Thursday, January 2, 2014

Getting Over Birth Trauma

I had a coworker unsuspectingly say something that made me cringe. She said "I just don't get women who get all worked up over having a c-section. Isn't the outcome supposed to be a healthy baby and a healthy mom?" Since I have realized that I found my cesarean births very traumatic and have recently given myself permission to feel sad and angry at my loss of a natural and empowered birth I wanted to contradict her. But I didn't…. Perhaps because we were at a table with several others, perhaps because of the stigma around feeling bad about having a healthy baby. I am still not quite sure. Yes I feel traumatized by my births. I was not expecting to be giving birth again so I thought it really did not matter if I got over it. Well here we go again. I'm not going to 'get over it'. I'm going to embrace the trauma and the fear and do it anyway. Isn't that what bravery is?

I completed the Tough Mudder this summer and this was all about overcoming fears. What's the correlation? I figure if I can run 13 miles, jump in ice baths, dive off 15 foot planks, walk through fire, and face electrocution I can embrace another cesarean if that is what the universe hands me or a vaginal birth which may be equally as traumatizing. Another cesarean is terrifying for certain known reasons. A vaginal birth is terrifying and exciting for completely unknown reasons.

Let me tell you if you have never had a c-section the recovery is akin to having major abdominal surgery. It is major abdominal surgery with all the risks and recovery. You have to cough or laugh with a pillow to your belly or feel like your guts are going to explode all over the room. You can't lift anything more than 10lbs. This means your baby + carseat is a no go. If they trap air inside you like they did to me you feel like a hot poker is being stabbed out of your shoulder and NOTHING relieves it. Anything pushing or touching the incision is aggravating and painful this includes underwear and pants. Stairs like the ones to the laundry room or your baby's room are excruciating. One tip is walking up backwards. Someone please let me know how one does that safely? with an infant? Please don't make light of this if you or anyone you know has a cesarean. They've had major abdominal surgery, plus a tiny human to care for, if not many tiny humans.

There's also a huge emotional component to having a surgical birth. Everyone feels and reacts differently and this often depends on the circumstances surrounding the birth. Women can feel like birth has been stolen from them. They can have trouble bonding with their infants because they feel like they did not 'birth' that baby. I myself felt shafted by the universe. My second birth I was tied to the table crying my eyes out because I didn't get to try. I think both times the part that hurt me the most was the nursing/medical staff that were supposed to care for me through this process. I am a nurse. I strive every day to ensure that my patients never leave me feeling like I felt during both births. I was hugely disappointed in the team that I am supposed to work for.

So here we go again. What can I control? Not much... However, I can control my reactions and my outlook on this process. No homebirth preparation this time. I pack a bag fully prepared for both a c-section and a vaginal. I may ask for some things outside of the norm such as breastfeeding in the OR and delayed cord clamping. If I get told no I will not despair I will write action letters to the executive leads of maternity services. I am a STRONG person full of grit and determination. I can overcome fear. I can even enjoy myself while scared. I will prepare mentally, physically and emotionally for the birth of my daughter however it may come about. Everything is different this time. Not necessarily better but different. New midwife, new doula, planned hospital vbac instead of hbac, and me.... I have learned to step up and ask for what I want and need and to surrender to the experience when necessary. This is HUGE!

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