Forty-nine hours, seven pounds and one ounce, 18 and 3/4 inches long
At 12:19 p.m. on Feb. 14 of 2022, my daughter entered this world. Yes, you read that right, we labored for 49 hours because apparently, Sawyer wanted to be born on Valentine’s Day. However, I suppose she is the best Valentine I could have ever asked for.
As a first-time mother, I was terrified and ecstatic to go into labor. I selected the Yoder Birthing Center to deliver my baby at, and could not have been more content with my decision to labor completely naturally. This means no epidural, no pain killers, absolutely no medicine. We were in the comfort of a beautiful birthing suite, with a jacuzzi jet tub, amazing nurses and midwives, and my mother and two younger sisters there to support me through the task at hand.
I thought I was ready, but no amount of encouragement prepared me for how excruciating childbirth was going to be. This resulted in significant birth trauma, which is something I have discovered is not nearly talked about enough.
Birth trauma does not mean mothers regret their birthing experience, it merely means that the mother’s experience was genuinely traumatic, resulting in physical and/or psychological distress. In my experience, I went into early labor at 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 12 after self-inducing (with physician approval) with castor oil the night before. I was told to take a dose of the oil with warm juice, and a scoop of peanut butter afterward. This was easily the most disgusting thing I have ever consumed and I still cringe after thinking about that night.
The castor oil is meant to, well, make the mother crap. A lot. It is the ultimate colon detox, however, and being on the toilet encourages the uterus to start contracting, This is the same reason people say to eat spicy foods to kickstart labor. It’s not because the fetus won’t like the spice, but rather, it’s because spicy foods often give people diarrhea. So, once the castor oil was in effect, my appointment was set for 9:30 a.m. to have a foley balloon inserted in to help make my cervix dilate. This step, however, did not work for me, so I went home to labor after having a membrane sweep.
My mother and I returned the next morning at 11 a.m., after a restless night of contractions, only to find that I was barely two centimeters dilated. This was super discouraging for me, as I had already been contracting for 12 hours, so again, I went home.
After 12 more hours, I caved and called my mom and said we needed to go back. My contractions were frequent and long, so we packed up again and left. I was in a lot of pain – labor is called labor for a reason -, and I remember bawling during my cervical exam, hoping and praying that I was getting close to the end.
When my midwife told me I was now at five centimeters, I remember exclaiming “Thank f—ing God!”, and they admitted me to my birthing suite.
Now the real work began. My contractions became so intense I couldn’t walk, talk, or focus on anything. I tried a birthing ball, a birthing peanut, the tub, squats, walking (as much as I could), and a variety of positions on the bed to try and progress even more. The water was nice at first but eventually got cold to a point where I could not warm back up because my body was so focused on the pain, and the peanut put me in a spread-out position and gave me a contraction so hard I screamed, kicked the darn thing away from me, and started to throw up. After this, I felt hopeless, I felt like my baby would never come.
I continued with my labor until 11:59 a.m. on Feb. 14, when I stood up from a squat and finally felt that “gotta poop” feeling. This means it’s time to push.
I had my mom by my side, my nurses guiding me through it, and my sisters staying out of the way but watching and supporting me. I was too exhausted and focused to even think twice about my mom leaving my side and trading with my sister, she started to have a panic attack after watching me be in pain for so long. After pushing for 20 minutes, my face went ghost white, my eyes rolled back, my head fell, and my baby was finally born. My mom thought I was going to pass out, but once that baby was placed on my stomach, I snapped back into it and was immediately relieved and in awe of what I had worked so hard for.
Due to such strenuous labor, my uterus had gotten inflamed, which caused an incredible amount of bleeding after my delivery. They quickly gave me a shot of Pitocin to stop the bleeding and began massaging my uterus to prevent hemorrhaging.
At this point I had forgotten about the pain I had just experienced. I forgot about my pleas and screams for it to be over, I forgot about my desire to be taken to the hospital just in hopes they would just cut her out of me. She was there, at last, and my heart was full.
We went home six hours postpartum to rest and recover and get to know my darling daughter. The pain, however, did not stop. I experienced more intense contractions, which is normal, as the uterus shrinks down to its normal size, as well as after birth “shakes”. These were some of the worst things for me, it made me super cold, exhausted, and I felt the pains of my labor all over again. I had nightmares about it, and this is when I realized that I was suffering from birth trauma. Flashes of the labor rushed through my head at random times and fear consumed my body. It is still hard for me to revisit and my daughter is over a month old now.
Childbirth, especially all-natural childbirth, is no joke. I entered my childbirth with different fears from the new concept of being a single mother, which was hard on me mentally. The father of my child backed out of our engagement and fatherhood when I was about three months pregnant. Thankfully, I have a village, and they are wonderful at supporting me through this journey. I implore any mother, no matter what background she comes from, to make a support system one of her biggest priorities during pregnancy, as this is not something any mother should go through alone. You will feel fear, excitement, joy, pain, hopelessness, fatigue, and an overwhelming amount of love for your baby, and having those you love around you, is the best tool you can bring into your labor.
I do not know what I would have done without my mother and sisters catching me when I collapsed, holding my hands when it hurt, getting me anything I might need, and most importantly, reminding me that I could do it. Birth trauma is hard, but the bundle of joy you get out of the process is so worth it. It can be remedied and assisted with therapy, taking a little time to yourself after having your baby, remaining social, getting as much rest as you can, and of course, allowing your village to be your village.
It is crucial not to let your birth trauma fester into postpartum depression. To combat this, you can practice self-care and spend quality bonding time with your newborn. It is OK to give yourself some time alone. If you feel you cannot connect or bond with your baby, or feel continued hopelessness, seek medical attention immediately to get you and your baby on track to that amazing connection.
My daughter is now going on a month-and-a-half old, and she is the light of my life. Sawyer has huge blue eyes and a smile that makes everyone else smile. Boy, they do grow up fast, so to all new moms, take advantage of the time you have with them while they are little because it flies right by.
I return to work this week, which I am looking forward to but I am also dreading being away from my baby. This is one of the hardest parts of being a new mom, but life goes on and the best part of our day becomes going home to our little ones. Speaking of which, she is waking up now and is probably ready for a bottle.
I wish the best of luck to all expectant and new moms reading this as you are about to start one of the most cherishable chapters of your life.
Brooke Greene is a Hutchinson alumna now studying police science. She is the Collegian’s Editor In Chief and is a first-time mother.