Trigger warning: While the title of this post may be lighthearted — and it does end with two happy and healthy babies — this story contains a fair amount of discussion about birth trauma and my experience with it.
It’s taken me weeks to sit down to write this post.
Sure, some of that is because of sleep deprivation. And massive life changes. And cluster feeding. And everything else that comes with bringing home not just one, but two newborns.
But, if I’m honest with myself, that’s not why I’ve put off writing my birth story. It’s because I’ve been processing it — at every damn level my soul is capable of. Logically … emotionally … layer after layer … and level after level.
I know that writing takes things deeper. It adds a level of realness to an event that makes it permanent and lasting, in a way that nothing else can. Writing can also can reveal new insights and feelings you didn’t even know you had.
Because you can push away emotions. You can avoid thoughts. You can put off conversations. You can decide to deal with it all later. But when you put pen to paper?
Shit gets real.
So, with that realness in mind, here’s my birth story. In all fairness, it’s not that dramatic compared to what so many other women go through, but it felt raw enough that I wanted to share how intense it was — and still is in a lot of ways. Is it the most dramatic one you’ll ever read? Maybe not, but I’m here to tell you that it felt raw and scary and intense — in fact, it still feels that way at times, weeks later. It was important to me that I share this story because I know many of you have experienced at least some level of birth trauma (I mean, it feels like almost every birth story has an element of trauma in it), and you should know that you’re not alone, It’s normal. And there are resources available; you just need to know where to go.
Healing from a traumatic birth experience (generally characterized by it being: sudden, overwhelming, and dangerous) isn’t something that’s discussed much (at least, that’s what I’ve found to be true), so I’ve put some helpful reference links at the bottom. I know I found them reassuring (especially since my hospital didn’t have a traumatic birth experience counselor available when I asked for one), and hope you do, too.
Now, let’s get to the story you’re here for.
Don’t get me wrong; their birth was incredible. My girls were safe, healthy, and we somehow managed to go 38 weeks to the day so they had no NICU time and good birth weights (6 pounds 2 ounces, and 6 pounds 13 ounces). I am VERY happy with how things turned out, for the care I received, for my OBGYN, for the nurses, for my doulas (shout-out to my doula Vanessa Flood at Birthing Beyond and my doula/amazing photographer Ali Fleming of Photography AF — all photos you see were taken by her!) , for my husband, and for the twin girls themselves.
But, like so many aspects of birth, not much went according to plan. I suffered from many symptoms of Postpartum Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD — note, this is different than postpartum depression) for the hours and few days immediately following birth.
Here’s how things went down.
My Twin Birth Story
Because apparently my cervix and I like to keep babies in forever (note this post), I was one of the rare cases where I had to be induced with twins. We’d spent weeks worried that I’d go into labor early, only to have to go in and give things a kickstart at 38 weeks.
Like with my daughter, we tried 12 hours of Cervadil to start. Despite having strong and regular contractions, there was little change. And my OBGYN tried to break my water, but wasn’t able to (thanks, posterior and very far back cervix).
Then we tried a few hours of Cytotec. Again, little change — just enough for my OBGYN to be able to go in and break my water. Which hurt like hell (I didn’t have an epidural — which was my hope but I wasn’t set on it going in), but it was exciting because it meant we were one step closer to meeting the girls.
Then, we started Pitocin and were off to the races. Like, big time. Like, it all happened at 5 a.m. and Baby A was out by 6:50 a.m. off-to-the-races.
Contractions became very intense, and very regular, and very close to together. It was almost identical to my experience having my first daughter. Before I knew it, I felt the urge to push, so they moved us to an operating room (standard procedure for twins at my hospital — and thank goodness it is), and within just a few pushes and the ring-of-fire feeling, Maya was out — crying and on my chest trying to nurse.
It was incredible to meet her then — and also daunting to know I had to do it again for Baby B. With no break in contractions and me going from 10 cm back to 8 cm, I held Maya as long as I could while they checked Baby B’s positioning and broke her water (again, excruciating). She was still head down but had flipped to a sunny side position. Her umbilical cord was also bunched up in a way that was restricting oxygen and blood flow.
At this point, they put me on oxygen and tried manually turning her — again, while I was still having contractions. The level of pain during this part was … I don’t even have words to articulate it. Thankfully my doula Ali and my husband were there, coaching me through it and helping me to breathe. The pain combined with the scariness of the situation was unlike anything I’d experienced before.
Much of this part is a blur, but I remember repeating the phrase, “I just want healthy babies,” over and over again.
After close to an hour of attempts to turn her and with her heart rate dropping to levels that indicated stress, I ended up going under full anesthesia for an emergency c-section. My husband and doula left the room, a whole bunch of new people seemed to come in from every direction, and before I knew it, I was in a recovery room with my husband and Lily by my side.
I don’t have a good sense of time from all of it, but my husband says that once he left the OR, it was only a few minutes before he was holding Lily, skin-to-skin.
I’ll go into my recovery in another post (because, wow, talk about getting the FULL birth experience with both a vaginal birth and a c-section), but after I woke up, much of it was simply overwhelming.
I was exhausted from the 24-hour labor. I was still in incredible pain from the surgery and the cramping of my uterus. I was overly swollen. I was drugged up. It was painful to move. I had a catheter in. And, while it was incredible to have my babies there and out in the world, there was still so much pain that it almost felt like I was still in labor. Just laying on my back gave me flashbacks of the scene of people rushing around in the OR.
Since talking with others about the birth, I’ve had people ask: “Are you upset that things didn’t go as planned or that you weren’t there to see Lily immediately after?” The answer is a bit complicated. Because of course there’s part of me that wishes things had gone smoothly and as planned. And I would have loved to have seen Lily as soon as she came out.
But, it’s more involved than just that.
It’s taken a lot of time and reflection for me to fully grasp the elements that were the most upsetting. But when you go back to that definition of a traumatic birth experience — sudden, overwhelming, and dangerous — for me, mine hits all of those. After a long early labor, the full active labor was very sudden — as was the change in Lily’s position. The pain was incredibly overwhelming. And, for Lily, things were dangerous. It’s truly in that intensity and in the fear of her being harmed that led to my trauma.
However, with rest, pain relief, talking to my OBGYN and my support network (and being very upfront with people around me that I needed help), educating myself on traumatic birth experiences, and getting the space and time to process (including writing this), the more important emotion I feel is gratitude. I feel extremely thankful and infinitely grateful for getting exactly what I asked for: two healthy babies.
I also know how lucky I am to see that now — and feel it now. Because these two girls are incredible. Our little miracles.
And they’ve completed our family.
Helpful Resources for Traumatic Birth Experiences and PTSD
If you’ve had a traumatic birth experience, I encourage you to read the below — and reach out for help. It definitely helped me. You are not alone in your feelings.
- A primer on what Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is
- How PTSD is different than Postpartum Depression
- How to help heal after a traumatic birth experience
- How to get help from PTSD and other postpartum issues
Did your birth story have an element of trauma to it? How did you begin to heal? —Jenn