detox, and if I was ready. And there were so many variables that made me so scared when she came out and she wasn’t necessarily okay. And so, she goes away. I tell Paul, “Go with the baby.” Because he’s like, “Who do I take care of?” You know, we’re both pretty messy.
Elliot: So, it’s just you and the hot nurse?
Christina: Me and the hot nurse, yeah. Well, apparently my doctor was there for a little while and sewed me up because I had lots of stuff going on there, and I don’t remember. And then, she spoke with me, I don’t remember. And she leaves. And then also, the cute nurse leaves. And for 15 minutes, I was by myself.
Elliot: Like, literally, by yourself?
Christina: By myself.
Elliot: Oh, my goodness.
Christina: Yeah. I’m probably going to have to work through that in therapy, too. Because I remember not knowing what just happened. Here I am, “I’m not pregnant. I have no baby. No husband. No doctor. Like, where am I?” It was a very, very bizarre. Maybe it was five minutes, maybe it was ten. I don’t remember. But Andre, the beautiful man, comes in and realizes nobody’s in here with me. And he was sort of the hero of the day and ended up staying with me, and he kept checking on me every two minutes. He would leave two minutes, later come back. Pretended to do something, leave, come right back. I mean, I know he was not doing anything. I know he was just making sure that like —
Elliot: You’re okay. I mean, based on what I know about Andre, which is just what you told me in the past half hour, that’s how I would have written the script.
Christina: Yeah, yeah.
Elliot: He’s the hero who just comes in and, “Let me check the light bulb.”
Christina: Yeah, literally. So, “Where’d you go to school?” Like, literally was just trying to help me. And I was like, you know, probably malfunctioning and very visually. But at the same time, I got discharged and I got taken to a postpartum room. So, there was stuff we had to do. And then, he put me in a wheelchair and he wheels me to another floor and to my room, which is next to the NICU, which is then where I reunite with Paul. Paul’s been with Pixie, giving me updates. They put a tube down her throat and sucked everything out of her belly. Then they put an IV in her arm, and they did the whole shebang. I mean, so when Paul sent me a picture of her, she looked like they look in the NICU. Where she had the nose thing. She had a thing on her chin. She had all these monitors on her head, and her skin, and her arm. I mean, it was like I said, it’s a whole new club.
So, being all of a sudden a parent with a baby down the hall in a box, you know, that they’re working on and there’s no skin to skin, there’s no nursing, there’s no colostrum coming out, there’s no bonding that happens for the next four hours. They made me pee. They made me pump. They made me walk around. And then, they let me go to the NICU.
And I want to say, the next three days are a bit of a blur. But there was another angel in the whole story, and her name was Carol. Because here’s what I’m going to say, I don’t want to s*** on Cedar-Sinai’s, but I have to tell you — and I’m not even the person that sends food back when I don’t like it. It’s really hard for me to give a bad review, and I don’t know if it’s since the pandemic that they’re figuring things out and I don’t know if it’s because I was on a floor that wasn’t the postpartum floor. I was on the NICU floor in a room that was not a postpartum room. There are a lot of variables here. But I have to tell you that I was treated really badly. And I’m not even high maintenance or bougie when it comes to how I’m being treated. Obviously, I just had a kid. I’m really emotional. I don’t care about how big my room was, or how many nurses I had. I don’t care about that. I waited for 45 minutes to go to the bathroom. Nobody was helping me. I couldn’t get anybody to answer the phone. I couldn’t get escorted. There was a lot of things that felt really funny. And I just go immediately, I’m like, “Okay, Paul. We’ve got to get out of here. We need to talk to somebody. This doesn’t feel like the postpartum recovery I need for how emotional I am and for what we’re going through.”
So, they had a suite available. But I want to say I had to pay so much money to get in that suite only to be treated how I feel like everyone should be treated, if that makes sense.
