Reliving and Recovering From a Traumatic Birth Experience
Wow! It is hard to believe three months have come and gone with the blink of an eye since the birth of our second baby. Time really flies when you’re living off coffee, wine and a whole lot of baby love, right?! It is about time I put closure to my fit pregnancy journey and share a little about my delivery and postpartum recovery.
Pregnancy is something that I have a strong like and dislike for. I feel blessed beyond measure to have been able to carry two babies to term. However, I really struggled to embrace the hormone changes, physical changes, aches, pains, horrible moodiness and insomnia.
The last couple weeks of my pregnancy were the most challenging. At 36 weeks, Tatum had dropped off of her growth chart and the doctors were concerned she might come early. From then on, we had two non-stress tests a week to monitor her growth and heart rate. These tests were always nerve wracking but hearing her heart rate and seeing her grow gave us comfort.
Better late than never
At 40.6 weeks, Tatum finally decided to make her debut. Those last five days of pregnancy felt like the longest days of our lives. I felt huge, her kicks were very painful because she had run out of room and sleeping was impossible.
My contractions began at 6:00am on a Friday morning and they sure came with a vengeance. I had no warning and they were instantly about one minute long and about one to two minutes apart. I had very little breaks to recover from the previous contraction which was exhausting.
My goal was to labor at home as long as possible. However, the contractions were too close together and we had a 45 minute commute to the birthing center during rush hour traffic. We decided it was wise to get on the road as quickly as possible.
On our way to the hospital, our worry became reality when we got stuck in rush hour traffic. My husband was terrified of not making it to the hospital in time and I was just ready for something to ease the pain. Resisting urges to push, we finally made it to the hospital and my contractions were coming harder and faster with each minute that passed.
Once we arrived, I was swarmed by nurses who rushed me to a room. They were also fearful that I was close to delivery. At that point I only had one thing on my mind and that was the epidural. I doubted getting it with my first baby but I could not get it fast enough with my second.
The frequency and duration of my contractions wore me down quickly, physically and mentally. They were coming so hard and so fast that I was not able to get a break in between to recover from the previous contraction. Everyone was in high gear trying to help me control the pain.
Before I could get the epidural, the nurses had to get an IV started and draw blood to be sent to the lab. It took THREE nurses to get my IV started. The first nurse left me with a huge bruise as a result of moving the needle around under my skin trying to find the vein. Supposedly, my veins were rolling and there was very little time in between contractions in order for me to relax enough to get the needle in place.
The frustration of not being able to get my IV started quickly began to take a tole. I was terrified of not being able to get the epidural in time. My patience with the nurses was running very thin at this point.
After what seemed like hours, my IV was in, my labs were drawn and the the epidural was administered. Within a few minutes, the mood in the room had drastically changed. I was much calmer, my husband was happier not seeing me in so much pain and my nurses got to see the much nicer “Brooke.”
When it came time to deliver Tatum, the mood once again shifted drastically. When I began pushing, we quickly realized that this was not going to be an easy delivery like it had been with my first baby.
I only pushed for 20 minutes but those 20 minutes were the longest of my entire life.
The delivery was something we could have never prepared ourselves for
The umbilical cord was wrapped very tightly around Tatum’s neck. Because of her large size, she also got stuck in my pelvis and with each push, the cord was getting tighter. In order to control Tatum’s heart rate, the doctors had me push on my side which was completely unnatural. She was declining extremely fast and I felt like there was nothing I could do. The epidural made it hard for me to feel when I needed to push. I felt like I was failing.
At that point, it was too late for an emergency c-section. The umbilical cord had been very thin, and the doctor could not pull it over Tatums head to free her like they normally do in these situations. The doctor made the quick decision to cut the umbilical cord while it was still tightly wrapped around Tatum’s neck. The cord was so tight, the doctor could barely get her fingers between the cord and Tatums neck in order to cut it.
At this point, I had no idea what was going on. Everyone in the room was screaming at me to push, even when my contractions were over. My husband said that Tatum’s head was completely blue and lifeless yet they still struggled to get her out of my pelvis.
Her head was blue and her shoulders would not budge
The only way they could get her out was to twist her body back and forth by her head like a corkscrew until eventually she slid out.
But there was no noise…
Prior to delivery, I requested delayed cord clamping and immediate skin to skin. They could not delay the cord clamping because of cutting it off her neck but they still attempted skin to skin.
And there was no movement…
When they placed Tatum on my chest, there was no noise, no movement and she was completely lifeless. It felt like they had placed a lifeless baby on me.
Most of this part is a blur. I remember screaming at the top of my lungs, “WHY IS SHE NOT MOVING? WHY IS SHE NOT CRYING?”. The nurses quickly realized something was not right and grabbed her by her arm and whisked her away from me.
There was still no crying…
I could not see anything that was going on with my baby. The only thing I saw was my mom pacing behind the nurses and doctor. She was crying and praying. My husband was by my side trying to hold back tears to try and keep me calm. And still, there were no noises from my baby.
I remember hearing the nurses yelling down the hall for more help, stat. Thankfully and very luckily, the on-call doctor that delivered Tatum was also a pediatrician and was finishing her OB fellowship. This was a truly a blessing in disguise. She immediately left me in the hands of the other doctor to tend to my baby. She quickly administrated oxygen to resuscitate Tatum and within a few seconds, I finally heard the faint, little cry of my baby girl. That sound was the best thing I have ever heard in my life. Time had stood completely still for those few minutes.
