Sunday, 29 May 2011

Healing from Birth Trauma

A very important post on birth trauma was posted by a guest blogger on the wonderful Rachel Reed's  Midwife Thinking blog the other day.  As I read the post and then the comments, I was taken by a young woman's story of her two births; one traumatic and one healing.  I emailed Amber and asked her if she would allow me to publish her stories on my blog because there are many powerful lessons to be learned from her experiences. Amber kindly agreed and here are her stories.  The posts are long, but well worth reading in depth to gather and savour the illuminations she gives us. For those of us who are pregnant parents and those of us who are midwives or other health care practitioners working with birthing women, her words are precious invitations into the world of birth and what women need.

The headings provide links to Amber's blog.

Tale of Two Birth Stories, Part 1

I wish to share my birth stories because becoming a mother is where this journey began. I cannot tell the one without the other—it would only be telling half the story of how I came to be the woman I am today. The birth of my son, now almost three years ago, is still very fresh and vivid in my mind…and deeply painful. I have been repeatedly reminded that I am so fortunate, a hemorrhage is such a little thing; and indeed, as I commented recently, “on paper” it looks like a wonderfully successful natural birth, but to me, it was a nightmare, and one I’ve lived repeatedly over the years. It was only recently that I realized I have truly been grieving over this birth and, allowing myself to go through that process, I believe I have finally arrived at a peace and even a gratitude for that day: for without it I would never had had the courage to take my first step into this wonderful adventure God is unfolding before me now.

I made the choice to birth in hospital as a compromise. I had wanted a homebirth from the time that I knew they were still an option—I’m an introvert and deeply sensitive when it comes to privacy—but due to fear of confrontation and concern for my mother (who is not well and unable to handle stress), I convinced myself that a CNM in hospital wouldn’t be horrible: I still had a midwife and my mom wouldn’t have to worry unduly. I had also convinced myself that Mom had to be a part of the birth of her first grandchild (how could I deny her that?) even though I knew she’s never been able to handle any situation in which I’ve been ill or in pain.

My heart screamed it was a mistake throughout all my prenatal care, but I stuck to my choice even though I was becoming increasingly unwell. Because I was perfectly healthy in all the numbers, my concerns were repeatedly ignored and downplayed as mere complaining. I was frustrated, determined, hopeful, and excited all at once. Thus sets the stage for that eventful day…

I went for my 39-week checkup around 2pm on a hot August day. I told G, my CNM, my last week’s adventure: I had lost my mucus plug six days before and had had some regular contractions for about 3 hours every evening since then. Though they didn’t hurt at all, I could feel the pressure of contractions on and off and decided to use these times to “practice” different labor positions. She replied that I was getting really close and asked me to lie back so she could check out the baby’s position. I pulled up my shirt and she stopped short and said, “You’re having contractions now.” I responded, “Really?” G looked at me very oddly and asked, “Don’t you feel them?” And I said, “Nope, not a clue!” She smiled and said, “Must be more Braxton-Hicks.” Everything looked great! She asked if I wanted to check dilation and I told her that I’d rather wait and was soon on my way home.

I spent the afternoon snacking on carbs and posting to facebook “I’ve just served the eviction notice on this baby!” around 7:30pm. I had had 3 contractions in that span of time that I had actually felt, eh, no big deal. I stood up to stretch and hit the bathroom…again…and felt a slight gush. I sat back down and texted my husband “Okay, no reason to freak out or anything, but I think my water just broke. ” I laughed at what I had just entered as my status as I decided to take a walk around outside to see if I could get some contractions going. Without warning they started, almost knocking me to my knees from the intensity. I struggled to make it back inside and could barely climb up the porch stairs…and yeah, they were about 1 minute long and every 3 minutes. I texted Hubby again, “I’m having contractions. Don’t worry. Still no need to rush.”

A few minutes later I was leaning over the kitchen table forcing myself to text “Okay, forget that. Get here now!” He was in a neighboring town so it took an hour before we actually got to the hospital. I walked into the main doors as a lady asked me if I were okay. I mumbled, “I think I’m in labor.” so she got a wheelchair. I only remember the sense of being whisked past things as I already had the outside world mostly shut out. We stopped momentarily and I heard G saying something about being surprised to see me again so soon and another voice sigh that it was a busy night.

