What I have learnt is that nothing can prepare you for childbirth. If you know me well, you know I like to be informed and I usually over research things. I read books, attended birth classes and delved into hypnobirthing practices each day in hopes that this would give me and our baby the best chance for a labour with as little intervention as possible. In the end, our birth experience ended up being a domino effect of medical intervention and nothing about it was calm.
I was fortunate to have a positive pregnancy. It wasn't until the end of my third trimester that I noticed my stomach stopped growing. From 34 weeks, I advocated this to the midwives at my postnatal appointments but it wasn't until my 38 week appointment that I was taken seriously. I measured 31 weeks when I was 38 weeks gestation and was too far along to have a growth scan. I was advised to have an induction, something I was desperate to avoid.
Warning: this next part is full on but I would be doing a disservice by hiding what really happened. Initially, I was embarrassed to talk about this and ashamed of my body. If people break their leg, it's fine for them to discuss it openly but if you break your vagina, you should stay silent because "ladies don't talk about that sort of stuff". The whole point of sharing my story is to provide a real example of what some women endure so that change can take place. It is only when women start having these conversations - and seek help - that real change will come. In hindsight, I wish I wasn't so nervous about hearing the medical side of friends and families birthing stories. Although the outcome of my birth might not have changed, I am certain that I would be less shocked and have more understanding with the changes that occurred to my body.
Being induced led to me to fully dilate in 2.5 hours, causing stress on Rory which ultimately led to an episiotomy and forceps delivery. There were several people coming in and out of my room, codes were being called over the intercom and everything became a blur. The doctors were unable to stop me from haemorrhaging and after losing 3L of blood, I was rushed off to theatre to undergo surgery. The next morning, I woke up in the High Dependency Unit, while Ben and Rory were in the Maternity Ward. The following days I was bed ridden due to anemia and received two blood transfusions to increase my hemoglobin count.
Tens days after being discharged, I found myself in the last place I wanted to be: the hospital emergency department. I was having trouble passing urine and felt a heavy, bulging sensation in my pelvic area. I was told everything was 'normal' but I knew my body and I knew something felt wrong. After doing my own research, I realised it was likely that I had a pelvic organ prolapse (POP). At my 6 week postnatal appointment, my GP confirmed this and referred me onto a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist. At the time, I tried to brush it aside so that I could enjoy my time with my new baby.
As another few weeks went by, I felt more discomfort and began to spiral into an obsession to find answers. I spent all day and a lot of sleepless nights researching prolapses and what I found were horror stories. I quickly realised that there isn't a successful fix to POP and that 30% of women's surgeries fail. Many women from around the world are suing hospitals due to surgeons using synthetic mesh, which have had debilitating effects on women's bodies.This part really angers me; why is it that people can get hip replacements or open heart surgery and yet a condition that is so common in women has no confident solution? I also read that I can't exercise anymore, I shouldn't walk for more than 20 minutes, I shouldn't lift anything over 5kg (hello, I have a baby!) and I should lie flat as much as possible. My world came crashing down. I love exercising; before I was pregnant I trained at F45 and continued low impact exercises throughout my pregnancy. I am not the type of person to 'lay around' and I wasn't able nor did I want to stop carrying my baby.
This old school mentality around childbirth injuries had a severe impact on me. The month of July was particularly bad. I was unable to control my emotions and was scared of movement. I didn't personally know anyone who has POP so I felt very alone. I tried to talk to a few close friends and family about this, but unless you've experienced POP, it's difficult to understand. I struggled with the fact that my family was overseas and I couldn't see them when I needed them most. On top of this, Melbourne was and continues to be in a lockdown from the Covid pandemic. With few distractions, I got stuck in my own head and felt little hope. Like many women other women who give birth (traumatic or not), I was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression. I am lucky that my GP was onto this straight away and referred me to a psychologist who has given me strategies to shift my thinking.
With encouragement from Ben (who deserves a medal), I started to become more proactive as I knew I was the only person that could change my story. I did not want to look back at being a first-time mum and remember it as a sad time. I see a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist (who has birthed 6 children!) who listened to everything about my lifestyle in order to create a rehab program. She gave me a clearer picture of what happened, explaining that two of my organs have prolapsed, which is likely due to right levator avulsion (the muscle being torn from the pubic bone). I now religiously complete my pelvic floor exercises and have been fitted with a pessary (internal support device) which will allow me to begin low impact exercises. Although my prolapse will likely not go away, I am hopeful that one day I will be able to live with minimal symptoms.
The feeling that I would never be able to be the mum I wanted to be is slowing going away. I have come across stories of hope on Instagram, blogs and through services like the Birth Trauma Association. I realise that this happens to many women and they want and need to talk about it. I feel privileged that I am able to share my birth experience at all when many women are faced with infertility challenges. People endure challenging physical and mental obstacles everyday, but I am one of the lucky ones, as out of the worst experience of my life has also come the best part of my life. Thanks for reading, and please reach out if you or someone you know has experienced something similar. You are not alone xx