PTSD And Childbirth



This morning I fell apart. At least once a day, the past three days I've fallen apart. It always comes up as the same memory. I'm back on the operating room table about to be cut open. I'm naked. My arms spread open and strapped to two tables. My plan to have a natural birth is robbed from me. Nine months have now passed, the same amount of time Zephyr was in my body, but the ebb and flow of PTSD are as strong ever.


As I write this, my arms quiver. I start making a cocktail of emotions with resentment, anger, and fear. It moves like a wave through my inner core outward. The stress in my body creates so much heat I start to sweat.


As soon as I opened my eyes this morning a panic slowly grew in my body. My eyes welled up and I started to play the same movie in my head. I get warped back in time right before the emergency c-section. I tried to lift my arms, but they were strapped down. I made the shape of "T" with my body, a curtain separated my head from the other half of my body. I hit the rewind button seeing the steps that led me there. I envisioned a natural birth. No painkillers. Just like the other moms on my Insta-feed. I followed all the accounts to witness the brave mamas before trying to exhibit their strength to push out my baby with a vaginal delivery. I wanted my "picture perfect" moment. Why was this important to me? Women's Birth Rights.


Childbirth is a sacred act. Women are quite literally the bridge between the spirit world and life here on Earth. This is not an easy job, nor is it safe. We've come a long way, but modern medicine has revolutionized the birthing process with the intention of protecting the health of both mother and baby. It's a touchy subject, but I truly believe I was forced into a situation I was not ready for. It is my right to be medically informed and give consent before a major surgery. I was in my most vulnerable state. It was so cold and invasive. An assault on my body and my baby. They made me believe that Zephyr was in trouble, but there was actually no proof.


My Birth Story

January 31st, Zephyr's due date. It also happened to be our wedding anniversary and the night of the big lunar eclipse. I was so stoked about the possibility that Zeph was going to be born on such a special day.


The day came and went, my water "broke", but my cervix had no dilation and Zephyr wouldn't drop into my pelvis. I became more and more anxious as we tried everything to get my labor started. Since my water broke, I had to supervised by a doctor due to the risk of infection and hours went by with little progress. I eventually agreed to Pitocin to induce labor, not knowing the downward spiral I would face from there. The pain was unbearable as I started to open. The contractions were erratic at first but then they were happening too close to each other and I felt like I couldn't catch a break. More time passed and I was exhausted. At 5cm I agreed to the epidural. At the same time, the nurse told me my water bag was still intact, meaning it had closed back up. She asked me if she could pop it, in which my husband asked her to give us a few moments alone so we could discuss how we wanted to proceed. We called her back to the room and were happy that she would honor our wishes of waiting to see how things progress without popping it. There is actually no reason to rupture the amniotic sac, and babies have been delivered with it intact or "en caul". Since the baby is suspended in the fluid, it actually lessens the risk of asphyxiation, which happens to be the reason why I was forced into a c-section.


Photo: Maewood Photography

At the pace I was going, there was still another expected 8 to 10 hours of labor. As it was getting late we sent home our support team of my mother-in-law, our doula, and our photographer so they could get some rest. At 7cm, a midwife (who I hadn't met) came in, checked me, and immediately popped my amniotic sac. She did not ask my permission and just went and did it. Within seconds, a rush of nurses came in, they started unplugging all my cords and rushed me out of the room. They told Ryan to stay in the room and wait. I was terrified and never felt so alone in my life. I was left completely unprotected. They said something about his vitals and we watched his monitor as it was kind of erratic. But the monitor had been showing erratic vitals the entire time I was in the hospital. They kept having to adjust it.


The doctor made the decision to do the procedure. Ryan was still not in the room with me. They told him to pack up all our belongings while his son was being delivered. The whole process was surreal. I wondered why my arms had to be strapped down. I only know of them using it if they think someone is going to fight back. As they numbed my body, the medical staff in the room were having their normal day to day conversations, even laughing. Tears ran down my face. I pleaded for it to be quiet. They cut. I didn't feel a thing. I heard his cry and that's when Ryan was finally allowed in the room to be with me. The joy in Ryan's voice assured me he was ok. My eyes closed and I got really cold. I was convinced that at that moment I was going to die.


