How I healed from birth trauma (part 1 - birth story)
In just two weeks, he’ll be two years old. I keep on getting memories from my photos app about my last weeks with the belly. This woman - round belly, red cheeks, excitement and tiredness in her eyes - looks so confident, so childish still, even after this long, difficult pregnancy (read more about my hyperemesis story here).
When I scroll a bit further, I see the last photo my husband took of me before leaving to the hospital after two long days with contractions at home. What I didn’t know when he took that photo, was that I would still have to wait another day before I would meet my little boy and that I would have to go through a series of traumatic events to get there.
When I started writing this article, I wanted to briefly touch on my birth and then share about how I healed from the traumatic events. But while writing, I realized that my birth deserved more than a few sentences, so I’ve divided the story into two parts. I’ll share my birth here, and then I’ll write more about my healing journey in the next article.
The start of my labour
After nine months of nausea and throwing up, I was extremely excited about giving birth. I wasn’t scared and I felt confident. Confident that I could work with the sensation of my body and confident that I could do birthing. So when I woke up on the day of my due date, a sunny Wednesday in September, from the sensation of a contraction, I couldn’t be happier. My husband had just left for work and I felt very calm and peaceful at home.
I took it slow that day and in the evening we tried to go to sleep, as the contraction were still only 5 minutes apart and I knew that we’d have to be patient. Sleeping wasn’t possible, because the surges became quite painful, especially when lying down. The shower became my best friend that night, and I ended up spending most of Thursday there too. When I was still in the same situation, 36 hours after waking up from that first contraction, we decided to call the hospital.
They invited us to come in for a check, but it showed that I was only 1 to 2 centimeters dilated, so I was sent home with painkillers. Another sleepless night followed, and the next morning I called the hospital again, in a bit of panic since I was already so tired after two sleepless nights. At that point I already knew a change of plans (my hope was a natural birth) was needed and that he wasn’t going to come out the way I hoped he would. They told me to come right away and this time they let us stay.
Surrendering to a change of plans
I was still only 1-2 centimeters dilated, so nothing had changed. I had done so much surrendering the past 48 hours, but I knew I had to surrender more. That’s why I said yes to an epidural, so I could get a bit of rest, and I surrendered when they hooked me up to pitocin to get more and stronger contractions. Although I did get some rest and I saw on the screen that my contractions became stronger and the frequency increased, I was still not dilating very much. My son still hadn’t dropped, and I knew, somehow, that he wasn’t going to be born through my birth canal. When an intern doctor mentioned the word c-section, I was actually relieved.
But c-section was not what the main doctor was thinking. She decided to up the pitocin, which was the start of hours and hours of excruciating pain, as my epidural had stopped working. I had 6 contractions every 10 minutes, and she still thought I could manage 7. The midwife that was with me, was in complete shock. I forgot I the tools I learned, I had no time to breathe, and I kept telling the team of doctors that this wasn’t right. At 11 PM I got a deadline: one more hour.
I remember this moment so vividly, because it was the moment I felt I had lost. I told my doctors many times that I couldn’t do much more (I had been in labour for three whole days, I was completely out of it) and definitely not another hour. The midwives listened, but the doctor was in charge. I lost.
We only made it to 50 more minutes. The doctors rushed in, my baby wasn’t doing well. Emergency c-section was the only option.
I remember the many turns we had to take on our way to the operation theater. I remember thinking in the elevator “I hope Sven survives so he and Freek can be together if I die”. I remember my husband sitting in the corner of the room while they were giving me the injection in my spine and feeling so sorry for him that he had to witness all of this. I remember throwing up on the operating table. I remember the tugging sensation when they were helping Sven get born. I remember it suddenly felt lighter in my belly.
I remember there was no crying.
I knew my baby was born, but I didn’t see him and I didn’t hear him. The silence was overwhelming. I kept searching for a sound, but there was nothing but silence.
When I asked her, the woman sitting next to my head spoke the famous word “I can’t say anything”.
After what felt like forever, Freek was allowed to go see our baby, but we still didn’t know if he was actually alive, or not. Later, Freek told me that they were still helping Sven with his breathing, which was a very difficult thing for him to watch.
But then, Freek came to me, holding our son. He opened his eyes right away when he heard my voice. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
I wanted to hold him, feel him, nurse him, but apparently, I was still not allowed to be with him. Freek and Sven stayed together, and I slept for 2 hours or so, before they finally brought me back to my family. Sven latched on right away and everything, for a second, seemed so perfect. In a way, it was all perfect. Many things were very easy after his arrival. Nursing came easy to us, I wasn’t nauseous anymore, so I felt better than I had felt in months, and we were flowing through these first weeks as a new family. But the days at the hospital haunted me and I knew this was trauma.
And so birth trauma became a part of me
The series of events at the hospital left me traumatized. I had a lot of healing work to do, and it didn’t come easy. And although I just cried when I wrote down my story for you all, I do feel I have healed. There’s no pain anymore, there’s acceptance instead. There’s no anger anymore, there’s peace instead. I have a beautiful almost-two-year-old, who came to us after a long journey of infertility, a tough pregnancy and a traumatic birth, and that’s what I’ll be celebrating when he turns two. ♡