Christina: I even wrote to Cedar-Sinai and I told them my thoughts. I was very nice. I just said I just think everyone should have this level of care and not have to pay a giant amount of money for it. But I will say paying for the suite, I got a doula for the day. So, there was this woman named Carol who’s been there for 40 years. And man, did she hold me together. She knew that I was so scared. And she was like, I mean, she had 15 grandkids, and she had 10 children, and she just held me physically. She was helping me nurse. She was holding Pixie. She was helping with her cords. She didn’t leave my side. I mean, this woman didn’t leave my side for two days. And I just don’t think that that was actually her job. I think she was supposed to check on me and help me with nursing, as a lactation consultant or whatever. When I tell you she didn’t leave my side, like she took me to the bathroom. She held my hand. She was like — I can’t even thank this woman enough. She carried me through that whole week.
So, Paul and I were there. They kept Pixie. They got her stomach and breathing thing immediately resolved. But then, she had these two hematomas on her head that we’ve figured out her from the Pitocin and from her birth journey down the canal. And because of those hematomas, she was jaundiced. Now, I know every baby’s jaundiced, but she wouldn’t go down. Her levels wouldn’t go down because the blood vessels stayed put. So, in order for the jaundice to come out, the red blood cell count has to go down and it didn’t. So, they wouldn’t let her leave the NICU. Because now, and I will say in hindsight. When your baby goes to the NICU, the only great thing is they check for literally everything. So, you know that when the baby graduates the NICU, they’ve checked everything.
Elliot: [unin 38:31], yeah.
Christina: Yeah. Like, they can’t even sneeze. You know what I mean? They are going home with being monitored by a doctor every couple hours, and then a nurse every second, you know.
Christina: So, that was the silver lining. And the only good thing about when we were discharged is we felt like Pixie was ready to come home. But they just kept finding things. So, it was at first, it’s her breathing and her grunting. And then, it was her hematomas on her head, and then it was her jaundice levels, and then they told us we could leave. And we told Carmella we were coming home with the baby, which by the way, just for a moment of joy, we got to FaceTime Carmella and show her little sister. Oh, she is so, so, so excited and so cute, and she just is obsessed with her.
And she said that she knew her name was Pixie all along. And what’s really funny is Carmella did look at me and wink at me when we were reading Peter Pan two weeks before the baby came. And we were reading this story of Peter Pan and it was a bedtime story and Wendy was saying you know, “We need to get to the pirates and bring the pixie dust.” And Carmella looked at me and winked. And I was like — And I said to Paul later, “Did you see that?” And he was like, “Yeah.” He was like, “What was that?’ And I was like, “I don’t know. Did we say the name, ever?” And he’s like, “No, we definitely didn’t.” So, Carmella is probably, you know, molecularly connected to this little girl so much. And she goes, “I knew it! I knew the name all along.”
And so, that moment was the joy that we needed. We’ve actually FaceTime Carmella every time. I did skin-to-skin every three hours. I was allowed to be with the baby and I’m not going to be with her the whole time. But every three hours, I was there feeding, changing her diaper, doing everything I could, and trying to sleep in between. Anyway, then they told us we could leave and then we couldn’t because of her jaundice levels. We finally got discharged. We brought her home. Carmella held her on the couch. It was like that, “Oh, my God!” That full circle thing, it was the best moment in my whole life. And you know, it’s kind of funny because it took three years to make Pixie. I kind of wanted I joked around about giving Pixie to Carmella and leaving. Say, “Here, I did it! I’m so tired. Here’s your sibling.” But truly, truly you know, I can’t even put into words the healing that occurred that day.
