The delivery plan.
I waited all day knowing I was in early labor. My delivery was going to be amazing, I was certain of it. My husband had just started a new job and was gone all day at a training, and I didn’t want to disrupt him. The second he walked in the door, I let him know that our firstborn was getting ready to make an entrance. And what an entrance it would be.
I was pregnant with our first child in August of 2009. We didn’t know the gender. I had done all the reading, planning, and prepping, and I was ready for a perfect, unmedicated, natural birth. When the contractions started and my water broke, I was thrilled. No one tells you the contractions get worse after your water breaks.
I found out when we got to the hospital that the reason I was in so much pain is because my contractions essentially never stopped, unlike a typical birth when moms are given a break from the pain in between contractions. My body was not giving me a break, so I reluctantly welcomed an epidural.
Time to push.
I gave it everything I had. Literally everything. I pushed for 4 hours trying to bring my angel into this world. I broke down in tears when the doctor told me I would be having a cesarean. The birth plan was falling apart, but I was excited to meet my child, so off we went.
I can’t remember much of what happened in surgery. There are a few bits and pieces I remember, but honestly, due to the meds, I don’t know how much of it is true. The doctor yelling, the anestheisiologist gently patting my cheek and saying, “Don’t fall asleep on me. Wake up!”, and him telling the doctor to break my pelvis. These are my memories from my perfect delivery.
My husband later told me the doctor literally straddled me trying to pull the baby out.
Then I heard a cry. A tiny baby cry.
It was a girl. The doctor looked terrified as she told me that she had to “manipulate her head quite a lot”. My baby was whisked away; the next time I saw her was hours later. She had bruises all over her sweet face and head, and a giant lump on her skull. Nothing could have ever prepared me for the experience of seeing her for the first time.
She spent the first two days of her life at Children’s Hospital. My beautiful baby girl had a hematoma on her brain that would need to be operated on at a moment’s notice should it get any bigger. I was away from her, in a different hospital, for the first two days of her life. No bonding, no nursing, no nothing. I was so numb I had a hard time understanding what I should be doing. This was my delivery.
My daughter improved dramatically, and we were able to take her home on the third day. My husband returned to work a week later, and I was home with a newborn, alone. I had never felt so alone in my whole life. These feelings of loneliness stayed around, even when I was with other people. Feelings and emotions I never thought I would experience after having had a baby took hold of me. I was terrified and I was sad. I pretended everything was fine.
But I wasn’t sure I loved my child.
There. I said it out loud. I was so ashamed of these feelings. Now you know what a horrible place I was in. I suffered SO LONG because I couldn’t tell anyone these things. I didn’t know it at the time but I was in the midst of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My daughter’s birth was the most traumatic thing that had ever happened to me. Imagine how that made me feel as a mother.
I made it through (although I did have PTSD for MANY months after my delivery). It has been 9 years, and I can say now I feel much better now. My heart no longer hurts when I think of those few days.
I’m sharing this story with you because I know that moms everywhere struggle after giving birth. First-time moms, you are on a whole new playing field. Second, third, fourth, fifth time moms, even if you know the game, life gets infinitely more busy, difficult, and trying. Nothing on God’s green earth can prepare you for being a mom, until you are one.
What do we need as new moms?
Counseling and aftercare should be a regular part of the the birth process. Yes, some women have their ideal delivery, but what about when you get home? Does every woman have the support she needs? Can she ask for help if she needs it?
I did receive a visit from the hospital psychologist that first day. She simply asked how I was doing and if I needed anything. Granted, that is what I needed, but I just don’t feel like it was asked enough. “How are you doing?” is such a broad question. “Your experience was very hard. Would you like to share your feelings about it?” or “It must be very hard to be away from your baby. How is that for you?”. These are questions that could have helped open the gates of communication for me. I wish the psychologist had come by more than once because I needed the opportunity to find the courage to speak. I needed time to process what had jsut happened. In my case, I needed many months. Maybe even years. My traumatic delivery would cause a ripple effect through my whole life for the next few years.
As mothers, we are expected to buck up and do what needs to be done, but, what very few people realize is the dramatic and sudden way in which our lives are forever altered with the birth of a child. We need to take better mental and emotional care of the mothers after they give birth. Her body, her life, and her soul will never be the same. If you know a new mama, don’t be afraid to reach out, and do it more than once. She probably really needs someone to talk to.