You guys are in for a treat today. One of my dear friends, colleagues and all around outstanding mamas is sharing her story.
Trish is one of those people that fills up the room with laughter and warmth and easily makes you feel at home. When you meet Trish, you would have no idea that she has walked the journey that she has. And then you find out about her journey and you’re even more in awe of who she is and how brightly she shines to those around her.
Trish and I met many years ago. I was a new midwife and she was new to the hospital as a patient and a nurse. Little did I know at that time that we would be fast friends and that our paths would continue to cross across future military assignments!
A few warnings about her story. There are references to sexual assault that could be triggers for someone else. Trish shares her experiences bravely and all nurses and midwives need to remember that assault can be a part of anyone’s past. It’s important to remember that in how we talk, touch and care for our mamas and their families.
Trish also talks openly about the induction process and her frustrations – but she also talks about what she learned in the part she titled “Takeaways.” She offers some really solid, wise advice to mamas but also to providers.
Here’s Trish (and Jack’s!) birth story…
My first baby was born in 2016, but before sharing the story of his birth, I think it’s important and relevant to share some of the details of my pregnancy with him. Most birth stories are shared with joy and fond remembrance… but mine is full of hard, messy stuff, and resulting birth trauma. I’m always hesitant to talk about my experience, because I get so angry, and because I know it’s distressing for some people (especially expectant mommas). So, let’s first start with some trigger warnings. My story includes mention of rape, miscarriage, fear, and coercion. Jamie has encouraged me to share it anyway, and I hope that in writing this down, I can find some healing and acceptance.
PART ONE: Pregnancy
I had an extremely traumatic childhood, and for many years I wasn’t sure that I could be a mother without the demons of my past somehow ruining my children. I became a Labor and Delivery nurse in 2010, and attending so many birthday parties really made my biological clock start ticking! It took me almost five years to get my husband on board with having a baby, but we decided to stop preventing pregnancy and just “see what happens.” I had one period after ending my birth control pills, and then I got pregnant right away! I found out in late September 2015, and I was thrilled that it happened so quickly and easily, but I was also nervous, because my husband has JUST signed off on this adventure… Would he be excited, too?
I started having cramping right away. It was all on my left side, and after about two weeks of constant pain, ranging from mild to moderate to severe, I decided to get checked out in the Emergency Room. As a Labor and Delivery nurse, I know the statistics. As many as one in four pregnancies results in miscarriage, and I was suspicious that because my cramping was all one-sided, that maybe this was an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that implants inside the fallopian tube vs. inside the uterus). My husband and I went to the ER, where we spent six hours mostly waiting around, but also getting all kinds of testing done. I know that the ultrasound techs can’t tell you anything, but because the lady wasn’t saying anything, I was very nervous.
Eventually, our very dispassionate doctor came in and said to me “we can see the yolk sack on ultrasound, but there is no fetal pole. I’m not sure if it’s just too early to tell, or if you’re having a miscarriage.” He wasn’t concerned, totally lacked empathy, and he said this to us like it was no big deal. Then, he said “if someone put a gun to my head right now and forced me to make a diagnosis, I’d say that you’re having a miscarriage. Come back to the OB Clinic in a week to confirm.” Then we were discharged… Only my husband and two sisters knew that I was pregnant, so I felt somehow thankful that I wouldn’t have to let many people down. I spent the entire next week convincing myself that I had indeed lost my baby, that it was ok, and that I was “young,” and “healthy,” and that I had “gotten pregnant easily,” and “could try again.” I’m ashamed to say it, but these are the things I had said to so many mothers in L&D who I had helped deliver their stillborn babies over the years. This is what I was taught, and I am truly horrified looking back; knowing that I’ve said these things to another woman (and to myself).
The night before our appointment, I finally allowed myself to FEEL the gravity of our situation. I sobbed into my husband’s chest, truly devastated by the thought that we had just lost our baby. We checked into the OB Clinic the next morning, and by the grace of God, when the doctor inserted the transvaginal ultrasound probe, we watched as our tiny baby floated across the screen, heartbeat flickering. I sobbed again, but this time because I was SO relieved! The doctor laughed and said to us “this is why you never go to the Emergency Room for anything OB related.”
