My baby was due on March 12th, 2019. We were convinced she would be late because I hadn’t had any signs of labor, and we were told it was common for first babies to arrive later than their due date. I was a little worried that my doctor would induce my labor if I didn’t have her by the 19th. On March 7th, I was climbing into bed and felt something gush a little. I didn’t think it was my water breaking so I ignored it. I called the doctor’s office the next morning and the L&D nurse said it was probably just my mucus plug, nothing to worry about. I kept feeling it a few times over the weekend.
On Sunday the 10th, I had the same feeling and started to worry a little. We had gone shopping that morning and I was exhausted. We went for a short drive in the afternoon, then came home. I took a long nap, and when I woke up my husband was getting dinner started. We decided to call the doctor again just to be on the safe side. They asked me to come in to make sure I wasn’t leaking amniotic fluid. I felt nervous because I wasn’t having any signs of labor, and wasn’t expecting it to start this way.
When we got to the hospital I felt fine. They tested my fluid and confirmed it was amniotic fluid. The doctor who saw me was called in from home because it was such a busy night in labor and delivery. She said that it was impossible to know when my water broke because I had been having feelings of leaking for several days, this meant my risk of developing an infection was higher. I could go home for 24 hours and come back, but it would be against her recommendations.
We decided our safest choice would be to stay at the hospital and allow them to admit us. At first I felt disappointed because it would mean that they would be inducing my labor, which was not what I wanted as part of my plan (I was still stuck on having my perfect birth plan play out at this point). I wanted to avoid induction if possible, because I felt that it would start a snowball of me needing one drug after another, and the original plan was for a drug-free natural birth. We were officially admitted to the hospital around 7 or 8 pm on Sunday, March 10th.
They moved us to the labor room and gave me one small dose of Misoprostyl to get labor started. The plan was to continue dosing every four hours to progress labor. After taking Miso, we tried to get some sleep. The monitors showed that I was having contractions from the time I got to the hospital, but I couldn’t feel any of them. When they admitted me I was 1 cm dilated. The midwife said the next plan was to start me on Pitocin to get contractions to be more productive. I was not happy about this and she was pushy. She said she would give us time to think about it.
I woke up at some point in the middle of the night starting to feel contractions. They offered me a TENS unit, this turned out to be my lifeline. Every time I would feel a contraction, I would press the pulse button on the TENS and it would distract me from my pain, that is how I found my rhythm. My original plan was to not have hospital staff constantly checking my cervix, because I felt that would make me anxious. I lucked out, because they didn’t know how long my water had been broken, they planned to check my cervix as minimally as possible to avoid risk of infection.
The midwife came in a few times to try to push the pitocin on me, I still did not want it. She said they would need a good read on the fetal monitor for 20 minutes before starting the pitocin, this statement made me feel like it wasn’t my choice anymore (whether or not to have Pitocin). We called our Doula at 3am to come be with us. When she came I was contracting but I felt like I had the pain under control. We took a short walk around the hallways, I sat on the birth ball, almost made it into the shower but changed my mind.
One of the labor nurses, was coming into our room every few minutes, because every time I would change positions, we would lose the read on the fetal heart monitor. This nurse was amazing. She spent her entire 8 hour shift coming into my room to try to fix the monitor, bending and squatting in weird positions, trying to get a good read. I was able to avoid the pitocin because they were unable to get the monitor connected long enough to make sure it was safe to give me the drug.
Around 5 or 6 am, the contractions were getting a little stronger, but I still felt like I had it under control with the TENS unit. The midwife checked my cervix to see where I was at because I was asking for an epidural. I was tired and just ready for a break. I hadn’t slept all night and felt like I needed to conserve my energy for when the time came. When the midwife checked me, I was at 7cm. We were all shocked at how quickly I had progressed, and our Doula was cheering. She asked me if I still wanted the epidural because it wasn’t my original plan, and I was so close to being done. I knew in that moment I needed a break. I had made it this far calmly and without fear, but the hardest part was still ahead, I was feeling slightly fearful about crowning, the “ring of fire,” and my ability to handle that with zero sleep.
Waiting for the epidural felt like FOREVER. Once I knew it was coming, it couldn’t happen fast enough. They made everyone exit the room except for my husband. I wasn’t admitting to myself that the pain had gotten worse, but I was asking where the anesthesiologist was about every 2 minutes. It takes them 15-20 minutes to get there and get things set up. The anesthesiologist really took her time to explain the procedure, I appreciated the information but just wanted to be out of pain in that moment so badly. It was such a relief to know that I would be getting a break soon, and possibly be able to sleep.
Once I got the epidural, I could still feel contractions, but it was more like a pressure, no pain. My mom and our Doula came back into the room, and I tried to get some sleep. I remember lying in bed, listening to my husband, my mom and doula just talking for hours. I had my eyes closed but couldn’t sleep, I just wanted to focus on resting. It’s funny how fast time moves when you are in labor. I was in active labor from 4am to 1:53pm when our baby was born.
At some point in the morning, my husband went to go get coffee for himself and check in on my dad. When he came back into the room, I heard him talking about how my dad was reading some AARP magazine about how to retire in 3 years, and then he was talking about my sister’s plan to redo the cement on her backyard patio. It was comforting to listen to the mundane conversations they were having in the room. He also said the coffee was disgusting.
