i’ve been meaning to write this post for days, weeks even, but that sweet little baby of mine seems to always be awake when i feel inspired to write, and it’s hard to type with one hand for very long.
as of now, my girls are napping together, and so i’m giving this post a shot. who knows how long it will take to actually finish it.
the hours after jude’s birth are hazy for me, and after how peaceful and sacred my labor was, it is hard for me to think about what happened after. because it wasn’t peaceful. it was hard and painful. after jude was born, i began to hemorrhage, and though it was controlled with the pit shot to the thigh, i continued to bleed a lot. the moments of jude lying skin to skin with me were shortened by my midwife having to massage my still-contracting uterus in order to get the blood out. i didn’t see any of this, and tried not to pay much attention to what was going on. i didn’t want to go into a state of panic: i’d had my baby. she was fine. she was right in front of me. i tried to center on this reality, but then my midwives were talking about how many cups of blood i was losing. i felt like i was peeing every time michele pushed down hard on my belly. thank god i didn’t see any of it.
after awhile, the midwives began pressuring me to eat and think about sitting up. i had no appetite; i was feeling pretty woozy and wiped out. i just wanted to lie next to my baby, who was learning to suckle. but my blood pressure was low, somewhere in the 90s/50s, and i needed sustenance. i finally ate a hardboiled egg and some toast, and soon was helped to a sitting position, at which point i felt my organs drop and rearrange in my belly. then the room began to spin. i remember feeling like i had to pretend to feel better than i was, in order to stay close to my baby, who was in h’s or the coach’s arms. i could hear h’s voice, faraway though she was in the same room, saying “she doesn’t look good you guys. she’s really pale.” the midwives assured her that i’d be alright soon.
in this nearly passed out state, i was helped to the bathroom and plopped down on the toilet, where i was asked to pee. i was bleeding and bleeding and was too numb and swollen to will myself to do it. because i was so lightheaded, midwife v and apprentice s took turns staying with me as i sat there bleeding, but not peeing, into the toilet. meanwhile, everyone else was in the bedroom (which is right off the bathroom, thankfully). jude was being weighed and measured and given the vitamin k shot. i missed all of this. i heard my baby’s first cries of pain, and could not even stand up on my own to get to her.
i have no idea how long i sat on that toilet, but after awhile, s tried to distract me by showing me the placenta. finally, i could feel myself peeing, and begged to be pulled off the toilet. i was exhausted, covered in sweat and blood and olive oil and god only knows what else, and asked to take a shower. midwife v turned it on for me, and was going to stand guard, but i couldn’t stand on my own. i was seeing lightning bolts in my peripheral vision, and was pretty sure i was about to black out. and so i went back to bed and was wiped down a bit. my blood pressure was taken again, and it was still too low for their liking, and so the midwives threw together a concoction of emergen-c, orange juice, and other sugary, vitamin c-like liquids. they made me chug it, which i did without puking. lucky me.
despite the panicky overwhelming mamabear feelings of being separated from my baby for so long, i was sort of okay with all the eating and peeing they were making me do, as it prolonged the dreaded stitching of the tears. by the time michele started stitching me up, i was so over being poked and prodded. i just wanted my body back, wanted everyone to leave, wanted to be alone with my family. instead, i lay on my bed with my ass propped up on dr sears big baby book and legs on michele’s lap, as s held a flashlight on my suzy and v sat next to me, holding the speculum in place. michele mercifully gave me a few shots of lidocaine before she began to stitch my internal tear and then my torn perineum. h had the baby on her breast for some of this time, and then she laid a sleeping jude next to me.
after what seemed like forever, the stitching was done, and the midwives finally said goodnight. i think it was about 2:30 am. we got on skype to videochat with big jude, little j’s namesake, and then we passed out for a few hours.
i really thought i’d processed those first postpartum hours pretty well. they happened. they were painful and scary and surreal. i was sad that i didn’t get to have the ideal home birth experience of nursing my baby off to sleep and snuggling with my love, but i was grateful for my competent midwife who knew how to put me back together again. my body, however, immediately began to grieve.
i’ve been having a lot of nightmares since jude’s birth. they usually feature ghastly animals made of all teeth and claws trying to climb my body and kill me and my baby. i’ve dreamt of being shot in the stomach. i wake up nauseated and in a cold sweat. i tell h about the dreams, which steals a lot of their power. the nightmares are happening less frequently now, thankfully, and i’ve gotten to talk about them with my therapist, which further strips them of their scariness.
another thing that is helping me heal is the fact that my body itself is healing. after over three weeks of having to mentally prepare to go through the process of going to the bathroom, my bathroom routine is returning to something like normal. i may soon even be able to wipe myself with toilet paper instead of spraying my frankensuzy (thanks h for the nickname) with the sanibottle. i mustered the courage to look at myself for the first time last week, and the little cosmetic mirror tells me that i am still me, just with stitches. and after bleeding pretty heavily for four weeks straight, today is the third day of no more blood. i can’t articulate just how much more whole i feel without that constant reminder of blood. i seriously get teary-eyed thinking about it.
my body has felt oppressed by the aftermath of giving birth, and the oppression is slowly lifting. i hadn’t been able to write about this before now for that very reason: i was still very much living in the wordless oppression and grief of an exhausted, broken-down body.
if you’re still reading this post, thank you. i know it is a cobbled together ramble, but i hope it makes sense, and can serve as a small hope to a woman in a similar situation someday.
to sum up: it’s sometimes really hard to reconcile the beauty of a birth experience with the brokenness of your body that can follow. let your body grieve this. be gentle with yourself. and your body will return to wholeness sooner than later. i’m getting there a little more every day.
pee ess, i was only interrupted for one feeding while writing this post!