By Laura Siddons, Birth Doula, and Co-Founder, The Nesting Place
When I look at my twins, I usually feel happy and proud. But last year when they turned 3, all I did was cry. I cried tears of anger, tears of sadness, tears of pain. And it stuck around for weeks. And so began my birth trauma healing journey.
When I got pregnant in 2017, I immediately knew I wanted to have a homebirth after an amazing and empowering first birth experience in 2015. But when I found out I was having twins at 7.5 weeks, that changed. I quickly switched to a local hospital based midwifery practice, Stony Brook Midwifery, in hopes of getting the holistic care I had with my first pregnancy. And I did, they were phenomenal and treated me and my babies so well.
My twin pregnancy was horrendous. I was exhausted, sick, and uncomfortable the entire pregnancy. I became a shell of myself. My husband was unsupportive as he was worried about the logistical aspects of what was to come and spent his time home renovating the twins nursery. I often found myself asking for help with my toddler, driving to my moms just so that I could rest and not snap on my toddler for every thing she did. Our marriage was definitely in a rocky place, but I prayed that things would get better once the pregnancy was over and I didn’t feel so lousy and huge.
The only part of the pregnancy I enjoyed was watching my body grow and change physically. Feeling it (aside from the many many baby kicks and tumbles) was far from enjoyable but seeing it was nothing short of incredible. I documented with daily belly pictures.
I was in and out of the hospital throughout the pregnancy with suspected pre-term labor, a shortening cervix, and dehydration. Fast forward to 35 weeks pregnant – and I was done. We knew baby A was head down and baby B breech. I was hell-bent on delivering vaginally – so much so that I set up a private consult with the head of maternal fetal medicine to see if I could convince him to be on call for my birth to guarantee I’d get a fair shot at a breech birth if baby B didn’t turn. He said no. Eventually I got to a point where I let it go and turned my entire focus to inducing my labor because I was ready to give birth and be done with this pregnancy.
At 36 weeks and four days my water broke and when I arrived at the hospital 4 cm dilated my “dream team” was there. One of my favorite midwives and a ‘breech-friendly’ OB. All I could think was: LET’S DO THIS.
My cervix was already almost fully effaced and 4-5cm dilated, so it only took a little Pitocin to get me into active labor. It went quick. Labor wasn’t bad but the birth was far from painless, to put it lightly. But our babies were here. 6lbs 3oz and 5lbs 4oz – one boy, one girl, both born vaginally. Exactly what I hoped for.
Baby boy was born breech, he was sent right to the NICU because he had a rough transition – trouble breathing and limited arm mobility. We were sent back to the L&D room where we would recover and wait to hear news about how our baby boy was doing. My beautiful twin A girl, Alice, kept me distracted. She nursed and snuggled happily right away.
Eventually my husband got to go see baby boy, Jack, in the NICU where he was told he may need to be intubated because of his oxygen levels. A few hours later we got the good news that he was doing well with just CPAP – no intubation needed. We were relieved and with each hour, things seemed to be getting better and better for him. It was only good news from there and within 48 hours we were discharged but without him. Luckily our friend who lives close to the hospital opened her home to us so we could stay close by until he was discharged the next day. We didn’t feel right going home without him.
The following days and weeks were a blur as we adjusted to life at home with 3 little ones. We had a ton of help from our families and friends and doulas. People sent meals, diapers, gifts; everything we could need. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? There was so much to be grateful for.
But when they turned 3 – it all came crashing down. All day and all night, I cried. For the next two weeks I couldn’t talk to my husband. That’s when I realized how much grief, guilt, trauma, anxiety, and anger I was experiencing since the twins were born – and that’s when my healing journey began. I spoke to my husband about the birth, and the postpartum time, I started talking to a therapist, and started a more consistent yoga and meditation practice. Most recently, I attended a birth trauma healing circle at The Nesting Place with Jennie from Mater Hara Wellness. The circle offered me the time and space to express what I was feeling – a truly cathartic and awakening experience.
In the rage on the page exercise at the circle, I wrote something along the lines of:
How could I let this happen…knowing what I know. Doing what I do?
How could he let this happen?
I was so focused on one thing, and one thing only that I didn’t ask questions.
I never knew what a ‘breech extraction’ really was. I didn’t do my research.
Why didn’t anyone tell me?
Pulling, tugging, rushing. So much pain.
And then he was born and he wasn’t breathing or crying. And then they took him to NICU.
And then came postpartum – more pain. My heart, my insides, they felt bruised.
Was that really necessary? How will I ever know.
Once I noticed the feelings, identified them, spoke of them, cried and released, I found space to forgive myself. So this year on the twins fourth birthday I feel lighter and am choosing to forgive.
I forgive myself for not being my own advocate the way I wished I had been. I forgive my husband for not stopping them from ‘extracting’ my son from my body. I forgive the midwives for not preparing me more for the possible pain and intensity I was about to endure. I forgive the OB who performed the extraction. Because it’s no one’s fault. My Birth Trauma is no one’s fault – it happened, it is part of my story and I will release the negativity I feel about it and rather focus on the strength that I have as a mother, as a birth keeper, as a person,
Birth Trauma doesn’t discriminate. My birth trauma story is no better, and no worse than anyone else’s. It is my trauma and I need(ed) to cope with it. This healing season is teaching me that I don’t have to let it dictate my life, my emotions, my reactions. The anger, the sadness, and other emotions associated with my birth story and the days/weeks following are valid, they happened and are a part of my healing journey, which continues every single day. The consistent yet slow release of anger, grief, and sadness is opening up small pockets of space for more gratitude for my life and the many blessings in it.