Most people wouldn’t associate PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, with child birth. In fact, it’s so uncommon that I don’t even mention it to people. Ever. Who would believe me? Most people I know with PTSD have it from combat, from fighting for our country. Or maybe a car accident. But birth? No one would believe me.
But that’s what it feels like. I can’t escape it. I love my son and he is my entire world. Most people think (and usually say) that isn’t that what’s important? A healthy baby? But there is so much more to birth than that!
During my pregnancy, I did everything that I could to get ready for my birth. As a Soldier, I did PT with the other pregnant Soldiers even running up until I was 28 weeks. My husband and I went to prenatal classes. I went to all of my appointments. I watched my diet and my weight. I even did a birth plan. It was full of every detail that I hoped my birth would be. Quiet and dark room, the midwife helping me find positions to help, no epidural, no pitocin, no drugs, delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin and breastfeeding. It didn’t seem like too much to ask. I longed for feeling connected to my child and birthing them, holding them close, feeling the birthing high as I embrace the very thing that a woman is made to do!
As soon as we arrived at Labor & Delivery, I excitedly started telling the nurses of my birth plan. They smiled and nodded, “uh-huh” “that’ll be nice dear”.. and then it all went out the window. They constantly wanted me monitored, I felt apprehensive but they are the experts, right? They wouldn’t do it if I didn’t really need it, right? I did labor naturally until about 1am. I started to feel tired, I started to think that maybe I couldn’t do this. And that was really the turning point. Knowing what I know now, I was entering transition! I was nearly there! But at the time, I asked for the epidural.. even using the safe word that I told my husband I would only use if I were desperate.
And that is when the “If only…” things start to take over. If only he had encouraged me and told me how strong I was and that I could do it, then maybe I wouldn’t have gotten the epidural… If only I hadn’t gotten the epidural, then maybe DS wouldn’t have turned sunny side up with his head slightly tilted.. If only they hadn’t started pitocin, he wouldn’t have gotten stressed out… If only they hadn’t tried to manually turn him (um, ouch!!) then maybe he wouldn’t have had meuconeum…have come down on his own.. If only, if only, if only..
But those things did happen.
So I was told I had no choice, they had to do a Cesarean. I remember DH holding me close as I sobbed into his shoulder when they told us. The contractions still wracking my body because the epi didn’t really work for me anyways except that it made my legs tingle and feel limp. The nurse quickly shaved me, DH got a gown, and they wheeled me through the bright hallway to the OR. From there it is a blur. It was so bright, they made a joke about us not knowing whether it was a boy or girl. The anestheziologist changed out my epidural for something stronger, it made my lower half disappear, my arms felt cold and tingly, i could hardly breathe. I couldn’t see DH, but I know he was there. I was crying. I could feel them tugging on me, it was moving my whole body. This wasn’t right, this wasn’t supposed to be how it was. This wasn’t supposed to be how I met my.. son. It’s a boy! The surgeon holds him high above me so I can see before he is whisked away. I asked to hold him, to see him. No one was hearing me, it was hard to talk because it was so hard to breathe. There was something wrong with DS. They brought him next to my head, wrapped tight in a blanket and with a cap on. I ask if I can nurse him. But some doctor is there telling me that he has to take him and that something is wrong. So DH goes with him too. And I’m alone.
The surgeon is closing me up. There’s a student there too, so he’s explaining as he goes.. “put the intestine there.. the appendix looks good.. no just place that on there.. now we stitch the next layer…” I can tell when they get to my skin, as the conversation changes.. “it was nice enough to golf this past weekend… yeah we were able to go up to the mountain…” It felt like forever, laying there with my arms tingling, tears streaming down my cheeks.. it’s probably the worst thing you can do to a claustrophobic. Strap them to a table and make it impossible to move or feel anything.
In recovery, the spinal began to wear off. I desperately wiggled my toes and legs to get it to go away.. they wouldn’t let me see my son until I was able to stand and then sit in a wheelchair since he was in the NICU.. Six hours after my amazing son came into this world I got to hold him in my arms. He was beautiful. He was amazing. And that’s the first time I heard it, from the nurse, “well as long as you and baby are healthy, that’s all that matters.”