Updated: 3 days ago
Fast forward and my son is now 6 years old! 'Long days and short years', fits the bill for my parenthood path thus far. This post is about the small seeds that helped lead to my hellacious postpartum journey. I feel the resistance within me to revisiting this traumatic time. I still need to do more inner healing work around it all. This is the first time I feel ready to touch the edges of this intense chapter of my life.
WARNING: Some of this content may be triggering for certain individuals, and is not advisable reading for them.
I am proceeding with the intention of sharing my story so that other mothers who have tread a similar path will not feel so alone. In hindsight, I can see resources that might have really benefited my well-being during that time (like hiring an Innate trained postpartum doula like myself). I will share more hopefully helpful resources throughout this post.
We will pick up where I left off if you have read my birthing story. Our darling son was just born! They wheeled us both to the hospital room where our new little family stayed for the next 2 nights. They had to monitor us since I tested positive for Group Strep B and they only got 1 dose of antibiotics on board during my labor (I wish it had been zero doses for our baby's microbiome's sake). Our room was high up in the hospital. I was happy to be able to see the sky out the window, yet felt very disconnected from the outside world. They had put a tiny I.D. tag on our precious newborn. They told me this was to help prevent someone from stealing him. This instantly placed me on high alert and filled me with an intense unshakable anxiety. Mothers in the early postpartum are highly psychically open and suggestible (at least I was). Due to the door to our room never being closed (just the curtain was drawn), even at night, I could barely sleep (in addition to waking every 2 hours or less to breastfeed). I was also too weak to get up and close the door myself, and never thought to ask my husband to so do. I had basically instantly acquired postpartum insomnia since I did not feel safe and was highly fearful for my newborn's safety. I am also a highly sensitive person so the beeping machines, the nurses checking on us around the clock, and the bright lights also made sleep extremely elusive.
I learned in my deeply healing and informative Innate Postpartum Care Training that we as new mothers are highly suggestible and sensitive to negativity in both our pregnancies and postpartum continuums. In cultures that are tuned into a new mother's needs, her community protects her from all forms of negativity in both her pregnancy and postpartum. No negative, violent, harsh, harmful, mean, cruel, or threatening words or media are allowed anywhere near the pregnant or new mother. I hope we adopt this lovely precaution, I believe it would prevent immense amounts of suffering. It would have in my case at least. So please ask your family, friends, care team, and community to practice positivity in your presence during your entire pregnancy and postpartum time.
I do want to acknowledge that my birth was not super traumatic relative to what so many other mothers face. It needs to change that in the U.S.A. we have "the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations". The main trauma I faced was the physical trauma from the nurse tugging on my perineum again after I clearly asked her to stop. I feel that it re-triggered deeper trauma I hold around being drugged and raped at the tender age of 16. I also feel the mere mention of the potential of our brand new baby being stolen, was one of the seeds that blossomed with thorns into my horrific postpartum time. It doesn't matter if the experience a mother had in her birthing seems non-traumatic to others, if the mother felt traumatized by the experience, then it was traumatic. No one else's judgments matter. I am aware that many mothers have experienced unspeakable traumas in their birthing process. I see you. I hear you. I honor you. My heart goes out to you. I have found co-counseling, nervous system regulation, and breath work deeply powerful tools, to begin to gently venture into these excruciating traumas. I offer those resources and more to my clients in our co-counseling sessions. I also hope to raise awareness that women who give birth to a healthy baby can still sustain intense trauma in either the birth and/or postpartum.
I was not 'with it' enough to know if they kept much of the highly beneficial vernix on our baby's tiny body, but we waited two days before the nurse taught us how to give him his first sponge bath. Post-birth I looked like a cavewoman, rugged, raw, exhausted yet adrenalized from the efforts of labor. The mesh panties and ice packs were welcomed by my second-degree tear. Walking was not easy. Nor toileting. The peri-bottle was a helpful companion. Little did I know at this point that the birth was for me (relatively) the 'easy' part.
I was given Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin) near the end of my labor, as is standard hospital procedure to help prevent excessive bleeding. This study shows that contrary to their hypothesis: "women with peripartum exposure to synthetic oxytocin had a higher relative risk of receiving a documented depressive or anxiety disorder diagnosis or antidepressant/anxiolytic prescription within the first year postpartum than women without synthetic oxytocin exposure." I would soon be diagnosed with postpartum OCD.
Later I learned in my Innate training, and verified by this study, that Pitocin also blocks the receptors for your body's naturally produced oxytocin and often leads to breastfeeding challenges since it is the oxytocin that plays an important role in milk supply production. I had an over-supply in my postpartum, which presented its own distinct set of difficulties. The study "found that mothers who had received exogenous oxytocin had a 3.3 times greater risk of delayed onset of lactation than women who did not." Three times greater risk! That is substantial. It is my understanding that it is given as a blanket precaution when really it would ideally only be given when there is a real risk of the mother hemorrhaging after the birth. In my opinion, a little extra care, time, and screening could go a long way to protecting new mothers from these massive pitfalls.