And I want to say that then the rest was fine, but the truth is it wasn’t. She was so jaundiced, she had to go on a bili bed in our house. And so, I couldn’t skin the skin or bond with her every minute. She had to be on the bili bed, that she wasn’t eating. But I tried my best. I had maybe three days that my milk was late. So, fortunately, it came in. I had the best lactation consultant ever. This woman named, Rosemary. Again, just an incredible human that found their way into my life and she walked me through getting Pixie off of the bottles from the NICU. And I think she was on formula for two or three days. And then, I was on to exclusively breastfeeding. So, proud of my body. I have been through so much with her because she really had a rough start to life. And now that I’m through it. And I feel like we were texting each week, there was something. It was like the jaundice week, and then there was she had a lip tie, and then we got that removed. And then, she had her tongue tie, and we got that released. And then, Carmella had RSV and was in a hotel.
Elliot: Oh, my goodness!
Christina: Quarantining for week five of her life. And then, she had just one thing after the other. So, much so, we were at the pediatrician 15 times already. She’s got more specialists than I do. She has her craniosacral therapist that she saw every single week of her life so far. She had a little bit of grunting issue. And I think they injured maybe her little flap when they were —
Elliot: Through the intubation.
Christina: Intubation, because she has this little popping that happens with her throat. I will tell you, bottom line — I do not want to sound like I’m complaining, it’s the last thing I want to sound like. I have a baby who’s alive. That was my only goal for 2023. I am so grateful she’s here. I am so grateful for the team of doctors, the NICU, my family, my husband’s family. I’ve flown my husband’s mom back and forth three times. I keep thinking we’re okay, and then I fly her back because we need more help. Everyone has shown up for me. Like, everyone in my whole life has gone out of their way to be there for me. And honestly, the whole year. I mean now that I’m through it, you know. I’m through this what I hope is on to the next chapter of my life. I hope that chapter ended and this one began. I really hope it’s new and it’s different. Like, the next five years, you know. It feels like the last five years were so hard and fruitful. I have two beautiful living daughters. But I am so torn apart and tired emotionally, you know. And now, I can heal. I think that’s the whole moral of the story, or the end of the bow on the present, or whatever. I think now, I can move on in the sense of move forward. And I guess there’s no “on.” I can move forward and I can be so grateful for my little family.
And now, I’m just dealing with fourth-trimester stuff. I’m cracking up. I’m exhausted. And I’m doing all the overnights. And Paul and I are trying to figure out her gas, and she’s colicky, and I’ve quit dairy and gluten and soy. These things feel very normal. I’m in it. I’m having you know challenges in regular new again mom. I’m hormonal, you know. I’m going through all the things. I don’t think I have postpartum depression right now. I feel okay. I feel like my head’s just sort of above water. But I know that it’s waves, and I know that I have to make it through all the waves and all the hormones as I regulate and I weigh as much as I did. Right before I had the baby, my body is not letting go of an ounce. It’s holding on for dear life while I’m breastfeeding. Some women just lose all this weight.
Elliot: Did that happen with Carmella, too?
Christina: Yeah. I kept all the weight until I stopped breastfeeding.
Elliot: So, I feel like it’s one or the other. Either they just suck everything out of you —
Christina: It’s genetic. I’m convinced. But you know, I didn’t bounce back. I don’t fit in any of my clothes yet.
Elliot: Oh, welcome to my world. I have a few more questions for you. We’re going to take a little break. But before we go to that break, when you set your head’s just above water, it reminded me of Jim Gaffigan. When he came out, I think it was his Mr. Universe. Especially when he came out and goes, “Oh, I just became a flower!” And everybody goes nuts, like huge applause. And he goes, for the fourth time, and then it’s dead silent.
Christina: Oh, my God.
Elliot: Yeah, not too much applause for the fourth baby. And he said, if you want to know what it’s like to have a fourth baby, just picture yourself drowning and someone hands you a baby. You know?
Christina: Yes! That is it!
Elliot: At least you’re just drowning.