At around 11-12 weeks pregnant I had my initial OB Appointment with Jamie (who runs this blog!). I had worked with many amazing midwives in the past, so I knew for sure that I wanted to be seen by a midwife for my pregnancy. When I met Jamie, I knew instantly that I was going to love her. She asked me what I did for a living, and when I said that I was a Labor and Delivery nurse and that I was going to start working in that hospital the next week, she was thrilled to have an experienced L&D nurse join the team. I felt so welcome, and I hadn’t even met anyone yet! Funny Story: On my first day in my new job on L&D, I went into my patient’s room to say goodbye at the end of my shift, saw that the baby was off of the monitor, and had trouble finding the baby’s heartbeat. I pulled the sheet back and the baby’s head had delivered! Momma must have had a really good epidural, because she was just as shocked as I was. I sent the dad out to get “literally anyone,” because I didn’t know anybody’s name yet! I grabbed a pair of gloves to prepare to deliver the baby myself, and at the last possible second Jamie popped in just in time to deliver the baby!
I was sick for the first four months of my pregnancy, sometimes vomiting upwards of five times a day. I lost thirteen pounds, and it seemed like I survived on orange juice, cold cereal, and garlic bread. Weird combo, I know… Between feeling like garbage, and our traumatic ER visit, I didn’t tell anyone about the baby. Starting out the pregnancy with the threat of a miscarriage made it hard to get too attached…just in case. We had just moved from Hawaii to Virginia (my husband is in the military), so we didn’t have any friends nearby, and it was easy to keep our little secret to ourselves… My coworkers obviously knew, because there is no hiding morning sickness. Why do they call it that, anyway? It’s so misleading!
I thought that I would wait until the second trimester to announce our pregnancy, as that is usually considered “safe,” statistically. I didn’t share the news, though. I was still so hyper-aware that I could lose this baby, and felt like IF that happened, I’d rather deal with it privately than have to tell the world I’d lost my baby. Then, I thought “maybe I’ll tell people at the halfway point, when we find out the gender.” I finally told my parents in person when I was around sixteen weeks pregnant. I found out that two of my hometown friends had the same due date as me, so I did share with them, but they agreed to keep our little secret. Week twenty came and went, we found out we were excepting a son, and I still didn’t tell anybody. Then I thought “hmmmm, maybe I’ll tell people once we hit viability” (at twenty-four weeks, when the baby has a fighting chance of surviving if delivered), but still, I didn’t share our news. At that point, I was six months pregnant, and thought I should probably tell the friends in my “inner circle.” They were so shocked that I kept this secret despite daily texting, and so thrilled for me.
At some point, I decided that I would NOT announce my pregnancy to other friends, or on social media at all. My husband and I eloped in 2012, and it was so much fun to make a post about my “husband” with no forewarning. We had been together for four years, and had been engaged for nearly two years, so it wasn’t a complete shock that we had tied the knot. I finally told the world about our little guy the day AFTER he was born, and it was so funny to see the shocked comments roll in. This summer we moved from Texas to Virginia, and I’m about to have our second child. I considered keeping her a secret until after delivery, too, but we announced her to the world when I was twenty-four weeks. I enjoyed all the shocked comments and reactions from friends across the country and world. I’m not sure what this says about me as a person, but it amuses me.
I speak openly and bluntly about my stance against elective inductions, and am very much a supporter of natural, physiologic birth. I’ve seen a lot of abuse in the obstetrical world, and know from experience as an L&D nurse that induction sometimes comes with a LOT of risk for both mom and for baby. Throughout my entire pregnancy, I boldly stated that my only goal for my delivery was to NOT be induced. I daydreamed about going into spontaneous labor, and actually looked forward to it. I taught childbirth education classes, and was well prepared. I love reading and hearing birth stories, and looking at birth photography. Being in the room when a momma delivers her baby unmedicated is such a beautiful experience. I wanted that for myself so badly. I regularly joked about how I would rather delivery my baby while driving my car through an underwater tunnel (prevalent where we lived at the time) than be induced… or how I would rather have a fourth degree laceration than be induced (don’t look that up if you’re expecting a baby any time soon…).
