A Whole Lot of Words to Say a Couple Short Things

This has been quite an absence. A lot has happened, and I didn’t know quite how to get started talking about it on here. And as time passed, more happened that was also difficult to talk about. Not difficult in the sense that I can’t talk about it. Just difficult in that I didn’t really know where to start or how to approach it.

 

I can write here in a way that is similar to how I normally talk, but the level of candor is usually higher than in the real world. It feels more appropriate here to divulge certain things I don’t talk about in every day life, partly because it feels like an Internet hole and I’m just sending it all out into the abyss. The candor thing is tricky, because a chunk of people that read this know me. So I don’t usually put anything out into the blog that I wouldn’t want friends and family and acquaintances knowing. But it also gives me a space to talk about things that I don’t mind everyone knowing, but for which a window in conversation never really opens.

 

The other thing that makes candor tricky is that I’m a mom. I’ve built this blog around being a mom. And just like all my cringeworthy livejournal entries from high school and my early twenties, these blog posts are going to be internet things forever. I wouldn’t want to write anything that would upset my kids during a Google search down the road. So this is all just.. touchy. For me. But necessary since I clearly can’t write without addressing all the junk in my brain.

 

First thing is first. I’m 19 weeks pregnant. It has taken me such a long time to write about this because of what I just said about being a mom. So I want to say, right off the bat, clear as day, that I could not be happier that there is going to be a new baby in our home. Adam and I are so excited to add to our family. August isn’t that excited because he’s too young to really get it, but he will probably be just the right amount of pissed when he realizes this baby is going to play with all of his toys. Can’t please everyone.

 

Now, all that being said. It was hard to sit down and write this out, and I quit blogging for a few months, because I did not want to be pregnant. Yes, I 100% want this baby that Adam and I 100% planned on having, and I can’t wait to meet him or her and give them a shit ton of love. But after my first birth experience, doing it again is terrifying to me. Baby? Hell yes. Birth? Nope thanks.

 

A refresher. I underwent a very traumatic c-section. I was not even able to process it or really think about it until I was six-months postpartum. At that point, when I thought about giving birth again one day, it triggered over a month of very deep postpartum depression. I saw two counsellors to try to work through my birth trauma, with no improvements. My PPD went away as I pushed myself to work through it, but all I ended up doing was shoving it aside without dealing with the underlying issues.

 

Before I get ahead of myself, I want to point out that I’m careful to refer to the experience as my birth. My birth was horrible. It was terrifying and dehumanizing and for completely unnecessary reasons. However, August being born was one of the best things to ever happen to me. His birth gave me the brightest spot in the entire universe, and I get to spend every day experiencing an absurd amount of love because his birth made me a mom. For the rest of my life, I am a mom. I could not be more grateful for that role, or for the amazing little boy that I have the privilege of calling my son. My birth experience? The worst. August’s birth? The best.

 

This post has been so difficult to write, and I’ve thought about how I could do it so many times, because there are buckets of conflict in being so thrilled that you are having a baby, and completely terrified of actually bringing a baby into the world. The night that my postpartum depression was triggered, I had been thinking about how my next birth would go, and I stayed up the entire night, frantically researching VBACs and birth trauma and trying to see into my future.

 

So when it came time to start planning the next phase of our family, I put off getting pregnant for months. I made excuses because as much as I wanted another baby, I did not want to go through another trauma. And that felt like the only possible outcome, because trauma was all I knew. Over two years after giving birth, I still cannot talk about it without crying, my heart rate going bananas, and losing control of my breath.

 

The nuts thing is, it is not even a repeat c-section, per se, that I am afraid of. I spent my entire first pregnancy telling my doctor that I wasn’t big on birth plans, I just didn’t want a c-section. That was my only plan in birth; pushing that sucker out. I made it clear over and over, and was reassured over and over by my doctor that she would never perform an unnecessary c-section and that she wanted me to have a vaginal birth.

 

And then she made decision after decision, giving me little consent or information as she went, that ended in her telling me that I was having a c-section in 30 minutes, at the end of the day of my induction. None of the consent I gave that day was informed. And there were mistakes made by the hospital that she glossed over and lied about, that she then used as ammunition to perform major abdominal surgery. Which in the end was a very obvious decision by my doctor to get her home on time, in a hospital I later learned has the highest c-section rate in my state.

