Fall 2012: I was pregnant for the first time. I had plenty of “mom” friends but none who really discussed birth. Sure, we talked about sleep and foods and car seats and even babywearing. But birth? Not so much.
I read Ina May. I loved my growing bump. I made plans for a natural hospital birth, plans to breastfeed, and plans to rock my first year post partum. Looking back, I still pat myself on the back. I really did a lot “right” in terms of education. I knew how labor and delivery drugs could affect me AND my baby in terms of recovering, bonding, and nursing. I knew I didn’t want them. What I see now, is that I never made a plan. I set a goal, a BIG goal, and assumed that wanting it enough would get me there.
Spring 2013: Sometime in my third trimester, I was informed my due date was off. I accepted the fact blindly without asking why they shifted it. A handful of appointments later and suddenly I was past my due dates and the world was ending. I was sent for an ultrasound and a non-stress test. I was measured repeatedly and suddenly grilled about my diet and exercise regimen. My membranes were swept without my permission (OUCH) and an induction date was set.
I was so stressed. I wanted to have that fun story to tell about when I went into labor or when my water broke. I did not want to have my “fun” story start with drugs that I never wanted to begin with. But I was scared. They told me she was big and I was small. They told me I had entered a phase when complications start but couldn’t actually tell me WHAT complications.
So I did what any good soon to be mama who was SCARED would do; I capitulated. I showed up for my 7am induction appointment.
Have you ever heard of the “cascade of interventions”? That’s what happened to me. Textbook.
Pitocin….too much pitocin…not enough pitocin….contractions on top of contractions….not allowed to eat food…scared….unsupported….
Literally a full day went by. I remember lying facedown in the hospital bed hoping that my uterus would rupture and kill me. The amount of pain I was in was unbearable because there was no break from it and nobody to tell me if I was safe or not. I remember hoping I wasn’t safe and that death would be imminent. I know this sounds dramatic but I really didn’t want to go on. I didn’t want an epidural and relief from the pain; I wanted to be done with it all. There was no cell left in my body that wanted to be a mother anymore.
The cascade continued: epidural…pushing…resting….pushing….internal monitor…exhaustion….no more options…..34 hours later….c-section.
I know now that my recovery was swift and uneventful, but it was horrific from my side of the story. Everything hurt. Breastfeeding was a nightmare. Everything hurt. Breastfeeding continued to be a nightmare. Everything continued to hurt.
I don’t think people say it enough so let me tell you: everything hurt. My epidural caused a slow leak that left me with vertigo and horrible migraines for over a YEAR. The epidural also left me with phantom back pains that were basically surprise shots of lightning up and down my entire spine. I still experience these, sometimes so violently that I have to stop what I’m doing to breath through them. My ribs were broken in the process of getting my very stuck baby out of a very small incision. They hurt me off and on for over 18 weeks and one has never re-fused so it hurts me often, sometimes multiple times a day still. My guts felt like they were falling out of my body, held in only by a row of staples and sutures. My genitals were swollen and disfigured from 5 hours of pushing and having a catheter for days. I couldn’t pick anything up if it wasn’t already sitting in my lap and being drugged up on pain medications, living in the drug-fog made me so upset.
So yes, “in the end” both mama and baby were “healthy” but that’s actually a sack of shit. I was not healthy, even when most of the aches and pains went away. The first year of my daughter’s life involved nursing woes and moderate to severe post partum depression. My daughter was puffy and swollen. She cried all the time and was the worst sleeper known to man. I had horrific PTST anytime I thought about my birth experience and every single time I heard another mother recount the same story, it broke my heart and gave me nightmares for weeks. Healthy? No.
But I did eventually go home with a baby who I thought was the bees knees. I loved her and I wanted to be able to love her fully and be her best mama.
G and I hit our turning point a few months after her first birthday. (There was no party; I was not up to it, still.) By that second summer, nursing was a breeze and was a way we stayed connected even through the budding toddler-issues. We went to the farmer’s market, laughed at the dogs, and I started to feel really whole and capable as a mother for the FIRST TIME since she was born.
I also found a community, online and in person, of moms who supported each other and tended towards the “crunchy” side of living. These moms first started to introduce the idea of birthing as something normal, natural, and goddess-like. I will fully admit the first few times I heard their triumphant birth stories, I scoffed and moved on. They surely were idiots whose main focus for being placed on this earth was to have no feeling in their abdomens and huge vaginas for their kids to fall out of, right?
But then I started seeing that a huge amount of these wide-vagina’d mothers were just like me. They had the same birth story to tell the first time and the opposite story to tell the second time. They used words like “healing birth” (which to me just sounded like doped up suicide) and talked about births where they were surrounded by women the entire time they labored and pushed. I started actually considering another baby. I looked at my daughter as she played at the park with sets of siblings and cried when she had to come home to zero siblings.
And just like that, I had baby fever.