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Childbirth Stories – From loss of control to total knockout

Childbirth Stories – From loss of control to total knockout
My name is Ewa. When I got pregnant at the age of 35, we were living in Berlin, Germany. Throughout my pregnancy, I was actively preparing for childbirth by practicing HypnoBirthing, yoga and meditation. I led a very healthy lifestyle, read a lot of books and articles for pregnant women and listened to doctors’ advice. I believed that my health and the health of my unborn baby was in good hands. I thought I had everything under control until labor began. At first I was managing well, but when I started vomiting with every contraction, my composure was shattered. Uncontrolled fear and panic contributed to a traumatic childbirth experience, leaving me with an extensive postpartum injury and subsequent post partum depression. Here is a story of loss of control, medical errors, bumpy road to recovery and my fight against disbelief.

Preparing for the childbirth

I truly believed that I was well prepared for the childbirth because I was reading so much about birth and parenthood, doing HypnoBirthing and childbirth courses, and I took such a good care of my mental and physical health. I also had a well thought-out birth plan which I gave to my midwife weeks before the delivery. My maternity hospital also held individual prenatal meetings with parents-to-be in order to conduct medical examinations and collect necessary data. During my meeting with the hospital, I informed the midwife of my panicky fear of vaginal delivery and the pain associated with it. Since I was aware that my fear of labor pain could possibly trigger an anxiety attack, I knew that this information would help the medical team provide me with appropriate emotional support and tailored care. I was pleasantly surprised that my midwife understood my concerns and assured me that this would beadequately communicated to the doctors and midwifes for the day of the birth. Despite my initial doubts and fears about vaginal delivery, throughout the pregnancy my attending doctor also convinced me that vaginal delivery was the best option for me and my baby. I was more than sure I was doing the right thing by choosing a vaginal delivery… I don’t think I’ve ever miscalculated so much in my life.