I had this vision of me laboring at home for several hours before my husband and I drove to the hospital, with me calmly laboring in our baby’s nursery. It didn’t work out that way, and I’m ok with that! I think everything unfolded exactly the way it was supposed to.
After I woke up from my “nap,” we hung out and relaxed. My husband said I was having huge contractions, I couldn’t feel any of them, and it was great. I was beyond relieved that I got the epidural.
Around noon, I kept asking the midwife “what are we waiting for?” I was lying there ready to meet my baby girl. When it was time, I started to push and could not feel myself pushing at all. The two midwives and labor nurse were coaching me to push. I pushed for about 30 minutes before my baby was born at 1:53pm. I remember the final pushes, and thinking if I just push harder and longer than they are telling me to, I can get her out NOW.
I believe these last hard pushes and not being able to feel myself pushing contributed to my degree of tearing. Once my baby was born, having her on my chest was the most amazing feeling ever. Hearing her cries, seeing her face. We were basking in those first moments, she was finally here.
A few minutes later, the labor nurse held up a bag for me to see and said “there is a lot of blood here.” They called the OB in and I figured I tore slightly and he would be giving me a few stitches. He explained that I was losing a lot of blood and they would be inserting a large dose of Misoprostyl rectally to stop the hemorrhaging. It took over an hour for the doctor to complete the repair. I remember joking with him about what was taking so long, telling him I hope he makes me look better down there than when I first walked in. I had the shakes from the epidural wearing off but could not feel any pain. The OB estimated that I had a third degree tear. We had no knowledge about the degrees of tearing and my husband asked how many degrees are there? The OB said “four” and I remember thinking, “wow I am lucky it’s only a third degree.”
A couple of hours later, I was wheeled up to the recovery room. I still couldn’t move my legs so they left me in the hospital bed and transferred me lying down to recovery. Hours passed in recovery, and I was waiting for someone to come explain to us what had happened. I asked the labor nurse if she could send the doctor or midwife in to debrief us. The two midwives who delivered my baby came that evening and explained to my husband and I that I had sustained a fourth degree tear. It was more severe than the OB had originally stated. They explained that recovery would be slow and I would need to take it easy, but that there was a wealth of resources to help me in my recovery. At this point, I felt ok, still no pain. I had no idea this was not normal and figured whatever happens, I will be ok.
We stayed in the hospital for four days. I had to have a blood transfusion due to the hemorrhage and could not wait to go home and shower. Once we got home we needed so much help. My husband was doing it all and he had not slept for days, running on pure adrenaline.
It was at least a week before I could walk down the hallway of our house, shuffling slowly. I spent all of my time in bed. Our family members did the grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning for us for the first several weeks. The first few weeks were filled with doctor’s appointments for our baby because of difficulties with nursing and weight loss. My milk was slow to come in due to the physical trauma I had endured.
I could not sit down for the first 10 weeks without being in excruciating pain. I had developed granulation tissue at the opening of my vagina which was causing horrible stinging pain anytime I tried to sit. I had this removed in an outpatient procedure at 10 weeks postpartum, but continued to have small recurrences of granulation tissue for months afterwards. I started pelvic floor physical therapy at 8 weeks postpartum. I saw this physical therapist for only 6 weeks because she was private pay and not covered by my insurance. I was told there was a long wait for pelvic floor physical therapy that my insurance plan would cover. During these six weeks we worked on healing my diastasis recti and pelvic prolapse (I felt like my organs were bulging out of my body). The gap in my abdomen was significant, I could fit 5 fingers into the gap in my abdominal muscles.I continued to have chronic pelvic pain and could not stand in place for more than a few minutes for the first 8 months. The first PT I saw didn’t get a chance to address my pelvic pain in those six weeks because I was still dealing with granulation tissue and healing from having it surgically removed.
I went back to physical therapy at 6 months postpartum once I got through the waiting period and the long referral process. This made a world of difference for me. The strengthening exercises quickly resolved my pelvic pain (by 8 months postpartum I was pain free). My husband and I finally felt ready to be intimate and were able to do so without pain, I finally felt healed, having our intimacy back was a huge part of that. It was immensely helpful to have my PT remind me that I was healed and not broken. Having someone to remind you that you are still you, you are not broken is so important…I wish I had heard these words sooner. I struggled with feeling like a broken version of myself for the first months postpartum, and feeling like that was robbing me of the joy of having a healthy and beautiful baby girl.
I never got an answer for why I sustained a fourth degree tear. I believe it was a combination of factors, my small frame, my skin does not have great elasticity (I developed deep stretch marks everywhere during my pregnancy), and potentially having an epidural and not being able to feel the intensity in which I was pushing contributed to the tear. I am almost 10 months postpartum now and I am feeling good, emotionally and physically. I still have difficulty getting clean after going to the bathroom, that is my biggest complaint, but I am optimistic that this will improve with time and strengthening exercises.The upside down peri bottle from Frida has been a life saver!!! I am pain free, the granulation tissue is completely gone, and I can enjoy my baby girl and being a mom. Life is good and I am thankful. I hope this new year brings about continued healing and growth for me. If you are healing from a tear, please know that you are not broken, you will heal. Your body just went through something amazing, and healing takes time. It may take longer than you anticipated but you will feel joy again.
Magali ~ Sacramento, California