Healing After Traumatic Childbirth: 7 Keys to a Better Birth Experience

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41 weeks pregnant. Labor induction. Contractions go from zero to sixty.
Unprepared for pain. Take morphine. Dilation progresses slowly despite
intense contractions. Around midnight, at three centimeters dilation, the
epidural is administered. Then events begin to move fast, as they say the
baby is in distress, his heart rate is decelerating, and there is meconium
in the amniotic fluid. Rushed into surgery for what is called an unplanned
C-section (although it sure felt like an emergency). Vomit several times
in the operating room.

In recovery, the room spins and my blood pressure dips so low I’m too
dizzy to hold my newborn Baby Dude, let alone nurse. The anesthesiolo-
gist gives three shots and my blood pressure finally stabilizes, but my
weak, pale body shakes.

There is much more to Baby Dude’s traumatic birth story, but I’ll stop
there. Thank God we are both healthy with no complications. The fact that
his birth story ended well enabled me to (mostly) heal emotionally in the
weeks and months that followed.

Thirteen months later, pregnant with Baby Dos, I knew I wanted to have
a better birth experience. Part of the reason I felt so traumatized the first
time was because I did nothing to prepare for childbirth. My dad was diag-
nosed with cancer when I became pregnant with Baby Dude, and most of
my pregnancy was spent in different hospitals as my dad grew sicker, then
a hospice facility, where we said good-bye 37 days before Baby Dude’s birth.
I didn’t have the time or energy to take a birth class or practice breathing
techniques. With Baby Dos, I resolved that no matter what was going on in
my life, I’d prepare for childbirth to the best of my ability. I planned to try
a VBAC, although I knew a C-section was a possibility.

At 41 weeks and three days, I went into labor naturally with a similar story:
intense contractions two minutes apart, but only dilated two centimeters after
18 hours of labor. I was able to breathe through contractions this time, but
they were painful, I was exhausted, and I felt like something was wrong. I
could hear his heart rate decelerating after each contraction on the monitor
and I chose to have a C-section. It was a completely different experience the
second time. I wasn’t rushed in, and the whole process of surgery became a
happy, joyous occasion. I didn’t throw up, and my blood pressure was stable
the entire time. In the recovery room, I held my son and nursed him right
away. I was in less pain and the healing process was faster and easier. As
they stitched me up after the C-section, the doctor told me I had meconium
in my fluid (again), and I knew I made the right decision.

With God’s grace, I know the actions I took to prepare for birth with my
second pregnancy helped me be at peace with both my birth experiences.
Below are seven things I did, and whether you’re giving birth for the first
time or had a traumatic experience like I did, it’s my sincere prayer that
these thoughts will help you, whether you give birth in a hospital or at
home, naturally or via C-section.

  1. Take a birth class. Educate yourself as much as possible. Whatever life
    throws at you during your pregnancy, take the time to take a birth class,
    about 6-10 weeks before your due date.
    .
  2. Write a birth plan and be flexible. I know birth plans don’t usually go
    according to plan, but trust me when I tell you having no plan at all (like
    I did with Baby Dude) isn’t a good idea. I used the hospital’s birth plan
    given to me in my birthing class. I checked off boxes and wrote notes.
    Google “how to write a birth plan” for more information.
    .
  3. Pray. Prayer is essential. Pray for a smooth delivery, and a healthy out-
    come for you and your baby. Ask God to lead you in labor and help you
    make the right decisions for you and your baby.
    .
  4. Read the book Supernatural Childbirth: Experiencing the Promises of
    God Concerning Conception and Delivery, by Jackie Mize. A friend loaned
    me this book. The positive birth stories alone make it worth the read, and
    it also tells you how to deal with fear and gives you Scriptures and prayers
    from conception to birth. I didn’t have a pain-free childbirth like some of
    the women in this book, but it gave me a huge spiritual boost.
    .
  5. Talk with other moms who have had positive birth experiences. I had
    uplifting, inspiring chats with my friend who loaned me the book and my
    sister-in-law. I asked questions and found out what they did that worked
    well for them.
    .
  6. Practice breathing and relaxation techniques ahead of time. Practice
    at home until it becomes second nature, then it will be easier to do when
    the time comes.
    .
  7. Become as familiar as possible with where you are giving birth. We took
    a tour of the hospital (another thing I didn’t do the first time). Learn where
    to park. Do a dry run. If you’re in a lot of pain when you arrive, knowing
    where to park and where to go will make the whole process much smoother
    and will reduce your fear.

In the end, it wasn’t about whether I had a VBAC or a C-section, it was the
fact I had a trauma-free birth. We went home healthy and at peace. We’re
thrilled with Baby Dos’ arrival, and it’s already hard to remember a time
when he wasn’t part of our family. I am so thankful to God for my two boys!

What would you add to this list? What have you done (or what are you going
to do) to prepare for childbirth?

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