Jana’s Birth Story: Trauma and Recovery
Birth is a powerful moment for women. Our birth stories become part of us; something we will carry in our hearts until we leave this earth. Ask any elderly woman and undoubtedly she will remember the details of her baby’s birth.
But not all births go as planned… Some women are traumatized, reliving what has happened to their body and to their mind. Supporting women who have been traumatized brings back memories of my own birth story.
My story took place over 18 years ago, yet there are moments of the experience that are as vivid as if they happened last week.
…The panic in my mother’s voice as we were stuck at the red light, the beach towel between my legs saturated with bright red blood.
…The image of my mother waving her arms out the window telling the driver in front to get out of the way as we needed to get to the hospital quickly.
…The feeling of floating as it all drifted away.
The trauma in my story happened when my daughter Bryn was 14 days old. My delivery and recovery had been uneventful up to that point. As a nurse, I knew that the gushes of bright red bleeding were not normal, especially when they continued past a week. My doctor sent me for an ultrasound to make sure there were no bits of placenta left in my uterus. When a third person was brought in to examine my ultrasound, I knew that something was up.
I was diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation, basically arteries and veins twisted together and bulging into my uterus. The diagnosis happened on a Friday. I was to return Monday morning to see if it was getting larger or smaller.
Sunday night, I prepared supper for my mother, aunt and uncle who were visiting that day. My husband was working late. For some strange reason I remember we were having spaghetti. As I sat down at the table to eat, I felt a small popping sensation, then warm liquid running down my legs. I was bleeding heavily.
Thinking it was quicker than calling an ambulance, my mom drove me to the hospital. Thankfully my aunt and uncle were there to stay with my baby. They reassured me that they would be able to prepare formula and give Bryn a bottle if needed. This was something I never wanted to do but sometimes you don’t get to choose.
It was only a 6 minute trip to the hospital. We learned that a lot can happen in 6 minutes. My first memory after watching my mom hanging out the vehicle window, yelling for drivers to get out of the way is of bright lights. Not THE bright light, but the light of the trauma room in Emergency.
My poor husband was called out of a meeting and told his wife was hemorrhaging. He needed to pick up Bryn and come to the hospital immediately. This experience was so traumatic for him that I was almost unable to convince him to have another baby. (I say “almost” because three years later my son Brett arrived. I got my happy ending.)
Memories too painful to forget
Before my happy ending however, there was a nightmare that no one should have to endure. There are memories I won’t forget:
- my mom trying to help me latch my hungry daughter to my breast.
I was passing out due to blood loss. My bed was tilted downward with my head much lower than my feet. My mom held my daughter nearly upside down as I tried to feed her. My determination should have been my first clue that I would become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant the following year.
- hearing the beep on the blood pressure machine and knowing the numbers were much too close to zero.
This “holy crap I might die” moment will never leave me. The memory makes me teary even as I write this 18 years later, especially as I can now look back and realize what I would have missed.
- the desperation in the voice of the lab tech.
He recognized the severity of my situation. My veins were collapsing, despite the 5 IV’s pumping saline into my body.
- the experience of being a patient when you are a nurse.
Being given a warm blanket when I felt chilled to my inner core. Having my nurse care enough to share her tears when the bleeding stopped.
- my grief as the head nurse told me about Sheehan’s Syndrome.
A potential complication of severe hemorrhaging is that your body may be unable to make milk for your baby.
- my desperation to make my nurse promise to wake me every 3 hours to double pump.
I needed to tell my saline overloaded body that Sheehan’s syndrome would not stand a chance. I was challenged to make myself upright enough so I could pump, but reclined enough so that I would not pass out!. After 2 weeks, my body began to make milk again and we went on to breastfeed for the next 2 years.
- I remember lying in bed and learning of Princess Diana’s death and thinking that we could have died the same day.
I also heard about a new mother who lived 1 ½ hours out of my city. She had hemorrhaged the same day but wasn’t so lucky. Hearing of her death made the severity of my situation real.
…I am so grateful.
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.
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