I was then in my room at the end of an extremely long hall way. I just wanted back on my feet, but I had to be checked first. The nurses swarmed with activity while I protested, “Can I please stand up? No, I do not want an IV. I hate IV’s. They’re so uncomfortable and I don’t need one. I don’t want this belt on me. I want to get up now. How much longer are you going to take?” I was 5cm dilated—half way there! They promised to leave me alone as soon as they got all their base readings. Yes!

Somewhere Hubby was around. The hospital gown was unbearable. Maybe the tub would be nice.
Hubby filled up the tub and looked a mixture of worried, scared, and out of his element. I would have smiled if it were possible. I remained confident for his sake. I knew I could do this. He asked a million questions about what I needed. “Nothing. I’m fine.” All I needed to know was that I wasn’t alone. He texted our friends and read me their responses. It was good to know that they were praying for me.

The warm water felt great for about 5 minutes. Though it eased the tension considerably, giving me time to recharge, I felt way too constricted. I needed to move my hips and there was no place in this tub for that to happen. Hubby helped me out and I paced the bathroom for a while. It was nice and secluded. The nurses came back to check my progress again (7 cm) and they let me stay standing this time. I got back into the tub. Everything melted away again—it was so nice to rest—if only there were more room. My mom arrived and wanted to know if it were okay to come in for a moment. I said something like, “I don’t care. I’m naked so if she doesn’t mind seeing me then I don’t care.”

The nurses asked me to come out for another progress check so I made my way out of the bathroom again. I think I was 8cm dilated—not long now! At this point, all I remember was complaining that I needed to pee so badly and couldn’t. G asked if I wanted to try a catheter which I accepted. Nothing. She said I had “a bubble” from my amniotic sac pushing on my bladder. She broke it and I felt so much better! Now it was back to breathing very deeply. “In. Out. Oxygen for the baby. Push the pain away” was the mantra in my head. The hospital gown was now suffocating; and though I didn’t want to be exposed for the world to see, I couldn’t communicate to Hubby that I wanted my tank top from my bag. All I could do was breathe. I bent over the bed swaying back and forth. It wasn’t long before the contractions were on top of each other and my stomach decided to empty itself of all contents, but I didn’t care anymore who saw what—though I did wonder what my mom was thinking because she was still hanging around.

Hubby was rubbing my back too hard and driving me crazy, but I couldn’t bring myself to say anything because he was trying so hard to be helpful. The nurse eventually took over and the tension melted away. Mom got a cool rag for my forehead. “Breathe deep. In. Out. Oxygen for the baby. Push the pain away.” I started praying that it wouldn’t be much longer. I was nearing the end and I didn’t know how much longer I could go. Mom began urging me to breathe “hee-hee-hee” and I ignored the irritation, continuing to breathe deeply. She then tried to push me into taking some pain medicine and was becoming quite unsettled. Finally G (God bless her!) politely explained I was doing beautifully. That quieted her. With the outside annoyances gone, I again felt completely able to forget everything around me and ride the rollercoaster of my contractions. My body was working extremely hard, but it wasn’t unbearable!

G suggested that I try a different position, but that wasn’t happening. I moaned here and there. G asked if I felt like pushing yet. “No… I don’t know… Okay! Yes! Now I do!” I had an overwhelming feeling to squat, so G offered to help me with the squatting bar. I acquiesced, but could not figure out how to use the thing. I wanted to return to the side of the bed and this is where things began to break down: I had no more strength to assert what I wanted and Hubby had dropped out of the picture, having succumbed to his long day. We tried getting on hands and knees, but this didn’t feel right either. I could find no voice to explain I wanted to stand again. I was sorely irritated. I didn’t know what I was doing and I was starting to panic, but continuing to breathe deeply helped for the time.
Finally, somehow, I was on my back. In my head I was screaming, “No! No! No! No! This is the worst! Ahhh! I want up!” But all I could do was breathe.

The intensity of the contractions and pressure on my back skyrocketed! I knew I wasn’t pushing effectively, but I couldn’t figure it out while struggling with the pain. I began panicking again, panting out, “I can’t. Please just let me rest a minute.” I couldn’t explain that I meant I couldn’t be on my back any longer. Everyone was hovered over me, counting, and Hubby’s voice was barely there at all. Mom stepped up and began encouraging me, but still insisted that I breathe weird. G told me I couldn’t stop.

