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Welcome to Returning to Birth! I share the amazing ways childbirth can teach us more about ourselves. ALL women deserve a positive and empowering birth experience, and I’m here to help make that happen.

The Push Past Birth Trauma and PTSD

The Push Past Birth Trauma and PTSD

  • Name: Emily Kenniston (Check out her blog and Instagram @emmykenniston)

  • Baby’s name: Brielle Evangeline

  • Weight: 6 lbs 12 oz

  • Length: 21.5 inches

  • Gestation: 40 weeks 1 day

  • Birthday: 1/14/18

  • Place of birth: Doylestown Hospital (Doylestown, PA)

***TW: Birth Trauma; I believe ALL birth stories are important and deserve to be shared. This is a beautifully written story about a mom’s traumatic birth that resulted in PTSD. If it would not be beneficial to you to read this story as you prepare for your own birth, please skip to one of the many other stories on this site.***

Push!

That, I remember. 

I remember being told to push. I remember being amazed that so much pressure could render such a beautiful epidural so useless. I remember the feeling of betrayal that the end of such a mentally tortuous pregnancy--a pregnancy characterized by the wraiths of a decade-long eating disorder; an end I'd been dreaming of since finding out I was pregnant in the first place--was taking so long. The night before, the drugs coursing through my system and obliterating contractions made me feel invincible; like a small child awaiting a Christmas morning. 

But this was the morning. I was not a child; I was trying to issue one forth, and it was killing me. 

Push! 

I remember the clock; remember watching it in front of my bed. The previous eleven hours had been so easy, thanks to the drugs, that I naively thought “the rest” would go as smoothly. I will never forget watching that clock as my expected thirty minutes turned into three hours; as I wondered if the torture would ever end. But, I had no time to think, because, before I had time to fully breathe deeply, once more I had to…

Push!

I remember flipping on to all fours, a dull memory echoing through my mind that someone had told me it was easier this way. When I turned, I was faced with the sight of my own blood on the sheets, and I had no time to focus on the terror it brought me…because I had to…

Push!

I could not do it. I could not. I surrendered to the fact that my body would bear a scar until Christ gives me a new one at my resurrection. I have a dim memory—was it a memory or a dream?—of signing waivers and papers assenting to a C-section. I remember knowing I had no choice; knowing it was time, time for the nurses to…

Push

My gurney into the operating room. The mean anesthesiologist awaited me; I remember panicking as I’d never been sedated that fully in my life; I remember wondering if I’d ever wake up. I was so selfishly consumed in those moments with my own pain and life I’d almost forgotten the beautiful life I was trying to bear. I remember no pain then; only the feel of the doctor tugging and yanking at me as she tried to extract my poor baby, who had flipped sunny-side up (unbeknownst to us all), and who was wedged down near my pelvic bone. As she reinserted my organs and stitched the warrior-scar on my body which is now my proudest feature, a nurse placed my beautiful baby by my side. Her nose was dented from being so stuck. I remember kissing her cheek over and over; it was all I could reach because my arms were strapped down. It was over. I had made it. I was no longer pregnant; thank God. It was done. I could rest. As the nurses wheeled me from the OR into my room, I remember drifting into a relaxed sleep, because there was no more need to…

Push!

I awoke because there was no sedative strong enough to prevent me from feeling the pushing on the open wound that was once my abs. I didn’t understand why my room, once filled with only my doctor, two attending nurses, and my husband, was filled with people I didn’t recognize. It had been so important to me that I had an all-female attending staff during my birth experience; even through my drugged-up fog of consciousness I felt horrified that my nakedness was on display to a room full of people, especially men, I’d never before seen. I remember begging for my husband; the crowd of nurses parting briefly to let him hold my hand for a moment; remember him trying to make me smile by threatening to “deck” any man who was looking at my vagina. I remember realizing something was very wrong; that my doctor was working quickly. I vaguely remember begging for my life; screaming for the pain to stop. I remember one of my nurses, Rachel, holding onto me with all of her strength, imploring me to look deep into her beautiful and blue eyes when the pushing started. I remember wondering what it felt like to hold another human as they screamed in agony; how you could stay strong. I remember falling in love with nurses at that moment. I remember wondering how on earth you could…

Push 

on and do that with your life, as your profession, and go home to your own family and function afterwards.  I learned later that my uterus had collapsed following my C-section; that I started hemorrhaging and passing blood clots, and that the only way to stop it was to insert some sort of balloon into my uterus, which involved pushing on my fresh incision. The next step would have been a hysterectomy, and I wish every day that had happened, because another pregnancy is one of my greatest fears in life. I’d rather die. I remember how ill I was that day, vomiting even sips of water, much less able to drink the $300 bottle of ’85 Dom Perignon that my beloved daddy brought to celebrate the occasion of my daughter’s birth (and boy, how I had missed wine and was looking forward to that champagne). I remember waking to the sight of the tears on the beautiful face of my normally stoic sister; the shock on my parents’ faces—I’d lost so much blood they didn’t recognize me at first. Sometimes, I…

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Push

my memory to try desperately to remember my daughter, after those first initial kisses on her cheek. I’m destroyed that I have no memories of the first time she was put to my breast; the first time she clutched onto me. I was unconscious. Oh, how I wish I could remember the moment that my beloved, dearest treasure first cuddled up to me. I never will. She is the moon, the stars, and everything good I’ve done in my life. But, my birth experience left with with severe PTSD. I’m fanatical about birth control with my husband; I’m unable to even walk down the pregnancy test aisle at the pharmacy without feeling a panic attack coming on. I wish desperately that my uterus had been taken that day; that I’d KNOW that I’d never have to even worry about facing another pregnancy. I’m going to start counseling soon for my PTSD. My anxiety makes each day almost impossible, and I’m just. So. Tired. But, my daughter was worth all of this. I love her with all of my heart, and I will heal from this in God’s timing. So, until that time comes, onwards, every single day, onwards I… 

Push. 

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I'd say that my birth experience taught me two main things. The first is that I'm stronger than I ever before thought that I was, or could be capable of. I've always thought of myself as a "weak" person--no pain tolerance whatsoever. Enduring what I went through and living through it was a testament not just to the strength God gave me, but to the exceptional physical strength of ALL women (I was very proud that I didn't even take all of the pain meds prescribed for my recovery. That last pill sat in it's bottle on my shelf for a year, as a "trophy" of sorts to my newfound strength). My C-section scar is my favorite feature; I've dabbled in modeling and acting for years, and was concerned how something like this would affect my self-esteem. By God's grace, I delight in it, because it is a constant physical reminder of the immense amount of strength I never knew I could possess. The second thing it taught me was that God is not done with me yet, and He has some purpose for the rest of my life. 

Going With the Flow

Going With the Flow

When an L&D Nurse Gives Birth

When an L&D Nurse Gives Birth