My childbirth baggage

Monday, October 21, 2013

I haven't really thought about my horrific birthing experience in quite some time, but this month's PAIL Bloggers theme brought to light that I have a ton of unresolved issues around this subject.  In this post, I am going to focus mostly on the issues and complications that I had during B's birth and how they continue to haunt me.  Here goes...

I have written in great detail about my birth experience, which you can read about below if you are interested.  I'll also give some of the highlights if you'd rather not go back 6 months:

Suffice it to say that I basically had (almost) the worst birthing experience that I could have imagined and the birth plan, that I had so carefully drafted, may as well have been shredded on the spot.  I was scheduled to be induced at 40 weeks, 4 days due to a raging case of PUPPPs and borderline gestational diabetes.  I was forced given Cytotec to ripen my cervix, which had been stuck at 2cm for weeks.  I was in a Pitocin induced labor for almost 40 hours.  I had my water broken by the doctor with a coat hanger because it wouldn't break on its own.  I was given an epidural about 28 hours into labor, but that stopped working by the time that I had to push.  I finally got to 10 cm and then pushed for almost 3 hours.  The baby got stuck in my pelvis.  I had to have an unplanned, emergency(ish) c-section.  During my c-section the doctors could not get my uterus to contract so I lost a ton of blood during the surgery and kept passing out due to low blood pressure (my husband later told me it looked like a murder scene with blood squirting and spilling onto the floor).  I really thought I was going to die.  The doctors kept telling me to look to my baby and focus on my baby, but I was more concerned with my own well-being.  I had to have a blood transfusion (actually, 2 of them) because my hematocrit levels were so low.  I blew up like a water balloon from all of the drugs.  My PUPPPs got so bad after I delivered that they sent doctors over from other hospitals to try to help me, but nothing did end up helping me.  I had almost no interest in my child in the hours that followed his birth because I was so drugged up and so exhausted.  Breastfeeding also went terribly and he ended up losing 10% of his birth-weight and I had to supplement with formula, which was something I said that I would NEVER do.

I am now 6 months out from that horrifically wonderful day.  It is horrific because of what I had to go through, but wonderful because I have him to show for it.  The other day I was looking back at pictures of B from when he was just a few days old.  He has grown so much from then until now (born 9lb, 2 oz and 21.5in and at 6 months he is 19.1lbs, 28in!) and looking back at his pictures made me so sad.  I barely even remember the first few days that I spent with him.  I was so miserable the first few weeks that I feel like I didn't get to enjoy him.  I don't even remember what his baby smell was like.  I was so worried about whether we was getting enough calories from my milk and having enough wet/poopy diapers, that I didn't get to savor the time that we had together.  I was so exhausted and drained from the labor, surgery, and recovering from my rash that I couldn't focus my attention on my baby.  I am still angry about that.  I haven't been able to let it go.

When I hear mommies talking about how their perfect vaginal birth went exactly according to plan, I feel like a failure.  My body (once again) failed me in this instance.  I wanted to have an uncomplicated birth.  I didn't want major surgery.  Why did he get so big when I was so strict with my diet?  Why didn't they induce me sooner so that he may have had a chance to fit through my (apparently) narrow pelvis?  Why didn't my body do what it was supposed to, when it was supposed to?  If I had lived in more primitive times, B and I would have most certainly both died.  I wanted to decide how many kids I would want and when I would want them and not have to let my doctor make that decision.  Now, I am pretty much going to be forced into another c-section, if I can get pregnant again, but only after I have waited the recommended 18 months.

I have talked to a few people about my unresolved issues surrounding the birth of B.  Even the mommies that have had unplanned/emergency c-sections don't seem harbor the kind of anger and sadness that I have surrounding my childbirth experience.  I don't get the sense that they feel cheated, like me.  Usually I get the, "well look at the result!", and well, they would be right, I guess.  I have yet to come across anyone else who really feels the way that I do.  Maybe no one else feels like I do.  I should just be happy that I have a beautiful and healthy son.  I know that I need to move on, but I can't.  I'm still so sad.  I cry about it when no one is around.  I still mourn it like a loss.  I feel like, once again, I was denied another womanly right and had to have medical intervention.

My childbirth baggage has definitely clouded the outlook for subsequent births.  I am not sure that I could ever go through that kind of experience again.  My husband and I were talking about this other day... The process of getting pregnant, staying pregnant, being pregnant, and childbirth did not go well for me and at this point, neither of us can see it happening again.  I want to have a sibling for B, but I am terribly afraid of everything that surrounds that idea.  I am wondering if time will heal the wounds that I have sustained or if they will continue to taint my future.    

