Hafa adai guys, my name is Joanette Gogue, many of you know me as Jo. I grew up in Long Beach until I turned 18 and moved to Atlanta Ga. I eventually moved back in 2010. It’s true when they say, ‘there’s no place like home!” I’m a mommy to two amazing, beautiful boys, CJ and Jerney. They’re 7 years apart. I am a proud Chamorro who was raised by a VERY strict father and a mom who went along with whatever my dad said. I used to think he was strict because at the time he had four daughters. I have three sisters and one brother. When we would fight often, my father would always say to us “you guys are all you have, you better figure it out” that was the clean version. LOL, I didn’t really understand it, until he passed. People always wondered why my siblings and I are so close. My dad made sure we figured it out what he was telling us all these years.
My dad taught me a lot of things. First and foremost, it was always Family first. He taught me how to be tough, to be independent, never accept a handout, work really hard and never depend on a man. I used to think these were great qualities about me. In some way it paralyzed me to have certain relationships with people. I became this hardcore chick who felt men we’re disposable. I was that chick saying I don’t need a man; I can do it myself. It wasn’t just men... I felt I didn’t need anyone. I had that mentality – I’ll figure it out on my own. That all changed when I gave birth to Jerney in 2021.
On April 25, 2020, the anniversary of my dad’s passing I wasn’t feeling well. We were in the beginning stages of the pandemic and everything was shutting down. I knew something was wrong with me because I was struggling to complete my workouts. That wasn’t like me. I worked out 5xs a week and ran 3 miles a day. I was praying I didn’t have covid. I started to find myself taking naps in the middle of the day and it dawned on me to take a pregnancy test. So, I did, and it was positive! I had so many emotions come over me. Was I really about to have another baby? At 39? CJ just turned seven. Ricky, my boyfriend, and I we’re just finding our way back after our 10 years of a back-and-forth relationship rollercoaster. Once I told him I was pregnant there was no turning back – we're having a baby!
During covid Ricky wasn’t allowed to come with me to any of my doctor visits. I went to my first baby appointment alone. I got to hear the baby’s heartbeat and received our first ultrasound pics. I couldn’t plan my routine visit with my original OB doctor because Kaiser had specific OB doctors in rotation and a separate facility away from Covid patients. Every time I saw a doctor it was always a new one. I hated it. I was almost out of my first trimester when the doctor sent me to get a scan on my cervix. Wait what? She told me it looks like I may have Placenta Previa. Where the baby is blocking my cervix and potentially having bleeding during my pregnancy and during delivery. I’m already anemic. I instantly became high risk and put on bedrest.
Every visit after that was always something. Baby has a hole in his kidney, the baby's neck looks like he could have down syndrome, your cervix may not be able to carry a baby, it is never ending bad news. The doctors would push me to get an amniocentesis test done to see if the baby had down syndrome and just like with CJ... I declined. My older sister Jasmine was born with an extra chromosome, and she is pretty dang awesome. It didn't make a difference to me if my baby was going to have down syndrome or not. Nonetheless, I was a mess my entire pregnancy especially since I’m a worry wart.
As we got closer to my due date, I started to feel a sharp pain in my pelvic area, to the point it would hurt me to even walk. I kept telling my doctors, there’s something wrong. He’s so heavy. The doctors would tell me it's just the baby growing, wear this belt to help relieve the pressure. I would tell my doctors that I was worried about having a big baby because Ricky was 10lbs. They measured my stomach and said “nope, the baby looks like 7 to 8lbs.” Jerney surpassed his due date by two weeks just like CJ and they scheduled for me to get induced. My last doctor's visit I asked again, are you sure my baby is not 10lbs because I’m in so much pain. The doctor measured me again and said “Nope he’s 8lbs, your body has delivered a baby once before you can do it again.” Just push him out like you did your last baby.” I was about to lose my shit because no one gave a damn that I was complaining for a reason. I had such a great experience with my doctor when I had CJ and to have an experience like this for my second child I was annoyed and over it. Let’s just have this baby already.
