Jennifer’s Story, Texas

As I’ve been recovering in bed from my last surgery, I have had so much time to think. I truly believe God allowed me to experience this trauma so that I can be a voice and let others know they are not alone. I hope and pray this story reaches someone who needs it. Please join the 4th Degree Tear Support group on Facebook if you need someone to talk we. We know firsthand how isolating this can feel. It was so helpful connecting with women all across the world to learn and get support from. 

**Please be aware that this may be hard to read and may be triggering to those who have had a traumatic delivery and/or postpartum experience.**

I was induced at 39 weeks due to my baby measuring very big at each ultrasound. My water broke relatively soon after being admitted but my body wasn’t progressing “fast enough”. Our baby was in the occiput posterior position and in trying to flip him, my doctor got the cord wrapped around his neck (we didn’t know this until he was delivered). Pitocin was administered to speed things up and thats when things started really getting crazy. 

I was bawling my eyes out saying that I couldn’t keep pushing after 19 hours in labor and 4 hours of continuous pushing. The nurse brought out a mirror to give me more motivation — I looked up to see blood EVERYWHERE in the mirror. My baby was still inside me and no one knew what happened or what to do. In fearing for both my life and my baby’s, my doctor said, “We don’t have enough time and need to use a vacuum. Are you okay with that?” (Mind you, on my birth plan, I put C-section in the case of an emergency or complication — NOT A VACUUM). But I agreed to it — fearing for both of our lives in that moment. 

The first vacuum attempt was unsuccessful and the second one was a success. I felt a HUGE pop. I watched my OB/GYN’s face and she looked terrified. My husband stayed with me as I bled out (fearing for my life) and they rushed our baby boy to be checked out. The nurse turned off the epidural since I “already delivered” and my doctor looked at me mortified and said, “You had a fourth degree tear. If you want anymore children, you can never deliver vaginally again.” My OB/GYN proceeded to look scared. I had no idea what a fourth degree tear meant or how severe it was. I just laid there, in excruciating pain and witnessed a table full of dozens of towels filled with my blood. When I spoke up of my pain, my OB/GYN realized the nurse turned off the epidural and yelled at her. I laid there and felt every last stitch as any and all nerve blockage I had was wearing off. 

Then the NICU nurse came in and assessed our son and said they needed to take him to the NICU for further observation because he may have a brain bleed from the vacuum and needed to be under close watch and care. She also said that due to covid, either my husband or myself can go since there can only be one visitor each day in the NICU. I didn’t want my son to be alone while I was still being surgically repaired so I told my husband to go with our son to the NICU. I was completely and utterly DEVASTATED. My husband was the only support person Covid allowed — we weren’t allowed to be in the NICU together as a family with our newborn baby. I remembered calling my sisters bawling, scared and alone in the recovery room. After many, many tests and days later, we got the news that there was no bleed and that he was a healthy and happy little guy. We were ready to go home! 

When we got released from the hospital, I went home to my parents and family welcoming us. All I can remember was the pain and embarrassment of not making it to the restroom in time as I waddled through my garage door. My sisters took and cared for me and helped me clean up as I was trying to make sense of what was happening. My stepmom got all of my prescription pills lined up for me to take. Little did I know this would be a LONG emotional and physical recovery rollercoaster. 

A few days later, I noticed things started channeling incorrectly. All I can say is you truly don’t want to know the details. If you read the article, I experienced so many symptoms outlined. I called my doctor’s office so scared and left a voicemail after hours. NO ONE called me back. I remember talking to my husband, sisters and stepmom and they kept telling me, “Something isn’t right. This isn’t normal.” To be honest, this was my first baby and I had no idea what was normal or not. I spent so much time researching pregnancy that I didn’t do much research on delivery or postpartum. My family was correct — something was very wrong. 

When I finally got in to see my OB/GYN she told me I had a huge wound breakdown and would need surgery right away. There I was back in the hospital during another Covid spike for yet another surgery, all alone and away from my baby (Covid restrictions were no support person at that time). I got home from that surgery and remember thinking, “Why me, God?! What did I do to deserve this?” 

Low and behold, that episiotomy and restitch surgery didn’t work and days later, all of my terrifying symptoms returned. I went in to my OB/GYN and she said, “We can wait and see what happens, I can try to fold and stitch the skin over as a Hail Mary approach or you can schedule another surgery with me.” I remember telling her that I had gone through two surgeries with her that had been unsuccessful and if I were to consider ANY future surgeries, they would be done by a Specialist. She looked shocked. Never once did she mention sending me to a Specialist. Instead, I had to mention it. She also only did an exam and never did any tests. She did an exam where she kept telling me everything looked great and she couldn’t locate anything wrong. Clearly, things weren’t great since they weren’t channeling correctly. 

