I had an easy, smooth pregnancy and went into labor with minimal expectations for my delivery. I knew I wanted an epidural but otherwise I trusted the doctors in what decisions needed to be made. My water broke at 5am when I was 39w1d. We excitedly went to the hospital but once we were admitted we ran into so many problems. Even though my water had broken and I was in labor, I was 70% effaced but only dilated at a fingertip width. They started me on Pitocin and inserted a Foley Bulb to help speed along the process. Throughout the morning they increased then decreased the amount of Pitocin, but I wasn’t really progressing. Eventually I was 5cm dilated and opted for an epidural. The contractions were extreme due to the Pitocin and I threw up multiple times from the intensity. During this time the baby’s heartbeat decreased with each contraction, but as she was able to recover between my doctor decided to wait. Sometime in the afternoon I developed a fever and chorioamnionitis and the baby’s heartbeat was too high. They gave me Ibuprofen and again decided to wait it out. That evening I was finally dilated enough, but then my cervix started swelling so I was given Benadryl to help with the swelling. The baby was descending but not enough. My doctor came in and determined she was facing sideways. She manually turned the baby to get her into an optimal position. She instructed the nurses to work on some practice pushes with me to help move labor along. After 4 hours of “practice pushes” including my nurse standing on the bed while we played Tug-of-War with a towel, there wasn’t much improvement. My doctor came in and decided that we needed to use Forceps to get the baby out. She calmly explained her success rate with using a forceps delivery (as opposed to vacuum). At this point I was willing to do anything to safely get my baby out. She inserted the forceps and I went through one round of pushing. Next, my husband heard the doctor say “If she’s going to tear, she needs to tear straight” as she gave me an episiotomy. After 4.5 hours total of pushing and 18.5 hours of labor, one push later and my 6 pound, 13 ounce baby girl was on my chest, perfectly healthy.
Prior to giving birth I didn’t even know a fourth degree tear was possible. I knew almost all vaginal births required some form of stitches, so I just assumed that’s what my case was. My husband walked around the bed to take a picture with the baby and I. As he came back he made a horrified face when he passed by the bottom of the bed and I jokingly said “ha ha I don’t want to know how bad it is” and the doctors laughed. After over an hour of stitching down there (again, which I assumed was just normal post-delivery stuff), my doctor held up 4 fingers and explained that I had a fourth degree tear, which is the worst possible. They talked about the extra drugs they had given me for pain and how they refer to it as a “vaginal c section” but I still didn’t understand what happened. Even to this day my husband still has to try and explain to me what it looked like. I am normally a “Google everything” person, but in this case I couldn’t bring myself to look up what it was for many weeks.
My therapist told me that sometimes our trauma doesn’t actually occur during the event itself, but can happen from later events. For me, it was once I was finally cleaned up and my husband and nurse took me to the restroom. Once I looked down is when the trauma hit. That memory is still one of the clearest in my head from the delivery experience. Post-delivery I couldn’t walk for 10 days. I had to lay on my side because I could not sit down. My husband had to do EVERYTHING (and I mean everything) for me. It was physically demanding and emotionally devastating. I was breastfeeding at this time, and while I didn’t have any issues with the baby and feeding, for me it was detrimental to my recovery. I wasn’t able to sleep or recover (mentally or physically) and I barely had time to eat or take care of myself because I was solely focused on feeding my baby. At 3 weeks postpartum I decided to switch to formula. For me it was one of the best decisions I could have made because I was then able to focus on healing myself. I noticed a significant improvement in how I felt around this time. Fortunately I recovered well physically and had positive news at my postpartum checkups. I started Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy at 2 months postpartum which significantly helped with my incontinence and pain. Since I pushed for 4.5 hours, my pelvic floor muscles were completely destroyed. While PT was extremely beneficial, it brought back a lot of the trauma from my delivery. I started seeing a therapist that specializes in perinatal help. These sessions helped me talk through my birth experience and set goals of how I can cope with the trauma. Now that I am 4 months postpartum I am able to work out consistently, do not struggle with any incontinence issues and feel so much better both mentally and physically . When I think back to immediately postpartum, I never thought I would feel this good this soon.
Lindsay ~ USA