Part of the trauma of my childhood includes being regularly sexually assaulted and raped by five different men over a two year period. I knew that I would need to talk to Jamie about this at some point, but I put it off for a long time because it’s an extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant topic to discuss. Most OB/GYN practices never address past sexual trauma, so it had never come up. At this point in my life, I will talk to anyone and everyone about my experiences and how they’ve shaped me, but back in 2016, I had shared it only with a VERY few trusted people (and my therapists). My pregnancy was going along without issues, but at the visit where I decided to share my history and concern over PTSD flashbacks in the delivery room, my anxiety was out of control. My blood pressure reading was just over the line for “normal,” which didn’t surprise me, but I knew that it was going to be a red flag in my chart. Jamie had been my coworker at this point for several months, which made it a little bit harder to share. Would she think less of me knowing that I was “broken” or “damaged?” Would I burst into tears from my overwhelming anxiety and shame? Thankfully, Jamie is amazing, and she didn’t pity me or ask questions that would make me MORE uncomfortable. She graciously talked me through my fears, understood my concern about getting an epidural and feeling “out of control” or “trapped,” and she was on board with discreetly making sure that my birth team knew my history, without blasting it all over the place. Delivering a baby where you WORK is a huge potential breach of privacy that I didn’t want to deal with. Nurses can be notorious gossips..
I have anxiety and depression anyway, and I knew that my blood pressure that day was related to my anxiety. I also knew that having TWO out of range blood pressures met the criteria for Gestational Hypertension, a diagnosis that women are regularly induced for. Going into my next OB appointment, I was running late, overly concerned about another blood pressure reading meeting criteria and setting me up for an induction, and I hadn’t even showered that morning, making me extra anxious. The tech called me back almost immediately after I checked in, and took my vitals the second we got into the room. Once again, my reading was just over the line, and Jamie talked to me about meeting criteria. I knew what this meant. She sent me up to Labor and Delivery for additional blood pressure monitoring, where thankfully all of my readings were within normal limits.
The midwife who was working on L&D that day tried to convince me to stay and be induced. My feet were swollen, and I had a migraine, so between that and the two out of range blood pressures in my chart, she told me that she was very concerned for the health of both myself and my baby. I have struggled with migraines for my entire adult life, and know that for me, the only thing that ever works (and not every time) is to take 800 mg of Motrin. You can’t take this in pregnancy, so I was content to just ride it out, as I had done with plenty of other multi-day migraines. I burst into tears, and then both she and my triage nurse tried to comfort me while strongly encouraging the induction.
They said things to me like, “if you were my daughter/sister…” and I felt very bullied into being induced. At this point in my life, I was a HUGE people pleaser. But, this is the absolute LAST thing I wanted. How could I politely decline without straining our professional relationships (remember…I worked directly with these people!). I hadn’t showered that day, I had planned to get my eyebrows waxed before delivery, and I was so stressed out about the way they were pushing me. My blood pressure was totally normal, my baby looked great on the monitor, and I was NOT ok with their plan.
I discussed all of these things with the nurse and the midwife, and I told her to run labs (associated with blood pressure issues). I agreed that IF my labs were off that I would be induced, but that if they were normal, that I was NOT ok with an induction. AT ALL. They ran the labs, they came back normal, and I was discharged. The midwife told me to come back the next day for a follow up blood pressure, and to pack my bags and plan on staying. I wasn’t thrilled about that, but said that I would comply. I immediately left and went to get my eyebrows waxed. The girl did a horrible job, and I spent a lot of time fixing my eyebrows once I got home.
PART TWO: Labor and Delivery
The next day, Thursday, May 12th, I checked into Labor and Delivery for my follow up blood pressure reading. My blood pressure was just over the line again (145/89) and I was admitted with the plan to be induced. I was 38 weeks and 4 days pregnant, and I still wasn’t ok with the plan at all, but I felt totally defeated. Worse, I had convinced myself that if I didn’t get induced, that something awful would happen to me or to my baby. Afterall, the midwife and triage nurse pushed it really forcefully, knowing it was the last thing on Earth that I wanted… What if they were right? That’s the thing about coercion though… It’s meant to break you down, facilitate compliance, and to make you second guess your own judgement. I was on day number five of my migraine by now, which may have impeded my ability to fight back when that other midwife pushed so hard. Thankfully, Jamie was working on Labor and Delivery the day I was admitted, and I love how she treats her patients. I knew that I had a midwife who actually cared, and that helped me cope.
At 12pm, I got checked into my room, and then Jamie arrived with a GIANT piece of chocolate cake, stating that she was sorry that I was getting induced, which made me feel a little bit better. She helped talk me off the ledge, because she knew how upset I was that the ONE thing I had hoped for (natural, spontaneous labor) was ripped out from under me. I was devastated, and only she and John (my husband) really knew how upset I was… She and my nurse went over the plan and consents, and when they said they would be back in a few minutes to do the cervical exam, I stood up, got totally naked in the middle of my giant room, and said “let’s do this!” I wasn’t ok with what was about to happen to me, but I needed to feel like I had some kind of control, so I brought the ice breaker. You can laugh or you can cry… why not get totally naked in front of your friends and coworkers so we would all laugh?