I was in a mental agony and fighting hyperventilating. Everything within my being was screaming that I needed everyone to back off, but I felt trapped—completely powerless to do anything but comply. I asked Mom how long I’d been pushing and she told me about half an hour. Then G grabbed my hand, saying, “Here. Feel the baby’s head.” I felt his wet, silky hair and gave in to the sinking feeling that my time had come. I took a deep breath to rally all my remaining strength and finally started pushing better, but I had risen to such a state of perfect terror that I pushed with all my might. I had no idea how long I could continue on, exhausted, my thoughts only flashing “danger!” Eventually I grabbed my own legs and started pushing whether I was having a contraction or not. I didn’t care anymore. I had to have him out. I knew it wouldn’t be pretty. Everyone seemed to back off, but I was wild with panic and no one noticed that this was my driving force.

After another half hour of pushing, my son was laid on my belly. All I said was, “Thank you, Jesus!” He was safe. He wailed and I stroked his head wondering, “This is giving birth? This is what I’ve been waiting for all my life? What’s the big deal? …What’s wrong with me?” I was bewildered that I felt eerily emotionless at the meeting of my first-born, but I was abruptly shaken from this reverie.

A nurse pulled him away as warmth began pouring around me: I was hemorrhaging. They shot Pitocin in my legs as I felt fainter and fainter. I heard a nurse say that the baby was 8lbs 5oz and born at 1:16am. I smiled. “That was what…6 hours?” My head started swimming. In that moment I thought, “I could die right now and I’d leave my baby alone without me.” But peace rushed over me like I’ve never felt before and I knew that everything would be okay. It was all quite surreal. I was still bleeding badly so G resorted to bi-manual compression. Thus jolted into alertness, I jumped from the bottom of the bed to the very top and shrieked.

Finally, the bleeding was under control. G stitched a tear, but the local anesthetics hadn’t worked. I cried out again, gritted my teeth, and waited for it to be over. Needless to say, I was severely swollen. Awaiting family was finally allowed into the room. I wanted my baby but could only watch as everyone passed him around. Then I was very chilled and began shivering uncontrollably. The nurses piled on heated blankets until I couldn’t move from their weight and still I was freezing. G told me to stay calm: it was because of all the blood I’d lost. I felt numb all over, like everyone was celebrating without me. I hadn’t even really gotten to hold him yet. I lie there half-dead.

My friend came to my side and held a straw for me so I could sip some warm chicken broth. Tea. Water. I had those as well. G said it was vital to get lots of fluids or else I would need a transfusion and she didn’t want that if she could help it (neither did I). I started feeling sick to my stomach, but forced myself to keep sipping everything offered. Everyone left. I don’t remember much about the rest of that morning until realizing it was dawn. I hadn’t slept and I couldn’t really hold my son because I was so weak. I have fuzzy recollections that I finally had an IV in my hand to push fluids and a catheter because I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed for 18 hours. Hubby laid the baby beside me and helped me roll over so I could nurse him.

More family came and went, but I only wanted to get to know my son for myself. I put on an act, smiling and pretending nothing was wrong, so that everyone else could continue in their blissful ignorance that reality was quite to the contrary. Later that day, J, another CNM, sat down with my mom, who was still quite shaken from the experience, and explained why I would be fine. I was very touched by her thoughtfulness.

At some point an OB came, insisting I needed a transfusion which I declined. He tried coercion: a few girls had hemorrhaged that night and “they” were getting “their” transfusions. This made me livid, but I again politely declined and he left. A nurse came after that proudly proclaiming that she knew I’d hemorrhage because I wouldn’t take the IV—everyone who refuses does.

I only stared in utter amazement at what I was hearing. Mr. OB came back and insulted my husband in an attempt to bully us into a transfusion. I again told him no and he left visibly infuriated. Another nurse came to check on me, telling me that my labor was absolutely beautiful to watch and I did a great job—she’d never heard a negative word or an angry tone.

