In 2012 I became a mother. It was one of the best days of my life… in some ways. But if I’m honest, in other ways, it was far from it.
Initially I was so happy about my son’s birth. I didn’t have a c-section and I didn’t need an epidural like so many people had told me I would. For a little while I actually felt good about his birth.
But I had become an unlucky statistic. After pushing for three and a half hours with no success, having an episiotomy, and my son being pulled out of me with a vacuum, I had suffered the worst type of tear a woman can get while giving birth, a 4th degree tear.
A 4th degree tear is when a woman tears all. the. way. All the way from her vagina to her rectum, disrupting both her external and internal anal sphincters. The likelihood of this happening in childbirth is around 1%. (The exact data is hard to find because 3rd and 4th degree tears are lumped together in the research.)
1%. Lucky me.
For two years I hadn’t talked about it to anyone else I knew in real life who had also had one. I searched online for group forums, but none of them were active. More than two years after my tear I decided to create a Facebook support group.
We slowly grew, and now over three years later, we have over 500 members from all over the world, representing every continent except Antarctica. Every member has had a 4th degree tear; some in just the last few days, and some several decades ago.
Some of them happened in a hospital full of interventions, but some happened during completely natural home water births. Some have healed very well with minimal ongoing problems, and some have had multiple surgeries, colostomy bags, or no repair at all! Some have fully healed (at least for right now), and some will live with lifelong complications. Some women have gone on to have more vaginal births, some have opted for c-sections, and some have either chosen or been told that they will not have more children.
I am one of the lucky unlucky ones. It took me “only” 9 months to feel back to normal. And while all of our birth stories and healing journeys may be very different, we have all suffered a huge trauma, both physically and emotionally.
The women in this group have become a family. It is a family that we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies, but at the same time love to welcome women into so they do not feel alone anymore.
There are so many things that no one else in the world understands. You cannot understand what it is truly like unless you have been through it yourself. But we are going to give you a glimpse of what we have been through.
Something that many of us have found that is very therapeutic is telling/writing our stories. So that is what we are going to do. You will read all about the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Laura Fry ~ Pennsylvania, USA
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