My birth story has always been something I’ve felt inclined to share with other moms. Not because I’m the only one who has been through something like this, or that my story is in any way special. I’m not writing to prove how brave I am, nor am I sharing it to put fear in the hearts and minds of expectant mothers. I’ve wanted to share my story and give a detailed account of the journey I went through with the desire that it would give those faced with similar situations a strong sense of hope. It is not only a story of physical healing but emotional healing too. I’m writing this from a place of being completely restored. A place of gratitude to those who helped me on the path to recovery. And I’m writing to remind us all that we are brave. Strong. Resilient. Unbreakable. WE are built to endure all kinds of hardship and pain. This story takes place over a 9 month period from March 2010-December 2010. This is part one of my story.
Like most women I anticipated a straightforward delivery followed by a little discomfort for a week or two. I didn’t live in la-la land thinking pain and discomfort wouldn’t play a part in it. After all, the comedian Carol Burnett’s’ words resounded in my ears all too clearly, Giving birth is like taking your lower lip and forcing it over your head. I knew it wasn’t going to be a leisurely walk in the park. But I was ready. I mean how bad could it be?
I was full term when my doctor decided it was best that I be induced to bring on labor. The reason was he felt there was too little amniotic fluid and my baby wasn’t going to benefit being in there any longer. I was never hung up with having a specific birth plan. It was simple. I would try for natural but if for any reason a c-section were on the cards I would accept the hand I was dealt and move on. So, being induced was no issue for me. I was also so eager to see my little guys face. Anything to speed up the process seemed like a good idea to me.
I was admitted to hospital at midnight and was induced at 1am. The contractions started immediately. Very light at first but they were there all right. We were one of those lucky couples who scored a double private room which are only available on a first come first serve basis. The angels must have reserved that room for me. So after being induced we returned to our room to sleep. My hubby managed to pass out the minute his head hit the pillow. My discomfort didn’t allow for such a luxury. Every hour the contractions became more intense. At 5am they inserted more gel and by 6am my contractions were full on. Bouncing around ridiculously on a big red Pilates ball and listening to my husbands rude jokes took the edge off but I knew it was going to get worse. At that point I though it would be a good idea to give the anesthetist some warning. You know, there’s a woman in ward 12 who may need some drugs in the next hour or so. No biggie, just a thought. I had heard too many stories of women missing their window of opportunity here. Id be dammed if it happened to me. When my doctor came in at 7am to check on me and saw me coping he left with these words You don’t look like a woman in pain to me. I’ll come back with the anesthetist when I start hearing some screaming. What a wanker I thought.
My husband, although very understanding must have sided with him because during another particularly painful contraction he came to me with our hospital food menu and asked what I would like for lunch. That’s when I knew I had to get serious. Serious and honest about the level of pain I was in. If I ever wanted that lovely big needle in my spine I was going to have to stop being a hero and start screaming. So I did.
I screamed for 3 hours before the anesthetist arrived. A vision. People speak of a love at first sight. I always thought I had experienced that to it’s fullest with my husband. I was wrong. THIS man had me at hello. The guy was no oil painting. In fact I can barely remember what he looked liked. A bit of a hippy if I remember correctly. But man, he was the raddest hippy I had ever seen, sent straight from hospital heaven. I don’t remember but apparently I promised him all kinds of gifts when the relief kicked in. I felt I owed him my life. Like I said. He had me at hello.
By the time I had an epidural I was almost 7 cm dilated. I always think of the scene in Friends when the nurse tells Rachel that she is only 3 centimeters dilated and Ross screams 3 centimeters? I’m dilated 3! I think the same could be said for Brendon. He was so involved. Like really deeply involved. I was sure he thought he was giving birth too. Special. So 7cm, pretty darn good I thought. For the next 5 hours we listened to music, watched the cricket (a ridiculous 5 day match) and placed bets on who would deliver their baby first. Me, or the screamer next door who refused an epidural for almost 20 hours. There was something so indescribably gorgeous about knowing what she was going through in the next-door room, while I lay there completely pain free. I was a little smug yes.