That small kindness, after all I endured that day, did wonders for my broken heart. I felt defeated and blamed myself for what happened. I was livid at the rudeness I’d endured all day and overwhelmed with the sense that this was not how it was supposed to be. I was “supposed” to be with my baby—we needed each other—yet a seeming endless parade of people separated us and I couldn’t speak up. I was weak. How extremely glad I was to go home, rest in my own bed, and finally get to know my little son without interruption! As the days and weeks passed, I began to understand an important distinction: I had had a non-medicated birth, but it certainly wasn’t “natural”. A new resolution began stirring within my heart then, a longing that would be satisfied—a natural birth, at home.

Tale of Two Birth Stories, Part 2
My daughter’s story is very intense all the way around. Life was nothing short of a wild tempest and we were tossed upon the waves of the dark sea with no end in sight. It was a 9-month-long full recovery from my hemorrhage and my intense little son was extremely draining on what little energy I had. There was too seldom anything left to give to my husband. This little boy stormed into our lives like a whirlwind and threatened to tear our marriage apart.

My husband and I blamed each other. We had no family or friends nearby to reach out to for help. Instead of sympathy or encouragement, I would call my mom to hear “I told you not to get married and have kids.” and “He’s just like you—I could never stay so calm.” and “Well, you’d better not have anymore or you will die next time and how do you think he’ll be then, never knowing his mother?”

Life was spiraling out of control. I began crying out to God to show me wisdom, to lead me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake…and then I was quite startled to realize I’d missed my period. I said nothing for the longest time, not even to my husband.

I never could bring myself to take a pregnancy test and was about 3 months along when I finally accepted the fact that we were bringing another baby into this life of ours. I cried bitterly for 4 days straight and when I’d exhausted that fountain of tears, we called our families. We talked to my brother- and sister-in-law first. It seemed like the proper thing to do since they had recently suffered a miscarriage. I had struggled with the irony of this moment for several weeks: God had given me a most precious gift which I could only dread to see come…while she longed for the little one she had wanted so badly. I convinced myself that my child would die too: I was the one who deserved my heart to be shattered into a million bits, not her, for feeling the way I did. As it turned out, she was pregnant again too. I was happy for her, but still was haunted my entire pregnancy with the expectation that something would go horribly wrong and my baby would be stillborn.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I wanted another child—desperately—but not in this mess! How could I do this with two little ones? How could I possibly have room for another one in my life? My husband was just as unhappy. It was a very emotional pregnancy: I was struggling over the “whys” of my son’s birth and I could feel no bond to the little one within me—I worried if I ever would. Yet in the darkness, God began whispering to my heart words of peace, comfort, hope, and joy. Joy? Yes, joy…and slowly, step by step, I struggled to believe and walk forward in faith. I clung to my Savior’s hand for it was the only stay I had; and as I took the next step, I grew stronger. He was calling me to conquer, to overcome, and promised that in Him I would succeed. Our son was slowly growing as well and becoming a little more independent each day. Maybe life would be livable! …and this upcoming birth—this new little child—would be a blessing.

At the height of the fury, when all hope seemed to be lost, she broke in upon us, scattered the darkness, and brought the beauty and brilliance of the sunlight. “Peace, be still.” Thus was life unfolded to us and thus was her birth…

It was the end of May when started getting those first signs of my body preparing for birth. I hoped this would be a June baby after all, but kept an open mind to that little nagging doubt that this baby was coming late. The little one was lying posterior so I tried to focus on getting her to turn. I read birth stories about sunny-side-up babies to get myself mentally prepared. The thing I dreaded most was a hard, quick labor that would not allow time for my midwife to make it to the birth. Six weeks of cramps, horrible nausea, back ache, hip ache, pelvic ache, and regular contractions that would start off strong and then fade away after a couple of hours—with every new burst of activity I was having signs of losing my mucus plug. It couldn’t be long, right?

In hindsight, I see how I gradually progressed through days of cramps that turned into days of contractions 10 minutes apart, then days of stronger contractions 6 minutes apart, and so on. The first night I was tempted to call my midwife, I’d had cramps all afternoon that turned into light contractions that suddenly stopped. Everything picked up again around 11pm and I labored for 2-3 hours, even getting into the shower to help with the discomfort. These were perfect “textbook” early labor contractions, but why stop as quickly as they come? The week I was due (mid-June) my mood shifted: I was exhausted and discouraged that not the slightest thing happened. I wanted to have this baby, but it wasn’t the “I’m ready to pop.” kind of feeling. I was sick of being stuck at home, too hot, with nothing to do besides wait, wait, wait.

