It’s been 5 years. At first I didn’t write it down because it was too painful. And then I’d pushed it down so far, suppressed the pain so effectively that I thought it was no longer painful, but painfully predictable, -I mean, who didn’t have a difficult delivery? – and no one would want to hear it. It turns out that was just another way of suppressing painful memories.
I sat down to write a story about my journey with postpartum fitness, but there’s a prologue to that story, and it’s my first birth story. The story of George’s birth. He will be 5 next month. I’ve been a mom for 5 years. He is my heart, and my soul, and he is my body. I built him, not just his body but the sweet, loving curious kindergartener that he is today. I’m proud of that. I really am.
For a long time pride wasn’t a word I would have used towards motherhood. It was shrouded in shame, and I tried to hide under a enviably fit body, in hopes that people would see my fab figure and assume that I had to be a great mom (which I was), even though on the inside I felt like a complete failure.
I guess I should start at the beginning, then.
I was 24 when I got pregnant with George. I had just moved 3000 kms from my hometown to a strange and dark new place. I was deeply in love and so excited to find out I would become a mother. I had an effortless pregnancy. I was gorgeous and glowing. Thick hair, clear skin, I gained the perfect amount of weight, looked adorable in skinny jeans and maxi dresses and carried the whole thing off with an air of ease and a glamour even I barely remember.
And it really was easy. I felt great, baby was healthy and I managed to stay active through my whole pregnancy. I went to the gym, walked every day and stayed busy working(up until 30 weeks – I was still a hairstylist at the time and the ten hours days in heels were too much for me – I was the kind of girl who’d rather bow out gracefully albeit a little early than give up my pumps).
As the end of my pregnancy neared, I had read all the books and knew exactly how to have the best birth experience. I was having a quick, unmedicated birth from which I would return promptly home to scrapbook the whole experience in my luxury robe, eating bonbons and gazing lovingly at my sweet new baby boy.
BOY WAS I WRONG.
But you’ve guessed that by now.
So week 40 rolls around and my OB (who I’ve only met once at this point, she never seems to be in the office when I have appointments, so I’ve met with a different doctor at every prenatal up until now) tells me I need to start thinking about induction. She has tried to do a membrane sweep at this time, and although baby is head down, he has not descended at all and I’m not dilated at all. She assumes the baby will be “overdue” and books me for an induction the following Monday.
I really didn’t want to be induced. I knew my body was capable of doing the right things, and if baby wasn’t ready to come I was willing to wait. I wanted to do what was right for him and his health, and my mother’s intuition told me not to rush things. To let it be, and let my body do what it was made to do.
The disappointment had already started. I felt hot with shame every time someone asked me about whether I’d “had that baby yet”. I had tried everything – spicy food, sex, supplements, teas, oils, massage – you name it I’d done it. I couldn’t bear to have one more message or call from someone, so not only was I waiting for this baby, I was completely alone and had isolated myself by staying off social media. In an attempt to hide until the perfect birth experience I had planned went perfectly as planned and I could show everyone what a perfect mother I was.
Sunday night it rained. I was so desperate not to have the induction that I went for a run. In the freezing rain (Edmonton in October people, it was freezing) in my sweats and sandals because my husband thought I was just going for a walk. I ran until I couldn’t run anymore. I was desperate to start labour. I did not want that induction. I was made for this, I could do this. My body knew what to do.
But nothing happened. I woke up again Monday morning and still hadn’t felt anything different than what I’d felt all throughout my pregnancy. I wanted to trust my body but I also had very little support, knew nothing about having babies and was terrified to do anything that might put baby at risk, so I went to the hospital for my induction.
I wanted to trust my body but I also had very little support, knew nothing about having babies and was terrified to do anything that might put baby at risk
I was so poorly informed by my OB that I didn’t even know what I was going in for. I packed a bag like I was going to go in, get induced – I sort of pictured some IV medication and someone pushing on my belly to make the baby come out – and then leave with a baby. Again, BOY was I wrong.
