This post is part of an editorial series, Birth Stories, is brought to you by UnityPoint Health and Des Moines Mom. All 5 original articles from the Birth Stories series can be found here.
I thought writing a birth story would be easy, but I realized as I started writing about my second child’s birth that I’ve never written this story out. Never shared it. When I think about it, my heart starts racing. I get a knot in my stomach, and my mind almost goes blank as a defense mechanism.
I didn’t need surgery, my baby didn’t end up in the NICU, and I healed quickly, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t experience my own trauma. Maybe telling my story will help others understand you can have trauma surrounding any kind of birth, and it’s ok to talk about it.
My son was born at 36 weeks after I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. He was conceived using IVF, and I never felt great the entire pregnancy. Once I was in my third trimester, my feet, hands, and face were constantly swollen. I just kept telling myself it was all normal for pregnancy.
One Sunday, at 35 weeks, I could hardly get out of bed. My chest was tight, I was extremely swollen, and just didn’t feel well. I got up in the morning and told my husband shortly after that I needed to go lay down. Laying in bed, I couldn’t rest. I knew something was wrong. I got up and told my husband to take my blood pressure. My husband is an OB/GYN, so when he saw my high blood pressure, he calmly said, “we need to go to the hospital.”
At the hospital, I was diagnosed with preeclampsia, given steroids to help the baby’s lungs, and sent home with the plan to induce at 37 weeks. I never made it to 37 weeks. Monday, I went back to the hospital with tight chest, spotty vision, swelling, and nausea. Once there, I got my second steroid shot, my blood pressure settled for awhile, and I went back home.
Tuesday, around 4am, I woke up with so much back and chest pain, and I told my husband it was too much to handle at home. We left for the hospital knowing we would most likely be staying to deliver our baby. Once I got into a room, my blood pressure shot up, and they started me on magnesium. I dare say the magnesium was the worst part of the experience. It instantly felt like I had a bad flu. I was so dizzy I couldn’t sit up. I barely talked to anyone. I was a zombie.
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My induction started Tuesday around 9am. As the day moved into night, I wasn’t progressing. After a few more medical interventions, I started dilating by Wednesday morning. I got an epidural at some point that morning as well. Honestly, it’s all a blur. I remember struggling to sit up for the epidural. At that point, my husband said he barely saw my eyes and I didn’t talk to anyone. I was in pain, felt like I had the flu, was tired, and the epidural wasn’t working. They came and tried to adjust the epidural and offered to redo it. At that point, I didn’t want to be messed with anymore.
Once I was ready to push, I was so determined to be done that our son was born in under 30 minutes. I could barely speak, but I said enough to request pulling him out myself. I did, and I laid him on my chest. Then quickly asked a nurse to take him as I felt too dizzy to hold him.
I felt so incredibly sad in that moment. After experiencing infertility, the moment of holding my newborn did not live up to my dreams because I didn’t feel safe holding him. It honestly felt like another piece stolen from me after everything we went through to get to our sweet baby.
I continued on magnesium for 24 hours, so I refused to let anyone visit. I was too tired, sick, and dizzy. But once I was off of the magnesium, I quickly felt human again and holding my baby was one of the greatest moments of my life.
After IVF, a rough pregnancy, and preeclampsia, I was almost positive I never wanted to go through it all again. We were surprised with our third baby and after a relatively easy pregnancy, labor, and delivery, I learned that it can be such a beautiful, enjoyable experience. I’m grateful I got to see that side.
But my first experience was scary and nothing as I imagined. The best, and possibly most important thing I learned, though, was just how strong I am, physically and mentally. It was just the first time I got to show my son just how much I would do for him. And I’d do it all again to bring him into this world.