Delivery day. I went in at 9am on Jan 4th 2021 and I knew what to expect, I did this before. I knew it was going to be a long painful day. My contractions were coming back- to-back, and my epidural didn’t work. Not the first time or the second time. I was dilating quickly until we got to 8cm. It took me hours to get to 9cm. Then we finally got to 10 cm and I was ready to push. When I had CJ, I pushed for 15 mins and he was out. I was ready to do the same. I must have pushed for over an hour and Jerney was not surfacing. They told me to give them one more big push and when I did all I heard was the doctor yell some secret code and 15 doctors and nurses rushing in the room. I had someone stand over me and push on my belly, I had another nurse tell me to keep pushing as hard as I can. I heard another lady say something about a c-section and I instantly had a burst of energy and pushed like my life depended on it. The doctor said I’m just going to grab him out and as I pushed, she pulled Jerney out. All I could see was Ricky's face flushed with tears and worry at the same time. I was completely out of it at this point. I remember asking where’s my baby? Why is he not crying? Why don’t I hear him? I looked at Ricky and he said the baby is not breathing and they’re working on him. They rushed Jerney to ICU and Ricky came to my bedside as the doctors were telling him I was losing a lot of blood and he saw on my face the confirmation to go be with the baby.
Jerney finally started breathing however he had bleeding in his brain, possible shoulder dystocia and his vitals were low. The doctors were able to stop me from bleeding, however my blood pressure was sky high. I remained medicated on a drip in my room while Jerney was in NICU. I couldn’t see him, I didn’t have skin to skin, I didn’t get to hold my baby until almost 48hours later. I was devastated. Rick, who is strong in his faith, gave me reassurance that everything will be okay.
During Covid, patients were not allowed to leave their hospital rooms. Thank God they allowed Rick to go back and forth from Nicu and my room. Rick would report back and fourth on Jerney’s progress. When it was time for me to use the restroom on my own, I asked Rick to help me get out of bed and that’s when I realized I couldn’t walk. My legs wouldn’t move. I felt them but they weren’t moving together. I was terrified. The doctor came in and examined me, they did x rays and there we have it, my pelvic was separated during delivery. Completely deflated at this point. I had so many questions. What does this mean? Am I going to walk again? Am I going to need surgery? How long does this take to heal? Why is this happening? Once again, Ricky had to calm me down and reassured me that everything would be okay. After all of that, they finally allowed me to see my baby.
Rick rolled me into the ICU in my new two-wheeler. The first words out of my mouth when I saw my baby was sheesh, he was HUGE! I had an 11lb baby yall. He was so big next to all the other babies in NICU. His feet were about to start dangling outside of his incubator. Way to make an entrance son. It turned out that the baby was much bigger than the doctors expected. I should have had a c-section with his big self. Jerney was so big the nurses were giving him a 3oz bottle and he was still hungry. I instantly got discouraged. My milk hadn’t come in yet. I was barely getting any colostrum. I nursed CJ until he was 3 and I wanted the same for Jerney. I was a pro at nursing. There was no way I was going to keep up with Jerney’s appetite at 3oz right out of nicu.
A week later we were released from the hospital. CJ finally got to meet his baby brother and I was leaving the hospital with my two wheeler and a walker. Here I am with a newborn baby, my milk is barely coming in, I can’t walk and I’m in so much pain. Before you know it, my postpartum and depression started to kick in HEAVY!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I felt so inadequate as a mother. I felt like I was neglecting CJ who is so use to me being so involved and active, I felt like I couldn’t provide for my newborn because my milk wasn’t keeping up with his healthy appetite, I had to use a wheelchair or walker to go anywhere, I had to have a chair in the shower and I was starting to resent my partner because he was able to do everything with the kids and I couldn’t. I was lashing out, picking fights, crying for no reason and didn’t want to be bothered by anyone.
I was gaining so much weight, I was heavier than when I was nine months pregnant with an 11lb baby. I wasn’t a nice person to be around. I was negative about everything. I can’t stand people like that, and I became one of those people. I honestly hated life at this point.
I had this expectation of what pregnancy, delivery and recovery was going to be like since I’ve done it before. It didn’t happen that way. I went from being so independent and active to being restricted and codependent on my boyfriend and family.
This wasn’t me. I hated asking for help. I hated feeling like I was a burden on people. I hated relying on others. I would see old photos of me, and I would cry. I missed being able to go to the gym, I missed being able to swim in the pool with CJ, I missed being the fun girlfriend, I missed dancing, I missed being independent. That’s all I’ve ever known.