Christina: Well, because also I have to say, you know, I thought I was going to be with a four almost five-year-old, going from one to two. Because everyone says the transition from one to two is the hardest. And I’m like, yeah. But Carmella is like 14. She’ll be fine. Oh, my God! The feelings in her are so big. And it’s funny because she’s obsessed with Pixie. But for a second at a time — because Pixie just sits there. And so, Carmella will come over and be like, “Hey, sissy!” And squeeze or chase, and then she’s like off and playing. And Pixie’s just like, “What happened? Who is that?” You know? And I know they’ll be friends soon. But right now, Carmella’s like, “Whatever.” She’s so upset with me and Paul, right? So, it was the transition with our time and spreading out our time. So, we have not had it easy with our toddler. And everyone goes through that.
And gosh, I just feel so lucky, too. Because, you know, when we lost Rosie, and I’m just watching all my friends have second, third kids, I was like I knew my family wasn’t done yet. I wanted still so badly to have this experience. So, I’m trying to remind myself of that when I’m not sleeping in the middle of the night, or when I’m frustrated, or when I feel I just want to go to Hawaii alone. I keep thinking, “Well, I’m just going to go on vacation real quick. I’ll be back in a couple weeks.” I keep feeling I need to get in the car and drive, or you know. I know these feelings I’ve had them before. And I will say I’m letting myself feel them, and I don’t feel guilty for feeling them. Because there’s this other brand new guilt that comes from like, “But your baby’s alive, and how could you complain about having a baby.” Well, it’s not so much complaining as it is sharing. But I’m letting myself have all the feelings.
I’m not saying I need to pretend. This is why I came on as messy as I am right now. This is why I wanted to document this with you, too. Because I refuse — sometimes, I want so badly to be the person on Instagram. With the perfect house, tidy rooms, and the organized cupboards, and the kid, and everybody’s smiling. And sometimes, we do look like that. And, you know, I have a really cute picture of Carmella and Pixie, both smiling. But all the moments in between are so messy. And the birth was so messy. And the postpartum was so messy. And I just felt like I deserved for it to be something different. And the truth is just that’s just not life. I don’t know. I said, I’m tired of being a strong soldier. I’m not going to lie. I’m handing in my gear or my fields and stuff. I’m fully, you know, I say that, of course, I won’t.
Elliot: You are such a strong soldier.
Christina: Thank you.
Elliot: And even the fact that you can sort of blend in a little bit of laughter with all the grief and all the guilt —
Christina: I found out, and I posted this the other day and so many people wrote to me just about this one phrase. Because I said that I learned that joy and grief hold hands. And I didn’t know that. I did not know that until I knew it. So, that has been this year, this whole year. This [unin 48:58] definitely the past five.
Elliot: Well, I mean this is going to be great for Paul. Because another similar thing is tragedy plus time equals comedy. So, it’s just a matter of how much time till his set gets really good.
Christina: Oh my God!
Elliot: Let’s take one more break. We’ll come back and wrap it up we’ll be right back.
Elliot: Welcome back to the Informed Pregnancy Podcast. So, now, we know the rest of the story. I mean, honestly, I think it’s a non-involved person. I can’t imagine anybody would make different choices than you made.
Christina: Thank you.
Elliot: And they’re so freaking hard to make. And it just shows so much strength you have to have been able to do it. And it’s human to go back in question and to think, “What if I had done this and not that?” And, you know, there’s even movies about that. What if I just took that door, not that door, you know? All of life would have been different. I’m grateful that you’re home with your family, with your husband, and your two girls. And that your neck is above water. Your head is above water, not underneath it. And I’m so grateful that you came to share while you’re still going through it. And it’s so, so hard but, you know, life is not Instagram. And if we don’t share and talk open and honestly about the struggles that we haven’t pretend like we’re doing great.
I think I put on my Facebook maybe two years ago, around this time of year is my New Year’s resolution, is to look like my Facebook profile. That guy is amazing. He’s first of all is 20 pounds lighter than I am, He is in the best relationship ever with his wife and family. I want to be like my Facebook guy. I guess now, he’s an Instagram guy. My Meta dude. Anyway, so you know, this is life. This is real life. And I can only pray and hope that you get the pendulum swinging even further the other way, not just being just above the surface, you know, with a living baby but having all the joys and peace that you deserve. So, here we are, how old is Pixie now?
