Ok if we are being totally real, we didn’t just tear our vaginas. Those of us who had 4th degree tears in childbirth, tore our vaginas AND our butts.
A 4th degree tear is the most severe tear that you can experience during a vaginal delivery. They are physically and emotionally traumatic, leaving us with a higher risk of physical complications such as postpartum hemorrhage, infections, and rectovaginal fistulas and with a higher risk of psychological complications such as postpartum depression and postpartum PTSD.
Most of the women who experience these tears do not fully understand the implications of their injuries immediately after the birth, much less do their partners understand. And once the women do realize how severe the damage is and that they need more help than expected, they can be too embarrassed to ask for help. The complications that we deal with are not easy to discuss with our partners because they deal with our most intimate parts. No one wants to tell their partners that they can’t control their bowels or that it can take a very long time to get clean after a bowel movement or that they truly never feel clean.
In our Facebook support group, we asked our members,
“If you could go back in time and be totally honest, what would you say to your significant other immediately after your tear to help both of you get through the difficult postpartum period?”
Here is what they had to say:
- “Please realise that I have come out of hospital both damaged physically and mentally and please understand and don’t leave me.”
- “I tore very severely, but I am not broken! I will always need you but I need you now more than ever so I can heal properly for the rest of my life.”
- “Recovery for me is going to be harder than we expected or planned for. I can’t bend down and pick up the baby, and at first I won’t be able to comfortably sit down with him in my arms; I’ll need to get situated first so you can hand him to me. I will not feel comfortable carrying him up and down stairs for a few weeks. Trips to the restroom are going to take at least 10min because there’s a lot of care involved every time, so be patient. Please don’t come up and stand outside the door with a wailing infant.”
- “I’m going to need a lot of help and support physically/emotionally/ mentally and it’s going to be a long road.”
- “Let’s BOTH get some professional mental health help”
- “Let’s get a postpartum doula”
- “Babe, I am struggling very much mentally and I think I need to speak to my doctor immediately. Oh, and please don’t tell your parents it’s okay to stay with us every weekend. I love you.”
- “Let’s hire a cleaning service for a few months”
- “Let’s have you take more than 2 days off from work. I am going to be more overwhelmed and in more pain than I have ever been and would benefit from help.”
- “I’m in pain and I don’t know what I’m doing. I need help.”
- “I love you, but I’m scared. I’m scared I’ll never be whole again. I’m scared I’ll never be able to be as intimate with you as I was before. And I am scared that you won’t love me because of it, so remind me again and again and again and AGAIN how much you love me, and how worth it all is to have our beautiful healthy boy.”
- “Please, force me to go get help. Don’t let me miss every appointment they give me. Please, call my mom or somebody who can help you help me.”
- “Please don’t let me suffer in silence. Please tell me I am still beautiful and please tell me I am not broken. Please help me to not believe the negative narrative I will soon have about my body”
- “As time goes on, don’t think I am completely healed or “over it”. I will think about it every day, grieve it for a long time, still feel pain and feel like a different woman for a very long time. Just know that and continue to support me. Xo”
- “This really sucks, but I will heal and we will be okay.”
- “One day we will be back to us, and I will feel like myself again, but until that day comes, please just be patient with me. I know things are tough now but every relationship has it’s struggles this is just one of ours. I still love you as much as the first day I said it and then some, so don’t ever feel like things have changed between us, it just may take me some time to navigate the new me and learning how to love myself again and appreciate how amazing my body is to have gone through what it did. I appreciate you more than you know and am so blessed to have you to stick by me through this!! Xoxo!!”
There are some members who said they did feel comfortable talking with their significant others about it and had positive experiences:
- “I actually have no regrets here. We sat down after the delivery and cried together about how scary and stressful it was and talked about how we felt. It was very therapeutic.”
- “I don’t think I could have said anything different that would have helped. I was pretty vocal. I said that what I went through was a much bigger deal than my previous birth. I even did a comparison with details.”
- “I was fortunate to have had my husband sit in with me when the surgeon explained the severity of my tear. I remember crying when the surgeon left the room, asking my husband if he’d still love me if I were to suffer incontinence. My husband was very supportive, but didn’t initiate intimacy for almost a year. I guess it had shaken him up too…”
- “My partner was amazingly supportive! I don’t have anything I would say to him because he already did everything I could have asked for. He slept on the floor in the hospital for a week just to be able to help me. He took 3 weeks off work to help when me and baby got home. 🥰”
- “I was told by the doctor what had happened and how it could impact my life in the future 6 hours post birth. I told the doctor to go away and come back when my OH was with me so he could take it in for me and I could ask questions later. It was honestly the best thing I did because he got a true understanding of what had happened. Also get a birth debriefing and go through it. It’s not your fault and it’s not the babies fault either. I should have got help earlier than I did because I blamed my baby for ages.”
Others commented that they were given very little information by the medical staff and wish they would have both been sat down and explained the extent of the injury:
- “I wish the doctors or nurses sat us down and told us exactly what happened, I had to ask what degree tear I had and then was given just basic post partum recovery stuff.”
- “I don’t think there’s anything I could’ve said at the time because I didn’t even know. My doctor was great but I truly wish she would’ve sat my husband and I down and explained exactly what a 4DT was and what side effects physically and emotionally I (we) May experience. Leaving the hospital I had no idea I wouldn’t be able to hold gas or bowel movements, much less need a repair. I didn’t even know that was a thing!”
- “I wish we were both sat down and told in detail what had happened and what it meant. I wasn’t aware of my tear and was whisked to surgery whilst my partner was left for 4hours on his own with a new baby. We were sent home with leaflets to read and I had another child at school etc. Without this group I wouldn’t have learned half of what is normal after a year and the length of the healing process.”
If you had a 4th degree tear from your birth and have a hard time talking with your partner about how you are feeling, maybe consider sharing this article with them to help start the conversation.
If you want support from others who are going through the same, join our Facebook support group for 4th degree tears. If your partner is interested in joining a group specifically for partners of birth trauma, there is even a group for that.
Photos by ABBSolute Images