I was determined to walk again. The doctors would tell me it’s a process, allow your body to heal, take it easy. They clearly didn’t know me very well. I need to expedite this process. Give me more therapy, give me more at home exercises and let’s get this show on the road. I stopped using my walker and would use the walls and wear socks to help me glide around the house. Although I was working on getting physically stronger, I was still very weak mentally and emotionally. During this time, I was pushing people away. My family and Rick we’re sick of me being mad and angry all the time. CJ was having major meltdowns and seeking attention. I would see how attached he was getting to Rick, and it would hurt my feelings. He’s always been attached to Rick, but mommy was still the first choice. LOL. Prior to Rick, I was a single mom working two jobs providing for CJ. I did everything for him. I would work 18 hr. days, get home at 4am and get ready for soccer at 7am. Independent, no handouts and figured it out, just like my dad taught me.
I felt like I was losing my baby. I felt a wave of guilt rush me, I just felt like a shitty mom. Rick was just making sure CJ got the attention he needed because I was trying to attend to the baby, pumping every two hours or doing therapy. He was helping me, not hurting me. I didn’t like it because I didn’t ask him for help. I would pick fights with him because I was not happy with who I was. All Rick was doing was being a great partner and an even better father. Somehow, I always made it evident that I didn’t need him. Really, I did! I just didn’t know how to accept that. I was never taught that.
This is where how I was raised was a challenge for me. Needing someone and being dependent on them was unfamiliar waters for me. I was in denial when I had postpartum with CJ. It was never this bad. I knew I needed to seek help because I was not healthy mentally. I was losing it. It was affecting my kids, my partner, my relationship with friends and family as well as my career.
After several months of physical therapy and seeing a therapist for my mental health I was starting to walk again and gain my independence back. I learned so much about myself during this time. Not only did I go through something so traumatic with having my baby, but it allowed me to be vulnerable in ways I’ve never experienced before. I’ve learned that life is full of detours and uphill battles and the last thing you want is to go through them alone. The ones who love you want to be there for you. It's not a burden when these people love you. No matter how strong, independent, and hardcore I thought I was, I couldn’t have gotten through my most difficult days without the help of my family, close friends and most importantly Rick.
During delivery he wrote down every medicine they gave me and why. He wouldn’t allow them to release me until they found out why I wasn’t able to walk. He wouldn’t even allow a doctor to talk to me unless he was present! He spent long nights and early morning attending to Jerney and CJ when I wasn’t able. He would research exercises and stretches for me to do, he would allow me to cry in the shower and not have to hide it.
At my weakest points he would pray for me and reassure me that everything was going to be okay. He was right. I couldn’t have done any of this without him. I NEEDED HIM! I appreciate and love that man so much. BTW it’s his birthday today. LOL HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABE!
It is so important to have a solid support system. I’m forever grateful for that. Family first will always be apart of my foundation however, some of the other traits my father embedded in me are being reevaluated. That’s okay, I’m still evolving and learning more and more about myself at 40. I’m loving this new version of me.
What advice would you give women/men out there trying to do what you are doing now?
If you’re going through postpartum – reach out, seek help, and lean on others. It’s not something to be embarrassed about. You’re not alone. Our mommy community is the best. We got you, sis. For dads, BF or partners – hang in there. Mom is going through a lot. Be there for her, support her and just know it will be okay. We appreciate you even when you think it goes unnoticed. WE NEED YOU!
For anyone going through tough times in general or dealing with a setback. The best advice that was given to me was “IT’S TEMPORARY!!!” Push through and dig deep. Again, lean on others and it’s okay to ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Seeing a therapist was the best thing that ever happened to me. You never realize how much of your past will surface during a time of healing. I’m a better partner, sibling, friend and more importantly a better mother because I went to therapy. Accepting it wasn’t always easy, but that was because I never knew I needed it.
I’ll end this with, be kind to each other, be compassionate and understanding. You never know what people are going through. Check on the ones you love, it will be the strongest ones that are losing a battle within themselves and may not know how to ask for help. Unexpected detours happen in life and the best advice I could give anyone is find ways to adjust that works for YOU not anyone else. It’s your battle, it’s your detour, it’s your life. You got this!
Joanette (JoJo) Gogue