I was 22 years old when I went into labor with my first son. I was in a lot of pain at the end of my pregnancy, bruised ribs, and some nerve damage in my ribs because (I later learned) my very big baby was in the posterior position (his back facing my back). Even though I was in a lot of pain, my doctors many times told me “that’s just pregnancy” and quickly dismissed me. What I didn’t know then, is that when baby is posterior, it can cause significant pain in your back when you labor and make birthing very difficult. I got an epidural. I was still able to move and feel but it did dull the pain.
I steadily dilated and began to push. I pushed and pushed and pushed. For 3 hours. The nurses helped me push all different ways. I used the bar and squatting and every way we could think of. I became exhausted. Pushing was no longer productive and my doctor eventually gave me the choice for a C-section or to try 3 contractions with forceps. I was too tired to process any of it and wasn’t told any risks of an instrumental birth. All I knew is that I wanted to avoid a cesarean as long as baby was still looking good. They told me they turned my epidural off hours earlier so I could feel the urge to push. So when the forceps went inside me, I begged them to take them out because it hurt so profoundly, but we had to give it a go. On my 3rd contraction, my boy was born and laid on my chest. 9lbs 5oz. He climbed to my breast immediately and started to nurse.
My doctor told me calmly but sternly that I had sustained a 4th degree tear. I remember seeing the nurses discreetly take towel upon towel of blood out of the room, but I was in true bliss taking in every detail of my son. She put hundreds of stitches in over the course of an hour or so as I held ane nursed my baby and she told me she was confident in her repair.
Another hour went by and I started feeling unwell. I handed my son to my husband and my hearing went out and then my vision. I passed out…but I thought I was dying and thought my son would lose his mother. I woke up later and began to realize how serious this was. I later received 2 bags of blood in a transfusion and an ultrasound to check for clots/hemorrhaging which came up clear.
I could not stand up straight for days because of swelling and pain. I could not walk to the bathroom. I was told not to look down there, and used a peri bottle instead of wiping for months. The pain was unbearable at times and I sat on a pillow for months. It was so hard to watch women who had great birthday just get right up and go after birth when I still hadn’t even close to recovered. I had developed some granulation tissue that was not properly cared for at my postpartum appointment. I lived with the pain for another 8 weeks until I went back in to see my delivering doctor. Thankfully she burned off the granulation tissue right in the office and I drastically impoved after that.
I eventually worked up the courage for sex, became pregnant, and with the help of my amazing doula (who coincidentally also gave birth after a 4th degree tear) vaginally delivered my second son 18 months later in a much “easier” birth. While my second birth went amazing with no tearing, and was definitely healing in many ways, I still struggled emotionally. I even physically closed my legs when baby was crowning out of fear of what might come next. Within my marriage it has also been difficult to process this trauma. My husband was also traumatized by those events and it still haunts both of us.
The anxiety and depression ebbs and flows even now, 3 years later. I have no urinary or fecal incontinence and try to keep up on pelvic floor exercises. I fear for what my future looks like when menopause comes and weakening of my pelvic floor with age, and don’t know if I’ll give birth again. No mother or father should have to start parenthood this way, but unfortunately many of us do. Professional help and any empathy or sympathy has helped ease the pain and suffering after these traumatic events.