At 1:30pm, I was 1/50/-1, contracting every 4-5 minutes, and based on my cervical exam, we decided to go with a Cytotec + Cook balloon induction. A Cook balloon is a catheter that is inserted through your cervix, with two balloons that you fill with saline. One balloon is filled on the uterus side and the other balloon is filled on the vagina side, essentially making a “cervix sandwich.” This works as a mechanical dilator, while the Cytotec uses hormones to soften or “ripen” the cervix. Used together, they should help facilitate the birthday party a bit faster. I had assisted in many Cook placements, and thought I knew what to expect. It was uncomfortable, but no big deal. The nurse occasionally comes in and tugs on it to see if it’ll come loose, and whenever it pops out, Momma is usually about 5-6cm dilated.
A few hours later, my nurse came in and tugged on my Cook balloon, and I was in immediate pain. Not discomfort, but actual PAIN. She pulled on it so aggressively that I still wonder if she somehow pulled it inside of my cervix or maybe even tore my cervix. I was breathing like my baby was about to be born, with blood running down my legs. I had never seen bleeding with any of the Cook balloons I’ve ever pulled on, but instead of calling for help, I just powered through. After an hour or so, I called Jamie, she deflated the balloons, removed the Cook, and the pain immediately stopped.
At 10:45pm, I was 4/80/-1, with a bulging bag of water. My contractions were every 3-5 minutes, and I got another dose of Cytotec. Shortly afterward, I got the first of NINE doses of Penicillin because I was GBS positive. Group B Streptococcus is a naturally occurring bacteria that women are tested for near their due dates. If Momma is positive, she is treated with antibiotics in labor to decrease the chance of passing it on to her baby. This bacteria is no big deal for Mom, but can be very serious for the infected newborn. Generally, we want mom to get two doses of antibiotics before delivery, and even though I pushed back after my second dose, it was never stopped. I should have just refused after the third or fourth dose, but I went along with it.
The next morning at 9am, a new IV was placed, because mine had infiltrated. Pitocin was started, and I was given Reglan for my headache (now on day #6), but it didn’t help. At 2pm, the midwife checked my cervix and called it 2/50/? and suggested that we place another Cook balloon. I hadn’t been checked in a very long time, and hearing that her check was HALF of what I was called so many hours earlier, I was extremely discouraged. I was also upset about the idea of another Cook balloon after what had happened with mine, that I told her “if you think you’re putting another Cook balloon in me, you’re going to have to drug me first. I can’t deal with that again.” A couple of hours later, she gave me a combination of Demerol and Phenergan, placed the Cook, only inflated the uterus side, and used half of the usual amount of saline. Forty minutes later, at 4:40pm, the Cook fell out. I was 5/80/-1, and at that point, she broke my water.
That night, a doctor I had never worked with was on, and it was decided that we would just kind of stay status quo overnight and see what happened. I remember being upset about this, but knew that the midwife had made this plan to help me NOT get a cesarean (because othe doctor working that night wasn’t super patient about the birthing process). When the doctor came in, she gave me the plan, and told me “I’m more comfortable with forceps than a vacuum, just so you know ahead of time.” I thought this was very strange, since I was nowhere near delivery, but I’m a fan of information, so I went with it. The nurse gave me Nubain and Phenergan to try to get the migraine under control, but it didn’t help.
Overnight, I had the best nurse (Jenny). She knew that I didn’t plan to have an epidural, and the unit wasn’t busy, so I was her only patient. We tried all kinds of position changes, and I remember her hanging out with me in the shower for what I swear was HOURS working through the worst of my labor. My pain tolerance is high, but Mommas who labor on high-dose Pitocin with their water broken are definitely fighting a battle. I got some Stadol (an IV pain medication) at 3:30am to help take the edge off. My cervical exam was 5-6/100/-1, nearly unchanged from 12 hours earlier. By 5am, I decided that I couldn’t do this anymore without an epidural.. I had been awake for two full days at that point, hadn’t eaten anything in over thirty-six hours, and I was so tired, both physically and emotionally. I have never felt so defeated, disappointed, and discouraged in my entire life.
