Many, if not all, woman have this grand idea of what their birth experience will be like. Unfortunately, most of the time, it doesn’t come close to what they wanted and/or expected.
(Holding my second daughter after my first hospital birth.)
When I got pregnant with my first child I was set on having a home birth. I was terrified of giving birth at the hospital, especially after hearing my sister-in-law’s nightmare of a birth story. Long story short, she got 3 doses of Pitocin without it doing anything only for the nurse to realize there was a kink in her IV line, so she hadn’t actually received any Pitocin at all. Instead of the nurse removing the line and replacing it she just unkinked the tube. This meant that my sister-in-law received not 1, not 2, but 3 doses of Pitocin all at one time. She went from only a couple cm dilated to 10cm and gave birth in under 10 minutes. Can we say OUCH?
MY DESIER TO SUCCEED
After hearing her story, I desperately wanted to have more control and less intervention for my birth, or at least as much as I could. I wanted to let my body do what it was designed to do. So, I set out and hired a local midwife and planned my home birth.
I can’t tell you how many times people looked at me like I was crazy when they found out what my plan was. In all honesty it made me smile. If I get told I can’t do something I’m the type of person that will go over and beyond to accomplish it, only to prove that I can. Two times in my life I have sunk my teeth in and wouldn’t let go until I had achieved my goal.
(Intense contractions during my water/home birth.)
The first time this happened was when I decided to try snowboarding. Most of the guys kept telling me that I would hate it, it was exhausting, and I was going to fall too much so I should just ski since that’s easier to learn. You know what I did? Yep, I went snowboarding, and not only did I learn but I freaking crushed it. I made every single one of those who doubted me eat their own words.
The second was my home birth with my first born. Every time someone told me that I would end up at a hospital I held tighter and tighter to my plan of a home birth. No amount of pain was going to keep me from it.
MY HOME BIRTH
One Saturday morning at about 7am I went into labor. I remember being filled with so much excitement. I couldn’t believe that it was finally here. I was in awe of the fact that in no time at all, or so I thought, I would be holding my sweet baby girl. After 24 hours of slow but steady progress, the reality of labor started to really sink in. I had always heard people say, “I was in labor with you for 12 hours,” and here I was at hour 24 with no end in sight. How in the world was this possible? Unfortunately, this continued until I was able to give birth on Sunday at 10:41 pm. Right under 40 hours of labor. 40 HOURS!
(Shortly after getting in the birthing tub to try and relieve some pain.)
Even though it took forever, the whole birth went smoothly. Baby was always in the right position, her heart beat was steady the entire time, I didn’t tear, and had no complications before, during, or after the birth. It was text book and probably what many women desire their home births to look like, besides the whole 40 hours of labor thing.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
Unfortunately for me, there was something off, but I didn’t understand why. I remember looking into my daughters face and trying everything I could to connect with her, but I couldn’t. I knew I loved her with all my heart, but that feeling of overwhelming love and connection, so many other moms have talked about, was missing for me. I remember thinking that I should feel prouder about what I just went through, but I didn’t. I was 100% consumed by the trauma and pain I had just experienced that it had built a wall that I didn’t even know was there and had no idea how to tear down.
(The moment I met my first daughter after my water/home birth.)
Over the next few days I took everything I went through, packaged it up, and locked it away in a dark place in my mind, to be forgotten about forever. All I wanted was to connect and be with my daughter, so I did. I told myself that everyone goes through it so just buck up and move on.
Now let’s fast forward almost two years. After taking one bite of a muffin and getting nauseous I decided I would pee on a stick. To my surprise two little pink lines appeared. Ta Da! I’m pregnant, again. I was excited and over joyed. I was head over heels in love with my oldest so how much more fantastic would two be? This lasted a hot minute and then my mind welcomed the reality of what those two little pink lines meant.
I started having flashbacks of being in labor, all the pain started flooding back into my mind, and I knew there was no way out of this. That baby was growing in my belly if I liked it or not, and one day it was going to come out, most likely, exactly like the first.
Now you remember all the emotions and trauma I packaged up after my first birth? Well, that package was ripped wide open the moment those pink lines appeared, and it brought with it a second package full of anxiety.
(Feeling completely peaceful after my second daughter was born at the hospital.)
Within days of finding out I was pregnant anxiety hit me and boy did it hit me with all it had, and then some. Many nights I would lay awake for hours crying and trying everything I could to calm myself down. I prayed every chance I could asking God to help me find some kind of peace. I couldn’t figure out why I was freaking out so much. I knew my body could do it and that I was going to be ok, but the thought of going through all of it again was overwhelming, to say the least.