 

And while the c-section itself was scary and upsetting and abrupt, it was not what caused my trauma. If you read my birth story, you may remember that I was very upset during surgery, even asking to be put under because I was so afraid about being awake for it, and my anesthesiologist told me I would not want to be asleep for the birth of my son. He gave me drugs to chill me out, and then he and Adam were able to distract me while August was being born. I saw August for a moment. I remember Adam saying he had so much black hair, but I don’t remember seeing him.

 

I became upset again once I was being stitched up, because I could feel it happening (not pain, but a lot of pressure and movement) and that was hugely unsettling. I begged to be knocked out. This time, the anesthesiologist listened, and I was unconscious for the first hour of my baby’s life.

 

Now, you may be saying that I asked for it. I did. I literally asked for it. Over and over. But I asked for a lot of things in labor. I asked to be allowed to walk to the bathroom so I wouldn’t have to sit in my amniotic fluid in the hospital bed. I asked to not have a c-section. I asked for a Cinnabon. I asked to be knocked out while my doctor cut me open on the other side of a small curtain. But now they decided to listen to me? Being unconscious for a critical bonding period was more acceptable than being unconscious during surgery? They were tired of listening to me cry and wail, and decided to finally give a distraught woman what she asked for. I may have asked for it, but the anesthesiologist and my doctor were trained medical professionals, and they made a choice in their interests, not mine.

 

When I woke up in the recovery room, I wasn’t allowed to hold August because I wasn’t stable from the drugs yet. The nurse finally laid him on my chest because skin to skin contact is incredibly important for a newborn. I couldn’t try to breastfeed my baby for hours after he was born. And I had no memory of him being born besides the fear I felt on my side of the curtain. I couldn’t remember what he looked like in his first moments. Today, my first memories of him, in general, are fuzz at best.

 

And this beautiful baby in my arms? I felt like I woke up, and someone just handed me a baby. I didn’t feel like I had just given birth. I didn’t feel like I was holding my baby that I carried for nine months. I felt unattached, withdrawn, and incredibly guilty. What kind of mother was I, already?

 

While in the hospital, I sent August to the nursery whenever I could. I told myself it was because I was exhausted, and that I needed sleep. I was and I did. But I also didn’t know what to do with this baby. I liked him. He was cute and sweet and I mean… he was a baby. I love babies. But it took about two weeks for me to feel like his; for him to feel like mine.

 

It was fierce when it happened, and it’s only gotten stronger. But those first weeks? I was detached and afraid and so, so guilty. This little boy was perfect. He didn’t do anything wrong. He deserved a real mother, and I felt like the furthest thing from it. That detachment, and the complete lack of control that preceded it, are the roots of my trauma.

 

Which brings us to what happened after I got pregnant. We hired a wonderful doula early on, because I want to have a VBAC and I know I need an advocate and extra support in a hospital setting. After sharing my birth story with her, she made it obvious that all of my fear was going to hurt me when it comes time to labor. She pointed me in the direction of an art therapist that deals with birth trauma. I felt like talk therapy hadn’t worked, and decided to try art therapy because what could it hurt?

 

It did not take long for my new therapist to diagnose me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That’s a difficult thing to share, and I haven’t shared it with many people I know. It feels dramatic as hell to wave a big PTSD flag around, and it absolutely feels like I’m appropriating this thing I have no business claiming as my own. PTSD is something I associate with combat veterans who have seen death and unspeakable danger. Me? I had a shitty birth.

 

So it’s a weird thing to think about, and an uncomfortable thing to write about. But I want other women to know this happened to me. And if they’re looking for somewhere to relate, I want to be someone other women in this position can relate to. And if they can’t relate, I want them to be able to better advocate for themselves and for other women they care about, so that fewer women come out of birth being able to relate to me. But mostly, I want to be able to write again in this space, and I haven’t felt capable of that for months because I haven’t been able to be honest. So there is all my honesty. Barfed out of my brain at 1am on a Tuesday.

 

Hopefully, I will be back soon, because I love this place and I love writing and I have missed them both.

