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Untangling Thoughts; My journey of Mental Health

Songs For Anna: The Playlist of Her Birth

“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream.” -Lana Del Rey

It’s five in the morning, I haven’t slept all night, and the alarm on Zack’s phone is going off. To say I have been dreaming of this day is an understatement. I’m excited, yes, but it’s taking everything within my being to keep the anxiety at bay. Something doesn’t feel right. Despite having a nearly perfect pregnancy, the closer we got to this date, the harder the anxiety has been to control. Even my dreams have been torturing me with images of loss and grief. I push these thoughts down.

Ready or not, today is the day.

Remnants of the night before still linger as we make our way 20 miles into town. These are the last simple moments of time with just him and I. We don’t say much but we listen to the playlist I made for our daughter. The lyrics convey our thoughts and sets the energy for the day. I take his hand in mine. I take a deep breath. I surrender to the flow.

“Should this be the last thing I see, I want you to know it’s enough for me. Cause all that you are is all that I’ll ever need. I’m so in love.” - Ed Sheeran

His hand squeezes mine as we glance at each other. I know he’s just as anxious as I am, but his strength encourages my own. Suddenly I am flooded with images of the future. We’re at our daughter’s wedding and I’m watching the two of them dance together; a moment that means more to me than I could ever express. I hold back the tears as we continue to listen to this song. I am filled with hope.

“This is the correlation between Salvation and love. Don’t drop your arms. I’ll guard your heart. With quiet words I’ll lead you in and out of the dark.” - Anberlin

Suddenly, my thoughts take me back to every core memory that I’ve made with my husband. We’re twenty years old, driving through the rural lands of Utah as we make our way back home to Colorado. This song is playing on the stereo. I can feel the love I had for Zack radiate through my being. Now we’re twenty-two, newly married and I’m mentally struggling. We stay up all night talking through my tangled mess of thoughts. And then we go for a drive to the mountains to watch the sunrise. Even then this song was being imprinted onto our souls.

I look over at him and I can see he is flooded with the same memories. We love this song by Anberlin. It has always played at the most perfect moments; tying us together and reminding us of a love that is far larger than anything we can fully understand. I close my eyes and muster a prayer of protection. I am filled with peace.

The rest of the car ride is filled with music and lyrics that remind me of the love I already have for my daughter. I can breathe a little easier. I’m ready for this.

“Look at the stars, look how they shine for you and everything that you do.” -Coldplay

“Isn’t she lovely. Isn’t she wonderful.” - Callum J Wright

The next several hours are filled with nurses going in and out of our room as we wait for the induction process to fully begin. I’m not dilating as quickly as they expected. We watch TV. We take naps. I watch my husband eat lunch and dinner as I munch on my ice chips and drink my juice. I’m not even hungry but the food smells so delicious. Zack assures me it’s not even that good. It’s been a 10-hour waiting game and finally the doctor says that it’s time to break my water and start the Pitocin.

All the wheels are set into motion and there’s no going back. I can tell I’m going to get more anxious, and I really don’t want the anxiety to fully take over. So I tell the doctor I want an epidural.

I immediately feel the Pitocin kick in as my body begins the contractions. I feel waves of pain rushing over my entire body. This is going to hurt. I take a deep breath in and tell Zack to start playing the playlist again. I need a distraction. I need to focus my thoughts on my daughter. The music calms me. I can breathe a bit easier again.

The doctor is trying to find the best placement for the epidural and she’s telling me to relax. I can’t help but to tense up. My thoughts are racing. I'm holding my breath. My hearing feels flooded, and my vision is blurred. I close my eyes and repeat to myself, “I can do this. My body was made for this. I can do this.” Then I hear my doctor ask, “Oh, is this Iron and Wine?” I’m caught off guard by the question. I forgot that music was even playing. I look up at my husband who is in the corner of the room with a worried look on his face. He can see that I am in agony and there is nothing he can do to help. And then I hear the music. I hear the first song I ever dedicated to my child years before we even conceived. I imagined singing this song to them as a lullaby. I imagined being in a hot air balloon, showing them the world from way up high as we dreamt together. This song brings me back to the present moment and my body begins to relax.

