Birth trauma. When my midwife suggested at my 6 week check up that I go see a therapist that specializes in birth trauma, I thought to myself….why? I didn’t have “birth trauma”. I loved my labor and delivery! I loved my nurse and I absolutely loved my midwife. The only bad memory I have is not getting the gas faster 😉 But other than that I had a great birth experience. But after my birth is when the trauma started.
Travis and I were sitting on the bed trying to decide what to name this beautiful, huge eskimo baby. The doctor guessed Chirpie to be around 8 pounds at my 34 week ultrasound when she would be born. HA!! This cute chunker was 10 pounds 14 ounces. She wasn’t what I imagined her to be, and she did not fit my favorite names of Irene, Penelope or Everly. So, we decided to wait a while and just look at her and try and decide what we should name her. About 4 hours after she was born, she was sitting on my legs and I was watching her breathe and I noticed she was really retracting. When she was born around her mouth was bluish, but my midwife just said that is from being born and trying to switch to regular room air. I told Travis that he needed to go and get the nurse because it didn’t seem like she was breathing right. He went and got the nurse and she brought in the oxygen monitor and hooked it up and went back out of the room. When she went out I looked at the monitor and it was going between 80 and 84. By this time she should have been at 94 at least. I knew something was wrong and when the nurse came back in, she looked at the monitor and in a “I am going to pretend like everything is fine but it really isn’t tone”, she said okay, I am going to get oxygen and you will be going across the street to Children’s.
Okay. So at this point I am thinking I will be admitted over to the hospital and we will be in a post partum room together and they will just check up on her. This will be fine!
Ha. No. When the nurse brought the oxygen tank in and called for the ambulance, she walked me through what was going to happen. I needed to get dressed and we were going to go over by ambulance and she was going to be admitted to the NICU. Unfortunately since I gave birth at the birth center and I was “fine”, I would be discharged from the birth center and just go over with Evelyn and stay in her room over there. Okay, this is okay. I will have a bathroom in there and I will have a bed to sleep on, this will still be okay!
So I get up and attempt to get dressed (after have given birth to a almost 11 pound baby and having 10 stitches, that was not very fun…) we get ready to go over to the NICU. My mom, Sisi and Scarlett were already on their way up to the birth center, and Travis met them in the back. At this point we didn’t know what was going on and why she was having such low oxygen levels, so it was really scary. He told them that we were being transported by ambulance because her oxygen levels were to low.
Once the ambulance got there they brought in a new oxygen tank and a little mask for me to hold onto her. We went out the back and made our way to the ambulance while I am holding my newborn baby. I cried a little bit when I saw the oxygen levels and when they said we were going to be transferred, but as soon as we walked out the back door my mama bear mode kicked in. It was no longer about me. It didn’t matter that I had just given birth, it didn’t matter that I was in a ton of pain and that my feet and ankles were the size of watermelons. What mattered was my newborn baby and I needed to be strong for her.
So we made our way down the ally filled with snow and ice to the ambulance. We drove across the street and went into the hospital to be met by nurses and a incubator type thing for Evelyn. My mom Sisi and Scarlett came into the room and Scarlett got to meet her little sister for the first time in a big room with nurses and lights and medical equipment all around. Not exactly how I pictured the meeting happening, but none of this is what I had wanted or expected.
Since everyone was looking at Scarlett she decided to do THE fakest cough I have ever heard. But since she coughed she wasn’t allowed to come up to the NICU with us, she had to wait down the hallway while we got settled and I could come and say goodbye.
So we put Evelyn in the incubator to be wheeled up upstairs and they got me a wheel chair. We all went up together until we had to leave Scarlett with my mom and sister in the hallway. That was one of the hardest parts…I had to choose between staying with my crying almost 2 year old, or going with my newborn baby. I gave Scarlett a hug and I told her I would be right back, and they started wheeling me to Evelyns’ room. I could hear her start crying yelling “mama!! mama!!!!” and I just sat there and cried until we made it to our room.
