When Birth Is Traumatic

“It’s time to push.”

I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

I made it. After 32 hours of labour, I was finally going to get the one thing I’d been striving for since the moment that line turned pink.

I was going to get my VBAC.

I had done everything right. I read the books, and attended the classes. I opted for a midwife, and hired a doula. Hell, I even refused drugs for 28 hours, just so I could give myself the absolute best chance.

And it worked. At 5:30 a.m. on July 15th, 2017, surrounded by an incredible support system, I got what I wanted.

I got my VBAC.

But it wasn’t the birth I pictured.

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.

So You Want To Destroy Your Baby: My VBAC Journey – Part 2

Aidan Robert: two minutes old. Weighing 8lbs, 2oz & 21 inches long.

It wasn’t an easy delivery, I knew that.

I knew because I watched the nurse obsessively study the baby’s heart monitor with a furrowed brow. I knew when a team of specialists suddenly came pouring into the room moments before he was born. I knew by the looks on the doctors’ faces as they strained and struggled to help me get him out.

Whatever euphoria I felt after achieving my goal of a natural delivery was immediately trounced by panic, confusion and urgency as my newborn was whisked away to the special care nursery for observation and pain management.

Only a few words sunk in as I lay there dazed and confused in the unsettlingly calm aftermath.

“His shoulders were stuck…cord around the neck…had to act quickly…we think his arm is broken…”

“…I’m so sorry.”

Shoulder Dystocia

Shoulder dystocia is a rare complication in labour and delivery (between 0.3% and 1.5% of births) where one or both of the baby’s shoulders get “stuck” behind the mother’s pelvic bone as the baby descends into the birth canal. As many as 20% of babies will suffer some sort of injury as a result, either temporary or permanent. The most common of these injuries are damage to the brachial plexus nerves, fractured clavicles, contusions and lacerations, birth asphyxia, and fractured humeri.

Aidan suffered a broken arm, or a fractured humerus, during delivery. This occurs in approximately 4% of infants with shoulder dystocia.

We are told that broken bones in infants heal exceptionally quickly.

I wish that offered even an ounce of comfort.

He’s Perfect

Three days after he was born, we brought our new baby home to a sea of brave faces.

“He’s perfect,” whispered my mother-in-law as she gazed down at him, sleeping peacefully still buckled safely in his car seat.

“He’s a perfect baby boy.”

No he isn’t! I wanted to scream at her, at all of them.

His head was covered in bruises and lacerations from his urgent vacuum delivery. His skin was tinged a dull yellow from what was clearly a nagging case of newborn jaundice as a direct result of the trauma. And his right arm, purple, swollen and lying limply at his side, was most certainly broken.

No, he wasn’t a perfect baby boy.

He was fractured and bruised. He was exhausted and in pain.

He was broken, and it was all my fault.

When Birth Is Traumatic

For most women, childbirth is not a serene, blissful experience consisting of one or two easy pushes, resulting in a precious pink bundle. Even for women with straightforward and uncomplicated births, it’s far from a walk in the park.

Unfortunately for some, birth can also bring physical and emotional trauma, and the effects can have a lasting impact on bonding, feeding, healing, health and future family planning.

As I continue to process my experience, I’ve taken note of a few things I’ve learned along the way. Here is what I’ve found so far:

1. Childbirth complications are difficult to predict. My labour was long, but relatively uneventful. However, even the most routine labour can be disrupted by unforeseen complications which can occur within a very short timespan. With Aidan’s birth, there was no cause for alarm until the last few minutes, but fortunately, with the help of experienced doctors and immediate interventions, serious complications were avoided.

2. Blaming yourself doesn’t accomplish anything. Sure, there are moments when I wonder how different things would have been if I had opted for a repeat cesarean section instead of a VBAC. It took me several days, but I eventually accepted that my son’s injury was not my fault. I made an informed, educated decision based on what I thought was best, and just because it didn’t work out the way I had hoped, doesn’t mean that I failed. Or that I failed him.