“They will see us waving from such great heights. Come down now, they’ll say. But everything looks perfect from far away. Come down now. But we’ll stay.” - Iron & Wine

Several hours went by with little progress. My body was going through contractions but I wasn’t feeling much. I’m happy I got the epidural; my anxiety has gone down a lot and I’m ready to just go with the flow of whatever happens from here. But my daughter is starting to show signs of distress. Her heart rate is dropping, and the doctor recommends that we move forward with a C-Section. This was not at all part of my birthing plan but to be quite honest, I was relieved. I had more trust in my doctor than I did with my own body. And looking back now, I realize that is okay.

By 11pm, 17 hours into labor, we moved everything over to the OR. Once the anesthesia kicked in, I felt completely out of my body. I wanted this process to be over. I wanted to hold my daughter. The doctor said I wouldn’t feel any pain but that I would feel the pressure of the knife cutting open my stomach. But I didn’t feel anything. My husband was right by my side, holding my hand and reassuring me that everything was going well. He was nervous and excited. And then at 11:46pm, we heard the words “Your daughter is here."

“For all the things my eyes have seen, the best by far is you.” - Andrew McMahon

Zack immediately went to our daughter. I held my breath until I heard her cry for the first time. My heart was so overwhelmed, but not with happiness. Of course, I was happy that she was here but my heart sank as I felt something wasn’t right. I couldn’t put words to what I was feeling in that moment. I was still processing everything that had just happened while getting my organs stuffed back into me and getting stitched up. Zack was able to follow the nurses to the other room while they cleaned her up. He got to hold her first; a moment the two of them will always share. I wish I was there to watch them. I wish I could see the tears well up in his eyes as he kissed our daughter for the first time and whispered “I love you” into her tiny ears. What a beautiful moment that must have been.

And all I could do was lay there on the operating table while my thoughts ran wild.

I know I was in shock. I couldn’t control my heart rate, I couldn’t control my breathing and I couldn’t control my thoughts. All I could do, as I laid there shaking, was think “I can’t hold my daughter, I’m going to drop her. I can’t even feel my body, how am I going to hold her?” But they wheeled me out of the OR and into the nursery, where the nurse was laid my daughter on my chest. All my anxiety was relieved in that moment. She was perfect!

” We were changed in an instant. We became so much more. Our definition of perfect was written when she was born.” - Sleeping At Last

Anna-Lucia Gwen Malabad was born September 23, 2021, at 11:46 pm, weighing 6.5lbs and measuring at 19 inches long. She was born the day after her Grandma Lisa’s birthday and the day of her Great Grandpa Taylor’s birthday. She experiences so much in those first few weeks of life. But everything she has gone through only empowers the tiny toddler she is today. A story for another time…

Why am I writing about this?

I set out to find balance within my mind, body, and spirit. And while on the surface everything seemed fine and easy enough to balance; when I took a deeper look within myself, I found that I was wrong. I am a tangled mess of unprocessed emotions and experiences. Since my daughter’s birth and leading into the next 12 weeks of her life; my own was turned upside down. I pushed down so much of what I was feeling during that time.

When I took an inventory of my mental state, back in January, I realized what a mess of thoughts I was left untangling. I tried to meditate. I started reading different self-help books. I focused on being mindful of what I was putting into my body. This all helped a little. But this story has been buried within me, waiting to be told. Waiting for me to take the time to remember those first moments of new life and really contemplate what those memories mean to me. I needed to relive those memories to allow myself to feel the emotions that I refused to feel in those raw moments.

So, this is the first blog in my series of Untangling My Thoughts; My journey of Mental Health.

Here I am almost 18 months into this journey with my daughter. It’s time to start healing.

“We will learn from each other. As you grow up, we will too.

In our reflections of one another. We will start something new” - Sleeping At Last

Listen to the whole Playlist on Spotify: Songs for Anna

Signing off with love,

Amanda Malabad

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