“Often, I wish I would have just died during childbirth because kids don’t get made fun of for having a mom who died. Kids DO get made fun of for having a mom who poops her pants.” These are the words that came out of my mouth when I finally found a doctor who would listen to me and realize the severity of my situation.
8 years ago, come July, I suffered my first 4th degree tear giving birth to my [8lb 1oz] daughter, and while I recovered relatively seamlessly (it was excruciatingly painful), I seemed no worse for the wear. 20 months later I birthed a [8lb 12oz] son. I requested a C-section, but was guaranteed another 4th degree would not happen. IT DID. That recovery was riddled with 18 grams of ANCEF over 3 days, watery stools, incontinence, diaper rash, and a lot of embarrassment. 21 months after that I birthed a [9lb 11oz] daughter (an unplanned pregnancy) . They recommended a C-section, but at this point I figured I had endured so much damage, there was no reason to go in that direction, plus I now had a 3 year old, 1 1/2 year old, and newborn to take care of. Unlike being induced with my first two deliveries (done so they wouldn’t be so large and create excessive tearing – joke was on me!) I insisted I go into labor on my own for the 3rd delivery. 5 days past due, and 5 hours of labor, the delivery of my largest baby only resulted in a 2nd degree tear.
Unfortunately, so much skeletal damage was done by the second 4th degree tear, along with the heavy dose of antibiotics which sent my gut in a spiral, I am still dealing with SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), urge issues, and incontinence. I have been to countless specialists (even to the renowned Mayo Clinic), done 2 pelvic floor physical therapy stints, but there is not much that can be done for women like me. My rectal MRI showed I have a right AND left side tear on my sphincter (one internal, and one external). Strengthening can’t get great results when there are two broken links in the chain, and yet surgery only has a 5 year success rate. These specialists have told me, until you are having accidents daily, you just aren’t a candidate for intervention… That is until I found a doctor who really listened to me. When I told her that 90% of my brain power is spent just trying to keep the poop in my body she not only gave me a hug amongst my sobs, but she told me that I shouldn’t have to live this way. When I told her I quit the career I love (I’m a licensed architect) because these problems became too much, she reiterated that I shouldn’t have to live this way. She told me that medically, on paper, my situation didn’t look urgent because a lack of accidents, but emotionally the toll it has taken on my life requires interventions. I’m not jumping into surgery right away, but she gave me non surgical options that not one other person had mentioned before. Why has it taken 6 years and countless doctors to feel heard?
If you are still reading and want a more in-depth glimpse into the births that caused this, here we go. It took us a year to conceive our first child. My whole adult life I have had inconsistent periods to the tune of sometimes only getting one period a year. They put me on Clomid, and finally we had a baby on the way! Doing my research I read something about a 4th degree tear, and was so horrified that I told my doctor that I wanted a C-section. He assured me that these were so incredibly rare that it was nothing to worry about. He suggested inducing me as my family has BIG babies, but we aren’t big women. I, myself, was 10 lb 5 oz. I was scheduled to be induced 2 days before my due date. We woke up at 4 AM for the hour drive to the hospital to arrive by 6 AM. Nothing bad happened. It was a slow process, but everything was going as scheduled. The lady screaming bloody murder in the room next to me scared me into getting an epidural. Fast forward MANY hours. Its 2 AM, I’ve been pushing for about 3 hours. Falling asleep because I haven’t slept or eaten in about 24 hours. The doctor came in and said that he would be assisting in the delivery. Out came the vacuum, out came the baby, and gone was my dignity. Our daughter was delivered at 2:11 AM. The doctors words were “Oh Sarah, I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but you endured a 4th degree tear. She swung her shoulder out while I was delivering her head.” Ugh! I had to walk out of the hospital as a wheelchair was not even offered to me. The pain was horrendous, but I recovered.
Since we had fertility problems initially, when our daughter turned a year old we decided we better start trying. First month out of the gate, and baby #2 was on their way. I had a smooth pregnancy, but was so fearful of delivery. Even in my pre-natal notes it states ‘Patient is fearful of another 4th degree tear’. I wanted a C-section, but I was not even given the option as my doctor ensured me I would not have another 4th degree tear. They would cut me to the side to prevent it. Labor was fairly uneventful. Another early morning, and long day, and at 10:54 PM our son was born unassisted, and another 4th degree tear occurred. This time I had not as much pain, but incontinence issues, and given a ton of antibiotic, which I didn’t know at the time I should have been questioning.
Fast forward a year, when I ended up pregnant again (birth control malfunction). From the beginning of this pregnancy I did not feel well, my stomach was just off, and I am still battling stomach issues to this day. I’ve had doctors tell me that a 4th degree tear would have nothing to do with the consistency of stool and stomach problems, but I don’t know what else could have started all of this. I backpacked through Europe for a year without a single upset stomach, and never had issues until after my (2) 4th degree tear. This has cost me so much, and I’m trying desperately to rise above. On Memorial Day I am taking my 3 kids to see family in Germany. This is my first trip over there in 6 years since before I endured all this damage, and am nervous as heck. For someone who considers herself a world traveler, this has made me a shut in. I’m tired of people telling me to ‘look on the bright side’. Because really although I’m physically still living, this has taken almost all joy from my life. As an extrovert I’m trying to learn to find joy in my life as a forced introvert now. I am fearful of the day my 2 daughters have to give birth. I will be a nervous wreck hoping they also don’t win the unlucky birthing lottery full of life long consequences.
Sarah K. ~ Illinois, USA