The next week things picked up in full force. Now I had to focus through my contractions. Getting an exercise ball had helped tremendously. By now, my midwife, Donna, and I had discussed all my “what ifs” and I felt prepared for anything. I was positive we could handle anything. We were prepared for a quick labor since my first had been only 6 hours. I kept myself busy still trying to get the little bean to turn. I had nightmares of her getting stuck in deep transverse arrest and worried about her head not being flexed. I worked so hard, but she wouldn’t budge. I also worried hitting post-term dates. This baby was just starting to feel like a full-term-sized baby and so I tried to comfort myself with the thought that if she were smaller, maybe giving birth to an OP baby wouldn’t be so bad. The scripture “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee” from Isaiah 43 ran through my head constantly and I finally gave every single fear over to God. Ah, to have that peace reigning in your heart once more!

The week before I gave birth was horrendous. Though my energy came back, I was completely miserable. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I was approaching the 43 week mark and knew that I’d have to go into labor soon or my back up care would start getting antsy. The last three days leading up to the birth were the worst. Six weeks of soft bowel movements turned into something akin to the most excruciatingly miserable stomach flu of your worst nightmares. I’d have very strong cramps, back ache, and contractions all in a muddle for hours every afternoon until I felt like collapsing from exhaustion by evening.

All I could feel was pressure. Pressure on my bladder. Pressure on my bowels. Pressure on my pelvic floor. If things hadn’t kept stopping, I would have sworn I was in labor. I tried to laugh it off by cracking jokes and hoped that if my stomach were empty maybe I wouldn’t get sick during transition this time. I finally felt my time was here—I wasn’t going to be pregnant forever! I was going to have a baby by the weekend (I knew it!) and I clung to the promise “my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth” from Psalm 28:7. The Lord had ordered my every step with this birth and He was going to work every detail out to the very end for His glory. I was miserable, yes, but I had a strong joy running beneath the surface.

The night before baby arrived, I snapped. I was tired of “wasting” my days focusing on contractions and ending up frustrated and disappointed every night. I went to Walmart for groceries, put everything away when I got home, and cleaned up the entire kitchen. This house was going to get clean! The next morning, I had a bout of upset stomach pretty early and I thought, “That was off the norm, but whatever, I’m ignoring it all until I know that I’m in labor. I actually feel pretty good now though, so maybe I can finally eat!” I wanted to start out the day making homemade buttermilk pancakes—with blueberries for the little man and me. I felt so much better after breakfast, though I needed to sit and rest. Hubby cleaned the kitchen while we laughed at J-bug saying “bue-bee pancocks”. Sometime during all this I became vaguely aware of an odd pain and pressure in my pubic bones. It would come quite sharply, almost like a cramp, but felt like the baby’s forehead was hitting up against my bones and trying to press its way out my front. They would leave as quickly as they came and were infrequent enough to not be a hindrance. I mentally noted that the time was around 11am—just in case.

After resting, I started on laundry and general pick up around the house. The sharp pains continued and by about 1:30pm I realized they were coming more frequently and strong enough to force me to drop to my knees and moan. As soon as it was over I got up and continued cleaning. I wasn’t going to stop my plans because they weren’t contractions per se: my mind was set. I still clung to a labor very much like my first—obvious. I anticipated it being shorter and more intense, but I still had convinced myself that she’d turn and things would calm down. I’d have time to get J-bug to Mom’s, my midwife would come, and we’d have a very peaceful birth in every way.

At 1:58pm I asked Hubby to start timing contractions. I would have this pain, a series of contractions—four or five coupled together—and then a minute or two pause before it started again. I was on my knees hugging my exercise ball rocking back and forth. It was all I could do to keep from crying. Hubby started calling family, telling them I was in labor which extremely irritated me because I was still trying to get things done! Yeah, this hurt, but it would stop. It always did. All this pain was weird, but I wasn’t convinced it was labor yet. At some point, Hubby persuaded me to call Donna.

Then I had J-bug help me pack his overnight bag to keep him distracted. He bounced back and forth from excited to leave and being scared for me. I was desperately trying to play off all the pain as nothing for his sake and to be patient with his increasing fretfulness, but everything within me screamed for everyone and everything to leave me alone! I just wanted be able to think!