I had dilated a full 10cm when my son was born via forceps delivery, with only two big pushes at 16h55. Now anyone who knows even a little about birth would notice 3 strange things about the previous sentence. The first one is than even though I was FULLY dilated, forceps were used. And yes I get it, some situations call for that, but the second strange thing is that I only had to push TWICE. I get having to intersect and assist a baby that is struggling to come out on his own, but two pushes is a far cry from a struggle. The last strange thing and the one that probably, in my mind explains the rest is the time of birth. I’ve heard and read many stories about this phenomenon. There is even a birth DVD where they go into detail about the increase of babies born at this time. They, with a lot of research and evidence show how modern doctors and hospitals are conveniently avoiding any after hour deliveries; either rushing the end result or opting for a c-section by the time the clock strikes 4pm. Why? Because doctors want to go home at 5pm. It’s that simple. I will never be 100 percent sure but I will always wonder if that’s what had me rushed to theatre where doctors worked for two hours to stitch me up. And I will never forget the conversation I overheard my doctor having with his 3 year old over the phone. He was telling her he was sorry he had to break his promise but he wouldn’t be home by 7 to read her a bedtime story. I can remember feeling so bad that I was keeping him here when he should have been with his own child at home. That was then of course.
The next 3 days spent in hospital were hard. All the morphine, the exhaustion and the pain after the meds wore off had me questioning my sanity. When my in laws came to meet Noah I fell asleep mid sentence with everyone in the room. I had my first it wasn’t supposed to be like this moment. I couldn’t even change my son’s first nappy. My husband still reminds me to day that he did the honors. He uses it as ammo when he doesn’t feel like changing a particularly fowl nappy. He will never let me forget it. But the thought of going home with my gorgeous new born baby boy and knowing I would be fine in a couple of days, had me elated. I just wanted to get to know this little person who had hibernated in my womb for the last 9 months. Taking him home to the room I spent the entire 9 months preparing for him was still the happiest day of my life.
PART TWO (Boys please note the word Vijayjay may be used in this next section. Oh sorry too late)
A week later I was still in a lot of pain so I called the labor ward for some advice and the nurse told me it didn’t sound normal to still be in such pain so I made an appointment with my OB/gynecologist. At that appointment I was told all looked fine and to just wait it out. OK I thought. This doc who I trust says I’m fine. Home I go.
I went back two weeks later and was still in pain. I felt cut and bruised. I knew it wasn’t right. Again I was told to wait, that muscles have a memory and that it might take a few more weeks before I felt normal again. In hindsight I think it was as early as this that the resentment began. I was being robbed of these special early days of giving my son 100%. This moment I had dreamed about for 9 months, was being tainted by an unbearable pain. I would spend hours crying, questioning, pleading with God. Precious hours that should have been spent studying my child’s face just that little moment longer, holding him for 5 minutes more before putting him down and soaking in the moments, allowing them to linger. I felt I was failing at the one thing I was sure I would do so well.
Another whole month went by with one or two doctor’s visits in between. But nothing changed. I started spending hours on the Internet. If this Doctor couldn’t give me answers I was looking for, I would start finding them myself. The things I read about were amazing: there were so many stories of woman who had gone through the same or very similar things. For the first time I felt like I wasn’t alone. I felt hopeful. I was taking myprodol every 3 hours for pain even though I was breastfeeding. I could not function otherwise. And even then the pills barely took the edge off. I went back to the hospital demanding my doctor take another hard look. I told him about all the stories I had researched and gave him a long list of all the possibilities. And then he found it. A small area of scar tissue the size of my thumb nail. That was all it was causing this horrid pain. What do we do I asked him. We cut it out he casually replied. Lovely I thought.
I went in for surgery exactly 10 weeks after Noah was born. I needed to get on with my life now. Get on with being the best mommy in the world. Lets do this. I had to feed Noah just before they knocked me out and expressed a bottle for during the surgery. God willing I would be awake in 4 hours for the next feed. As the meds started to take effect I can vaguely remember my mom telling me not to worry. If worst came to worst she would take Noah to Jill, my friend who had just given birth 3 weeks before. I still don’t know if she was joking or not.
I came out of surgery to the sound of my babies cry. He was crying for me and my heart was crying for him. I fed him and held him so close to me in that hospital bed. I think I needed him more in that moment than he ever needed me. It felt as though I had just given birth all over again except this time I was going home with a 10-week-old baby. We all laughed at how he had outgrown the small baby bed on wheels in the hospital in just 2 days. We left the next day.
After Two weeks I began to feel a completely different kind of pain. I still felt cut but I also felt numb, like I had lost sensation in certain areas. I called to ask if this was normal to which he made some joke and said that I should come in. After yet another examination, he said he couldn’t see anything and there was not much more he could do. But why am I numb I asked? He didn’t have any answers for me. So again I went home to find some myself. I researched for weeks, months and read countless stories of woman who had endured all kinds of things post delivery. I joined online forums and chats and kept up to date with how these women were doing. I even researched doctors in the States who were more equipped to deal with my situation. But still I had no idea what was causing such pain. I went to two other doctors at different hospitals and even underwent an MRI scan in the hope that they would pick up something. NOTHING.
