I had a baby four weeks ago and still remember everything. I’m struggling to get over what can only be described as a traumatic experience, and wondering whether any other mums consider themselves candidates for PTSD!
We all know childbirth is bad. Not many people think of the word as being synonymous with anything other than pain but that bad?! I just wasn’t prepared!
This is my second child. I had my first by Caesarian due to a low lying placenta – a justification I feel the need to share with everyone lest they think I took the “easy way out” but more on that in a later post. When I found out I might have to have a csection with my first child I was, I admit, secretly pleased. I liked having the date to look forward to and I didn’t have to worry that Husband wouldn’t have to hide disappointment at post-baby sex. But the more I learnt about it the more I realised how big the procedure is and I began to look forward to it less. It’s serious surgery with a long and painful recovery; you have to have daily injections for 8 weeks afterwards (they don’t tell you this and they really hurt!); you’re immobile for 6 weeks; you can’t really look after your baby for the first few days, you’re out of it on pain relief and your milk comes in too late to meet your baby’s feeding needs. But it is what it is and the baby has to come out somehow! She came out and was perfect. I was frequently struck by how lucky I was to have been born here in the U.K. The same condition in an under-developed country could have ended very differently.
Following the successful delivery of Girly no1, I left hospital with a piece of paper that recommended any future birth be a vaginal delivery. I didn’t really give it much thought until I became pregnant again. Quite early on my midwife started to talk about VBAC (pronounced vee-back apparently) meaning Vaginal Birth After Caesarean. It was in no way forced, I was given the option of a csection again if I wanted it. I had a tough decision to make – did I want to get cut open and go through major surgery again or have a baby break out of me on its’ own tearing me into two from the bottom up. I went with Mother Earth and decided that with Girly no1 now being a toddler, the recovery from childbirth would be far easier than a csection. Plus there would be less time afterwards where I wouldn’t be able to pick her up, or cuddle or take her swimming. VBAC it was.
I’m going to pause here and ask – WHY DID NO ONE STOP ME MAKING THIS CRAZY DECISION?! Since I’ve had Girl no2, and I tell people I’m a VBAC, I almost receive rounds of applause. From midwives, doctors, my friend the paramedic…had I realised it was this much of an achievement, I might have thought more about whether this was what I wanted. I would have happily settled for “wow you had another baby, well done you”. I don’t need the “WOW, a VBAC? That really is impressive!” Now I have huge scars across my stomach, a ridge across my belly and now to top it off, a baggy vagina! Brilliant!
I’m digressing from why I wrote this, but it’s important as I chose to give birth this way when I could easily have had it the same way as last time. I think it’s important because – nobody told me! No one said that you’ll feel like you’ve been broken in half, or that your arsehole will split, or you won’t be able to sit down for three weeks. I feel really quite aggrieved by it! Like I’ve been kept out of some secret club, a horrific one that no one wants to be part of but where you share this awful secret. The worse part is how every woman I know that has given birth naturally has since turned round and said “yeah it’s bad isn’t it?” with a welcome-to-the-club look on their face. When I indignantly challenge them with why they haven’t told me before, the answer is always that they didn’t want to put me off.
With Girly no1 I wrote a beautiful birth story that was published in our local NCT newsletter. This one would not be so beautiful. Not because the baby I got at the end wasn’t incredible but because it’s like asking me to make a car sound good that I bought following a crash that killed my best friend. I’m all about positive mental attitude but I can’t help thinking that the pressure for drug free / no intervention has us British women suffering immeasurably, and being honest, making it far more difficult to enjoy our babies. Is it an NHS thing that makes it cheaper to not use epidural and csections? Or is it a stiff upper lip thing that’s made us all too proud? Or is it that stoic “I’ll be fine” thing that all us women do, when actually we’re crying inside? Any of the above I think.
So what’s the right answer? Should we be more honest? Should we go back to the midwives who told us it would be fine? Should we write bad reviews against the hypnobirthing books and tracks we were conned into trying? Should we be more open with pregnant women?
Personally, if anyone asks, I’ll tell them. Every last gory detail. And if you don’t want to know then don’t ask. I think we should be better prepared and we should know that One Born Every Minute IS typical of how it is. And that’s just a show reel of the highlights. These are the worst bits I think everyone should know.
- Pushing is horrific – my husband was pinning my legs back by my ears shouting drive drive drive like he does in his rugby matches. An hour and 45 minutes this went on for. What’s to enjoy about that?
- There will be so many faces between your legs – on the plus side you don’t care
- The tearing of your flesh – front to back for me requiring extensive stitching afterwards
- Every part of you hurts afterwards – two weeks on I still felt like someone has played football with my vagina and bum, it seriously aches
- How much your boobs hurt – all the time. And mine are massive, that must mean massive hurt?! (No offence anyone with F’s or less!)
- Breast feeding is awkward and uncomfortable and it hurts to start of with – but is fantastic AFTER you get past the first 4-6 weeks
- The insane itching after birth – I went to my GP in floods of tears 10 days after birth doing an Irish jig in an attempt to escape the crazy itching. I still can’t wear pants
- Your pee is red for weeks on end – Then orange. Then bright yellow. Eventually, if you drink 10 pints of water a day, it goes back to its normal colour.
- Sitting down is agony – I don’t understand why rubber ring or polo-shaped pillow doesn’t appear on every hospital bag list ever published
- You have to wear pads for weeks afterward – and it has to be maternity pads rather than night pads because the length of time you wear them means normal ones give you thrush. Another ailment to add to the collection.
I haven’t even put the whole sex thing on the list. I know that my lady bits currently look like an elephant’s ear when they used to look like a neat little butterfly (my husbands words not mine) – I really don’t want him to look at it again. And I definitely don’t want anyone near them ever again. But I want my husband back to being a husband….a whole other saga to worry about.
So, the awful truth is that it’s awful. For most, not all. I do know two people who enjoy the whole childbirth thing. Everyone else, including someone I know who has given birth seven times, really suffers. And we should know that. We should know it and we should find ways to be supportive. We should encourage pain relief. Most of all, we should be prepared. We should know and we should do everything we can to prepare for the frankly traumatic experience that is childbirth. But on the plus side, you get one of these little beauties to help distract you.
I would love to hear your experience or reaction to this story. Please comment below and click follow for more
Mrs Hergerburger xx
PS If you’re pregnant and reading this and didn’t want to know then I’m sorry. But take these words and use them wisely!