Post-traumatic Growth….

A term I had not heard of prior to the writing of this article; it appears to be a term professionals use to label people who have come out on the other side of trauma more well-adjusted or positive. I can say for the birth-related trauma I experienced, I am a much stronger, positive, and empathetic person because of the darkness I navigated. It’s amazing to me how when we experience situations in life we can choose to “get better or get bitter”. And while that is a funny, cheesy cliche, it holds so much truth.

As a result of my traumatic birth, the Lord has opened a ministry for me to support parents through their pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum experiences. The term post-traumatic growth accurately labels the healing and progress I have made to overcome the trauma I experienced from my uterus rupturing and subsequent Postpartum Mood Disorders (PPMDs).

Let’s back track a bit.

In the summer of 2018, I found myself pregnant with a surprise baby and well into my 2nd trimester. To say I was shocked is an understatement. I went through a myriad of emotions: excitement, joy, anger, frustration, envy; I had them all. I already had 4 children and the thought of adding more responsibility to my full-to-the-brim plate…just did not sound appealing at all.

I had to regulate the idea that we were going to add another child to our family and extend the depth of the love I have for my kids. This pregnancy emotionally felt like it was going to overtake me. Then began the physical ailments. I started having back pain like I had not experienced before. I would have to crawl up the stairs crying in pain because I could not stand upright. Thankfully my family was already under the care of a Webster-certified chiropractor, and I was able to go about 3 times a week. I would arrive at the office unable to walk vertically; she would do what she does best, and I left feeling a mountain of relief.

My pregnancy progressed well, and the baby was growing normally, along with my belly! I will say it was hard to manage the back pain and 4 active children, but we made it through none the less. On the morning of January 25th, I woke up to some light cramping but nothing very noticeable. I decided to go about my day and get the kids off to their respective activities. I contracted all throughout the day and just did what I could to serve my family well. It was a whirlwind type of a day because my stepdaughter had hurt her hand and I took her to the doctor to make sure she didn’t break it. I had to go to three different places to get her what she needed, but I did it. I got home about 5pm and the contractions just got more intense, getting closer together. About 7pm I called my doula and she got really excited helping me to breathe through the contractions. It was wonderful. She suggested I go to the hospital to get checked to see where we were and so off we went! As we were heading out the door, on the stairs, my water broke. I was so excited to experience that!! When we arrived at the hospital, I was so defeated because I was only 1cm after many hours of labor. I wanted to go back home to labor at home, but the doctor strongly encouraged me to be admitted. I was being bull headed but when my doula recommended that I stay…that woke me up. She was the one my whole pregnancy saying you can labor at home, so when she said no, I listened. Also, my husband who generally doesn’t have an opinion said you need to stay, and he was right. Then we prayed, and God said stay so I said OK, I’ll stay.

It’s funny to me now because I was mad after we prayed, and my husband said you know you’re gonna do what God wants so you might as well do it and stop being mad. He was right!

I was so sad to get admitted but I knew this was Gods will. I started laboring and it was so hard. My doula continued to text me through the night and my mom booked a flight. We were so very excited! Little Bella-Anne Ivy was on her way!

Around 7am on the 26th, I recall being in extreme pain and telling the nurse there wasn’t a break between each contraction. He said this is labor honey and walked out of the room. I decided to get the epidural and get some rest. I had now been up for more than 24 hours. We settled in after the epidural and were able to drift off to sleep. About 10:30 my nurse came in and said the baby was having some concerning heart decelerations and she needed to get me to flip and put on an oxygen mask. The resident on call soon followed and wanted to insert an internal monitor to get more data on how the baby was doing. While the resident was trying to place the internal monitor, it felt like 100 people came into the room, everyone was talking over each other, and I was getting more scared and anxious by the second. Why were all these people in my room? Bella’s father was by my head and reassuring me that they did this with our first and everything was going to be all right. But I knew in my gut that everything was 100% not all right, and the tone of the staff’s voices also said everything I had dreamt about for this birth was simply crumbling. After a few minutes of the resident trying to place the internal monitor, the nurse said something like, “That’s it. I’m calling it. Let’s go to the OR!” I started shouting “What’s happening; someone tell me what’s happening!”

I will never forget the look of horror on my husband’s face as they wheeled me out of my labor room and down the hall to the operating room.

When we got to the operating room. There was a flurry of activity in the medical staff prepping me for an emergency cesarean. I remember one specific nurse moving me up the OR table like a rag doll from the adrenaline rush. Shortly after, my obstetrician came in and begun the surgery. Upon opening my abdominal cavity, he saw that my uterus had ruptured, and he would deliver a sweet baby who needed to be revived.

After she was born, Bella spent some time in the NICU and we were released from the hospital 2 days later. After a few, I noticed the pain I was experiencing continued to get worse and then, one afternoon I woke up from a nap with a high fever, so we went back to the hospital. I was admitted to receive antibiotics for a uterine infection. It was so hard to go back to the hospital and I was very emotional about it, but I knew it was what we needed to do to help my body continue to heal.

About a month after delivery, I started showing signs of postpartum rage. I would get intensely angry about the baby crying or me not being able to eat my meal hot, or one of the kids being too loud; kids are loud, it’s what they do. Looking back, I was not coping well at all.

Then the intrusive thoughts started.

I felt like such an unfit mother for having these thoughts that felt very intense, and like they were going to consume me. Then I had a conversation with a dear friend and told her people wouldn’t like me if they knew the things I’ve thought about my kids. Her response was slathered in grace and kindness; she simply said, “no judgement here, tell me what’s on your mind.” I told her and we made a plan for what I could do if the thoughts became too overbearing and how to get some support from other friends who lived closer. A couple close friends would each come over about once a week and “fill in the gaps”: put laundry away, pick up a messy bedroom, mop floors, or anything else that needed to be done. Some weeks it was just take the kids outside to play so I can bathe in peace!

It was through that nonjudgmental support from my friends, counseling, medication, and rallying my village that I was able to see the “old Christina” again. It took time, lots of patience, love, forgiveness, and grace for me and my family to find her again; but I can say confidently that I am in a much better place now because of everything I have been through.

I am happy to be writing this on the other side of postpartum darkness, healthy and happy and whole. I have an amazing bond with my youngest and cherish everything about her; well, almost everything!

I never imagined for birth trauma to be part of my story, our story, but it is and I have a choice to make… get bitter or get better?

I am glad to have chosen “get better”!

In a world with so many opinions, vantage points, and busy schedules, I leave you with two questions:

-We encourage mothers to get back to work and move on with life as usual, how can we as a community of believers support, encourage, and come alongside these precious mothers that Jesus died to save and carry some of their burdens?

-Who can you support today through the child-rearing years?