Christina: She is two months old. Nine weeks.
Elliot: Okay. Nine weeks. And it sounds like you’re just getting a little breathing space.
Christina: Yes. I’m also just believing she’s here. I’ll tell you that much. I feel like I’ve been a bit in shock. I have been, you know, regular postpartum shock. Just remembering how crazy the fourth trimester is and feeling overwhelmed. And that causes a sense of survival mode, right? So, you’re in survival mode in the beginning. And I feel like that’s for everybody. But when you add in what I went through, and Paul, what Paul went through, we just kept waiting for her not to be okay. Especially because we came home from the NICU, and then because she had some health issues each week, I just kept waiting for someone to tell me she wasn’t okay and she was going to go away. And I had therapy for the first time this week. It was interesting. We talked about everything but the birth. Because that’s like we need our own session for that. But we talked about — we’re going backwards.
So, we started with where I am now and we’re going back. And that’s the first thing that my therapist said to me was like, “Can we just look at Pixie and believe that she is here. And she is so cute and she is obsessed with me.” Now, I remember Carmella. You know, loving me and bonding with me because we’re breastfeeding. And it’s just this beautiful thing but I don’t remember Carmella staring at me the way Pixie does. And when I hold Pixie, she also makes me hold her around her body, and then I also have to hold her finger, and she has to look up at me and make sure I’m there. So, we have this a little bit of extra bonding to do I think because of her experience, you know, going to the NICU first. And I wonder if other NICU moms have this experience where the bond might actually be a little deeper because we are doing extra to make up for it.
So, I also think, you know, it’s funny and it’s also exhausting that no one can soothe her as good as me. So, I get grandma trying, and Paul trying, and all the aunts trying, and all the friends trying. And then, the second she gets to me, she’s just quiet. She is just like my little buddy, and I am finally letting myself enjoy it. So, that sound, or I should say, because every week has been so different. So, the vibe of week nine really is this me, settling into believing that she is here and she is well, and in doing that, you know, I’m just madly in love with her and she is so in love with me. It’s insane! Everyone even says like, “I can’t get over how she looks at you.” She just is mommy’s girl. So, that is where we are at and she is healthy and safe.
Elliot: I love week nine.
Christina: Me, too. This is my favorite month.
Elliot: I mean, you know, it’s got to just get better and better and better. More of that less of what’s been happening up until now. And, you know, she’s probably going to get more sleep.
Christina: Yes. Yes, [unin 54:16] I’m reminding myself are temporary.
Elliot: And all the self-care, each piece will build you up know get to move around, and do some exercise. Try to find a decent chiropractor to visit, any of those things would be helpful for you.
So, I have a couple of questions. One is just recommendation-wise. If you’re my friend and you’re going through that, is there any right or wrong thing for you that would have felt right or wrong to say or to offer or to do? What did you need and want?
Christina: During which part?
Elliot: Like the post, the NICU, and then coming home. And even now, you said, mother-in-law’s coming back and forth because you need support. What kind of things could your friends do for you that would be helpful and supportive?
Christina: Great question. I feel like — so some things that people have done, my best friend came and just took Carmella out. So, it’s so interesting, I obviously care very much about the baby. But I care so much about Carmella’s emotions, and her transition, and not traumatizing her, or creating rifts in our relationship that we’re going to have to go back and work on. So, I’ve tried to make sure that Carmella is super loved and bonded, and having fun. I don’t want her to just be alone in her playroom. So, it meant so much to me to have people come over and play with Carmella, or swoop her up, put her in their car, and take her to Target or Starbucks, or any little adventure, meant the world to me, for my older baby. And then, for me. If anyone could just grab Pixie, so I could shower or eat or pee.
Elliot: You’re so demanding.