From inner strength to loss of control

The first regular contractions actually started two days before my girl was born. My husband and I were patiently waiting at home, counting the intervals between contractions and trying to stay calm and relaxed. One day before the birth we made a false-alarm trip to the hospital; we were sent back home due to irregular contractions. 24h later we were back at the maternity hospital. After admission, we spent the first few hours in the pre-labor room. Despite regular contractionsmy cervix was dilating very slowly. As the pain intensified, I received a drip and rectal suppositories to ease it. Unfortunately, the pain was increasing without further cervix dilation. I used meditation as well as breathing and visualization techniques to calm myself and relax. 15 hours later, the pain had become unbearable and the cervix dilation was still less than 4 cm. I also began vomitting violently with every contraction. I was trying to stay calm and focus on my breath. Another cramp, more vomiting, pain, crying and consequently loss of any control over my emotions and my body. The positive thoughts, composure and meditation I had learned during my pregnancy no longer accompanied me. Suddenly, for the first time, I felt that I had failed myself, I felt weak. I noticed my consciousness leaving me slowly. I was terrified, exhausted and very stressed out. I wanted this nightmare to end. I thought I would not survive the birth and feared for my health and that of my child. Frightened by the pain and constant vomiting, I asked my husband and the midwives for an epidural. One very long hour later, the epidural anaesthetic was finally arranged. Unfortunately, it turned out the initial dose was not enough and a minute later I was vomiting from pain again. I started screaming to my husband and the midwife: “The epidural isn’t working, I can’t take it anymore!” I had a massive panic attack. I could not breathe, I literally thought of killing myself, I was crying and begging for help. I was clearly not thinking straight. Next thing I remember is the anaesthesiologist running towards me with a needle. He injected me with another dose of anesthesia which nocked me out in seconds. I slept for about 1.5 hours. When I woke up, I noticed, the contractions had become almost painless and I could breathe again.
A few hours later, the midwife announced that the dilation was sufficient and that I could move to the delivery room. At this point, I could hardly imagine that the hardest part was yet to come. In the delivery room I tried to move as much as I could, change positions, sit on the exercise ball, walk around. We listened to every piece of advice from the midwives. I was so exhausted that I was no longer able to think soberly.  
At some point, exhausted from all those hours of labor, I lay on my back and could no longer get up. Suddenly my abdomen took on a strange shape and visually divided into two parts, forming letter B. The midwives nervously ran to the doctor, fearing that the baby might have changed position, which could require an emergency C-section. After a doctor examination, it turned out that the reason for this strangely shaped abdomen was the accumulation of my urine in the bladder so a catheter was used to drain the urine. After this procedure, my abdomen was back to normal. All this nervousness and uncertainty took its toll on me. My husband was supporting me the whole time, but it felt like I wasn’t there at all. My consciousness shut down because the stress was just too much bear. I just wanted to fall asleep, rest, forget.
From then on, the midwife informed me that they would no longer give me any anesthesia so that I could feel the contractions better and have more control over my pelvic floor muscles. I cried again. I was so terrified of the pain, I didn’t want it to hurt like it did before the epidural was working. It was awful. But I listened politely to the midwifes and shortly before 7p.m., I was told to push. With the last of my strength, I got down on my knees and, holding my husband’s shoulders, we managed to give birth to my baby girl… She was there between my legs, so tiny and so vulnerable. My Milou, the most beautiful, sweet baby girl. I am so grateful to my husband for his support, love and care during the birth. Without him, I would never have made it through that day.
Since then, all memories are very foggy. After the birth my daughter Milou wasn’t crying, she wasn’t making any sounds and again in panic a paediatrician was called. The doctor took her in his arms and began to massage her back until she finally began to cry quietly. My baby was fine. I was so relieved but confused. Milou was put on my chest and immediately started sucking on my nipples. I remember being very surprised that she can suck so quickly and strongly. We laughed. She knew exactly what she was supposed to do.
After my husband cut the umbilical cord and the placenta was delivered, the midwife noticed that I was bleeding too much. At this point, I could hardly remember anything. My husband told me later that the midwife pressed on my abdomen and then a huge amount of blood gushed out of me. Once again, there was panic in the delivery room. The midwives didn’t know what to do. I lost consciousness for a while and my husband insisted that I be given saline quickly. When I woke up and slowly regained consciousness, I first saw my baby lying on my chest, then I noticed a nurse sticking a needle into one wrist and another nurse attaching an IV to my other hand. A lady doctor sat between my legs and was stitching me between my legs. My husband was close to us and looked at me very concerned. When I realized what was happening, I asked them all to stop and just do one thing at a time, there was too much going on. I felt like a peace of meat. I asked the doctor to be gentle to stitch me up carefully. In that moment, I knew that something had gone wrong and I was terrified for my condition. I was also exhausted and in shock. All I wanted to do was to sleep.

The Postpartum period

The next two days in hospital were very challenging. Since I lost approximately 1,5L of blood during the birth, I was unable to walk or even sit up by myself. I felt as if someone drained the life out of me. As soon as I raised my head or tried to change position too quickly, I immediately drifted off. I needed constant help and support from the nurses. Due to hospital restrictions in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, my husband could only stay with us from 2 p.m. – 7 p.m. I remember begging him not to leave me alone, to stay with me. Unfortunately, we both knew he had to go home. We both felt so helpless. I tried to pull myself together, after all, I had a little and wonderful creature in front of me who needed me more than anyone else. Already then I felt that I was on some kind of strange autopilot. I tried to drive away negative thoughts. I dismissed all memories of the day of delivery, focusing on the here and now.
One day after the birth, a hospital psychologist came into my room. She quickly noticed that I wasn’t feeling well physically or mentally and she invited me to meet with her once I was discharged from the hospital. When I think about it now, I am very glad that she noticed I would probably need professional help. I don’t know if I would have been able to notice on my own that I was developing postpartum depression. I think I would have chosen to ignore it for as long as possible and try to live a “normal” life. The hospital psychologist supported me for several weeks during my fight withpostpartum depression. I remembered that during our first session she said to me “You’d be surprised how many women experience traumatic births and suffer from postpartum depression.” At that point, I didn’t question what she said –  I just felt better knowing that I wasn’t alone in this pain. Luckily, a few months later, I was able to arrange regular sessions with another therapist, who helped me to get out of this dark place. I will always be grateful to this person. She literally saved my life. 