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14 thoughts on “A Whole Lot of Words to Say a Couple Short Things

  1. Big hugs lady! I think you read when I blogged about my fears when I was pregnant with my twins. I was absolutely terrified of the real possibility of having a c section and being separated from my babies because of my gall bladder surgery experience when my first was an infant. In the end I did have a csection. I was informed on all my choices, I did all the research and all of the things in my power to get the birth I wanted. I went to the chiropractor and did the spinning babies exercises to try and turn my breech baby A. I ate the right diet and slept the right way. in the end I was informed enough to know that I didn’t have any choices. When my water broke at 35 weeks I knew he was still breech and I knew if I went to the hospital they were going to cut me open. Even with optimal conditions like both babies vertex and the right size and the placenta not in the way I would have been pushing babies out in the operating room with their scalpels ready. It was one of the most terrible moments of my life just because of all of the fear I was experiencing. My twins are amazing, I am so glad that I get to be their mother. I was thrilled to meet them, but I can’t look back on my birth experience and feel joy, which is so awful on another level. I am brought to tears every time I think about it, I have battled PPD for the first time, and I am hit with paralyzing fear at the thought of another birth. We are not planning on adding to our family, 4 kids is perfect for us. But I am sure that if I were pregnant again I would have PTSD too. You are one brave woman, and you are not alone in any of this. And take your placenta home and have it encapsulated. I have heard so many stories about it helping with keeping PPD at bay, wish I had done it.

    1. Ugh, Mama, I’m so sorry for everything you went through, and are going through. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. I stepped away for a while after posting. PPD is absolute hell, and I hope you’re out of it soon. I know that when anyone would say pretty much anything to me about PPD when I was in the thick of it (granted it was all people who hadn’t experienced it) I would just kind of give them the “Uh huh. Ok. *Thumbs up* *Eye roll*” so it leaves me at a loss for really what to say, besides that I’m here if you ever want to talk. Huge hugs. And thanks for sharing that with me.

  2. Hey thanks for sharing this. I am so sorry to hear about everything you’ve had to go through since August was born. But your diagnosis sounds spot on, and very legitimate. I hope the art therapy is helpful. As a pregnant lady, I wanted to thank you for always being so open about your experience with pregnancy and childbirth. Very few people are. I thought I was going to LOVE being pregnant. I know, I know. But I really did. I had such a strong, probably biological tick-tock kinda desire to be pregnant. Not even for the baby as much as I wanted to be carrying a baby. And as soon as I got knocked up I felt heinous and it’s been really rough ever since. And then of course I feel guilty for not “enjoying” my pregnancy. To add to it, I’ve been super dissatisfied by my OB and at 16 weeks I’m now looking to switch doctors. Part of me feels ridiculous switching at this point, and a lot of people in my life are making me feel like an over-anxious first time mom who is “stressing” my baby out with all my anxiety. But hearing your story here again reminds me that I need to be able to trust my doctor in June when shit gets real! So thanks for sharing because it’s helping me realize that even though changing doctors half way through is going to be hard, it’s necessary 🙂 Your candor is much appreciated.

    1. Thanks lady. I hope you’ve been able to find a doctor you like/trust! I thought about switching several times during my last pregnancy, but I thought I was being ridiculous. Now, obviously, I wish I had followed my instincts and gotten out of there, even if it was the day before I was going to start pushing. And I completely understand the tick-tock feeling. I was so so ready to be pregnant. And then it blew. I don’t trust anyone who says they love being pregnant. They’re either liars or have the worst idea of enjoyable things, ever. Don’t feel guilty. It’s the fucking pits being host to another lifeform inside your own body. I’m buying a fancy designer tube baby next time.

  3. Oh my sweet girl, I had no idea August’s birth was this-level-bad. I just want to hold you now. Since I cannot, let me just say that I am so proud of and inspired by you, to stand tall and put it out there– be so vulnerable, and real and true and good. Without writing my own tale here, I will say that Celia’s birth had some factors that weighed deeply on me fear-wise for Miles’, and though I did a lot to work thru that beforehand, some of it was still there when I went into labor. But I had a wonderful doula and midwife and while they weren’t able to magically keep me 100% fear-free, in the end the universe took over and not one teency tiny smidge of my fears came to fruition. It does work out that way, more often than we can fathom when we are in it. In the meantime I will be putting out the very very most loving/calming/strengthening/mama bear vibes the cosmos has to offer. They’re already coming your way. You feel em? There they are. And they’re gonna be constant.
    You got this. Nothing can stop you. I have a few resources to send your way, can text em to ya if you’re interested. Loves.