Once we got into our room nurses came in and started getting Evelyn hooked up to a oxygen monitor, putting her oxygen mask on with little stickers on her face, monitors on her chest and belly and checking her vital signs. The doctor came in and explained to us what was going to happen. She would be getting a chest xray to rule out anything there, she was going to need to get a IV and get antibiotics since I was group b strep positive, and they would be giving her fluids and medicine to help with her blood sugar levels. As soon as they said she would need a IV I knew I couldn’t be in there or I would completely loose it. So I told Travis I was going to go find my mom and Scarlett and get something to eat and I would be back.
So we all walked the super long walk to Panera in the hospital and got some supper. By this time it was after 10 pm and I was absolutely exhausted. I got a salad and we made our way back to the room. Since we had no idea this was going to happen and we were expecting to just go home, we had nothing with us. No tooth brush toiletries pads ice packs, no pajamas or clean clothes or our pillows or blankets. The “bed” in the NICU was a super uncomfortable couch (if you can call it that….) that folded out to be a little bit bigger than a twin bed. They also had a chair that you could sleep on that was like sleeping on a rock covered in plastic that made you sweaty.
Oh, and the only bathroom they had was out and down the hall, and was a public restroom for anyone to use. If you have ever have ever given birth, you know that first night is rough. Lots of pads and disposable underwear and ice packs are needed, especially if you tear. Using a public restroom was the last thing I wanted to do, but once again, I was in complete mama bear mode. My feelings didn’t matter, I ignored the pain and tried to only focus on Evelyn, who was still Chirpie at this point.
My mom and Sisi went home, and we tried to get settled. Travis got the bed ready and I just sat and looked at Evelyn. My midwife came over around midnight to give me some fresh baked bread and some toiletries for us. Seeing her was such a comfort and it helped so much. I walked out with her and she gave me a big hug and reminded me that I need to take care of myself, too.
Once she left I went back in to try and sleep, but I could barely sit down on the bed much less try and lay down. So I ended up just sitting in the chair, dozing off sometimes but spending most of my night staring at Evelyn. It was hard to not just sit there and wallow in my self pity, and think about how this is not what I wished for or had wanted for my post partum time. But Evelyn didn’t ask for this either! She didn’t want a IV in her hand or to be poked before every feeding in her heel to check her blood sugars. She should have been on my chest and doing skin to skin and cuddling with her mama. But I felt like I shouldn’t even hold her because of her IV, her oxygen, all of the cords hooked up on her chest and belly. Breastfeeding her was hard because I was so scared to pull out her IV and have to have it redone.
But Evelyn is beyond amazing. She barely fussed, she only cried when she was hungry. She was a fantastic nurser and had a great latch from the beginning. By the next morning she was already having poops that were showing she was getting breastmilk. It was so amazing! She is such a little fighter and is so good in so many ways.
The next day my mom Sisi and the girls came to see us. I was absolutely starving so my sister stayed up with Evelyn so I could go down and meet my mom and my nieces to eat something. As I was walking through to the cafeteria looking like I was just hit by a bus, I hear “TORI!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and I look up to see Rosie and Thea running towards me, Thea screaming she is so excited. They both gave me a huge hug and were so excited to see me. If that doesn’t make you feel on top of the world, I am not sure what does! It was so cute and so fun to see them.
That afternoon we applied to stay at the Ronald Mcdonald house. I never really understood what it was or what they did, but all I can say is wow. It is absolutely amazing. It was just down the hallway a little ways from the NICU, but it felt like I was worlds away for my mind. They had a huge pantry filled with different food and canned goods that were donated by other families that was available at any time. They had a huge beautiful kitchen with 2 big fridges that had food in them, a lot of milk and apples that were donated from Mcdonalds. Every night was a huge meal that was made by different companies that came to donate their time. There was couches and a big play area with toys for Scarlett to play at. There were 9 rooms that each had a queen size bed with a big shower and bathroom in it. It was so amazing. The second night went so much better because there was a room available and we were able to go stay in it.