Please interview your potential birth provider in-depth before committing to them, and make certain you feel aligned with the details of the care they will support you with. It is additionally imperative that you feel a sense of safety and well-being in their presence. A good sign is if you feel respected, that they really honor your questions, and take the time to thoroughly and kindly answer them. Ask to interview former clients. Please trust your intuition.
It felt like there was constantly a new hospital staff person coming into our baby-moon sanctuary time to poke and prod either Asher or myself. We opted out of some but not all of the standard protocols. I learned the hard way that it is really wise to discuss all of these choices with your partner BEFORE being presented with these important on-the-spot decisions. As an aside this book has been a beneficial resource to our marriage and partnership. The hospital staff thought they heard a heart murmur in their screenings, and we endured the ultrasound of our baby's tiny heart and the torturous waiting on eggshells, with bated breath, for the results. Fortunately, he got an all-clear. The entire hospital experience made me wish I could have a do-over and have had a home birth experience. Alas, I am not up for another postpartum voyage in this lifetime.
Every mother is different, and it surprised me how having my mother-in-law around so soon after the birth of our baby felt like an invasion. Frankly, it ALL felt like an invasion. The lights, the sterile room, the staff, the lack of sleep, the aftermath from the cocktail of drugs given, and more. My husband's mom is LOVELY, and she brought us some delicious take-out food (a nice break from hospital food). Yet I wasn't ready to have her presence around in the ultra-raw and vulnerable state I was in. Yet I had no strength to express and establish those boundaries. Even her holding our new son briefly, felt like my heart had been ripped out of my body and she was holding it to get her photo taken! I know that sounds extreme, and yet that was truly how I felt. This feeling persisted for me for quite a long time (more than a few months) into my postpartum, anytime someone else would hold our baby boy. I would have to stand very close to that person and my baby to feel a little more OK.
In my Innate training, we learned about the importance of the mother/baby dyad. Mother and baby NEED one another during the postpartum. Mother and baby in essence are one and the same during this time. Baby needs its mother for nervous system regulation, warmth, safety, food, love, protection, and care. Mother needs her baby in her close proximity and guardianship to know that all these needs are being met. Both mother and baby stimulate one another's highly beneficial oxytocin (feel-good) hormones, and the baby is caring for its mother with this stimulation, its presence, awareness, and affection.
Finally, it was time to go home. I must say there was part of me that felt more "safe" birthing in the hospital and being cooked for the first few days was a boon as well. In hindsight though, I can see how many of the traumas I faced during labor and my postpartum were directly correlated to the small yet impactful lack of sensitivity and care by the healthcare providers and their protocols.
Putting our little guy in his first outfit and into the relatively giant car seat, everything felt like it was too fast, too much, and an assault on my senses and well-being. Even my husband said he felt hyper-vigilant and alert on the suburban highways driving home and opted for the back roads as much as possible.
Home. We made it! In the hospital, they had grilled me about not EVER allowing our baby to sleep in our bed with us, for fear of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome - formerly known as crib death). We already had a side-car sleeper set up to welcome our baby to sleep next to me. Every cell in my body wanted to be snuggled up close with our baby at night, and I feel he may have slept more soundly (and thus me too) had I known these guidelines for safe sleep, known as co-sleeping.
What is the silver lining? What did I learn from this time personally? In hindsight for me, a home-birth would have been optimal. A yin lovely environment and a birthing pool, and hiring a home-birth midwife that I had properly vetted, as well as a birth doula for female support and advocacy. Avoiding exposure to the pharmaceuticals administered would have been optimal. To reiterate: hiring an Innate trained postpartum doula would have been a tremendous support. Establishing clear boundaries with my in-laws around the timeline to visit baby, BEFORE baby was born. Knowing the safe co-sleeping guidelines and setting up our bedroom accordingly. Finding a highly aligned compassionate and empathetic therapist, BEFORE the birth would also have been advantageous.
Something else I learned in the Innate training, which can be a bitter pill to swallow, is that we don't always get the birth we want, but we get the birth that we need to heal. This entire journey is leading me on the path of my life's work and calling, for this I am immensely grateful. Our greatest gifts are often wrapped in trauma (at least that's been my experience).
In my next post, I will finally dive into the deep dark waters that constituted my hellacious postpartum period.
Please leave comments below if you feel resonance with what I have shared, have questions, or would like to share anything about your birthing and postpartum journey.
(The link to the Innate Postpartum Care Training is an affiliate link, if you were to purchase the training, I would receive a small commission at no additional charge to you. Thank you in advance for your support!)