After an easy and uneventful pregnancy, popular fitness trainer Anna Victoria had no reason to expect anything other than a similar birth experience. But when she went into labor in August, her body had other plans. Following 15 hours of agonizing contractions and three hours of pushing, Victoria found herself being wheeled into the operating room for a cesarean section.
“It was traumatic,” Victoria, 32, told TODAY Health.
When Victoria’s daughter, Aurora, was placed in her arms, the new mom, who spent two years struggling with infertility, felt numb.
“I was coming down from all the medication,” Victoria explained. “It took me a week to sort out my emotions. I was definitely very aware that I didn’t feel that super instant, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t imagine my life without my baby.’ I feel that way now, but it took some time.”
Though Victoria makes it a point to be brutally honest with her more than 1.2 million Instagram followers, she hesitated to speak about her postpartum experience until now.
“A part of me felt like I was a bad person,” she admitted. “But I think it’s important to be honest because I know a lot of women go through the same thing."
According to Dr. Leena Mittal, a perinatal psychiatrist and the division director for women’s mental health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, it's not uncommon for a woman to experience guilt, anxiety or a mix of other emotions after an unplanned C-section.
“Anytime there’s a mismatch between expectation and reality, there’s potential for intense disappointment,” Mittal told TODAY Health.
Mittal noted that an unplanned C-section can also be a traumatic experience.
“If somebody feels like their life is in danger or their baby could die, that fear imprints as trauma,” Mittal said. “In the wake of trauma, it’s not uncommon to feel disconnected from many things, including the baby.”
If the feelings don’t resolve over the course of a few weeks as they did for Victoria, Mittal stresses the importance of seeking a mental health consultation. And it's important to remember that postpartum depression or anxiety may not happen immediately: A recent study found that women can experience symptoms anytime up to three years after delivering a baby.
Victoria’s little girl, whom she shares with her husband, Luca Ferretti, is now 16-weeks-old.
“I love laying with her,” Victoria gushed. “She’s starting have this big personality and smile at us. She keeps me busy!”
Work has Victoria busy as well. She just released a postpartum program on her Fit Body app.
“There are so many programs that aren’t safe,” Victoria said. “It needs to start with body weight and just getting your body moving again. You’re building — slow and steady."
Victoria is heeding her own advice — even though it's hard sometimes for the fitness queen.
"I want to work out the way I did before my pregnancy," she told TODAY Health. "Then I remind myself there's no rush."