There are no words to describe the emotions we felt in that moment
We were unsure if our baby was going to be okay. The image and feel of her blue, lifeless body is something I still struggle with almost three months later. It will be something I will never be able to erase from my mind. The thought of possibly leaving the hospital that day without my baby is something that still haunts me.
But then there was joy
Once we knew everything was okay, Tatum was weighed and measured. She weighed a whopping 8.4 pounds and was 21 inches long! Everyone was in disbelief of how big she was. So much so that the doctor had the nurses recalibrate the scale to make sure it recorded the correct weight. She did not look as big as she weighed.
Tatum’s tiny little face looked like she had been through a rough match at a UFC fight. She was extremely bruised and had broken blood vessels in one of her eyes. Other than the physical trauma from delivery, she was completely healthy. Thank God.
That evening, our doctor came in to check on us. She shared how scary the delivery was, even for her. She had delivered many, many babies and this delivery was one of her scariest. Every nurse that came in to see us during our stay had also heard the story. There had been nine deliveries in the birthing center that day and we seemed to be the hot topic.
At my six week follow up appointment, we shared more details with our doctor who could not be there during the delivery. He read the reports but still took the time to listen to our experience. He said that 9 out of 10 deliveries go well. Unfortunately, we were the 1 in10 that have serious complications. Hearing this was extremely hard. We could not be more thankful that we were able to leave the hospital that day with our baby girl.
The Physical Trauma
The recovery from this delivery was much more difficult than my first. My pelvis had been through so much trauma when they had to wiggle Tatum out that it took weeks for me to be able to walk without any discomfort. Miraculously, I did not have and ripping or tearing.
About four weeks after the delivery, I felt something was not healing properly. I could feel a “bulge” which was not there prior. Upon examination, I was informed that I had a, “Pelvic Organ Prolapse” and my bladder had slightly prolapsed during the delivery. It was very minor but still horrific to hear.
Why hadn’t anyone warned me about this?
Pelvic Organ Prolapse is something that is not widely discussed or addressed. It is much more common than people think and something that needs more attention.
In the next month, I will be going to a pelvic floor physical therapist with the hopes of healing. I also working towards becoming a prenatal and postnatal exercise specialist in order to have a deeper understanding of the trauma the female body goes through during pregnancy and delivery. My goal is to bring more awareness to the possible complications of childbirth and help women overcome and heal any physical trauma they may have from childbirth.
Strengthening the pelvic floor during pregnancy is very important. If you need some ideas, please take a peek at this post where I share some of my favorite exercises.
The mental healing process
Since Tatum has been born, we have been through many ups and downs. I have finally come to a place where I can talk about our story without crying. I still find myself checking on her frantically when she’s sleeping to make sure she’s breathing.
Our experience during childbirth could have ended much more devastating than it did. We feel incredibly blessed and thankful that Tatum came home with us that day. However, this does not lessen how we felt in those moments when her lifeless body was on my chest and there were no noises or movements from our baby.
It seems like more often than not, deliveries do not go as we have imagined. There seems to be an expectation that even if you give birth to a healthy baby, a parent should be happy. However, between hormones, pain from recovery and exhaustion, unplanned birthing experiences can be very difficult to cope with and recover from.
Here a few things that have really helped me through the recovery process and I hope can help others through an unplanned birthing experience as well.
1. Talk, talk, talk
This is definitely easier said than done. Sharing your experience with others not only helps create a greater support system during your recovery process but it also helps release the emotions and feelings that accompany the traumatic experience.
No matter how difficult it was to relive that day and those moments, each time I talked about it, I felt myself growing stronger and stronger. People surrounded us with love and support which is exactly what we needed to get through those painful emotions. There were a lot of tears and it was not easy but sharing our story helped us find strength to heal our hearts.
Putting your thoughts on paper allows you to express emotions that you may not feel comfortable sharing with others right away. If you are not ready to open up about your experience, take some time to express those thoughts and feelings on paper. Journaling can help you to reduce the intensity of feelings.
As mothers, we often feel like we must be strong at all times. However, suppressing emotion does not help the healing process. Crying is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. It is allowing yourself to be vulnerable and express emotions.
Disappointment, sadness, anger and grief all manifest themselves through tears and they are the ultimate release. Have you ever felt like you just needed a good cry? Tears allow acknowledgment of feelings and we need that acknowledgment in the recovery process.
It is advised to wait six to eight weeks postpartum to exercise. However, with a clearance from your doctor, exercise can be one of the best ways to cope with feelings from a traumatic experience.
Exercising releases feel good hormones that can help combat depression and anxiety. Something as simple as a long walk with your baby can release the hormones you need to help cope with difficult feelings.
Finding the motivation or energy to get moving when we are already feeling down can be a struggle. However, pushing through those struggles and taking the first steps out the door can help tremendously. Babies need some fresh air as well. So if you don’t feel like doing it for yourself, do it for your baby.
If you find yourself struggling with thoughts and feelings that are too overwhelming to bare on your own, then seeking help may be the best option. There seems to be a social stigma that needing counseling and/or medication is a sign of weakness. This could not be further from the truth. Seeking additional help when all other avenues have not been successful is showing strength and determination to overcome difficult situations. It is very common for women to need counseling and/or medication. This is a topic that should be more widely discussed so we can build a greater support system amongst moms.
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