EMPOWERED. That word never had a place in my former vocabulary. It never once slipped from my lips or was uttered from my mouth before him. Almost six years ago, #igavebirth to my last baby Fletcher. I had birthed before him: one difficult babe and one babe as peaceful and as perfect as a birth can be. My pregnancy with Fletcher had been entirely different from the beginning. I was plagued with severe morning sickness which resulted in a depression that made it hard to enjoy my other two children and my life, in general. Those nine months were pretty dark for me.
The night I went into labor I had already been to the hospital three times for false labor during previous weeks with what I was told was an "irritable uterus". I had become the lady who cried labor. From the time I walked into the door, to the time he arrived, less than an hour had passed, and he was here. He was the same size as his big brother 7 pounds, 7 ounces and 21 inches long with golden peachfuzz hair and bright baby blues. The labor was a blur. It honestly happened so fast, and there are zero pictures except for the ones in my head. Standing by my side were my husband and my sister (she's attended all my births). It's always a godsend to have another female during a birth.
While the baby was being examined and taking his APGAR test, the doctor was preparing to deliver my placenta. Thirty minutes had passed, and he informed me that my placenta wasn't dislodging. Having had two babies previously this was uncharted territory for me. What on earth is wrong with my placenta? I'll spare the blood and gore but will tell you I was given two options. Option one: go into emergency surgery for a DNC. Option two: go through manual extraction of the placenta. Looking back, I picked my choice out of fear, because who WANTS to go into surgery just after giving birth to a new baby they've yet to hold? I went through an hour of manual extraction by not one, but, two doctors trying to put together the puzzle pieces of my placenta. There's not much to say other than the experience was one I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, it was pretty awful and left me feeling violated, disgusted, and a little ashamed that my body had let me down. I wish that were the end of my trauma, but it was just the beginning.
I returned home with my new baby ready to settle into my new life as a mother of three. The early days after birth aren't the easiest trying to juggle all of the postpartum care, nursing a newborn, and caring for other children. It's pretty rough on your body, to say the least. I knew I wasn't feeling the best, but I blamed it on the experience and added care of three tiny humans. I wasn't bouncing back as I had before with my other postpartum experiences, I even called my midwife, and she gave me the "you had a difficult labor" speech and suggested I "get some rest". A few more days passed with massive clots dropping and feeling that something wasn't right. I went to urgent care and was once again told, "you had a difficult labor, you have three kids, you need rest." I honestly was beginning to question myself, "Was it all in my head? Why do I feel like this?"
Days passed with no change, but I kept trucking along. The weekend came, and my brother and sister-in-law were coming out with our niece to meet the new baby. I was up grabbing juice boxes for all the little kids when I felt something crowning (you read that right CROWNING), so I ran to the bathroom. This part I can't spare the details, ladies, you need to know. Something fell into the toilet. I sat there shaking and unsure what to do. I was frozen in fear and called out for my sister. I'll never forget the look on her face. She was horrified and told me to lay down immediately. A piece of the placenta had dislodged from my body, and that was what we saw in the toilet. Yes, placenta. After I got over the shock, I felt some level of relief that I wasn't a wimp, and I wasn't crazy this whole time. Something was wrong, and now I had proof! No more would I be told, "You had a difficult labor" by another medical professional. This part is essential--and some might think a tad insane--we put that piece of placenta into a Ziploc bag. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding and I would not let myself be dismissed again. I had my proof, ladies.
So this part I'll try to keep short. I'm the crazy lady who threw placenta at the emergency room staff. Yep, I own that shit too! When you've felt like death for almost ten days and have been dismissed not one, not two, but multiple times, you really don't give a crap how you act. Let's just say that they finally heard me and LOUD and clear. They moved quickly, and I was in for an ultrasound STAT. They found that the placenta was stuck all over my uterine wall and had caused some adhesions. So severe that they weren't sure I was going to be able to keep my uterus. So, guess what that meant? I underwent an emergency DNC; which was the very operation I had avoided during my delivery. My worst fear was happening, and this time there was no option two for me.
The details of that day are the same as the birth. It was a total blur and so emotional that I can't bring myself to go back to the memories I do have. When you have two small children and a newborn, going into surgery causes the stresses to run deep for you and your family. I was so afraid of the unknown going into surgery. Would I die? Would I leave my husband alone with three small kids? Would I see my babies again? Would I wake up having had a hysterectomy? What I can say about that day is I woke up, and I still had a uterus.
The entire experience changed me. I've never been the same since birthing Fletcher. I guess it's true when they say your life flashes before you. It's then you realize that you're lucky enough to come out on the other side. You're changed in many ways, and hopefully for the better. My experience with him made me realize what really mattered to me. I took stock of my entire life, ladies. I mean, the whole enchilada. What was making me happy, what wasn't, goals, dreams, relationships. I evaluated all of it. Here is where my empowerment started.
My birthing experience wasn't just the physical birth of my third child; it was the birth of my empowerment as a person and as a woman. I found power I didn't know existed within me. He made me stronger. I may have given him life, but he doesn't know yet that he gave me life too.
Shortly after his birth and my recovery, I let go of my toxic relationship with my own mother. This was something I never fully felt empowered to do. I learned to say "no" which is something I've struggled with my entire life. The ability to say "no" is an empowering superpower I developed. Lastly, I started a lifelong bucket list item and dream of mine... my shop. None of this would have been possible without my experience and trauma of birthing him, it gave me so much clarity and ultimately the empowerment to live a better life.
I want to say a huge thank you to my friend Lindsay of The Little Milk Bar and Katie of The Empowered Birth Project for sending me this amazing 'EMPOWERED' shirt and finally helping me share my story. I've sat on it for almost six years never really finding my words. That's the funny thing about a good graphic tee. It's more than a piece of clothing that covers your body. The words resonate so much stronger than you could have formulated on your own.
To learn more about the collaboration between The Little Milk Bar and Empowered Birth Project click here