At 2:42pm, I struggled to update my facebook status while J-bug clung to me crying, trying to kiss my boo-boo’s. Hubby tried to keep him off of me, only agitating him even more. I finally caved in and called Mom to come get J-bug NOW and my midwife to tell her that I was in considerable pain, though I was still trying to laugh it off in my denial that I was so close. I was convinced that I still had a couple of hours. Hubby carried a screaming little boy out the door to meet Mom as I fled to the shower. He came back to ask if I were sure it was okay if he left me and I practically screamed “No! Just leave me alone!”

And alone I was. I regretted it all in about five minutes. Nothing helped. I couldn’t relax nor breathe through the pain. I needed someone. Oh! I didn’t want to be alone anymore! I was in a mental agony, but still trying to convince myself this baby would turn, labor would settle down, and then I could gain control. I called my sister-in-law; she was just the right person to help. We talked for 8 glorious minutes as she coached me to vocalize properly through the contractions and relax. In a passing thought I said “I feel like I’m in transition” though I was only now giving into the fact that today was the day. She suggested I call Donna again to make sure she was on her way. The time was 3:15pm—I had been having contractions for about an hour and 20 minutes. I struggled to talk now and panted out: “I’d really feel better…if you were here…right now.” She was just headed out the door and would be another hour!

I vocalized through some more contractions until the huge sinking hit: my contractions were starting to spread out and I was feeling more pressure in my back and that same “I just needed to squat” sensation. ”Oh, God!” I prayed, “Please let someone get here! I don’t want to have this baby alone!” I had been in transition and I wasn’t ready for what was coming. I felt trapped, pacing around and around in the shower like a wild animal, trying to get comfortable yet too afraid to leave the slight comfort of the warm shower. Images of our dog in labor played in my mind—she would do just the same thing. I laughed at the fact that I was comparing myself to my childhood pet. There was nothing to be done now but to face the horror that was in front of me alone, humor was all I had.

I’d been in the shower for half an hour and it suddenly ran cold. I tried to get out and dry off, but a contraction hit me so hard that I fell to my knees and clung to the side of the tub as for dear life. There was no turning back—my body was starting to push at the peaks of the contractions—but I wasn’t ready! They were so severe that, try as I might to keep from it, all I could do was scream and growl like I didn’t know was possible. This was the kind of labor that I dreaded. I called Hubby and waited for him to pick up. In my head: “Please, please, please! Another one’s coming. (Oh, God! Please help me!) Hurry. Pick up the phone. Too late—” With the hello on the other end of the line came a full series of screams. It was as uncontrollable as the pushing itself, though I was amused with the humor in the situation. This was completely different from anything that either of us expected. After the contraction was over, I panted out that I needed him NOW! He was 10 minutes away and was going to call our friend (an EMT) to come just in case Donna didn’t make it. I felt slightly better knowing I wouldn’t be alone much longer and turned around so that I could cling to the towel I was on, alternating between the hands-and-knees position and open-knee chest.

I was deeply impressed with how Hubby helped me once he got there. I screamed and cried that there was nothing he could do, but he calmly bathed my neck and forehead with a cool clothe and told me how well I was doing. God bless him! I relaxed a little, and while he left to see if anyone had arrived yet, my water broke. The baby descended a little further as I realized fully that my every nightmare was coming true. I was glad that I could scream with all my might in the privacy of my own bathroom and that the neighbors were too deaf to hear!

Joe called Donna at 4:06pm to tell her my water broke. She was about 10 minutes away! Hurray! Perhaps she would make it, but there was no sign of our friend. With stronger contractions I wrapped my whole stomach in my arms and held on while my body pushed with all it had without my input. I was so exhausted, but I couldn’t fight the pushing. I struggled against the pain instead. I would just start to catch my breath and calm down when another contraction would, literally, slam me into the floor. All I could do was scream as if someone were ripping me apart. I was as low on the floor as I could get with my pregnant belly, clinging to the towel I was on and trying to spread my hips out as wide as I could. This position helped, but as I felt the baby descend lower and lower the pain increased until there was no respite between contractions at all. There was so much constant pressure that my screaming turned into a growl with pushing and then into huge sobs after it was over. I kept praying and the scripture I’d clung to for days would answer back: “my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth.” Honestly, in the midst of the most horrific pain I had ever experienced in my life, I could say this was just so—I had trusted God completely and He was helping me. I was home and would soon have an incredible blessing in my arms—it would be more than worth it all. My heart did rejoice.

