How Many Oz Of Breastmilk For 3 Week Old Baby A Long Road Back – My Journey Through Birth Trauma

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A Long Road Back – My Journey Through Birth Trauma

My story illustrates the impact birth trauma can have on women. On Tuesday, September 16, 1986, two weeks after his due date, my son Jeffrey was born by caesarean section, weighing 9 lbs. 13 oz. I started prenatal care at 22 weeks with a doctor who was recommended by a friend. The doctor indicated that he supported my birth plan for a natural birth with a minimum of interventions. My doctor had privileges at two hospitals. During the third trimester, my partner and I both toured. I chose the hospital whose standard procedures were less invasive; no IVs or enemas and they encouraged walking through labor.

A little after midnight on September 16th, my water broke. I wasn’t having contractions at this point, but called my doctor. He said he had a patient in preterm labor at 26 weeks who required his attention and that I should come to the other hospital instead. After a quick shower we drove to where my partner dealt with the paperwork while I went through their standard procedures including an enema and insertion of an IV needle.

At this time, I was having strong, regular contractions. I was then taken to a labor room and placed on fetal monitoring and was unable to walk around. Despite these interventions, I managed the pain and labored naturally for nine hours. My doctor checked my progress several times, but focused mainly on his other patient. I progressed well and at 7.00, I was 9cm.

At 9.15 when my doctor checked again, I was still 9 cm and the baby had not descended. He said he could allow me to work longer, but it wouldn’t make a difference; the baby was too big. After nine hours of intense contractions, a partner who spent more time in the cafe or sleeping and lying flat on his back staring at the walls, that’s when I lost it and started crying. Within 15 minutes I was in theater and they were administering a spin. At this point I was so exhausted that when I was no longer in pain from the contractions I fell asleep.

I remember very little until that afternoon. My fuzzy memories include Jeffrey’s first scream and my ex bringing me a picture of him in the recovery room. Because he swallowed myconium, he had to be watched in the nursery and I couldn’t hold him or try to nurse him until that evening. I couldn’t stay because of the caesarean and despite the sign in his bassinet instructing the nurses that he was breastfed on demand, he was given formula and not brought to me for hours at a time.

At the time, I was very disappointed that I had a cesarean and felt that I had somehow failed as a woman. I was also very angry with my doctor. I felt that despite a good relationship during my pregnancy he failed me when I needed him the most. I was particularly angry at the tone he used with me when I suggested that a caesarean was needed. I felt that the tone he used telling me that he could allow me to work longer but it wouldn’t help was bullying. I remember later comparing that experience to emotional rape.

As my son was in daycare most of the time and my partner was working, I was left alone in my hospital room for most of the day. I cried often during my five-day hospital stay. I was also angry that the nurses had more time with my new baby than I did. I could only see him part of the day. I could never keep him with me at night. Our breastfeeding experience got off to a rough start as he was given bottles of formula against my wishes. It was as if the nurses felt they knew better about my baby than I did. I undermined my confidence as a new mother.

Even after we left the hospital, we continued to have difficulties. I had a mild infection on my incision. My son had a bacterial infection that caused blisters. It started on his scalp where they inserted the monitor, but soon covered the area under his thick little arms. He also developed a severe case of thrush which made breastfeeding a complete nightmare. It took over two months before my sore and cracked nipples healed. I clearly remember sitting down on the couch with my son to breastfeed and crying in pain.

Finally I moved emotionally or so I thought. I realized the truth when more than eighteen months later I found out I was pregnant again. All my old fears and feelings resurfaced. I sat and cried for hours; not because pregnancy was unplanned or the added strain another child would put on our finances or troubled relationship, but because I would have to endure another caesarean. I started looking for alternatives and eventually found a midwife who would consider a home birth. Our first prenatal visit lasted almost three hours and was more about debriefing the trauma of my first birth than my physical condition.

But even the successful VBAC home birth of my 7lb. 14 oz. daughter did not lessen my anger at what I thought was an unnecessary intervention. In fact, a casual comment from my midwife that my pelvis was more than adequate caused my anger to intensify. In a classic PTSD experience, that comment rekindled all the feelings I experienced immediately after the surgery. I tried to channel my anger in a constructive way. I became a crusader for natural birth; doing a lay midwifery course. I tried to find a lawyer to sue my doctor, but the statute of limitations had expired.

