I was never one of those little girls that dreamed about having babies. If someone asked me if I wanted to be a mommy someday, I’d firmly answer “maybe.”
So, when my maternal clock started ticking louder in my heart, I was surprised at how quickly my “maybe” turned into, “Okay, let’s do this.” My husband was more-or-less on board. In the first month, we didn’t use protection and gave it a half-hearted try.
To my shock (and a little to my dismay because I felt wholly unready), I got pregnant.
My pregnancy was mostly unnoteworthy. I had mild first-trimester nausea, gained the average amount of weight, didn’t have any significant physical pain, and baby boy was developing and growing appropriately. From the beginning of my pregnancy, I knew I wanted to have an unmedicated birth with as little intervention as possible, so I chose to seek care with a midwife group, hire a doula, and deliver in an alternative birthing suite. I read (half of) a couple of books, went to a couple of birthing classes with my husband, and mostly laid around enjoying this excuse not to do much.
Content warning: this piece recounts a traumatic labor experience and difficult postpartum recovery.
At midnight on my due date, I had just laid down when I started feeling contractions. Pretty quickly I knew I was in labor. It was not at all how my classes had told me it would be. My labor started hard and fast; there was no easing into it. From the beginning, the contractions were five minutes or less apart and were strong and painful. When I arrived at the hospital the following morning, I immediately got into the shower where I stayed for hours, feeling intense pain in my back. I now know that what I was experiencing was “back labor”. I was in agony, but when I was in triage, my midwife had said, “I think you’ll be meeting your baby by noon today,” so I clung to that statement and kept going.
Time drug on and on, and I was progressing slowly, so it was decided to start Pitocin. It was at this point that my memory becomes hazy and distorted. I know from my pain-induced altered memory and my husband’s retelling that I suffered on my way to ten centimeters. When I was finally there, I was told it was time to push. I never actually felt the urge, but I desperately wanted to end what I was feeling, so I pushed with all my might for over three hours. For reasons that are still unexplained, during pushing, my heart went into SVT, a dangerous arrhythmia that caused my heart to beat incredibly fast. With this increase in heart rate, coupled with my exhaustion and my son’s concerning heart rate, it was decided he needed help getting out, and they were going to use forceps to do it.
An OB physician was called to the bedside; I had to move from my queen-sized birthing bed to a stirrups-equipped one, bright lights were turned on, and nurses flooded my room. The doctor gave me a peripheral nerve block (since I did not have an epidural) in hopes of easing some of the pain. The experience of having my son pulled from my body without adequate anesthesia is something that still haunts me. Finally, at 8:06 pm, over 20 hours of hard labor later and after having no sleep for nearly two consecutive days, my sweet son Orrie was born.
The days that followed are seared in my memory by incredible pain and exhaustion. I remember watching from my hospital bed as my family passed around my new baby, their eyes solely fixated on him.
All I wanted was for someone to crawl into bed with me and hold me while I wept. I felt broken, alone, and forgotten.ABBY WAYCHOFF ON HER BIRTH STORY
As I transitioned into my postpartum time, things didn’t get much better. Due to the trauma, I’d experienced my milk was slow to come in and I wasn’t making enough initially to feed my son fully.
Again, I felt like my body was failing me.
Additionally, my husband and I hadn’t thought much about managing life after the baby was born. My parents stayed with us for a week, but we hadn’t communicated with them what precisely we wanted help with, so from my painful seat on the couch where I was constantly breastfeeding and pumping, I was still managing everything. My husband went back to his busy work schedule after two weeks, and I was on my own.
We got delivery nearly every night; I was doing the laundry and walking the dog with an injured tailbone and a perineal tear while babywearing my colicky baby. I pooped my pants more times than I wish to admit. I also continued to have tailbone pain for almost a year and self-diagnosed myself with, then sought treatment for, pelvic organ prolapse after getting my period back and discovering my Diva Cup didn’t fit right.
You guys, it was a Shit. Show.
After the dust had settled about a year and a half after my son’s birth, I started feeling really angry. Sure, my experience was perhaps a little extreme, but any birth, even if it is perfectly textbook, is extreme in its own way.
Why aren’t women better prepared for birth and postpartum?
Why are we given so little information about our bodies in general?
More specifically, why aren’t we told what happens during birth and how to prepare and recover?
Why are there no resources to help set up a postpartum support plan so that moms actually have the freedom to rest and recover?
I channeled this anger to educate myself and create something that I wish would’ve been available for me. Using my background as an occupational therapist and my training in pelvic floor function and dysfunction, perinatal mood disorders, and yoga instruction, I have created programs for expectant and new moms. These programs specifically address physical prep and recovery, mental and wellness, and life and support prep. If I can help even one mom be better prepared and feel more empowered, then my experience was worth it.
After a lot of therapy and processing of what happened, I’m happy to say that I went on to have a second successful pregnancy and healing birth. Now that I’m finished birthing my own babies, I hope to help many other mommas create the environment for a smooth transition into motherhood.