I was so upset that I had failed at the ONE thing that I still had control over (getting an epidural or not), and I told Jenny, “I can’t do this anymore. I haven’t even made any change. I’m going to get the epidural, but I need you to wake John up (my husband). If I even make eye contact with him at this point, I’m going to lose my mind.” John slept through the worst part of my labor. Jenny had it under control, I was handling those contractions well with the help of the shower on the hottest setting and holding the shower head directly against the spot that hurt the most. I figured that if I couldn’t rest, he might as well get some sleep, right?
The Anesthesiologist came in, and placed the epidural. I remember it being so hard to sit still, because I was in so much pain. I hadn’t been in the bed AT ALL until that point, except for cervical exams, because I couldn’t tolerate sitting. Whenever someone wanted to check my cervix, I actually had them put their sterile glove on BEFORE I even got into the bed, and hopped out the second their hand was out of my vagina. Sitting still for the epidural felt like an eternity, and the anesthesiologist actually asked if he could come talk to me later. I wasn’t sure why, but said that that would be fine.
Once my epidural was in and I was more comfortable, an IUPC was placed. An IUPC is a special kind of catheter that goes inside the uterus to measure how strong contractions are. These can be very helpful when a Mom has been on Pitocin for a long time, and isn’t making cervical change. I took a nap after I got comfortable, and the next time I was checked (12:20pm) I was completely dilated! I asked if I could labor down (not push yet, and just let the baby keep passively coming down), and the doctor agreed.
I started pushing at 1:56pm, when I was at a +2 station (most mommas start pushing at that point). I pushed for what seemed like ten million years. I wanted to have a mirror, so that I could see when my baby was crowning and delivering, but I couldn’t even open my eyes while I was pushing because my migraine (now on day #7) was so intense. It literally felt like my eyeballs were going to shoot out of my head whenever I was actively pushing. I had cold wet washcloths draped over my eyes, pushed with all of my might, and couldn’t feel anything. I could smell that I had pooped, and was so embarrassed, because the nurse was my friend, and I felt so bad that she had to deal with that. Most moms poop while pushing (in my experience), and it’s no big deal. But being on the patient side of that equation was mortifying.
The anesthesia provider who was on that day was awful. She came into my room a couple of times to adjust my meds because the epidural wasn’t working very well, and every time she came in, she told the nurse about the cases she had going on in the main OR. She kept saying things like “if we need to go back….” referring to ME having a cesarean section. These conversations aren’t rare in L&D, but she kept having them IN FRONT OF ME. Maybe she just knew I could handle it as a nurse, but it was so inappropriate, and to have someone keep verbally sharing their lack of faith in your ability right in front of you is super discouraging.
First time moms with an epidural should be given four hours to deliver their babies vaginally. My doctor popped in throughout the day to check progress and see how I was doing. After three hours of pushing, Doctor Lyles came in and I asked her very directly “how long are you going to let me push?” She gave me a funny look and said “wellll…” and I said “HOW LONG?!” more forcefully. At that point, I was so concerned that after all of the drama I had already been thorough trying to have this baby, that I might be the momma who pushed for four hours and then ended up in a cesarean section. Dr. Lyles agreed to another hour, and I glanced at the clock so many times over the next hour.
When we reached the four hour mark, I could see in the mirror that my baby was crowning. I knew that Dr. Lyles would be happy with that, but the baby wasn’t OUT, so I didn’t know if I was going to be able to deliver my baby without some kind of assistance from the outside. I knew that his tracing looked great, because I had been watching it off and on since admission, and I also had watched every single blood pressure reading (they were all totally fine, of course). Throughout my induction and labor, I acted like a nurse. I adjusted my monitors, I watched the tracing, I analyzed all of it. I never called for help, and I even turned myself once I had my epidural, even though I couldn’t move very well. I was so stubborn and so determined to have control, and I think that that may have been a major factor in why my body did NOT respond to the induction very well. I also took notes every time someone came in my room and did anything to me. This is how I am able to give an accurate timeline to my story… I like charts and data, and I knew that it would help me feel like part of the team… A Momma needs to be “in the zone” to have a natural birth, but I was in “Nurse Trisha” mode the entire time.
