Trigger Warning: This birth story contains details of postpartum haemorrhage and prolapse. If you are triggered by these topics you may wish to skip this blog or read it once you have support available. If you are seeking support for your birth trauma, you may wish to contact our Peer Support Service.
I had my baby when I was 23 years old. I was very fit, I boxed and went to gym daily. I was “young, fit and healthy”. My sex life was amazing and I loved my body. My partner and I were so excited for our little girl and I had so many things planned after her birth. I never once thought I’d have issues during, let alone after labour.
Speaking of my birth brings back a lot of pain and emotions for me, but it’s important to me to share this with other woman who may be feeling alone.
I laboured for about 8 hours at home before my waters broke and we headed to the hospital. I arrived and was left alone in a curtained off bed for almost 2 hours before they even checked me because “you’re a first time mum so it’s unlikely you would have dilated much”.
They eventually checked me and I was 6cm so was taken to a delivery room. I was checked by the student midwife and was given the go ahead to push without anyone double-checking. After an hour of pushing with no progress, it was discovered my cervix had a lip that was swelling (the student midwife had said this was her ears).
All together my body was pushing for 7 hours, however almost 5 hours of that I was not allowed to push due to the swelling and pitocin made my baby’s heart rate plummet. Spinal pain relief was not an option for me unfortunately as I have rotatory scoliosis and it was too risky.
I was laying on my left side in the worst pain I can describe and although so much is a blur, I have such a vivid memory of begging them to cut her out because I couldn’t take it anymore. I had now been labouring for around 18 hours and my body had given up. Contractions were no longer lasting long enough to be able to push enough.
I can’t explain what happened, but I suddenly had an overwhelming strength and I remember thinking ‘she’s coming out now’. My partner was allowed to cut the cord but then I was moved to the table to be stitched as I had lost a lot of blood so unfortunately didn’t get to hold my baby like I had imagined. I am still so very fortunate and grateful to have been able to deliver a beautiful baby girl.
I was in a lot of pain and experiencing a lot of pressure but being my first baby, I didn’t know any different. 2 days later I haemorrhaged again, and the hospital took me seriously and discovered retained products and sent me in for surgery.
Fast forward 5 weeks and the pain in my vagina was getting unbearable. I couldn’t pee, poo, or even pick my baby up without being in pain. It felt like I had a baby engaging and if I pushed something would fall out…I spoke to 3 GPs as well as 2 gynaecologists. Even after internal examinations, I was told the discomfort may just be the lump of scar tissue an inch or so inside (the stitching job was unfortunately not the best, and my scars healed quite roughly which led to a lot of sharp pulling pains for months too).
I was essentially excused and told, and I quote, “you can’t expect to feel or look the same after having a baby”. I was furious and so upset, I KNEW something wasn’t right. But hey, I even had surgery at 3 weeks post partum so surely they would have noticed if something was wrong?
I began to accept that this is how life was now. No more gym, no more squatting to clean or pick things up, no more walking longer than a couple hundred metres…No more sex. I couldn’t even poo without holding my vagina for support. It all hurt too much, it all felt as though something was about to fall out. My relationship was going downhill, I was depressed and felt so alone.
Everyone else in the mum groups I was in had recovered. Although they had their own issues, they could still squat down to pick their baby up without holding their vagina for support? How embarrassing…If I ever dropped something on the floor at the shops, I just walked away because I couldn’t pick it up.
I researched as much as I could and reached out to multiple support groups and I had come to my own conclusion that I had a prolapse, based on other people’s stories and research.
At 6 months postpartum I followed my gut and saw a physiotherapist who specialises in women’s pelvic floor post-birth. It was there she told me I had a pelvic organ prolapse (cystocele to be exact). I can’t begin to explain the weight that was lifted off my shoulders. I finally had an answer and honestly, my sanity was saved because I did get to a stage where I thought…maybe it’s just in my head then?
She helped me with the correct pelvic floor exercises to help and we had regular appointments to ensure I was on track. She told me what I can and can’t do in terms of exercise and activities. I’m now 9.5 months postpartum, and 2 weeks ago I jogged for the first time without being in pain! That was HUGE for me! I can now do slow lunges, long walks, and I’m now even having sex.
Things are still progressing, and my future pregnancies are at a high risk of prolapsing, so I’m unfortunately not allowed to fall pregnant for at least another year to avoid unnecessary issues and am yet to decide whether I have an elected c section for our next baby. But I cannot explain how much I have improved mentally after having some closure and some hope after noticing improvements.
Things still aren’t perfect, and some days still get me down, but if there is a woman reading this who has gone through something similar, YOU ARE NOT ALONE AND THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Post partum injuries (both mental and physical) are not discussed enough and it’s affecting women worldwide.
We have so many checkups during pregnancy, yet birth can be so dangerous and sometimes life-threatening and women are often discharged with maybe one or two follow-ups. Motherhood in itself is hard work, and the way social media portrays motherhood is so very toxic. It’s one of the reasons I choose to be open and honest about my experience. Please know you are not alone, and you are doing an amazing job.