Travis was exhausted and we felt like Scarlett would do better if Travis went home and spent time with her, so my mom came up to stay with me at the Ronald Mcdonald house. She stayed with Evelyn so I could go back our room and take a nice hot shower and brush my teeth and comb my hair. It was amazing! I felt so much better once I did that and knew I had a place to go use a private bathroom. The second night went so much better than the first night!
The third day we were there we met with the doctor and made a plan to go home (yay!!!!). All of Evelyn’s blood tests were coming back normal, her blood sugars were where they needed to be, she was clearly getting milk and having enough wet and poopy diapers. We were beyond ready to go home and start our life as a family of 4. And I was so excited to be able to go and give Scarlett a nice big HUG!!! I missed her so much!
We got home and got settled in and it felt so good to be in our own house, be able to sleep in my own bed. I found myself constantly saying to Evelyn if she was crying or anything was happening, saying “we are going to survive this! It is okay, we are going to make it through and survive”. I didn’t even realize I was saying it until one day I was like wait…what am I saying? I was saying it and not even realizing what it meant or why I was saying it. I realized that I was just in survival mode. I was in survival mode to survive our NICU stay, to survive not having a bed or private bathroom, to survive becoming a mom of 2. I also felt like I just needed to survive life in general. I had completely distanced myself and removed myself from all of my feelings of my labor and delivery, the NICU stay, all of the emotions I was feeling. I made myself numb to be able to ignore my feelings, my pain, my uncomfortableness because my baby needed me. She needed me to be strong to be able to supply breastmilk for her, to be able to take care of her and nurture her and comfort her (even though I think half the time she was the source of my comfort). And in doing that, I didn’t feel like I had a connection with her and like we had formed a bond yet. I of course loved her, I took care of her, I would do absolutely anything for her. It was a really strange feeling. I was still in survival mode and when I realized I kept telling her we were going to survive this, I realized that I had felt like I needed to distance myself from her and become numb in order to kind of forget what happened and just pretend like I had a great recovery and like I loved every minute of it, even though I didn’t.
My midwife encouraged me to write my experience down and go and see a birth trauma therapist. While I haven’t made a appointment yet to go see one, I think that this is a great first step. And in no way do I not love my baby. I absolutely adore Evelyn and I cannot even begin to imagine my life without her. But it has taken a while. She turns 3 months in a week and I still have a hard time talking or even writing about my entire experience. I feel a little bitter, a little jealous, a little (okay..maybe a lot) sad that that is how it ended up going. But at the same time, I can’t imagine now it going any other way. I had a great recovery, minimal bleeding, I lost almost all of my baby weight really soon. I didn’t have any complications and I was able to give birth to a almost 11 pound baby NATURALLY. No pain meds. No epidural. And I think for that I deserve to call myself a bad ass. (Sorry Sisi and my mom if you are reading this….I usually don’t swear!) 😉
This entire experience has been a roller coaster of emotions. It has taken me quite a long time to even be able to write about my experience, but I knew I needed to. As I sit here and look at Evelyn sleeping peacefully in her new swing, I think about how thankful I am to have her. She is such a great baby. She brings so much joy to my life, the way she looks up at me with a smile that lights up her entire face, the way she sleeps so peacefully in her crib, how she loves to be worn in our carrier. I absolutely love everything about her, and I am so thankful I was chosen to be her mama. I am thankful for our experience and everything we went through because now it is our story. It made us stronger as a family, it made me a stronger mom and it made me realize everything can’t go exactly how I want it to, and that is okay. I am a huge planner and that is one reason why we chose not to find out the sex of our baby…I need to let go of wanting to control and plan out everything. And this definitely was out of my control and NOT in my plan! But I need to learn that that is okay.
Ah….I promised myself I was going to write how I felt and what I wanted to say at the time and not go back and edit and make sure it flows. So I am just going to click publish and go with it. It has taken me a while to get here, but thank you for reading and thank you for letting me express my thoughts and feelings. I know I left a lot out, and I know that I have already forgotten some things. But that’s okay! It felt good to write it out and get it all out there.
Travis, Tori, Scarlett and Evelyn