At this point the midwives suggested we asses for tears. I suspected I had had another second degree tear and they initially agreed.
My second midwife who had arrived after the birth began to perform the stitches but asked to also perform a rectal examination. As a student midwife I understand the importance of these and had complete trust in my midwives. In hindsight it was incredibly lucky that we went ahead with it as it revealed the tear was more extensive than initially believed.
My midwives suggested that this likely needed to be repaired in a hospital setting. We made the joint decision to organise a non-emergent hospital transfer and she removed the stitches.
My team busied themselves preparing me for transfer, smoothing the birth pool, packing me a hospital bag, organising my toddler etc.
We took some time to give our little boy his present from his baby sister as he had been eagerly awaiting this and I wanted to end the morning on a positive note.
It was a lovely moment and the first time he really got to sit down and witness her.
Having this time together as a family to enjoy one another was so critical in hindsight. I suspect that had this same situation unfolded in hospital we would have missed out on some really critical bonding time.
The ambulance arrived and my husband, our little girl and I hopped onboard.
The team were lovely and reassuring under the circumstances.
We made the trip to the hospital where we were transferred to birth suite to wait to be seen by a doctor. The doctor came in to assess my tears and this was my least favourite part of the experience.
I opted for gas to help mange the pain – Sure I had just given birth without pain relief but I wasn’t here to win medals and this certainly wasn’t the empowering productive kind of pain that birth provides. If I’m honest with myself, the pain was as much psychological as physical, so the gas barely touched the sides.
I felt an overwhelming sense of “poor me.”
How did we get here? Where did we get it wrong? Surely it’s not as bad as they think? My mind raced as I cried my way through the assessment.
The initial assessment was that I had sustained a 3C tear. Unfortunately this was one of the circumstances where ignorance would have been bliss. I know plenty about tears and was immediately overwhelmed by what this meant for me.
My husband did an incredible job holding space for me during this time. I imagine it was differently (but equally) overwhelming, concerning and painful for him to witness, as it was for me to experience.
We met with the anaesthetist and head surgeon and discussed what lay ahead. Given that I had eaten breakfast the decision was made to do a spinal block rather than repair under general anaesthetic. While I was apprehensive about being awake for the procedure, I felt this was our best option as it would allow me to get back to my husband and our baby as soon as possible and have minimal disruption to breastfeeding.
I was prepped for surgery and we headed in soon after. I was grateful we weren’t left waiting around.
I said goodbye to my husband and baby, a little nervous but I felt confident that they would be okay. I knew my husband had some frozen colostrum packed (thanks Kel!) should he need to feed her while I was gone.
The team were friendly and informative and I felt okay heading into surgery.
The spinal block took three attempts which was not ideal as I was butt naked, cold, in the foetal position and in pain throughout, but eventually they got there.
The anaesthetist offered me something to help me relax but I declined as I felt very calm.
I focused on my breathing and tried to be present for the procedure. Rightly or wrongly I felt that if I was to try to dissociate from what was happening, I would find it more traumatic.
So I rested at some points. At others I listened to the surgeon talking through the procedure with his colleague and watched it in the reflection of the light- would not recommend if you’re squeamish.
My feelings of “poor me” were gradually subsiding. I felt reserved to what had happened and made a conscious decision to focus on right now rather than getting overwhelmed by what lay ahead.
The procedure was finished in under an hour and I spent a short time in recovery. Everyone was incredibly lovely to me throughout.
I chatted to a midwife who reassured me that I had no risk factors for a severe tear and it was very much a case of “bad luck.” Nothing I could have done to cause it or prevent it. This provided me with reassurance.
Throughout this experience it was relayed to me that if I should really want to have more children the strong recommendation was to have an elective c-section. The rationale provided to me by my surgeon was that while the re-occurrence rate is relatively low when it comes to severe tearing, the repair is never as effective the second time.
I feel they could have spared me this conversation so early in the piece as it was overwhelming to think about.
I was taken back to my room and was happy to be reunited with my husband and our still unnamed little girl.
We spent the afternoon snuggling, chatting, processing and feeding.
My mum came to visit, bringing my little boy and some much needed supplies (sushi and deodorant amongst other things) and we spent a lovely afternoon with them before they headed home with my husband in tow.
Having only had 2 hours sleep, it made sense to me that he should go home, rest and come back refreshed.
I felt confident that I could handle things alone.
A few short hours later though I called him to ask if he would send someone back to support me.
Having a newborn is hard full stop.
Having a newborn and a significant tear is a whole new ball game.
When she was hungry I had to try to figure out how to sit up, get her from the bassinet beside me and find a comfortable position to feed in. What should have been a 30 second process took me the best part of 15 minutes while she wailed and I tried not to do the same. By the time I finished feeding her and changing her nappy I was gushing blood.
I quickly realised that if I was going to get through this, to give my body time to heal, I was going to have to radically embrace asking for help.
So I called and my mum came, like I can always count on her to do.
The first night was hard, between the after birth cramps, cannula, sore nipples and my tear I was almost never comfortable and caring for a newborn felt near impossible. Having help certainly made it easier.
I snuck in three hours sleep before I sent my mum home for some rest at 3 am.
The next day was a whirlwind of appointments, but just after lunch time we were ready to go home a family of four.
Despite the circumstances this first 24 hours has in some ways felt easier than with my first child. I am calmer and more confident as a woman and mother. I know when I need help and I’m not afraid to ask for it.
While this was not the ending I had in mind for our beautiful birth, I wouldn’t change a thing. The birth was incredible and empowering and showed me what I am capable of. As we move forward with this journey of deep healing, knowing what my body is capable of gives me confidence that I can do this.