I will NEVER forget my son’s birth. I’ll never forget my daughter’s either, but my son’s birth … that is burned so deeply into the recesses of my brain that sometimes I can still feel what it felt like in that exact moment. Sometimes I still get sick to my stomach, and feel a catch in my throat when I even think about it. It’s taken years of therapy for me not to feel like I’m going to crawl out of my skin when I talk about it. It’s been almost 7 years since the birth of my son, and I can honestly say that I’m in a much happier place now overall. But in the early days after his delivery, I was a shell of my former self.
Like A Bat Out Of Hell
That expression has never hit home more than after the birth of my son. You see, he was born on his due date, and it only took him a whopping two and a half hours to make his grand entrance. You might think “Wow! Such a short labor. That’s great!” But here’s the God’s honest truth … it was horrible. And it wasn’t because I was unmedicated. (Before I go on, let me clarify that I chose unmedicated deliveries because that is what worked best for me. I respect the fact that unmedicated deliveries are not for everyone.)
I had also had my daughter unmedicated. And while her labor and delivery took 23 hours, it was peaceful. I felt so in control during her delivery. My mind and body felt completely in sync, and I was calm throughout the entire thing. I felt empowered. Well, I couldn’t have felt more opposite during my son’s birth. It all happened so fast that my brain didn’t have time to really register what my body was going through. Before I knew it, I felt the urge to push and NO ONE was in the room. Not even my husband, as he had gone to alert the nursing staff.
So there at the hospital, I birthed my son alone (for the most part).
Out Of Control
I remember feeling so scared and out of control, but also knowing that the process couldn’t be stopped or slowed down. Before I knew it, the nursing staff and my husband were there … racing around the room, trying to get everything set up. But my son had already arrived. That’s the last time I remember feeling like that woman. I say “that woman” instead of “myself” because I’m not that person anymore. The old me died that day, and I remained a half dead/half living version of myself for A LONG TIME.
Emotionally I was a train wreck. They say in stressful / traumatic situations people either fight, flee or freeze. Well, I did a mixture of all three. I fought to bring my son earthside, I fled the fact that his birth had occurred in the manner it did, and then I froze. I froze for what felt like a lifetime but (in reality), was only 3 years. In those 3 years I missed out on special moments with my kids (especially my daughter), I missed out on emotional connection with my husband, I missed out on vital self-care, and I missed out on reality. I look back at those first 3 years and honestly there’s not much I remember. Which gives me great amount of guilt and shame to this day.
I still have days filled with guilt and sadness that I allowed myself to go on like that for as long as I did. I am sad that I will never get those moments back with my daughter. I am sad that I no longer want more children for fear of living through something like that again. I’m sad that when my kids beg me for a sibling, I always say no. Not because I don’t want more children running around my house, but because I am afraid. I am afraid of the emotional upheaval. I am afraid of “dying” again. I am afraid that if I lose myself again that fully, I will never find myself again. But I have also found purpose in my suffering.
My journey is what led me to my career in pelvic floor physical therapy. It is what impassions me to help other women through childbirth education, and postpartum care. It is what gives me empathy when patients share their traumas with me. And it is what makes me who I am today. So even though I still have my moments of sadness, I have learned to have gratitude for where I am today.
If you are struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety, please know that you are not alone, and you do not have to go on feeling this way. Postpartum Support International is an organization with great resources available. You can find information here.