Last week I came across an article about traumatic birth experiences that spoke right to my heart. There’s something comforting and somewhat satisfying about knowing you are not alone in your experience of a particular event. Childbirth tends to be one of those events. Women share triumphs and horror stories and wear them like badges because they can be both. I’ve shared my feelings on my first c-section before and I feel like there is something cathartic in sharing our stories.
Ben’s birth was both joyful and traumatic, in equal measure. It’s well over 3 years later and I still think about it often. I wouldn’t change him or take anything back because the whole event brought him to me, but I do think about how different things could have been had they gone better … or how awful they could have been had things gone worse. There were points in time when both him and I were in precarious states which is scary to even think of now, let alone at the time.
I remember being in labour and having many of the doctors and nurses talking about me like I wasn’t even there. I’ll be forever grateful to the few who held my hand, rubbed my back and told me that everything was going to be ok. I understand that as part of their jobs, they see the situation often. They have to be objective and they have to use their knowledge and experience to get each baby safely delivered then it’s onto the next one. It was incredibly busy in L&D for the entire 60 hours that I laboured. It was approximately 10 months after the release of the popular book from E.L. James and the nurses were laughing about all of the 50 Shades of Grey babies. In full disclosure, I hadn’t actually read the book at the time so I had no idea what they were talking about. I have read it since and now I get the joke!
I haven’t seen many photos of myself and Ben from that day but I remember looking at him in my drugged state and thinking that I’d always advocate for him (and myself) better than I did that day. I don’t like to be reminded about how I didn’t speak up for myself, I didn’t ask questions about what was going on, and I didn’t demand to be included in discussions of my own care. 60 hours. That’s when we stopped counting. Ben was sunny side up instead of facing my back like he should have been so vaginal delivery was dangerous because his neck could have been broken. No one explained that though. My epidural didn’t take and I was given morphine shots to dull the pain but they also made things a bit hazy. In the end it took me getting on my hands and knees in the bathroom, bleeding and howling like an animal for them to agree to take me to the OR for an emergency c-section. You often hear of people being prompted toward a c-section but I had to beg for mine.
I’ll never forget the feeling of sitting on the side of the operating table while getting my spinal and having all the the pain and feeling from my armpits down slip away into sweet relief. At that point my screaming stopped and Nick, who had to wait outside for me to be prepped, thought I was dead. I often forget that it was traumatic for both of us. A few short minutes later Benjamin was born! For those few moments, time stood still and nothing else mattered. He was absolutely perfect and absolutely worth it all.
Our struggles weren’t over though, because as section mama’s know, healing from major abdominal surgery is tough! Couple that with intense exhaustion and a large loss of blood and my recovery was nearly as difficult as my labour. Poor Ben also suffered physical trauma during the whole ordeal because the many times they tried to turn him got him lodged into my pelvis and caused the back of his head to be bruised and sore. We couldn’t lay him on his back because it hurt his head so he slept in our arms for the most part. He was a superstar through it all and when things got tough I would look at him to help me muster the strength I needed at the time. It was 6 months before I was physically feeling well again and a lot longer before my mental health improved. I struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety which I have talked about and it took a long time for me to come to terms with how things happened.
Today, things are better. Despite the experience and to the surprise of many, I had another little boy almost exactly 2 years later. Alex’s birth (a planned c-section) was much faster, easier and such a great experience. My doctor made sure that I was in control and that things went just as I wanted them to which turned out to be a beautiful gift of healing for me. I have come to realize that the circumstances of Ben’s birth had no bearing on my capabilities as a mother. Just because things didn’t go how I wanted them to and they weren’t “perfect”, doesn’t make them any less meaningful. This is our story and it made us stronger and for that I am grateful. It took me a long time to let go of the hurt and some days I still feel it but I am better for it. I proved to myself that I can fight through anything for my children and I would do it all again in a heartbeat for them if I had to.
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