    1. You make me CRY. You were such an awesome source of support when August was born, and I’ll never forget it. Thanks for everything, love. I’m going to keep all of this in mind the next four-ish months.

  4. Hugs, mama. And congratulations! I relate to your anguish, and I wish you healing and peace before the big day arrives with number two. I had a vaginal birth, so I shouldn’t complain, but it was awful from start to finish. I got everything I didn’t want, plus complications that I’m still not certain weren’t from the doctor’s actions, and I think I probably had some ppd for awhile too, because I never really felt connected to my baby until she was three months old or so. I did some writing about it and then I found a moms group on Facebook where I was able to share and ask questions and got a lot of therapy from that to feel a little better. I still get upset when I think about that day, even though I know I have a lot to be grateful for. Birth is a crazy thing and can really mess up our bodies and minds. I hope you find a way to make peace about it, heal your wounds, and close the book on that chapter so you can focus on happier things. I look forward to seeing your new beautiful one. Happy New Year!

    1. Having a vaginal birth does not mean you have no reason to complain. Trauma is trauma, and it is not exclusive to c-sections. I am glad you found other moms to connect with. That has been so crucial to any kind of sanity I have. And as horrible as it is that so many mothers have so many similar issues and stories and hardships, it’s at least comforting to find that we are not alone or terrible moms. Big, big hugs, my dear.

  5. Well, here I am 1am on a Thursday, not Tuesday. 😉 I just read what I thought I wrote. I had a very similar, maybe worse, but this is NOT a competition i want to win in any way shape or form. You took the words out of my mouth. I have a gorgeous 9 month old now and I can honestly say not a day goes by that I don’t feel totally screwed out of those first moments with my baby after 6 failed epidural tries (which were attempted dialated s to an 8 cause the fucking morons at the hospital took 3 hours to get a blood test on me first), 4hours of pushing on every contraction, episiotomy, the vacuum and ultimately am emergency c-section where I also begged to be put out, but my wishes weren’t granted. They let me glance at my baby, and that’s putting it nicely, as I’m shaking and crying on the table. Everyone is saying how much she looks like me and my husband is saying she looks all black and blue (she wasn’t and he’s an idiot lol)and all I wanted to do after all that work was hold my baby. My husband took everyone to the nursery while I sat numb in a room by myself at 5am. Over an hour later they brought her to me. I didn’t have the overwhelming feelings of love or anything and was in shock like someone handed me a child to babysit. I was terrified. I was Angry. I was exhausted. The next day she was taken by ambulance to a children’s hospital and I checked out less then 24 hours after a csection to be with her. Within days I was driving myself to the hospital. Out of body experience. I sat there day and night holding her and beyond sick with guilt, sadness, fear, you name it. 2 weeks later once we were home in started to sink in and luckily I have a bond I never knew possible with my baby girl. I feel like I was robbed of something I’ll never be able to change or get back and even though she has no idea, I do. I’ll never know the feeling of working the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life and having the reward laying on my chest moments after. Im angry at them. They do this all day long and it’s repetitive, I get that. But, this was my first and last time and I can’t get that back. A big 5 to you for sharing your story and making me realize I’m not alone or crazy for hurting about it. I’m so happy you get another chance at it. I will not. I hope this time was everything it should have been and restored your faith in humanity.

    1. I am so sorry for all you’ve gone through. No one really gets it unless they’ve been there, to one degree or another, so I’m glad you found a space where you are not alone. There’s way more of us than there should be, and I hope you find a way to heal one day.

  6. I also want to add that as embarrassed and ashamed as I am to admit it, my ptsd and ppd have kept me from any memories of my baby before 3 months old. I look at pictures and I can’t remember her face, or what it was like to hold her. It blows me away what our brains are capable of blocking out under that much stress. We had issues with reflux, milk allergy etc in the beginning and a baby that screamed all day no matter what I did. So, def not all from birth issues. But, that was something I was so embarrassed and scared about so thank you for allowing me to embrace it.

    1. There is absolutely no shame in something you have no control over. Those first months are hard enough on their own without all the added trauma you went through. Don’t be embarrassed at all.

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