Motherhood: The Physical Wreckage

I'm going to warn you that this post will discuss some not so pretty things: birth, postpartum, and bodily functions.  If that doesn't seem like something you'd like to read, this post may be one you need to skip.

I've written this post a thousand times in the past two years.  It's been in my personal journal, it's been in emails to close friends, I've had to tell my boss about it at one point, but I'm always embarrassed and ashamed. I've never fully told the whole truth and this post isn't all of it either, but it is a start.  Here's something you need to know:

Millions of women are injured in childbirth and remain undiagnosed or ignored

Two years ago, I experienced precipitous labor. This means that my labor, from start to finish, was under 3 hours.  Some of you are already saying, "That sounds amazing, my labor was xx hours long!" What you need to understand is that precipitous labor has specific problems that many doctors do not know how to handle.  Because of this type of labor, my body did not have time to adjust to a baby exiting my body - nothing gradually expanded.  Things tore and ripped. I didn't have time for any pain killers - I was an unwilling natural birth participant.  I passed out from pain and woke up to two nurses folding my body in half to help with the "push" part of the current contraction. I spent more time in post-birth surgery than I did in labor and delivery combined.

My doctor was wonderful.  She did everything she could.  She spent hours trying to stitch me up and decided to send me to OR.  This meant a true anesthesia with a surgeon and the required recoup time from major surgery. Please note that during all of this, I haven't gotten to really see my new baby and she's being very well taken care of by hospital staff. At about 1pm (7 hours after giving birth), I was finally in my room and able to see my baby.  When I was discharged from the hospital, they told me I had a 4th degree tare, almost needed blood transfusions, and would need to be careful because by the way I'm also recovering from that surgery they did right after birth.

So, I get home. I recover, but I have no frame of reference.  What is normal? Long story short, I developed a fistula. This means that the post baby surgery helped significantly, but it didn't fix everything.  Thankfully, I had a doctor who believed me and helped me seek treatment. I had another major surgery where for 6 additional weeks, I could not pick up my own baby. People could bring her to me, but when she cried - I had to let someone else get her and bring her to me. I joined a support group for women who have fistulas because even after a successful repair there are side effects, things to watch for, and ways in which your life has changed forever.  For example, do you know what size adult diaper you wear? I do. There are days where my nerves are so badly damaged, that this is the only way to avoid embarrassment. I've also had to research colostomy bags as that is something that may be in my future.

Fistulas are just one of the many ways women are injured in childbirth - The University of Michigan studied postpartum women through MRI scans and 29% of the women studied had pelvic fractures they didn't even know they had!

Beyond that, obstetric training is understandably focused on life-threatening childbirth complications, like hemorrhage or infection. Non-life-threatening (but still painful and incapacitating) problems get less attention, says Sarah Fox, MD, a professor and researcher at Brown University and former president of the International Pelvic Pain Society. "American physicians and American healthcare providers can go through all of their training and never get any instruction on managing women’s pain," she says.

My experience of childbirth was a forced natural birth, two resulting surgeries, 4-6 weeks of being unable to pick up my child, and an inability to even attempt breast feeding because of the medication and complications that prevented my body from every producing milk.  That's just the medical part, not even touching the emotional side of this.

I'm not truly sure what I want the point of this to be other than education.  Please stop asking people to tell their birth stories! If they want to tell you, great - if they don't, please respect that! There are moments of my "birth story" that I don't even know because I wasn't conscious and for right now, I think that's okay that I don't know. Please stop assuming every mother who uses formula is slacking or lazy - some of us truly cannot.  Please stop praising me for having a natural birth - it wasn't my decision and I would have much preferred medication than the horror that followed.

My ability to have natural labor and delivery does not make me special and another woman's decision to have medication does not make her less of a woman. 

 Birth is not a cookie cutter or pretty thing.  It's a glorious moment and I love Amelia, but not every woman has the same experience.  Please educate yourself and young future mothers you know that there are complications that can arise.  A great article is: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a59626/birth-injuries-postpartum-pain-untreated/

Perhaps one day, I'll be able to tell the full story from both a medical and emotional side.  Right now, my support group is amazing, and I'm slowly telling my tale in hopes of educating women on injuries of all types that can occur.

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