It wasn’t until about half way through my pregnancy when I spoke to a midwife about what I was going through that I finally got answers. She looked over at me and in the most sympathetic way and said, “You have PTSD from the pain you experienced in your first birth, and this pregnancy was the trigger.”
For a few seconds I sat there with a confused look on my face. PTSD? WHAT? HOW? That’s what soldiers who go to war and see their friends get blown up or loose a leg have when they come back to the states, not me. Oh yes darling, PTSD knows no bounds and is not restricted to a certain genera of people. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can get it depending on who they are, how they handle trauma, and what they have experienced. I was no exception.
(After my hospital birth and a magical epidural.Pretty sure she pooped on me just seconds after this photo was taken.)
After talking with her for a few minutes it all started coming together. It was like a connect the dots page was finally completed right before my eyes and it all made sense. She told me that everyone has different levels of pain tolerance and the way they handle pain is very different from person to person. Someone can go through a very traumatic birth and have no PTSD like my sister in law, and then someone else can go through a typical un-medicated birth with no complications and end up having PTSD like I did. You never know what can be traumatic for one person.
HOW I HANDLED MY PTSD
Months passed and every day I processed this reality a little more. I started to fully understand what anxiety was and regretted every time I thought to myself that people with “anxiety” should just get over it and move on. Oh how naive I was.
Subscribe below to join the newsletter so you don't miss any posts, announcements, or any updates!
During this time of processing I allowed myself to feel shameful. I compared myself to those around me who had experienced un-medicated births multiple times but walked away mentally intact. I cried time and time again wishing I could be different and begging God to just take the anxiety away.
That is until one day I said enough. I was done feeling shameful for having PTSD over a natural birth. I was done caring what others thought about me or how I “should” birth my babies. I decided it was time to find out w
hat I need and what was best for me, not others.
Through a series of events, some protentional complications with my second pregnancy, and some long days of debating with myself I decided to change my plans and have a hospital birth with an epidural.
(Just moments before I started pushing. At peace and completely numb from the waist down.)
The moment I made the choice to change my plans was the moment I felt a huge boulder be lifted from my chest. It was the one decision, the only decision, that gave me a tremendous amount of peace. I knew it was just a plan and that things could change but knowing I had made peace with the option of a hospital birth with an epidural, made my anxiety go from a 10 to about a 3.
MY HOSPITAL BIRTH
With my second pregnancy I made it to the hospital in plenty of time for an epidural and it worked beautifully. The last 7 hours of my 22 hours of labor were like a dream. All pain was gone, and I was even able to watch my second daughter enter this world. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I realize that my birth stories are opposite from most woman, but no matter this fact, it was the best thing I could do for my mental health.
The moment my second daughter was born I instantly connected to her and was filled with all those wonderful feelings and emotions that I had always heard of other moms experiencing. I was able to make these connections so quickly because I wasn’t overwhelmed or trying to process pain or trauma. I was able to be fully present, no distractions, no trauma. It may have been different than most woman, but it was right for me, and that’s the only thing that matters.
(My husband and I enjoying the birth of our sweet second daughter.)
So many times, we get caught up in how things have always been done, how we think things should be done, or we put too much importance in what others think about our decisions, that we don’t stop and think about what is truly best for ourselves. It’s about time for this to change.
It doesn’t matter if your best friend is a huge advocate for hospital births, but you feel more at peace with a home birth or vis versa. You have to do what’s best for you, and only you.
Many times, I get asked, “If you could go back in time would you have made different decisions.” Initially I want to say of course I would, but in reality, I can’t imagine my life any different. If I had never had a home birth I would never have learned how I process pain and trauma, I would have never learned what anxiety is or how to handle it, I would have always wondered what if.
I’m thankful for what it taught me about myself. I’m thankful that it taught me to be compassionate and nonjudgmental towards others who experience things different than I do. It taught me that my decisions are not the only way of doing things, especially when it comes to birth. It taught me to stop comparing myself and my story to others. It taught me to stop caring what others think of my life and my decisions. For all of this I’m eternally grateful and glad I had the opportunity for my eyes to be open. So, no I don’t think If I could go back in time I would change the way I chose to bring my first daughter into this world.
The important thing I want you to take away from this post is the point that its ok to do something different than someone else or the status quo. If it’s what’s best for you and your mental and emotional health, but different than those around you, who cares. It is time we put ourselves first and make decisions based on what’s best for us and our family, not those around us. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, so we need to stop giving it a backseat in our decision making.