This post may be a trigger to others who have had similar experiences, and I do speak about the “not pretty” side of labour and delivery. Please use discretion when reading.
I gave birth on October 5th, 2014. My daughter was beautiful. She was absolutely more than I ever could have asked for. She was a spitting image of my husband and I was so in love. Yes, she was healthy. But I was not.
I had a fairly good labour. It started on my due date with some early labour and Braxton hicks. The contractions were nothing time-able or unmanageable, I was just uncomfortable. The next day I had similar contractions and they picked up around 7PM, anywhere from 5-12 minutes apart. I got in the tub around midnight to see if they would ease and they didn’t. When I got out of the tub the contractions picked up so I woke Colin, and told him it was time to head to the hospital. They tell you to come when you’re having a contraction every five minutes and they last a minute, for at least an hour, but that never happened with me. I had been to the hospital 2 days earlier and was sick of the guessing game so we headed in to get checked. I was admitted around 1AM and I was 5-6cm dilated. Immediately I was put on a saline drip IV as I was dehydrated. Because of pain in my pelvis I was unable to walk a lot, so I mostly laboured in bed and in the shower.
Contractions are no joke but I was able to breathe through them. They were never consistent, and would go from being 1-2 minutes apart to being 5-10 minutes apart. This made it really difficult to track how far along I was and I was checked often by the nurses. Around 6AM when I was checked I was at 8cm. The nurses and on call OB kept telling me that we would have a baby by noon, hopefully sooner! I was really getting my hopes up. However I hadn’t slept in almost 24 hours and I was exhausted. They checked me every hour, for 6 hours. My body wouldn’t progress past 8cm, even after they broke my water, and slowly my birth plan got thrown out the window.
The nurse I had was absolutely amazing. She was encouraging, she would rub my back, and she would get me anything I needed. I had made it 16 hours of active labour without any pain medication and I felt amazing. Then she went on break and another nurse came in, and I was very quickly made to feel like my body wasn’t doing its job and that I was failing quickly. She reminded me over and over how tired I was (not that I needed to be reminded!) and that my body would do “much better” with the epidural. They also told me that I should be put on a pitocin drip to help progress my labour as it had been stalled for so long.
I felt defeated. I was proud of how far I’d come without medication and I didn’t want to feel like my body wouldn’t work without it. Colin and I spoke it over and through many tears, we decided that we would allow the drip. I got the epidural shortly after, again, with many tears. I remember sitting on the edge of the bed holding Colin’s hands, crying because I so badly didn’t want the epidural but I felt like a bad mom if I didn’t get rest to push out my baby. I wish in that moment I had been more educated on ways to progress my labour natural instead of lying in bed. So much would have been different.
Around an hour later the epidural finally kicked in. I dozed off, but could still lightly feel the contractions. I was half asleep for about half an hour and suddenly I woke up with immense pressure. Colin got the nurse and I said “I need to push!”. The nurse told me she would check me and call the on call doctor. I was just under 10cm dilated around 1:30 and my body naturally started pushing on its own, before the resident and on call doctor arrived.
When they had broken my water there had been meconium in the water. They explained to me that this meant the NICU team would need to be in the room to clear baby’s lungs before she started crying, to make sure she didn’t aspirate any meconium. This added 3 people to the room. In my birth plan I had stated I was not comfortable with men (aside from the on call doctor if need be) in the room, or students as this was my first birth and I wanted to be as comfortable as possible. Not only was there a student resident who delivered my baby (alongside the on call doctor), but there were 3 student residents (1 being a male) just standing on the side of the room watching. I also had 2 nurses (1 being a student and a 3rd was in and out of the room). Not including myself and Colin, this totalled 11 people in the room, this meant 5 people were there unnecessarily, also going against my wishes.
I started pushing around 1:30pm. Because had a synthetic drip I had to be hooked to the fetal monitor, and because I had the epidural I couldn’t move off my back. I felt like a freak being stuck to one place, and all these people around the room watching me. Ellie had shoulder dystocia which meant they had to internally manually move her. I had 3rd degree tearing and multiple 2nd degree tears, and I felt every bit of it. I remember screaming that at one point and looking at Colin and he was crying.
At 3:09pm our daughter Gabriella was born. She was 9lbs 2oz, and 21.5 inches long. She was taken away very quickly and I fell on to the bed. I don’t remember the next few minutes, as far as I know I was in and out of consciousness. I had lost a lot of blood (my doctor later informed me it was “over double the normal amount”), and my hemoglobin was down to 60. 2 people came in to stitch me and it felt like what took an eternity. It was so painful I remember asking the student nurse to come hold my hand (as Colin was with our baby) and be with me while I was stitched. To this day I don’t know how many stitches I had.
Shortly after they stitched me I got to hold Ellie for the first time. I don’t remember Colin ever telling me our daughter was here, or ever trying to count her fingers and toes. I felt so disconnected from the whole experience.
Trying to walk to the shower I almost fainted, and in the shower I needed a nurse to stand with me just so I wouldn’t fall. I had the shakes until 9 that night, no matter what I could not get warm or comfortable. When our parents came to visit I was sitting on the bed with my mom telling her the story, and months later she told me “I couldn’t even concentrate on what you were saying. You were so pale and shaky I honestly thought I was going to lose you”.
We struggled to breastfeed. Because I had been pumped full of fluid from the IV in labour, so was Ellie. She had dropped down over 10% of her birth weight to 8lbs 3oz and she had low blood sugar. I got absolutely no education on how to nurse and formula was pushed on me. The nurses brought me a pump but did not explain how to use it. We were swarmed with visitors and I was so incredibly overwhelmed with all that was going on. After 2 days in the hospital it was decided I would get a blood transfusion, which made a world of a difference. We were released after 3 days.
My daughter was healthy. She had 10 fingers and 10 toes. Eventually she started to latch properly and I was able to breastfeed until she was a year old. People would hear my story and tell me, “well she’s here and she’s healthy, that’s all that matters!” but I can promise you it’s not. It has taken me a year and a half to work through what I went through that day, and it is still hard for me to think about. I get anxiety attacks over the thought of doing this again. It may seem like nothing to some people who have experienced worse, but it’s my experience, and it was not a good one. It sent me into a depression that lasted months. I am so grateful to have a healthy daughter out of this, don’t get me wrong. But when it comes to birth, a healthy baby is NOT all that matters.
Birth trauma is a very real thing and it should not be ignored. If you’ve gone through a similar experience PLEASE talk to someone about it. I wish I had known it was okay to talk about sooner and it was okay to feel the way I did. I wish I had been able to work through it sooner. You are very welcome to contact me if you would like someone to talk to about your experience, as I never want anyone to feel like they’re alone through something like this.