You’re finally pregnant, married to a great dad to be, ready to be a stay at home mom, made it through months of morning sickness and then? Welcome to 9 months and 2 weeks. Or what I like to call, the worst day of my life. I know, I’m not the mom saying it’s the best day in the world- it’s the worst, but hear me out first.
I wanted to have a baby. And even better? A little boy to love on and give me lots of snuggles while my military husband is away. We’d dance in the kitchen, I’d baby wear and breast feed, and tell all my friends how swimmingly my birth plan went. Except- on February 12th, 2018 on a cold Colorado morning my body failed me. The hospital failed me. Nurses failed me. And my trusty OB who delivered 4,000+ babies failed me. And I failed my baby.
I sat in my tub at home around midnight to 2 am, in immense pain. Thinking it was Braxton Hicks or possible contractions. I started to bleed so I called the hospital and they suggested I come in. We arrive and to sum up some unnecessary filler details, they do a “swab” test internally to see if my water broke. First swab? Negative. So they try again. Second swab? “Looks like a little leak”. (Of course as I replay this entire day in my head I would have changed so many things, the first being trusting my gut that my little boy wasn’t ready to be born yet)
I’m induced, given Fetanyl for pain of contractions, and I lie awake in a hospital bed with feet in stirrups. The doctor says it’s almost time to push. This is at 1:45 in the afternoon now. I had my epidural and was doing pretty good. Of course in pain still but no crying, no sweating, no cursing, just doing my best and pushing.
I pushed a babies head in and out of my vagina for over three hours. God how mad I am just reliving all of this writing this story, but things should have been so different.
You see, from the very beginning my boy was a very large baby in utero. Measuring at a 90-95% head. He was an itty bitty cute little dinosaur who I worked tirelessly to “flip” out of breech at the request of my OBGYN team to have a vaginal birth.
He just wasn’t fitting out. So I was cut to a second degree. The pain was kicking up again and they re did my epidural which slowed things down. I continued to push and push as I feel forceps grasping my unborn child’s head to assist in the delivery, and then a vacuum. I push and push and I’m still alright until his head makes it nearly all the way out and then my OB quickly pulled him out of me, fracturing my 5’0 petite framed coccyx. When you think a pull, don’t think the way you pull a wagon- think a quick jerk, the kind magicians do to tablecloths.
Immense pain. Every nerve in my body overloading signals to my brain that this is violent, excruciating, far from beautiful, and just wrong.
Moments later a placenta nearing the size of a placenta meant for twins is also jerked out of my vagina.
“Help me. Please. Someone help”. Over and over again. I remember saying it and my birth video replays those words clear as a whistle, too.
Tears. Trembles. Can’t breathe. Leg spasms. And immeasurable pain. “Jennifer you’ve lost a lot of blood hang in there for me”.
I hear my son screaming, okay, he’s fine. That’s great news. They offer to put him on my chest real quick so I could see him, and in the moment, and the most regrettable phrase I’ll take to the grave “please get him away from me”. I didn’t mean it the way it sounded, I knew I couldn’t hold him for fear of how my body was essentially shutting down. Also? Between you and me? I was kind of mad at my giant headed son who was born a whopping 8lbs and 99% head. Terrific. Already “mad” at my baby.
Instead of wheeling me somewhere quiet and doing my “reconstruction”(that’s what they call it when they attempt to put your meat grindered anal muscles back together), it was done in a room with dozens of nursing students, and hospital staff. Several trays of stitches and hours later, it’s all done.
I felt cold. Broken. Alone. Angry. Disheartened. I felt so many emotions on top of the typical postpartum rush moms get. I was instantly depressed and from that day on I would never be the same.
I couldn’t get an appointment with my OBGYN for weeks after calling, voicemails, tears and begging. My “checkup” was also merged with my annual papsmear at 13 weeks post delivery. I want to vomit at how shameful our healthcare system is for such a lack of empathy and urgency to get women the necessary help they need. Further corrections, checking for infections and how sutures are, the endless array of muscles that need attending to down there. Instead? I was cranked open, swabbed for cervical cancer, and told “it’ll heal. But no more vaginal births for you”.
Defeated I walked to my car, sat on my pillow to drive home(you read that right. I sat on a pillow for almost 20 weeks), and sobbed hysterically as I drove home to my baby and husband waiting for me at home.
I was robbed of a kind and gentle delivery, I was robbed of daily walks with my newborn, my newborn was robbed of a mother right off the bat, I was robbed of breastfeeding, I was robbed of future vaginal deliveries, I was robbed of my beautiful butthole that would go on to never live up to it’s true duties and expectations. Most of all? I’ve been robbed out of myself. I don’t know this body, but I’m coming to terms with it the best I can. I’ll let you as a reader google complications from a 4th degree tear. You’ll be overwhelmed with the amount of fecal and urinary incontinence which disrupts and runs every aspect of your life, you’ll see terms like RVF, Sphincterplasty, Fissures, Hemorrhoids, Depression, Colostomy bags, pelvic floor therapy, infections and antibiotics, and of course “statistics” which tell you you’re not alone but it’s still incredibly rare.
But what you won’t see? Is the incredible amount of tears, pain, and suffering women are doing on toilets, in showers, or holding that needy screaming baby in the store that causes her pelvic floor muscles to prolapse. You won’t see her at dinner because she didn’t show up because she had accident in her garments in the car on the way over. You won’t see her at the gym because she can hardly stand up, and has no control over her muscles anymore.
But you will see friendship. This experience dwindled my friends to nearly nothing. But I’ve found an incredible group of women online who share experiences similar to mine that are there 24/7 to lift you up and heal the emotional scars you’re trying to work through.
You’ll see my son. I’m grateful for him, and vow to do what’s in his best interest moving forward. And I will continue to share my story so that women are heard, treated properly, and so that this violent, terrifying experience happens less and less.
And you’ll see me. I’m a fighter. I may look like just another tired mom, but I see you too, mom. And if you’ve had a rough go of it, I’m here. And from all of us with 4th degree tears, you’re still beautiful even though you may not feel like it.
Ps-to spare graphic photos of what 16 weeks recovering looked like, I’ll share was 16 weeks looked like from the eyes of my son, and what 16 months postpartum looks like. It’s important to see the beauty in the world.
Jennifer Bailey (29) ~ Jacksonville, Florida, Child delivered in Colorado Springs, Colorado