My child will be an only child.
I want to talk about one of the reasons she will be an only child. I want to talk about why I roll my eyes or wince when someone tells me that I’m too young to say something like this or to “give it time.”
I have diagnosed PTSD from giving birth.
I can still see every detail of my labor in my mind; I replay it more often than I admit. I obsess over it. I romanticize about other people’s labor stories. My best friend just did a home birth. She walked around in the calm darkness and labored and loved and labored some more. She gave birth to a beautiful, healthy girl.
I feel robbed.
Nothing went right.
But, Carrie, things don’t always go to plan! Calm down.
No. Nothing went right.
In fact, things went so not-right that it is affecting me mentally. Still. It has been five years.
My water broke naturally at home, three days before my due date. I arrived at the hospital, after having some small contractions, and was three centimeters dilated. I was wheeled into a room, given a gown, and hooked up.
First, they put my IV in. Then they put the fetal heart monitor on my belly. I was told to lay on my back so it wouldn’t slide. I was told not to move.
I wasn’t hooked up. I was strapped down. I was rendered immobile.
I was young and didn’t know any different. These people knew what they were doing. I’m just here to have a baby, folks.
When I didn’t progress fast enough, I was given a bag of Pitocin. This worked. I progressed. I was asked if I wanted an epidural. I said sure. The pain wasn’t insane, but it wasn’t great and “the guy is on the floor now so it’s now or never.” Okay. It’s now.
I was given an epidural. It did not work.
I was given a second epidural. It did not work.
They kept that one hooked up just in case it decided to work. Just for fun. That’s three things tethering me to the bed at this point. Three things keeping me on my back, the most difficult position to be in to push something the size of a pug out of your vagina.
I stalled at six centimeters. I was made to feel like I was wasting everyone’s time, like I was failing at my job. You had one job, cervix. C’mon.
I was given a second bag of Pitocin. I began to run a fever. I had to have that little finger monitor on to keep track of my fever. Four things, now.
The Pitocin pushed me, quickly and painfully, to 9 1/2 centimeters. Everyone stood around and watched me. They waited as I labored with a faulty epidural and a net cast over my body like a beached whale.
“We are going to push now.”
I wasn’t at 10 yet. My body wasn’t ready yet. I told everyone this. They assured me all would be well, they were just going to push aside the last 1/2 centimeter every time I pushed.
Push it aside. No epidural. It felt like a giant hug, let me tell you.
At this point I had been in labor for 20 hours. My family was told to leave the room and things seemed to get serious.
I pushed. I pushed in a way that I didn’t know I could push. None of us ever know, do we? We always pause for a split-second in awe of ourselves. I am doing it. I can feel it.
I tore myself on the inside. But I kept pushing. I lost bladder control. But I kept pushing. I began to black out between pushes. I swallowed ice chips brought from my bewildered husband and kept pushing.
I was told stop.
They could see the top of her head, but it wasn’t going to happen. She wasn’t coming out this way. The head was not going to fit through my body this way.
Two hours of straight pushing. A fever. No epidural.
And suddenly, I was drinking a terrible medication to keep me from throwing up during surgery. I was taking off my jewelry. I was saying goodbye to my mother.
I was wheeled away.
People became more kind now. They played music for me in the surgery room. Someone was singing along. The anesthesiologist came in and said he heard my epidurals didn’t work. I nodded. He assured me this spinal was going to work.
It worked. I lost feeling from my neck, down. My arms were shaking so badly that they had to strap them down.
I didn’t feel much. It felt like a cat kneading my stomach. Pulling at me, pushing at me. It felt like how you would imagine life beating you up from the inside.
Then she was free and everyone gasped. She was huge and had been facing forward. She was never going to come out of me naturally, they said. They held her up to my face for three seconds. She smelled like me. She looked like me. They took her away, pushed a bit more medication into me, and I woke up in the hallway, stitched up.
I had split myself in half to have a baby. I had labored for 22 hours to have a baby.
I was alone in the hallway.
Where was my baby? Was it all just a dream?
Of course, I saw her in my room shortly after. I remember thinking to myself, “I already feel it. I already have postpartum depression.”
I did. I had it badly. But, it went beyond postpartum depression. I was obsessed with watching her, but wouldn’t touch her. I would have sleep paralysis. I would get sick to my stomach when she cried.
I still won’t consider doing it again.
My psychiatrist, years after, finally mentioned it sounded like PTSD. How could that be? I wasn’t in a war! I wasn’t wounded! Nothing traumatic happened to me!
Something traumatic did happen to me. I was robbed of something very important to all mothers: I was robbed of my power. I created a human being out of cells for nine months. For nine months all I thought about, all I was trained for, was to push this human being out of my body and be the woman I was supposed to be. For nine months I played my labor plan over and over in my head. It took them less than 10 minutes to hack her out of me.
They robbed me of that. Never again. I will keep this child precious and make sure those around me retain their power. I will use my story to make sure it doesn’t happen to other women.
This is my story. It doesn’t have to happen to you.
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