Thursday, February 16, 2012

Trauma is, as Trauma does. My birth story after 9 years.

Timing is such a funny thing.  Last week a friend sent me this article on PTSD related to traumatic birth experiences.  I either hadn't noticed it, or didn't read it right away for some other reason.  It wasn't until after I went to a doctors appointment at the hospital where my first son was born (which I have done twice a year for the last nine years) and I was telling this same friend that I still experience mild PTSD symptoms as I approach the building that he asked me if I had read the article.

I think I got to the second paragraph before I broke down in tears, having to take multiple breaks to get through the rest of it.  My symptoms were not nearly as severe as what the woman in the article describes, but my experience was traumatizing....after all, I am reminded....I almost died.  Maybe it was because I didn't know it at the time, or because I was so sick for the first 3 months of my son's life, or there was so much hub-bub around "my condition" that I didn't even notice....trauma runs deep.

My story is long and complicated so I will try to keep it brief.  It starts right after my son was born.  My pregnancy itself was uneventful, and the delivery went fairly smooth.  In fact, I pushed for less than 15 minutes and my son was born healthy and strong.  I was so busy looking at him, that I didn't notice the fear in my doctor's face and didn't think to question why all of a sudden there were 10 people in the delivery room standing around me, thrusting their hands inside me and asking demanding that I push.   All I wanted was my baby, but they wouldn't let me have him.  Insisting my son was okay...fear turning to terror as people bustled around whispering to each other and pounding on my belly.

Turns out, my placenta wasn't budging.  For those who aren't in the know..once you deliver a baby, the placenta typically follows.  If it doesn't, your uterus does not contract and you hemorrhage.  In the rare situation in which this occurs (1 in 2500), a hysterectomy is the recommended course of treatment, the alternative is usually death.  My doctor refused.  I had a full placenta accreta (I called it placenta "creature") which is a condition in which the placenta abnormally implants into the uterine wall and does not release upon birth.

My doctor said, "This is your first baby and you are to young.  If you were my sister I would treat you the same."  So the cord was cut and stuck back in.  I won't go into detail about what followed, let's just say it involved a lot of blood....everywhere....and a lot of, "What do you mean you're placenta is still inside you?"  I went home with a hemoglobin level of 6 (normal is 12) and high risk for hemorrhaging.  Needless to say, I was back within 24 hours for a blood transfusion.  In the months that followed I was in severe pain and suffered from high fevers.  All the while waiting.  Waiting to bleed out.  Waiting for the placenta to detach.  Waiting to be normal again.   Eventually the fevers subsided and the pain dissipated.  The placenta was slowly absorbed by my body and life resumed some level of much as it can with a colicky infant.

Over the next 3 years I used whatever energy I had around my experience and funneled it, some would say compulsively, toward helping others (no big surprise there).  I started a message board for Placenta Accreta, I built a website and posted my story, I fielded emails from multiple women who were experiencing the same issue.  I started a life coaching business for expecting and new moms.  All of which I eventually let slide away.  I would check the message board every once in a while and there would be posts about how it wasn't well maintained.  I gave up on the coaching and quietly stopped attending mom focused groups and meetings.  At the time I chalked it up to not having the time or the energy, but the truth became to painful.  I realize now, that in my quest to "help others" in order to heal, I just kept re-traumatizing myself.

I'm not sure why I am coming to this realization now, although the article mentioned above certainly helped.  I feel anger, I feel cheated, I feel sad, yet I know I am blessed to have a healthy, smart, incredible son who truly touches my soul.  I also know from the work that I do, that everyone is in recovery from something and recovery is a very personal life long journey. I am in recovery from a traumatic birth experience.

One thing I cannot will not yet say is that I wouldn't change a thing.  All things being equal, I would rewrite the script for that day in a heartbeat.  But life doesn't work that way, and so we persevere, we integrate our experiences, and every once in a while something reminds us that we touched life's limits and managed to find our way back.

Written by me for my Boy on his 8th birthday

Eight years seems like a lifetime ago,
The line between life and death thinner than I know.
New breath is taken, innocence lost,
Fear on stranger's faces embossed.
Karma from lifetimes past,
Shadows from angels unknown are cast.
Eyes alert and gaze intense,
His imprint on this world to be immense.
He is my soul outside of me,
Happy 8th birthday Caby Baby!!


  1. Jodi - I came across your blog just now, and wanted to let you know that you are not alone. Have a look at our blog "The Truth About Traumatic Birth" at to read about things you need to know for the healing journey after a traumatic birth. I would rewrite the script for my first son's birth in a heartbeat too - there's nothing wrong with that. BEst wishes for you, from Melissa at :)

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  3. Jodi - sometimes you take my breath away. We have talked about this a few times over the years but reading how you poured your heart out above reminds me of how much I love our friendship and how very much I appreciate who you are and how much you touch my life too. Your son is a blessing to my family - I treasure his friendship with Jacob.....well said! well said.