Christina: Yeah, I know. No, but this is what I remember of the fourth trimester with Carmella. It’s just the basic needs. I just want to do them first, and then, you know, I went and got a pedicure. Things like that will slowly trickle in now. And so, in the very beginning, what’s most helpful I think is food. People that cook for me, or brought food, or just fed me, and didn’t ask me what I wanted. That was a lot of Paul and his mom. And then, you know, I think a gentle congratulations. I love that language. So, many people said that to me when I got pregnant, even with Rosie because I had a miscarriage. And then, after we lost Rosie and then got pregnant with Pixie, a lot of people said a gentle congratulations to you and that means so much to me. Because it’s like I don’t want the big, crazy hoopla, you know. Especially because what we went through was hard in the NICU. It was very much about, “Hey, I love you. I see you. Are you okay? Do you need anything? What can I do?” And me going, “I’m okay. We’re okay. I need some more time,” a lot of that. Just a gentle check-in was the best thing.
Elliot: That’s really powerful. And something I think very tangible that is helpful for us, the people who could be there to support you, gentle congratulations. I think that should be a balloon. Yeah, a small one.
Christina: I need gentle congratulations, yes.
Elliot: I know you have to give back to your baby. And I just want to say again, how grateful I am, how inspired I am by you, how special you are, how lucky I am to have any kind of connection to have a relationship with you. And so is everybody around you. You’re just a super special person. I appreciate you.
Christina: I appreciate you, and thank you for this space. I feel like so much healing just happened in real-time in this conversation. Because it’s areas I haven’t yet kind of looked back on, and I will continue to do the work in therapy and trauma work to work through some of the stuff that might get stuck in my body. But honestly, the conversation we had right now definitely just worked out a lot of pain I think I’ve been holding on to and regret. So, I’m grateful to you.
Elliot: Yeah, me too. So, here’s what I have by way of follow-up. As I promised, I sought out a doctor who I respect a lot of. His name’s Dr. Nathan Fox and he’s an OB-GYN and a maternal-fetal medical specialist. And we have a very in-depth, but also broken down and easy-to-understand conversation about clotting disorders. What they are, the different types, how they kind of affect you, how they can be tested for, what the results might mean or not mean once you are diagnosed, and how treatment works.
And, for just as you saw the kind of clotting disorder that you have is treated extremely effectively with the protocol that you used very successfully. So, that’s Dr. Nate Fox on clotting disorders will come after our series of episodes here.
Then, I just interviewed a mom who is also super inspirational. She’s also a NICU mom. And she was in fashion and clothing, and she became a doula so that you know she could be there to help other people transition when it goes well, and also when it’s more complicated. And I think if you listen to that, you’re going to hear a lot of resonation for things that you went through that probably a lot of NICU parents go through. And then, I don’t know. So, six months down the road, we’ll check back in with you, perhaps together with my wife who’s a real therapist. And just kind of see how you healed and the not messy you. That the other, “Oh, not just the Paul #2. Christina #2!”
Christina: There you go!
Elliot: Instagram Christina, but it’s real.
Christina: The integrated Christina, that’s what it is.
Elliot: Integrated Cristina. I’m ready for that. Alright. And I can only assume, like I said, Paul’s comedy will get better, and he’ll have material, and your music will continue to be powerful and inspiring and moving. Just for my sake, tell me where we can find you online.
Christina: Sure. You can find me anywhere on Spotify, on Instagram @christinaperri. And I will say, I’ve already plugged my upcoming lullaby will be songs for Pixie. My third installment of my Lullaby series, and I’m working right now on the track list, which is adorable, and I’m going to make a Lullaby record just for her.
Elliot: Oh, I cannot wait. I cannot wait to hear that. I wonder if your other music will show up randomly on our Pandora for business several times a week. I get to have a little —
Christina: I love that. I tell people that’s me saying hi.
Elliot: I love it. Alright. I appreciate you. I’m going to go visit you online.
And for us, we have this whole new platform called Informed Pregnancy Plus. And anybody who wants to check it out, it’s @informedpregnancy.tv.