First they hooked me up to a machine for an hour, to monitor my baby, who was perfectly healthy and had to reason to be evacuated. But we went ahead with it anyway.
I had something called Cervidil inserted in my vagina, which was supposed to soften the cervix and start contractions(I think). I was then told to go home, and wait for labour to start. This was at about 10 am. The nurses told me most women come back in about 12 hours because the pain is so bad they need medication, but labour probably won’t start until the next day, so try to stay home as long as possible.
By about 6 pm I was in excruciating pain. Not contractions, just one long, horrible cramp. I had tried a bath, a shower, a walk, the ball, and nothing helped. I almost didn’t make it home from the walk cause I keeled over in pain and couldn’t catch my breath to get back up. It wasn’t labour, the nurses said that would start tomorrow, so I held out. But by 8 pm my husband packed me in the car and took me to back to the hospital. I held my breath the whole way. The pain of sitting was so bad I started to vomit. Thank God the ride was only 7 minutes.
We got to L&D and I was put in a room with 8 other women (yes 8) in various states of labour. At first I was distracted by how public it was but soon the pain took over and I was vomiting again. I was told I was only 2 cms dilated, the pain wasn’t too bad yet (yes they told me my pain wasn’t that bad) and gave me a little painkiller and told to sit tight.
Even through all of this I felt like I could do it. I could tough it out. I had to do it. I had already gone overdue – FAIL. I’d already had the induction – FAIL. I couldn’t go and get pain medication too. I just couldn’t.
About an hour later, I guess they got sick of my moaning and vomiting and took me into a delivery room. At this time I was desperate, in more pain than I had ever thought possible, and scaring the shit out of my husband. I still hadn’t felt a contraction yet, it was just the same horrible pain that had started nearly 8 hours earlier. I agreed to an epidural. I needed something. They told me it’s really common to have an epidural with induction because labour can come on so quickly. I felt a little better. Better enough to fall asleep.
I don’t remember much of that morning. I can see my husband sleeping in the corner. Feel myself vomiting. Feel the IV in my arm. Nurses faces. I woke up again in pain, they had put my on a pitocin drip at some point and the contractions were starting to come through the mediation again. I was so scared of the same pain coming back. They asked how I was, I said it hurt. They quickly gave me another dose in my epidural.
Twenty minutes later the doctor checked my cervix. Fully dilated, time to have a baby.
“Can you feel the contractions?”
“No, I can’t feel anything.”
“Okay, grab your legs.”
“I can’t feel my legs.”
“Hold on with your arms, right here.”
“I can’t feel my arms.”
“Am I pushing? I can’t feel anything, I can’t feel anything!”
Baby was in distress. The cord was wrapped around his neck and his arm was stuck besude his head. They had to give me an episiotomy. I had no choice, baby was in distress. Heartrate dropping. My husband was terrified. I could see it in his face. I was more worried about him than me. I saw the forceps. I just remember thinking it looked like a kitchen tool. It’s all a blur, it happened so fast. Like 20 minutes from first “push” to birth. I just have flashes.
My baby. Oh my baby. He’s here. I did it. I love you. I love you so much. You’re here. Hello. I love you. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I love you.
They stitch me back up and I hold my baby. He finds my nipple and a glimmer of success reappears. Maybe I can do this. A lot of people are hanging out between my legs, and it takes a long time to stitch up. But I have my baby. I’m here, he’s here. He’s perfect. I’m okay.
I fall asleep, I wake up. He’s still there. They wheel me to a room I have to share with another mother. It’s not her first kid, and she has family visiting. No one visits me. I have no family to come. The nurse makes me get up to go to the bathroom. As soon as I’m standing I vomit and pee all over the floor. I’m humiliated. I’m a mess. What just happened? She takes me to the bathroom and has to clean me up. I am too humiliated and exhausted to resist. I can’t wait to crawl back into bed with my baby. All I want is my baby.