An entire month passed and I went back to his rooms for what was now my 13th visit. Take another look Doc or refer to someone who will. He examined me and again said I looked ship shape and shiny. So I asked him to refer me for another opinion. He was happy to do so. Maybe someone else could take this hypochondriac off his hands. Maybe another doctor could tell this chick she was crazy. He often gave me a look like I was mad. The Doctor he referred me to was a female gynea in the same hospital whose rooms and equipment resembled a torture chamber. Ok ill be honest, her strong German accent and masculine mannerisms didn’t help matters. But I heard she was one of the best and her equipment seemed very::um::. advanced, so I was game.
I didn’t even get as far as the torture chamber on my first visit there. We just spoke in her office and I told her what I was experiencing. What I had already endured. She knew exactly what the problem was without me taking so much as my jeans off. In a nutshell my nerves had been damaged in the post birth op. Something that is highly unlikely but possible. That combined with the fact that the scarring had only gotten worse after surgery, were all the reason for my pain. From that day on I started having weekly steroid injections (yes in my vajayjay) to break down the scar tissue and release nerves. I can’t tell you how painful those visits were. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry at the beginning of every session. By the end of every one, I was a mess. I stopped wearing mascara on Thursdays.
Things were not improving and I began to see more surgery as the only answer. Both my OB and the Female doctor treating me thought it was what needed to be done. I was all set for surgery on a Tuesday afternoon when I received a call from a doctor who had heard my story through a family friend. He had arrived back from India that day and pleaded with me not to go ahead with the operation scheduled for 8am the next day. He told me it was surgery that got me in to this mess and he would like to see me before I have any more. Was it just coincidence that he had arrived back the day before my surgery or was it God looking out for me? Stopping me from making a terrible mistake? I went to see him where for the first time I felt understood. He sympathized with me and he didn’t even know me. He was gentle and always apologetic for the pain I endured. He carried on with injections and told me to go and see a pain specialist in the CBD. The pain specialist was a very insightful doctor and for the first time explained to me properly what was going on with my nerve endings and what it meant going forward. He put me on Lyryca, which is a med used specifically to treat nerve pain and all diseases associated with nerves. It’s a serious drug! I felt relief for the first time in 7 months. My new doctor also referred me to a physio, suggesting she could help us figure out what the problem was. Unlike all my previous doctors, he was determined to exhaust every possible option, before resorting to surgery.
In the mist of all of this my son was doing really well, despite all the meds I was on. It was good knowing he was thriving but I still felt I wasn’t giving him all I should have been. I was often too sore to walk around with him or sit on the carpet in certain positions to play with him. In those times I would cry. Not from the pain, but from the frustration and sadness of not being able to be the mom I wanted to be. I kept praying and believing and trusting for a miracle. I would set myself benchmarks. By the time he sits up on his own, I will be better. By the time he says mommy:: God please. Let me be better by the time he says mommy.
I started physio with a lovely lady who quite conveniently lived down the road from me. It were these small details that reminded me God was looking out for me and forever present in my ordeal. I started twice a week and we began with pelvic floor exercises. On about the fourth visit we got to know exactly where the pain was coming from and where it was being deferred. She had an idea. She had seen many instances where laser treatment had helped treat scaring on some of her male patients after sporting injuries etc:. Her thought was that, if it can help externally, surely it could help internally too. And there began my 18 sessions of laser treatment where we watched in amazement as the scar got smaller and smaller! I was getting better! I cried tears of joy every time we noticed some change. She was my angel.
I’m still not 100% to this day. But I haven’t needed pain meds for over a year. I still have faith that all will go back to normal in time. I’m eternally grateful to my family and friends who supported me through it all. My mom and I became even closer because of it and her love and support will never be forgotten. In the midst of all the pain and frustration she would often remind me how my story would be used to help other moms one day. That what I was going through was going to make me stronger, more resilient and more sympathetic to women faced with similar hardship. So it’s actually because of her that I’m writing this story. I’m more certain than ever before that I married the right man. The most incredible human on the planet. Not only was money never an issue when it came to getting me better, but his capacity for me and all I went through was astounding. Never once did his love and unwavering support become a burden. He often cried with me and for me, and always carried me through my darkest hours. I’m not sure he will ever know how much I love him for these things. But I would go through it all again, just to experience the unconditional love he showed me.
So for someone who expected a straightforward birth I sure had no idea what was coming. In a nut shell: Over 30 doctors visits, 5 doctors, 4 hospitals, 1 surgery, 12 injections, 1 MRI scan, 252 myprodols, 150 Lyrica tablets and over 20 physio therapy sessions. In hindsight, I think I would have preferred pulling my bottom lip over my head.