The birth of both of my boys were very different but they also had some similarities.
As most of you know, the birth with my first son, Luke (who is almost 4 now) was traumatic. Labour lasted from Friday until Sunday, I was induced a few times, Luke’s heart rate kept dropping, forceps were used & they gave me an episiotomy (had a third degree tear). It was opposite of what I thought a birth would be like. Then we ended up sleeping in a hospital room with 5 other families & we got zero sleep. I cried and cried and cried.
After his birth, my postpartum recovery was horrible. I couldn’t walk for weeks, my tailbone was in excruciating pain & I ended up with a prolapse at 5 months postpartum. Luke also struggled to breastfeed and to grow & he was colicky and sick all of the time & he never slept longer than 45- 90 minutes at a time. I felt like the biggest failure of all.
I ended up having postpartum depression & anxiety and I also feel like I had some PTSD from the experience (although never diagnosed). I never had thoughts about harming Luke, but instead I thought I was the worst mom, I panicked about Luke all the time & I was constantly crying.
As the months went by, I thought about having another child but the thought of giving birth & recovering again was overwhelming and terrifying all at the same time. I really didn’t want to have another traumatic birth, I didn’t want to end up with a prolapse & postpartum anxiety/depression again.
When Luke was almost 3 years old, my husband and I started talking seriously about having another baby. The conversation made me feel numb. However, I knew deep down that I wanted to have another baby, but I just didn’t know if I could handle it mentally.
I attended counselling sessions to try to work through my thought process and to work through the trauma I experienced. I still felt uncertain about what to do. One day my close friend said to me, “Are you going to let fear of the “what ifs” hold you back from living your life?” And I thought in my mind, “Fuck NO.”
I decided to write down a list of things I would need in order to prepare myself for a better birth & a better recovery. I did research & I messaged a lot of experts. Below is a list of things I decided that I needed in order to prepare mentally and physically for the complications that could arise during and after giving birth.
- I wanted my husband to take off a week of work, at least.
- I wanted to be able to ask for help from everyone (especially asking for food)
- I planned to talk openly the minute I felt depressed or sad, even if I didn’t want to.
- I wanted my mom to take time off work to stay with us for 2 weeks after my husband went back to work.
- I planned to see a pelvic floor physical therapist and prepare my body as best as possible for birth.
- I decided to formula feed if breastfeeding ended up horribly again (with my first son he never grew & I tried for 6 months to breastfeed and I pumped the whole time too, this was a huge reason I struggled with PPD/PPA).
- I planned to attend counselling sessions even if that meant chatting with my counsellor over the phone.
- And most of all, I wanted to sleep as much as possible, & that I was going to ask people to come over and hold my newborn or play with my toddler.
Having a plan in place made me feel more confident. My counsellor also gave me some great advice, she said “Even if you go through the exact same situation again, you can get through it because you did once, you can do it again, but this time you are more experienced.”
Fast forward to Odin’s birth & everything ended up ok even though it wasn’t all roses and butterflies. I had to be induced again, my epidural stopped working and his heart rate was dropping like Luke’s, but it was only 12 hours and we didn’t need intervention. The doctor who delivered Odin said my pelvic floor work really helped me deliver Odin successfully. She also said that rocking on all fours while in labour helped flip him into an optimal position.
My postpartum journey with Odin was emotional and physically better and it was all because I had a postpartum plan in place. Yes I ended up with a prolapse again and yes I didn’t heal properly down below so I had to have a perineal revision (today actually) and yes Odin struggled with breastfeeding at first because I had clogged ducts & thrush & my supply was low. But even though all of these things happened I still stayed healthy physically and mentally and it’s all because I had a plan in place.
If you’re reading this you probably had a similar traumatic birth that I had with Luke & you’re probably terrified to have another. I really hope that my words resonate with you. If you decide to have another baby, or even if you don’t, just know that you are doing and have done the best that you can & that I am here to support you if you need someone to talk to.