Speaking of damage…

As a result of the 26h labor at the hospital, I suffered severe damage to my perineum. It resulted in constant pain. I had that heavy, dragging sensation in the vagina. While walking or picking up my baby, something was always bulging at the opening of my vagina, almost as if my vagina was slipping out of position. I often had to push it all back inside of me to be able to function “normally”. I did not know back then that I was actually dealing with pelvic organ prolapse and what was falling out of my vagina was my bladder and the bowel. Due to the damage of my pelvic-supporting structures I was suffering from urinary incontinence, incontinence of stool and wind, foreign body feeling, and later, unbearable pain in the vagina and perineum during sexual intercourse. 
I didn’t understand what was happening. How could I? Despite the perineal tear during the birth, the hospital medical records containing the results of my vaginal examination indicated no abnormality. Why the obstetrician, who stitched me after the birth, did not note the third-degree tear, remains unclear. Another doctor from the same hospital, who examined me 4-5 days after the birth due to my oversized blood clots, did not express any concern, either. To make matters worse, three successive gynecologists from different doctors’ offices in Berlin sent me home with assurance that my complaints would surely cease on their own. Yet I was suffering for months.
For 8 months I sought help from gynecologists who, for some reason, were unable to professionally identify the cause of my symptoms. I heard so many ridiculous comments from these practitioners along the way: “You must be very sensitive!” “You probably have a lowered pain threshold!” “Your pain is ‘Emotional’!” The fact that these comments mostly came from femaledoctors is even more disturbing. Their lack of knowledge sent me from one pelvic floor therapist to the other. I persistently searched for more and more available treatments. The institution that finally diagnosed my ailment was the German Pelvic Floor Center in Berlin, Germany. Diagnosis: Cystocele grade II, rectocele grade III, damage to the external sphincter and postpartum damage to the perineal muscles. Treatment: Reconstructive surgery. Although I understood that this diagnosis was not good, I felt a sense of relief. I knew I wasn’t crazy. Why has nobody seen this before? I was angry. I felt manipulated and mislead. 
Three difficult years later, with thousands of Euros spent on doctors, physiotherapists, treatments and the prescribed surgical intervention, and I still struggle. Whenever, I think or talk about my childbirth experience a lot of different feelings boil inside of me. On the one hand, I feel anger, a sense of injustice, grief and sadness over what happened to me and what I will have to live with for the rest of my life. On the other hand, I experienced a feeling of maternal love previously unknown to me. A love that is boundless and so strong. After all, at the end of that terrible pain, my beautiful baby-girl was born. I still don’t feel proud of what my body has achieved. I don’t feel as strong as before, but I know that I am on the right track. 
Not every birth ends in trauma. I am aware of that, yet many women all around the world have experienced traumatic births. Did you have a similar childbirth experience? If you feel strong enough and would like to share your story with others, please join our discussion below. Your story can help many women.

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Meet the Author

Ewa Gillen, MCI, is the Co-Founder of No Taboo Mom and a dedicated mother to her daughter Milou, born in 2020. Ewa has been in a loving relationship with Benjamin since 2008. Born in 1985 in Poland, she has lived, studied, and worked across Germany, Canada, Australia, and Spain. In 2014, she founded the Gillen Design Agency and has been an Independent Creative Professional ever since. “No Taboo Mom is a project very close to my heart. I genuinely believe that sharing open-minded stories with a supportive community can make a significant impact and change the world. I want to make this world a better place for my baby girl.”

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No Taboo Mom is a place of kindness. We believe shared narrative brings people together and leads to a positive cultural shift. Therefore, we encourage you to share your stories with others.
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No Taboo Mom is a place of kindness.

At No Taboo Mom we believe shared narrative brings people together and leads to a positive cultural shift. Therefore, we encourage you to share your stories with others.

Please notice, the submission of illegal, harassing, hateful or hurtful comments will be deleted from our blog in order to protect our readers and writers. 
Be kind.