Every mother has a birth story.
It’s one of those experiences that is seared, for better or worse, into your brain, never willing or able to be wedged free.
I get to have three of them, but it is really only the first one that I have a lot of detailed memories of. The one my medical practitioners have labeled a “traumatic birth”.
I know I’ve told Dude 1’s birth story here before, but every year, as his birthday approaches, I am reminded of the experience we had getting him here…
It Started With A Checkup
I went into the hospital from my doctor’s office the day before he was born for a regular dang-girl-why-you-still-pregnant-checkup.
I was feeling fine, but I’d put on a bunch of weight (15lbs in one week!) and my blood pressure was up. They thought I was beginning to suffer preeclampsia, plus I was TEN DAYS PAST MY DUE DATE for crying out loud, a woman needs some relief in that situation.
They decided to send me to the hospital and induce labor.
Mimi went to the hospital with me since we were heading to a final pre-baby-lunch-date when I got the word from my doc.
DudeDad, well, he hitchhiked.
No joke, he didn’t have his car because he was at a weird work site and it was midday so there was no shuttle and, in his I’m-about-to-be-a-dad panic, he tried to run, but that was dumb, so a random husband and wife picked him up on the street and drove him to his car (they stopped because he looked frantic and ridiculous running down the street in a suit and tie). He finally slid into the hospital, disheveled and crazy eyed, just as I was getting hooked up to the Petocin.
And Then It Got Real
A few hours, a lot of Italian ice, a number of barfs, an epidural, and an episode of Friends later, it was time to push.
I was doing an awesome job, but my pelvis mixed with the bigness (he wound up being 9lbs) of my child and things began to go awry.
I remember a lot of yelling, and the nurse’s actual butt as she mounted me to push my baby out while the doctor reached inside and yanked (he had to get out quickly to prevent severe brain damage).
They showed me his beautiful swollen face. I heard them say something about his arm not working and then the pain hit me. Searing, burning pain like nothing I had felt before or since in this life. And then more yelling. And lots of beeping. And men in green outfits rushing in with a cookie sheet and a huge machine with lots of knobs and shiny lights (it wasn’t a cookie sheet, it was some thing for them to do an EKG, but I was busy dying so forgive me if my thoughts weren’t centered).
I remember thinking, “I don’t want them to see my boobs!”
Pretty sure they saw my boobs. Along with my down low lady parts, and the blood and the guts, and all of the scary and highly disturbing parts of childbirth that never make it into an episode of A Baby Story.
Turns out when they ripped out of my baby human they took some of my insides with them. I wound up with a ton of blood loss due to hemorrhaging and nearly 100 stitches internally and externally, to sew my insides back together.
It was basically a massacre. A massacre of my insides.
It Didn’t Kill Me So I Guess I’m Stronger
I was sedated until the following day, I had to lay flat for three more. It was a hard, scary way to start life as a mom. I couldn’t pick up my baby, I couldn’t sit up to nurse, heck, I couldn’t even sit up to slurp down the flavorless chicken broth they brought me.
I remember a lot of crying, struggling to care for my baby, unhappiness with the hospital, and myself, and my spouse, and basically any thing that could cause unhappiness aside from my baby.
Him I loved. From his round baby head to his teeny weeny toes. And he was worth it, but I wished it wasn’t so.
In a month he will celebrate his 14th birthday and, while I don’t feel a day past the 23 I was when he was born, I can see him growing up so quickly and wonderfully right before my eyes. If I could stop bawling over it, I’d probably be grateful.
Just like if I could go back and change the experience, I would (as educational as it was, no one wants to have 100 stitches through their lady bits). I know I learned a ton from the experience, but it was learning I truly feel I could live happily without.
If you find yourself recovering from a traumatic birth, here are some things I hope help.
Tips For Recovering From a Traumatic Birth Experience
Ask for help. Even people who pushed their babies out in a field of poppies to the sounds of classic music need help at first, so you needing it after staring own death to get your baby into the world is way ok. ASK. Friends, family, anyone you trust who is willing. Feel zero guilt and let your baby pay them in free cuddles.
Lower your expectations. For your body, your psyche, your spouse, and your baby. You guys have been through something and you’re just not going to bounce back the way your over zealous friend on Facebook who was in and out of the birthing center in 45 minutes did. You and your family have experienced a trauma on top of giving birth and everyone will be performing as such. Take your time healing, give your body a chance to recover, let your spouse get over the horror he faced when he thought you were going to die. Just focus on getting to know your baby and let all of the things come together as they will.
Follow doctor’s orders. Your physical recovery may be more than sit in that pink bucket of warm water and salt. Make sure you know what to expect and follow up with the doc accordingly.
Don’t just lay around. When your body says it’s okay, get moving. It’s easy to let the exhaustion of nearly dying, giving birth, and experiencing surgery weigh you down, but the sooner you can get up and move around like a normal person the better you will feel. I’m not saying to hit the treadmill, but shower, put on sweat pants, and sit on the porch in the fresh air if you can.
Remember to fuel your body. I’m not going to tell you to chop up your placenta and stir fry it for supper or anything, but I will say that getting nutrient rich, filling food into your belly is going to provide you with the energy you will need to recover.
Talk about it. Trauma is a weird thing. It can feel like you’re all better and then suddenly you’re brain is all WE ALMOST DIED and you’re kinda not again. Even when your body is back in action, your mind may struggle to keep up. Don’t be afraid to chat that out and ask for help working through it.