Trigger Alert: Women who have experienced an abortion, miscarriage, or D&C without anesthetic.
I had read all of the information I could get my hands on about the natural birthing process. I watched documentaries and saw women turn from “this is painful” to “give me the epidural now before I strangle all of the life out of your body” moments. I was the textbook case and begged for an epidural right before the nurse confirmed I was dilated to an 8. I powered through and grabbed my screaming, wrinkly baby boy was out and thought the pain was over. I don’t know if I could have prepared for what came next but I wish someone had told me what I’m about to share.
Women that have a miscarriage or an abortion go through the same procedure called a “D&C.” Unpleasant for so many reasons, women are put to sleep or will have an epidural while the cervix is dilated like it would be for childbirth. The uterus lining is then scraped with an instrument that looks like a large spoon.
This procedure is also used if it is thought that you may have some placenta that didn’t deliver correctly. For women that have had an epidural that worked as expected, this is a non-issue because it’s step one of the procedure for everyone else. The work is done while the baby is being checked over and mom is rewarded for all of her efforts with her baby to hold in the end.
I had my little raisin of a baby on my chest as he started to “root.” Delayed cord clamping completed and I was ready to enjoy what I had been working almost 24 hours to achieve. I remembered I had read that the placenta delivers while you’re holding your baby and you don’t even notice.
This, devastatingly, was not the case for me.
The doctor tugged on the umbilical cord to get the placenta to deliver, less than pleasant experience. I tried desperately to focus on my perfect boy who already wanted to nurse. I gripped the side of the bed while the placenta was pulled and the baby taken off of me to get weighed. As I lost more blood, the doctor decided to reach in and scrape with his hand to see if part of the placenta remained. I bared down and white-knuckled while gritting my teeth and letting out a guttural sound.
One of the new nurses in the room, Jane, tried to encourage me to keep hanging in there as the doctor performed the D&C with no anesthesia, no epidural to dull the experience. He scraped my uterus as I screamed for the first time during the whole labor and prayed at the top of my lungs for pain to be taken from me, for the doctor to stop the torture that was beyond anything I could have imagined.
The procedure finished but the repercussions of trauma didn’t. I kept repeating in my head the words “you won’t even notice when the placenta is delivered” as Nurse Jane helped me into a wheel chair to the bathroom. She lovingly cared for me and showed me how I’d be going to the bathroom for the next 6 weeks while I had minor tremors from the after-shock of what I’d been through.
Baby, husband and I were setup in our room where we were left to bond as a family as nurses continued to check on us. I continued to have the procedure on repeat in my head. I was a shell of a person who was now “mom” to a precious newborn. I went through the motions of breastfeeding and trying to act like I had the glow while I died inside. My joy had been stolen, literally ripped from my body.
The nurses kept checking my uterus by pushing on it, trying to get it to cooperate and contract. They looked concerned and I asked what the next step was if I continued to bleed and I didn’t progress like I needed. One brave soul broke the news that I would have to endure the D&C process all over again and they would only give me a Percocet which she admitted wouldn’t be much to dull the pain. I shriveled even further.
I had been up for 36 hours straight, smiling and holding myself together for everyone. I had reached my limit of the amount of despair I could keep tamped down. I told my husband that I needed to sob and empty out all of my heartbreak. I had to do something to start to try and rebuild myself. I needed to stop going through the motions and get angry that I felt lied to. So, I cried, like my newborn baby. I had to do it on my own without the comfort of my husband or a nurse cheering in my ear. I felt alone in the moment where my joy was taken and alone when I started to take it back.
Thankfully, I didn’t end up needing the second D&C and with my tears that night went some of the trauma. Enough of the pieces of me came back together to hold my little Paxton and share with him the Mom who wasn’t faking her nurturing.
I feel like I went to hell and back which can’t happen without some damage in the process. I’m on the other side holding my 8 month-old son and continuing to heal knowing that my worst moment was also as part of the cost of the gift that feeds my joy every day.