My fourth degree tear happened with my first baby in March 2015. I had planned an unmedicated hospital birth with Midwives in a very natural minded hospital. I provided a detailed birth plan and everyone was very supportive.
I went into labor in the evening on a Monday and checked into the hospital at 1:30 AM. I was at 6 cm at 3:30 AM and was admitted to my room. I immediately got into the shower for relief as my husband pushed on my lower back during contractions. I didn’t realize it but my son was posterior and I was having terrible back labor.
The birthing tub was filled so I got in and labored there until I had the urge to push at 6:00 AM. You can’t have a hospital water birth in AZ so they got me out of the water and onto the bed. I started on my knees with my arms over the top of an inclined bed, tried the bar to hold onto, etc. all without much luck. My water hadn’t broken yet so they broke the water bag. At 8:00 AM they told me to stop pushing and that they were calling the OB. They told me that baby and I were getting tired and I needed to stop pushing.
The ten minutes of waiting for the OB and trying not to push felt forever. He got there at 8:10 and started explaining forceps to me. At this point I just wanted my son safe and out. A bunch of hospital staff started coming into the room so I started getting anxious. The OB said I had one more chance to push before he intervened. On my next contraction I pushed as hard as I could for as long as I could to get my son out. Everyone was cheering and he was born at 8:15 AM. He was placed right on my chest for skin to skin and nursing.
When they told me to push to birth the placenta, I remember hardly pushing at all to deliver it. I didn’t feel tearing and was so in love with my baby that I didn’t know what had happened. The OB explained to me that I had torn to the fourth degree and that I may have cosmetic issues and possible surgery in the future depending on how I heal. He did a few shots of lidocaine and spent the next hour stitching me up, which was actually very uncomfortable.
I felt great and walked myself to the recovery room. I remember googling fourth degree tears and finding explanations but not much about personal experiences. I didn’t think much of it. I took a few ibuprofen and didn’t think about it again. I wanted to go home so we checked out of the hospital 24 hours later and they seemed surprised that I wanted to leave. I felt more pain in my tailbone from the counter pushing than I did from my tear. I did notice in the hospital that I had total gas incontinence and thought it was normal.
We went on daily walks and I don’t remember thinking about my tear again.
I thought I had healed well and started working out at 6 weeks. I went to the follow up with my Midwives and the midwife joked with me that they call fourth degree tears people having a vaganus. She told me I would have to have c sections for future deliveries very nonchalantly and I was shocked. I remember leaving the appointment and saying to my husband that I would never have a c section and I couldn’t believe she said that.
At about 2 months post partum I started to notice gas passing through my vagina. I thought I was just being crazy so I told my husband and kind of laughed it off. Then it started happening more frequently. I started to be self conscious about it and nervous to leave my house for fear it would happen again.
I went to the Midwives and they confirmed that I had a hole where I should’ve healed. I made an appointment with the OB and he was surprised by how well I had healed on the outside. He also found the hole and referred me to a urogynecologist.
After a few visits I was scheduled for surgery to do a RVF repair. By this point my anxiety was so bad that I felt I couldn’t leave my house and I would give myself an upset stomach. The upset stomach would worsen my anxiety because I had major urgency with bowel movements. I thought once I had the surgery my anxiety would go away.
I had the surgery and healed perfectly. My anxiety didn’t go away. My anxiety actually got worse. My upset stomach and anxiety caused me to not leave my house. I was six months post partum and didn’t really leave my house that entire time. I went from working out every day in pregnancy to nothing at all because I was so anxious.
I finally spoke to my doctor about my feelings and started natural supplements and counseling. I don’t think I noticed an improvement in my anxiety until after my son turned one. I had spent an entire year at home not able to even go to the store because I was paralyzed with fear that I wouldn’t be able to find a restroom or that something would happen. I hadn’t ever had an accident but the thought of it mortified me, even though I had surgery and all was well.
After that first year, I thought I wouldn’t have another baby. I hadn’t told anyone my fears and had no friends because I just couldn’t leave my house.
I spent a long time recovering from my birth and dealing with anxiety just thinking about the birth of my son. It wasn’t physical as much as mental and emotional. I wish it wasn’t such an isolating experience.
Fast forward 2.5 years and I found myself pregnant again. I knew that I wouldn’t have a c section so I decided I wanted a home birth so I could be in the water. To make a long story short, I had a beautiful water birth with my second son a day before my oldest son’s third birthday. I had zero tearing and a wonderful midwife who knew my fears and helped guide me to letting go of my anxiety with birth. After his delivery I feel that I’ve healed an emotional and mental wound that came with my fourth degree tear and I’m so grateful.
*Bethany ~ Mesa, Arizona, USA