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5 Responses to “My childbirth baggage”

  1. I'm read this yesterday and I thought about it so much today.

    First, I can imagine it much be very difficult if the people in your circle primarily had picture perfect births. Have you tried casting your net a little further? In my circle of friends, I don't know anyone who had their labor going according to their plan. While I don't think it's particularly helpful to compare, I do think it's comforting to know that you aren't alone. L&D is a scary, unpredictable and potentially very dangerous thing.

    For me, I had a hard and long labor (and a failed epidural as well, maybe those are more common than they let on?). It certainly didn't go much as planned. But for me the hardest part was that my son was taken away to NICU within a few minutes of his birth. I missed him opening his right eye for the first time (he opened the other one for me. :)) .I missed his first bath. His first socks, his first needle prick, I didn't get to count his toes or fingers. Those things were (and are) hard for me.

    For a while I beat myself up because I felt like I missed his pregnancy and his birth altogether. After four miscarriages, I felt like there was no way that little man was actually going to make it safely to my arms. I remember sobbing as they wheeled him out of my room to NICU. It wasn't fair, we'd been through so much to hold him to touch him...

    I think I'm doing a horrible job of explaining what I'm trying to say. I guess the short version is that I understand what you are feeling, because I've felt it. The thing that has helped me so much and allowed me to move to a place of peace was trauma counseling. After our losses (actually we started after our third loss) I attended therapy with two different counselors. I was able to work though some of my feelings of betrayal with myself, my body and the world. I was able to embrace the positive, truly fully embrace it, while letting go of the negative. That doesn't mean I forget, of course. I'll always be sad I missed baby's first bath. (and the camera broke, so I don't even have a picture...) but I can focus on hundreds of moments since and yet to come.

    I would strongly encourage you to consider talking to someone. You have almost nothing to lose and so much to gain.

    Thinking of you.

  2. Thanks so much, Amy. I didn't even really get into the whole finger and toe counting thing, but I am completely with you on that. I'm so sorry that your baby had to go to the NICU, also. Besides not being able to see him, you had the added worry of not knowing whether he was ok or not. I can't even imagine the extra level of stress that you had.

    I have gone to see therapists before to deal with the death of my Dad, my miscarriages, and my anxiety during my successful pregnancy. I think the latter helped the most, but I still always feel like the psychologists/counselors that I see can't really relate to what I went through. They always tell me to focus on the positives that I now have and they are totally right. This is what I should be doing. The part that I need help with is letting go of what happened. It sounds like you found someone to help you do that. Did you end up getting lucky or did you do lots of research to find someone? I have had some good therapists and some bad ones, but never a great one unfortunately.

    Thanks again for taking the time to read and respond. I truly appreciate it!

  3. I'm so sorry for what you had to endure during your L & D experience and for the ways it still haunts you to this day. I have actually heard a number of women who have had similar experiences, or different experiences that they still classify as horrible, so I know you are not alone. My close friend had an awful induction experience and, though she didn't need a c-section, it traumatized her in a huge way and she suffered severe postpartum depression for a year after her son's birth. It sounds to me (and I'm no expert or professional) that you may have a little PTSD in regards to your experience and I agree with Amy -- counseling could probably be so helpful. There's no harm or shame in seeking someone to talk to so that you can find some healing. You deserve that! Wishing you the very best! xoxo

  4. Other people had unplanned c-sections, but yours was a whole new level of unplanned! It sounds so tough. Im sure it's something that will take time to process. You worked so hard for baby B, in and out of the womb, it is unfair you had such a horrible experience.

  5. To avoid getting into TL;DR territory, I'm going to write this in list form. Let me know if you'd like elaboration on any point.

    1. Birth trauma is incredibly common. You are certainly not the only person who feels like you do. There are support groups, blogs, forums, and even therapists that specifically deal with birth trauma. It is a known thing and you are not alone in that.

    2. My first baby was born at 9 pounds, and I never considered that too big or felt like my body failed me by growing a baby to that size, and I don't think yours did either.

    3. Please don't blame your body or think it failed you. The "cascade of interventions" is also common in births today. Many women who thought their pelvises were too narrow, that they wouldn't go into labor -- ever -- without induction, that they couldn't birth big babies . . . were able to do it the next time around by avoiding or changing certain birth practices. It wasn't their bodies; it was their circumstances.

    4. VBACs happen.