For five years after my cesarean, I often wondered about the what ifs. What if I had kept with my plan to deliver at the other hospital with its less invasive procedures? What if I walked or worked while standing? What if I wasn’t continuously monitored? Every time I got caught up in those, I would get angrier or more depressed. Few people have the true benefit of hindsight, but I was blessed with an opportunity to settle those what ifs once and for all.

Those questions were answered once and for all with my second home birth. This son was considerably bigger than my daughter weighing 8 pounds. 15 oz, but still smaller than his older brother. I had a very short and intense labor of less than two hours. I had what many would consider an ideal natural birth. I worked straight and walked around during early labor. I pushed into a position that was comfortable for me. I had a wonderful support person in my midwife and her assistant. I was comfortable in my home, but my son was stuck in the birth canal. My experienced midwife said his shoulder dystocia was one of the worst she had dealt with in her decades of practice. She felt that prayer was the only thing that saved my son. After birth, his breathing was depressed and his one-minute APGAR was barely a 4. All of the what ifs that haunted me for five years were gone. It’s sad to say but it was that experience that allowed me to release the anger at my doctor that I had carried for almost five years.

It was this experience that made me realize for the first time that cephalo-pelvic disproportion was not some made-up condition used by doctors to push their patients into unnecessary caesarean sections. I suppose the permanent ridge on the top of Jeffrey’s head where he was wedged against my pelvic arch should have indicated this sooner, but it is often easier to blame others than to accept our own responsibility. I began to accept that my c-section was the result of overeating during pregnancy, which resulted in a baby too big for my pelvis.

My emotional healing ended over a decade later with the birth of my youngest son. I scheduled a midwife assisted hospital birth. I was confident that I would have no difficulties with another VBAC. I stayed at home during early labor and only went to the hospital after labor was well established, the contractions close and so intense that I had difficulty managing them. I was sure based on my earlier labors that the baby’s birth was imminent, but when checked I was only 2 cm dilated.

The baby was posterior and my intense posterior labor was not effectively dilating my cervix. I tried to give birth directly in the shower. I tried to walk. I tried to lay on my side. Nothing worked. The pain was more intense than any of my previous labors. I knew that if I chose to have an epidural, I would significantly increase my chances of having another c-section, but the pain was so intense that I made the decision to have it anyway. Several hours and several interventions later, I did have another cesarean. This time though rather than anger and resentment, I owned my decision. I was confident that I had done the best I could for myself and my baby.

The other part that was healing for me was that in the fifteen years since my first c-section, so much had changed that many of the things I hated most about the experience just didn’t apply. When my son was born, they brought him to me to touch before putting him in the warming bed. My partner, his mother and Jeffrey were able to touch and talk to the baby while the surgeons sewed me up. Then I was taken to recovery and reunited with my son; less than an hour after his birth. The nurses helped me nurse him right away. Best of all, the hospital encouraged boarding for all babies. My partner stayed with us even during the night and the only time my baby was separated from us was for about 15 minutes each day for weighing.

As if I had already had my fill. Despite the fact that the procedures were the same, I was a different person. I had matured. I learned my rights and responsibilities. When I was faced with an unfamiliar situation, I knew the benefits and risks of all my choices and I readily accepted the consequences of those choices. I was empowered by the same procedure that once left me so emotionally scarred that I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some of it was because I had changed and some of it was the result of changes within the medical system.

As a mother who has experienced three cesarean births, I sometimes get very frustrated with the natural birth movement. Yes, the natural birth of my daughter and despite its difficulties even my second son were amazing. They somehow healed my inner woman after the first traumatic c-section, but none of them were perfect either. I wrote and carefully discussed with my midwives elaborated birth plans and neither birth followed the plans.

Births almost never go according to plan. I spent five years angry and depressed for absolutely no reason. How many other women have experienced this pain, which makes a scar much deeper than a cesarean birth? I have often wondered what would have happened if that shoulder dystocia had not happened. Would I continue to be angry at my doctor and depressed? Would my PTSD ever heal completely? Of course, I will never know the answers to those questions. And I feel deeply for the tens of thousands of women who never have the clear answers that fate has provided me.

But my experience led me to start childbirth education classes and doula services specifically for these special women and babies for whom a cesarean birth is chosen. I believe that with compassionate support and care the breastfeeding rate among these families can be dramatically increased and more importantly we can help them heal faster both physically and emotionally. This is my unique vision and mission; my long journey back from birth trauma.

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