PART THREE: Postpartum
Finally, at 6:22pm (four and a half hours of pushing later!), our baby, Jack Benjamin was born. He was born direct OA (in the ideal position), had terminal meconium (he pooped on the way out), his cord was wrapped around his neck once, and he was placed on my chest. I was on 32 mU of Pitocin at delivery, had a second degree perineal laceration (a common tear), and my bleeding was only 150ml (great). Unfortunately, because my water had been broken for twenty-six hours, I developed Chorioamnionitis (an infection in the bag of water), so Jack and I had to be treated with antibiotics for 48 hours after delivery. Our policy at that hospital required all “Chorio” babies to be admitted to the NICU. Thankfully, I was able to keep him in my room almost the entire time, and the NICU nurses just came and got him as needed to give the antibiotics and do their various assessments and tests.
I had hoped to do delayed cord clamping (this DID happen, thankfully), and an hour of uninterrupted skin-to-skin with breastfeeding shortly after delivery. As soon as Jack was placed on my chest, I started drying and stimulating him (ever the nurse), and wondered why he wasn’t crying. The delivery nurses (from the NICU, because of the known Chorio) took him over to the warmer, and assured me that he was fine, just a quiet little guy. They gave him back to me for a little while, but took him to the NICU to get his IV placed pretty quickly after that. I was very disappointed that we missed out on that early bonding experience, and that I wasn’t able to breastfeed my baby for quite awhile after his birth.
Our baby made his appearance at 38 weeks, 6 days. He was 21 inches long and weighed 6 pounds, 15 ounces. He had the biggest conehead (from being in my birth canal for so long), and I think the first thing I said about him was “he’s not the cutest baby I’ve ever seen.” Yikes. Poor Jack. It took a LONG time for that conehead to go down, but I promise he’s cute now.
The first thing I said after he was born was “Thank you.” To Dr. Lyles for not giving me a c-section, to my nurse for her endless patience, and to my husband for supporting me through a really rough experience. John still talks about it. I also remember saying “the next baby should come a lot faster and a lot easier,” while my legs were in stirrups and we were waiting for my placenta to deliver…
John went home shortly after Jack was born, to check on our dog, Annie. One of John’s coworkers was coming to let her out a few times a day and to feed her, but we had no idea that my induction was going to take THREE DAYS, so he wanted to check on our girl. He stayed at home overnight the next two days, but spent several hours during the day with us in the hospital.
I got out of bed about an hour after my son was born, and hardly recognized myself in the mirror. I was extremely swollen (it’s not uncommon for moms to swell a little from the fluids they get in labor), and the only thing I recognized about my face was my eyebrows…because I had spent so much time correcting them after my terrible waxing ordeal. My urine was a brownish/tea color, and I had NEVER seen that color in my nine years as a nurse. I had to convince my nurse to come look at it, because she wasn’t concerned. When she finally came, she said she had never seen that color before, either. This nurse also never checked my fundus (the top part of the uterus, which can help us assess for hemorrhage) or my bleeding. Since I was still in nurse mode, I did my own fundal checks for my entire two hour recovery. Sometimes you get amazing nurses, and sometimes you get nurses who don’t even do the basics. This is why I was hyper-vigilant in doing my own care all along. You can work beside someone for months without having any idea what kind of nurse they are inside the patient’s room…
I got my 800mg dose of Motrin almost immediately after Jack was born, and after two administrations, my seven-day migraine finally resolved. I knew all along that Motrin would fix it, and I was so thankful that it did! I never needed pain medicine for my pain related to my delivery, but that headache was totally out of control.
During my pregnancy with Jack, I gained a total of sixteen pounds. The morning after Jack was born, I put on a gown for the first time in my entire stay (I labored in a tank top and underwear the entire time), walked to triage and hopped on the scale, thinking that MAYBE I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight. To my shock and horror, I discovered that I had gained THIRTY POUNDS in the past three days during my induction. My entire body was swollen, and my arms were black and blue with giant bruises from several IV attempts, blood draws, and IVs that had gone bad. My legs were so swollen that they were shiny, and I had a double roll on top of my ankle, like someone who weighs 500 pounds. I tried to put on my yoga pants that fit when I came in for delivery (I wore regular clothes my whole pregnancy) and they ripped when I tried to pull the thigh portion over my calves.
The nurses wondered if maybe I needed some Lasix (a medication that helps you pee off excess fluid), and the Maternal-Fetal-Medicine doctor was called in for a consultation. Thankfully, he said no to Lasix, as it dries up breastmilk, and he knew that I planned to exclusively breastfeed my baby. I ended up leaving the hospital in a loose dress I had packed (which was now tight), and a pair of extra large hospital socks, because I couldn’t get my normally loose-fitting sandals over my toes at all. In my chart, it says “4+ generalized edema,” a finding I’ve never seen in anyone else’s chart throughout my nursing career.