My OBGYN (LATER) admitted to reading a textbook to figure out how to help me because her experience was limited with fourth degree tears. She also admitted that she should have done a C-section and regrets not doing one but wanted me to have “the vaginal birth experience.” After two failed surgeries with my OB and her wanting to do my third surgery, it was evident she wanted so badly to add “successful fourth degree tear surgery” to her qualifications. I truly felt like a guinea pig. I’m extremely grateful I didn’t end up in the hospital for a month straight like the other woman that had a fourth degree tear with my OB/GYN.

From MY OWN research and the 4th degree tear support group on Facebook I joined, I learned about Urogynecologists, Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgeons and their specializations. I researched for hours and days to find the right person in Houston. I ended up finding a surgeon who was recommended by numerous people in the group that fit both of the above titles. I waited to get in (many of these specialized doctors have a month + wait). He did TESTS. He SHOWED ME the results that confirmed my fears and symptoms. By the time I had gotten in to see him, I had already accurately diagnosed myself. He showed me the location and extent of my fistula, sphincter and perineal damage. All my OB/GYN did was an EXAM. I quizzed the Urogynecologist backwards and forwards and made sure he was the right person who could give me the best chance at recovery and rehabilitation. I remember he handed me a pamphlet at our first visit and laughed saying, “You already know everything in this pamphlet and WAY more.” I remember leaving thinking, “ I advocated for myself and made sure my voice was HEARD. Why didn’t I do this while giving birth?” 

I got my third and what I pray will be my last surgery in November of 2020 and while I am still healing, I know I made the right decision. I have seen a GREAT improvement in some symptoms and other symptoms are completely gone! It’s still a long road ahead, but I will give myself every chance at a successful recovery as I go on to the next step with pelvic floor physical therapy. The Specialist I saw and your prayers truly helped give me my quality of life back. I cannot thank you all enough for that!! 👏🏼

Why am I telling my story? ADVOCATE for yourself, Mama. Know what can cause these severe tears and avoid them at ALL costs. Get DETAILED instructions postpartum. What restrictions do you have that will give you the best chance at recovery? While I truly thank God every single day for medical professionals, QUIZ them. How qualified are they? How much experience do they have? What is their success rate? Can you find people who have testimonials? Do they know your birth plan? What is their back up plan? Do they truly hear and listen to you? 

Make sure they are experienced and you trust them. Make your voice known and stick up for yourself through your ENTIRE pregnancy, birth, postpartum period and BEYOND. Stick up for your little one. Have conversations with your significant other so that they can stick up for you in the event you can’t. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Doctors know so much but remember, they have specializations and can’t know everything. Sometimes you know more about your own body from the research you’ve done and the people you’ve talked with. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Make sure your OB/GYNs have connections so they can call upon SPECIALISTS in the case of emergencies with things they don’t have experience with. Pray and/or have faith that better days are coming! One of the greatest things I realized was this was bigger than me. I did my research and found the best doctor I could find for my surgeries, but I had faith for what I couldn’t control. 

Fourth degree tears only happen to 1-3% of women giving birth. This is such a small percentage and there isn’t enough research or data out there. From my extensive research and talking to many women across the country and world, these are the commonalities that resulted in our severe tears:

1. Assisted delivery (via vacuum or forceps)
2. Mother being induced
3. Large baby
4. Baby being in the occiput posterior position (OP position)
5. First baby
6. Pushing for an extended amount of time
7. Epidural
8. Shoulder dystocia 

(I HAD ALL OF THESE) Medical professionals also need to learn the warning signs and know when a C-section would be a better option. 

You created and brought a beautiful human into this world. It’s so scary speaking up and being vulnerable, but I never want anyone feeling as alone as I did going through all of this. I challenge you to share your story and help others know they are not alone in their journey. Motherhood is an amazing ride (the best I’ve been on thus far) but in my opinion, there isn’t enough awareness of the mental and physical distress that women go through bringing their little ones into this world.

You are NOT ALONE. You are brave. You are strong. You have every right to feel sad and scared. You have every right to ADVOCATE AND STICK UP FOR YOURSELF. All of the things you’re feeling, good or bad, are valid. Mourning the loss of a positive birth story is okay. 

I feel compelled to tell my story because God granted life, for both me and my child, when he could have had other plans. I have been blessed beyond measure and have had the best support system between my husband, our families, and all of my friends and co-workers. My story began when God gave me the best title in the world, Mama. I will make it my mission to continue to do everything in my power to let others know they are not alone once they gain that title.💓

****Disclaimer: I know throughout my story I mention C-section was my preferred choice and what should have happened. I know so many women who have had very complicated and traumatizing C-section deliveries — I am in no way shape or form downgrading their experience or saying C-sections are easier. C-sections are just much more common and therefore, much more researched.****


Jennifer ~ Houston, Texas USA

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