Steven(my husband) has me moved to a private room after all this. And I feel a little better. At least I can relax. My baby and I sleep on and off for 24 hours. I beg to go home at every nurse visit, but they have rules. I am in so much pain. Everything hurts. But I just want to go home.
When they finally let us go, I stood at the admin desk shaking. I wasn’t well enough to leave and I knew it. But I signed the papers. I just wanted to go home. To get out of this place that held so much pain and so much shame. I needed out of this place. I think the only reason I stayed standing was so that they would let me leave. With my baby. My perfect baby.
I am in so much pain. Everything hurts… I just want to go home.
We get home safe and sound. And I get to know my baby. I love him, he is amazing. He is perfect. But as the days go by I remember more of the birth, and the disappointment grows. Offhanded comments from friends and loved ones start to sting and take hold. And I am ashamed. I start to change the story when I tell it. I leave out the gruesome parts. I leave out the pain. I leave out the shame and disappointment. But I kept it all to myself. I never told anyone. I held it inside.
Every woman on this planet has babies, how could I have been so bad at it? What was wrong with me?
Every woman on this planet has babies, how could I have been so bad at it? What was wrong with me? My womb, birth canal, all of it had failed. I had ‘needed’ so much medical intervention, did I even really give birth? I don’t remember it that well, was I even really there?
The months go by and I dealt with postpartum depression, which I know now was connected to my birth trauma. I found ways to heal, I got better. I got not so good again, and then a little better. Self doubt consumed the first few years of motherhood for me, and I covered it up in the only way I knew how. I looked good. I worked out for hours a day, restricted what I ate obsessively and hid behind a rock hard body, while on the inside I was crumbling.
I felt disconnected from myself emotionally, and getting back into fitness made a huge difference. I know I didn’t do it the right way. I went too hard and too far too fast, but it was what I needed to start healing. I ended up taking the long road, but if I hadn’t I would have never learned all that I did or found my passion for healing moms.
I had been fit all my life and since having a baby I felt like my stomach muscles, for lack of a better term, had died.
I felt disconnected physically too. I had been fit all my life and since having a baby I felt like my stomach muscles, for lack of a better term, had died. I couldn’t engage them and it made me feel floppy and flabby, even when I was in great shape. I couldn’t do things I had always loved doing because it just wasn’t there. My body wasn’t mine anymore and it was just one more way I had failed as a woman and now as a mother.
It wasn’t until I found my Postnatal trainer (THE Jessie Mundell) that I really started to understand what my body was doing. What it had been through and how I could heal it. And once the body started to heal, so did my heart. The trauma and the feelings of failure got lesser and lesser as I started to feel my body get strong again, and function the way it was supposed to. I no longer felt like a failure, at least not physically, and I was able to face some of the emotional trauma of my labour and delivery.
Being physically strong and connected allowed me to be emotionally strong and connected too. As I healed my core muscles, I realized how connected the heart and the mind and the body all are. We need them all to work well, and work together. That’s what #COREconnection is all about. It’s not just about working out. It’s not just about abs. It’s about so much more. It’s about being connected, physically and emotionally to your core, to your centre. To feeling strong and proud of motherhood and the changes it has made to your body. It’s about allowing us to let go of the past, learn from it and grow from it and move forward, stronger than ever. It’s about getting back to yourself, back to the things you love and the things that make you, you.
It’s about being connected, physically and emotionally to your core, to your centre. To feeling strong and proud of motherhood and the changes it has made to your body.
It still hurts to write this. I can’t say it’s not through tears that I hit “Publish”. But I want you to know that there’s hope. It’s not all dark days, and you don’t have to hate your body. You don’t have to feel like a failure forever. I am living proof of that. I’d love for you to join the #COREconnection challenge and do some of this work with me. Get reconnected to your core: mind, body & soul. Get back to doing what you love and feeling like yourself.
I’ve done it, it’s worth it, and I want that for you. Even if you don’t want to join the challenge, reach out. I’d love to hear your core story, too.