3. Postpartum support is everything. New parents should never have to wade through the murky postpartum period alone, especially new parents who are dealing with a medically complicated child. We could not have gotten through these last few days without the incredible support of our birth team, friends and family. In addition, our community also offers significant resources to help new parents cope, such as postpartum drop-ins for new dads, breastfeeding clinics, counselling services and more. We will certainly be using these in the coming days.

4. Healing – for all of us – will take time. Unfortunately, a difficult birth makes for a difficult recovery – both physically and emotionally. Accepting this, and most importantly, letting other things slide – such as laundry, cooking, dishes and cleaning – so we can focus on the healing process, is the best way for all of us to recover. Does McDonald’s do delivery in Canada, yet? Asking for a friend.

5. She was right. He is perfect. The cast just makes him look even tougher than he is.

Knocked Up Together: 5 Perks of A Preggo Friendship

The sun is peeking through my poorly drawn curtains, which means that somehow I made it through another sleepless night.

My lower back hurts so much that moments ago, I made the painful decision to fat girl tuck-and-roll into an upright position just so I could get some relief.

Standing at the foot of my bed in dizzy agony, I clutch my phone and begin to type.

Got up too fast, now I have lightning crotch.

I know she’ll sympathize.

It’s 6:45 a.m.

Friends Who Get Knocked Up Together, Stay Together

I met J in the fall of 2012 when fate brought us together in the form of medical office administration at one of our city’s major hospitals.

We quickly bonded over our mutual disdain for 9-5 wage slavery, fluorescent office lighting and Microsoft Outlook. Sadly, we both suffered early miscarriages a short time later, but it wasn’t until we became pregnant again only weeks apart the following year that a true friendship was born.

2014

There’s something particularly comforting and familiar about experiencing pregnancy – especially first-time pregnancy – alongside a good friend. Pregnancy can be a scary, isolating experience, especially if you’ve experienced complications and/or loss. Having someone in your corner – someone who simply gets it – can mean the world.

Two adorable toddlers, two subsequent losses, and two healthy pregnancies later, we’re both back at it, and I couldn’t be happier to share this journey with her once again.

2017

In addition to sending early-morning nonsense texts with absolute impunity, here are my top 5 perks of a preggo friendship:

1. You’re allowed to incessantly complain 24/7 without feeling the least bit sorry. As a lifelong pessimist and self-admitted chronic complainer, I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to constantly gripe and grumble to someone else without feeling like a complete and total burden. Backaches? That’s a grumblin’. No sleep again last night? That’s a grumblin’. An hour-and-a-half wait at the OB’s office? Oh you better believe that’s a grumblin’.

2. No fear is too small. I’ve written about fear before. It’s crippling, and a lot of the time, it’s far too easy to go down the rabbit hole of dark – and sometimes irrational – thoughts. No matter what we’re feeling in the moment, we always know that no fear is too small to share with one another. Sometimes, simply saying it out loud makes it all seem a little less scary, and that can make all the difference in the world.

3. Advice and experience-sharing isn’t obnoxious and condescending. Fortunately for me, J’s little girl is a few weeks older than my little boy, so whenever I have a question about behaviour or development, I simply ask about her experiences. Frankly, I’ve learned more about the subtle nuances of parenting from her than anything I could have read in a book or online. The best part? Her advice is 100% sanctimommy-free.

4. Maternity leave just got a whole lot more fun. Sometimes, simply daydreaming about spending maternity leave together is enough to pull me out of my pregnancy funk. While it’ll undoubtedly be complete and total chaos most days, I know we will both welcome it with open arms. No TPS reports until 2018 for these gals!

5. TMI is just a formality at this point. Finally, oversharing in any form simply doesn’t exist between us. We’ve literally seen and heard it all. Sometimes, as a formality, one of us will say, “TMI” in advance of sharing something gross and/or embarrassing, but we both know that truly, nothing is off the table. How liberating!