We chose Kaiser as our healthcare provider because it was what we could afford at the time. I've been a patient at Kaiser most of my life, but I have never been a fan. Even when I was a child, I felt like a number. When I was a teenager, I told them I was depressed. They prescribed me Cipro and sent me on my way. I had a terrible experience to remove my IUD when we decided to start our family. I was given the wrong appointment time and everyone was on their lunch. I was stuck there for two hours in the waiting room. They claimed to call my name, but they didn't. When I finally said something, they were 15 min from being off from the rest of the day. By the time they saw me I was in a full-blown panic attack. The doctor told me to "grow up" or she wasn't going to remove the IUD and I would be forced to come back. This certainly not the bedside manner a doctor should be having with patients especially when they're poking around in someone's vagina. With that being said, I'm never stepping into another Kaiser again.


Knowing Your Rights

Even with all the research I dug through on the internet, our childbirth classes, and having a doula, I was still not prepared for what went down in that operating room.


The industrial medical complex is plagued with serious problems regarding maternity care. According to www.childbirthconnection.org, "The United States is the only wealthy industrialized nation that does not guarantee access to essential health care for all pregnant women and infants. Many women, especially those with low incomes, lack access to adequate maternity care."


Through my postpartum struggle, I learned about informed consent. This midwife came into my space, popped my bag, and clearly violated me. That night, the nurses told us that labor and delivery were very busy. There were women laboring in the waiting room! My intuition tells me that this intervention took place because I was taking too long and they needed to make space.


The hospital's role in childbirth is a healthy mother and a healthy baby. It is clear that I'm not in a healthy state due to Kaiser's disrespect of informed consent.


The Risks of a Cesarean Birth

Did you know that one in three babies are born surgically? C-sections are "doctor friendly". For them, it's an in and out procedure. No more having to wait for the cervix to dilate and labor. C-sections have detrimental results for mother and child. I'm currently experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, bouts of depression and chronic lower back pain.I've discovered a few of the risks of a c-section are future infertility and death! My PTSD has had ripple effects throughout my life with my relationship with my husband, my career, and physical health.


Spiritual Insight

I cannot change the past. I understand these feelings are going to come up. It's ok to have them. I allow myself to feel it, "embracing the suck". It flows over me like short break waves crashing hard on the sand. Eventually, the tide will go out and give me a moment to bask in the sun while gentle waves lap onto my feet.


It is my sacral that is a blocked center I'm currently having. My feminine aspect- she is the giver of life, always birthing, always feeling. She is also our emotional awareness, which is self-awareness. It is managing your emotions and reactions to our inner and outer world. I'm learning to cope.



How I Deal

I surround myself with friends and family. I feel like a hit the jackpot. I am grateful for the people I can spill my heart to. They listen deeply and treat me with tender care. They cause me to belly-laugh so hard I fart. You know that kind of relationship.


The sacral is all about getting juicy with yourself and living in flow. For me, I find my best sacral healing is to play. I make sure that every day I'm doing something I consider fun. It can be anything really. You can make the most mundane day to day fun if you want to. It's all about perspective.


Trust me, I know, it's easier said than done, but just try, no matter how much it hurts. There have been so many days where I chose to sit in my heartache. No matter how awful I felt, I would hold on to my negative emotions. I let it overtake my life. It was the cause of disruption, anger, and fear. I had no control over my emotions, had no idea how to communicate my emotions, and I eventually lose my shit. It's not pretty.


I also sought out help. I received the knowledge and wisdom of my now good friend, Arista Illona and her Empowered Mother program. It was two months and we saw each other every other week. Here guidance helped me love myself again.


It's especially important to find forgiveness, which is the hardest for me to do sometimes! If I want to fully heal from this, I must accept what has happened and show compassion for all involved. I have to learn to forgive the situation, forgive my husband, forgive the doctors and nurses.


I'm comforted knowing that I'm healing. Sharing my experience, no matter how vulnerable it makes me feel will shed light on the industry of birth. I hope this creates awareness for moms to be and helps mothers with similar stories cope.




Additional Resources

If you would like to become informed of the right of childbearing women, check out:

http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/maternal-health/the-rights-of-childbearing-women.pdf


I wish I had watched this movie before decided to give birth at Kaiser.

http://www.thebusinessofbeingborn.com/


Vaginal or Cesarean Birth - A Best Evidence Review:

http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/maternal-health/vaginal-or-cesarean-birth-what-is-at-stake.pdf