As a doula, when I hear the phrase 'all that matters is that you and the baby are healthy' it makes me cringe. OF COURSE a healthy mom and baby are the ultimate goal, but your birth matters. Your feelings, and your voice and your goals matter. So when these things go wrong, or don't happen, or when you lose that voice and that control, it can take time to process and recover. And that's ok. Tricia had a traumatic birth with her first daughter and now that she's pregnant with her second, these feelings are flooding back. Today she's sharing her birth story and I know that so many of you will be able to relate.
My hope for a drug free birth started to vanish when, at my last OB appointment, my doctor wanted to schedule my induction because my daughter just did not want to join us in the outside world. When he checked to see if I was dilated, his exacts words were “I’ll give you a half a centimeter.”
I bawled all the way to the scheduling desk to schedule to be induced that next week. I had heard scary things about pitocin – how hard the contractions were to manage without pain medication and how quickly it could make labor happen.
We checked in at the hospital at midnight and by early morning, my contractions were almost unbearable. The hospital was supposed to have a birth ball for me to bounce on – it didn’t. I was supposed to be moved to a labor and delivery room – I wasn’t until almost ten hours of laboring in a shared room with another pregnant mama trying to not go into labor. I felt chained to my bed with a fetal monitor strapped around my massive belly, causing its own pain.
I wasn’t ready to relinquish my entire plan just yet so I asked for something to take the edge off of my contractions once I was settled in a L&D room. Instead of making the contractions manageable, it made me high as a kite. My husband still chuckles at the memory of me talking about the Muppets, the Berenstain Bears, and dancing through meadows. It didn’t help the pain and it made me feel loopy and completely out of control.
I felt helpless because I was exhausted and in so much pain from the intense pitocin induced contractions so, with a voice laced with defeat, I asked for an epidural. It was a teaching hospital so when the anesthesiologist came to give me an epi, he brought several students with him. I remember, hunching over, gritting my teeth through a few contractions, thinking, “Tricia, don’t say a word, you sound ridiculous right now.”
Hours later, when it was time to start pushing, I couldn’t feel anything. My epidural had left me without any sensation – and maybe that’s normal – but the nurses had to tell me when I was having a contraction so I could push with it.
I ended up delivering a beautiful, pink, healthy baby girl. I should have been elated and wrapped up in the beautiful moment that my husband and I were parents to this precious little bundle.
Instead, I was emotionally a wreck. I had envisioned her birth experience so completely differently and when I voiced those concerns in the weeks to come, I was shushed and reassured that the only thing that mattered was that she was here and in my arms.
That didn’t help the immense regret that I felt over a birth experience that was anything but wonderful. It was only magnified when I realized that my body, which was supposed to have been designed to easily nourish my sweet baby girl, wasn’t doing its job. She was born tongue tied and after she had that corrected, the lactation consultant I saw assured me that breastfeeding would be a breeze.
It wasn’t. It was so incredibly hard.
I can only remember a handful of pleasant nursing sessions with her but what I remember more of is her frustration with not being able to latch comfortably and seemingly to not get enough milk even though she was gaining weight just fine. I rented a pump from the LC affectionately nicknamed “the elephant pump.” It weighed at least ten pounds and so I lugged it to work every single day, pumping in a bathroom that was not private, praying each time that it would do
magical things so I could continue breastfeeding. I took supplements that made me smell like maple syrup. I was this close to ordering illegal things on the internet that promised to double or triple my supply.
I was a mess.
One evening, after a particularly difficult day, I rocked my daughter in her pink and green nursery when a dear friend stopped over with two gifts – a can of formula for my baby and a gallon of ice cream for me. She spoke the truth in love to me that night – that even though I had hoped to breastfeed and pump for many months to come, that neither of us were happy and that formula did not actually equal defeat. The most important thing was that she was well fed and thriving.
So, I gave my precious girl her first bottle of formula and she loved it. My meager supply dried up in a day. With tears in my eyes, I returned “the elephant pump” and threw out the fenugreek.
Now, seven years later, we are pregnant with our second and as we prepare for his or her birth in October, I am reliving this pain and regret again.
In the years since my daughter’s birth, I have realized that I set these hopes up on pedestals and let them define me in a way that I shouldn’t have. In all honesty, we probably should have been better educated at the hospital on what choices we had throughout my labor and I wish someone had said to us, gently, “these plans are wonderful but you never know what will happen.”
We are much more determined this time - we start a Bradley method class soon and we’re already talking about how much more vocal in advocating for what we want when it comes time to deliver this baby. I have hope that my body will work better this time in terms of breastfeeding but also understand that it might not.
To the mama reading this who had a birth or a breastfeeding experience that was the complete opposite of what she had envisioned – I completely understand how you feel and I grieve with you. Please know, though, that it doesn’t define you or the kind of mom you are or will be. You are the perfect mama to that beautiful baby or toddler (or teenager!). Peace and love to you.
Tricia Marchand is a former blogger and traded her piece of the internet webs for an Instagram account @thismessymasterpiece
Her IG bio reads “lover of art, books, God’s grace, interior design, travel & vintage.” All true
things - and when she can drink caffeine again, her survival method is coffee. She desperately misses coffee. She and her husband reside in the Chicagoland area with their seven year old daughter and their second is due in October.