The day after we got home, my body finally started to diurese (fluid shifting back to normal, leading to excess urination). Over the next few days, I lost twenty-seven pounds. I peed my pants SIX times, and after the second time, I didn’t even try to scramble to the bathroom. Those super-sized hospital “postpartum pads” are extremely absorbent! By the time my due date rolled around, the swelling was resolved, I was no longer peeing my pants, I was a few pounds under my pre-pregnancy weight, and breastfeeding was going ok.
PART FOUR: Some Takeaways
Dang. What a birth story, huh? If you made it this far, you know this isn’t a typical birth story. I had a lot of stressful curveballs throughout my pregnancy and my labor, my delivery didn’t go as expected, and I had insane swelling. While my story doesn’t evoke a sense of pride or warm fuzzy memories, I think that it does have a lot of lessons to be learned and shared.
I always tell expecting moms that if they remember nothing else, to remember that THEY are in charge of their bodies and what happens to them. You can refuse and/or challenge anything that your providers suggest, and in order to give truly informed consent, you need to know the risks, benefits, and alternatives for everything. I never agreed with my diagnosis of Gestational Hypertension, as I could easily explain why my blood pressure was a bit high those two times. I felt bullied into my induction, and I will forever feel like ALL of the issues I faced in my labor and delivery could have been avoided if I was more confident in saying “no,” or if I had been properly consented and counselled by that midwife in triage.
I am passionate about giving trauma-informed care to my patients, but that fire was fanned big time by my terrible experience. I am so much more empathetic when moms are scared, feel out of control, or aren’t coping well. I make sure that I try to always remember to ask consent for every single thing, including things like “may I lift your gown and adjust your monitors?” I make sure that my patients know that absolutely everything in the hospital is negotiable and THEIR choice. I want all of my patients to have a beautiful experience, but when it isn’t great, I feel it with them. The disappointment, the defeat, the sadness… Our bodies were designed to grow and birth babies, afterall. I will forever be anti-induction unless it is truly warranted, because I’ve seen and personally experienced my own bad outcomes from people disrupting the way birth physiologically takes place. I want all Mommas to go into their birthing experience feeling in control, empowered, and confident. I don’t want any mom to ever feel the way that I felt having my first baby.
Jamie was only on the day that I was admitted and the day before I went home (four days later). I never blamed her for my experience, and never really talked to her about it in detail. So many people knew my story as it was unfolding, because it was a small L&D unit, but I never shared the story from my perspective. I do hold some contempt in my heart for the midwife and nurse in triage that day, because I thought so highly of her before this experience. I’ve never talked to her about how her words affected me, and part of me worries about how she’ll feel if she reads this story from my perspective.
This summer, during a playdate with our babies, I talked to Jamie a little bit about my side of things. I felt so validated when she said to me “I never agreed with what happened to you, and I fought for you with the doctors in our clinic. You were one of us, and you deserved much better care.” Even five years later, those words meant the world to me, because I felt like nobody cared while things were happening. I wish that I had a pretty bow to tie my story up with, but I don’t.. It’s NOT a normal birth story, and that statement is coming from an experienced Labor and Delivery nurse. It hurts, it’s messy, it’s left my husband and I traumatized, and I can’t talk about it without crying. As much as I hate it, THIS is my story, and it’s important to share.
I’ve shared bits of my story with people over the years, but this is the WHOLE story. I pray every day for a redemptive birth experience with our daughter (coming soon!). I just want to experience a normal, natural, physiologic birth. I want a do-over, and hope to be able to share a joy-filled birth story someday soon.
Isn’t her story amazing? Trish is exactly the same in person as how she seems on paper too!
In some of the older books on how to prepare for birth – think Ina May, Birthing from Within – and the newer ones – like Mindful Birthing – there are recommendations for mamas to write down their thoughts, feelings and stories from their pregnancies and birth. The reason it is recommended is because it’s healing and eye opening. Women heal when they process what happened to them in their births – good and bad. And it creates a stronger foundation for the next pregnancy and birth. Or, it empowers a generation of women in that family.
If you want to read more birth stories, you can read them all on the BIRTH STORIES page.
If you want to share your birth story (and I highly recommend you do!), you can email me at email@example.com.
See you guys later this week for the 24 week visit post and template (live on Wednesday!).
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