Donna came at 4:16pm and our friend arrived about that time too. They quickly set up all the supplies and Donna came to my side, applied a firm hand on my sacrum, and reassured me. Most of the tension I’d held onto instantly melted away. Nothing let up, but I didn’t have to fight the pain alone anymore. As the baby moved down, the pressure on my tailbone increased to the point I thought it would break. I poured out all my sorrows in broken sobs between contractions and Donna was so wonderful a motherly comforter! If I could have moved at that point, I would have climbed up into her arms. I thanked God for her being there. The pain was still intensifying, but I was gaining some control. She handed me a rolled up towel and I bit into it, screaming with all my might. It felt so good to let it all go; if I had to scream, at least I could finally scream out the pain.

Then the babies’ head was beginning to crown. Again, I was flooded with not feeling ready for the task, but this was the last fight and the sooner I gave in, the quicker it would be over. In the midst of the agony I was deeply in awe. I could feel her moving forward and then sliding some back; with each fresh wave the burning increased and I struggled to let go so my body could stretch freely. Yet this pain was only a drop of the new level of pain that was mounting. Yes, it is true, it happens, and the only way to describe it is this: you feel like you are being ripped in half from the bottom up. My hips and tailbone were being stretched to their breaking point—I could feel every ligament. I grabbed my bottom and screamed harder yet. I didn’t know I had all that bound up inside me. Greater and greater was the pain still until suddenly out came her head and instantly there was relief. Donna told me not to push so I waited for my body to finish the work it had done completely without my effort. A contraction mounted as Donna gave the okay; I grabbed my stomach once more and felt all of her slide out of my body—AMAZING! Donna announced “It’s a girl!” and passed her between my legs. It was 4:44pm.

It was over in slightly under 3 hours. I was never so relieved in my life. Instantly, I smiled and chattered to my little girl as I held her for the first time. One soft little cry and then she was so quiet and alert. I leaned against the sink and marveled at the miracle as I watched her pink up and thought about all that was going on in her little body. All too soon the placenta came and it was time to get up. I handed her away so Hubby could greet his little daughter. I was surprised to only shake very slightly for a minute or two and immediately felt like I was able to stand. I sat in the warm tub a few moments with DD again and eventually made it to the bed to nurse away. It was so nice to curl up with a new baby at my breast and my husband by my side—completely at liberty the fall in love all over again.

No strangers. No routines. Just time standing still—allowed to stand still—as it should in every important moment of your life. Donna walked in with a smile and told me that I did a great job, that how easily I delivered her showed how well I’d taken care of myself during pregnancy. She told me later that not only was she OP but presented the crown of her head first as well…yeah, I guess that does make a difference…and her head had barely molded at all.

I lie awake staring at her all night while she lay in my arms—something I couldn’t do with J-bug and I had mourned so badly. Finally, God had brought to pass His promise to me: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” For all the horror of her birth, the recovery was incredible. I didn’t tear and I wasn’t swollen. By the time I made my third trip to the bathroom that night, I wasn’t sore at all anymore. I bled very little. Other than my tailbone aching if I sat too long and after-birth pains to match the birth, I felt wonderful! This little one has been the cheery, bright-eyed blessing that only God knew how badly we needed in our lives. “He gives beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, peace for despair.”

Thank you Amber, for letting us into your world and allowing us to learn from your experiences.


Anonymous said...

Thank you to Amber for sharing her story. I have done a lot of work on myself to heal from the trauma of my first birth 14years ago, I have had two very different but equally amazing,empowering births since then. My own personal experience... helps motivate my current studies and will surely shape the sort of midwife I become. No-one should feel as Amber, or I, or millions like us have when we are not surrounded with the right people while we birth.

Carolyn Hastie said...

So wonderful that you have used your experiences to fuel your passion to work with women as a midwife Jules. That drive is awesome. Speaking up about the need to have the right people around women at birth is so important; when women have those people who help them feel good about themselves, feel strong and powerful with them through birth, then women will emerge from birthing their babies feeling on top of the world. Watch the world change when that shift happens.