It’s never easy bringing a baby into the world. There’s fear of the unknown, pain in the contractions, and possibly scars from surgery. Healing takes time, but we eventually begin to forget how uncomfortable those few hours were; that is, unless things didn’t go as we planned… I think I may have birth trauma.
My first birth was long and hard. It lasted close to 42 hours, my epidural didn’t work, and I remember feeling barely conscience. But I came out of it okay, healed well, and quickly forgot what contractions truly felt like.
My second was a dream delivery. I had to be induced due to a complication, but I had a perfect epidural, the delivery was calm and short, and I was up and showering five minutes later. I felt great! Yes, I could totally do this again!
Then my third happened. I woke up in the middle of the night with a contraction so intense that I immediately began to shake all over. I felt nauseous, I was bleeding, and I quickly called the hospital knowing ‘this was it.’ They told me I couldn’t come to my registered hospital because they were on deferral. They said they’d call around until they found another location for me to deliver, and I stood in my living room panicking and shaking. Five minutes passed, then ten, and my husband said ‘forget it’ and we headed to our original planned hospital.
I was still extremely nauseous once checked-in, and after finding out that I was only at 5cm I quickly requested an epidural and gravol. The anti-nausea meds worked fast, but on the first attempt at an epidural placement, the anesthesiologist gave me a dural puncture. It took her another hour to get a proper placement. From there things continued to go down hill.
My labor stalled out at 6cm. They broke my water to try and help things along, but there was meconium. Hours later, nothing had happened, so they gave me some drugs through an IV to try and get things moving. It worked, but I began having excruciating back labor. They figured the baby was facing the wrong direction. A proactive nurse came in, got me on my hands and knees, and pushed my tailbone during each contraction. It worked, and I quickly began to dilate and get some relief.
The anesthesiologist came in and was concerned about why I was feeling so much since I had an epidural placement. He decided to top it up to make me more comfortable, but within seconds of him doing so nearly my entire body froze. I could feel myself losing control of my limbs part by part and it was terrifying! First my legs, than my arms, and I could feel it fast approaching my neck.
Suddenly there were a ton of people in the room. One Doctor was checking my airway, two others were watching me and our baby’s heart rate monitors, two nurses were by my bed, and another was holding my hand and telling me to stay calm. I knew what they were doing… they were getting ready to whisk me away for an emergency C-section. Everyone was tense. But the freezing stopped, our heart rates remained well, and I was fully dialated. Ten minutes later, I had pushed out our beautiful girl – something the nurses had never seen happen after such a situation.
After she came out, I cried. Not because I was so happy to see her (though I was). No, I cried because the awful ordeal was over. The stress, the pain… it was done. Except, it wasn’t. I would soon have a spinal headache from that dural puncture and it would likely be the worst headache I’d ever have. I’d need to be on bedrest, because laying flat on my back was the only thing that would minimize the pressure and painful throbbing.
It was true. I had to crawl on all fours to use the bathroom. I couldn’t shower for days. I missed Thanksgiving dinner. I felt like my first week of life with my baby girl was taken from me. It was awful, but I eventually recovered.
Now? For the first time since starting to have babies, I’m terrified of giving birth. I’m terrified to ever get an epidural again. I’m terrified of the pain. I’m terrified of the unknown. I’m terrified of feeling so completely helpless and out of control of my own body. I’m not opposed to having a fourth child, but I’m not sure I could get past that fear. That alone shuts down the thought of ever having another baby. Our baby girl was worth it, but I don’t want to do that again.
So why am I writing this? To deal. To process. To find others who may feel the same way I do. I realize that all ended well, but that doesn’t take away the grief. Everyone who has given birth has a story. A story of triumph over pain, loss, or control. Birth trauma is real, and I think I have it.
What’s your story?