Thursday, May 6, 2010


502 Days

After 502 days of relieving every single solitary detail of my labor, delivery, and complications that occurred after I was put back together again I read this book, "Cesarean Voices", and it saved my life. It saved my family. It allowed my husband and son to have a mother who was able to be truly present in their lives. 60% of every single day until I found the International Cesarean Awareness Network was made up of flashbacks to a procedure and a process whose outcome I could not change. And, every single night before I went to sleep I spent hours reliving each detail of a week I could barely remember and yet would never forget. My heart rate raced, my body began to sweat profusely and I became short of breath as the memories took over by body and ravaged my soul. I was locked in a world I could seemingly not escape. Until I found this book, "Cesarean Voices", I had no idea that a small number of women suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) after delivery and that most of these women have experienced these symptoms after a Cesarean Section.

This book taught me that I am not alone.

I had an incredibly long labor (39 hours) before they decided to do a Cesarean Section. Once they decided it suddenly ceased being about me. To them I was no longer a person, just a process. They gave me a concoction of something to calm my stomach and then they all left the room for 30 minutes before wheeling me outside the OR where the medical student who was stoked to be doing “surgery” sat atop a medical waste container. Me, naked and scared that if I mentioned how unsanitary that seemed might be labeled a “troublemaker”.

They wheeled me in, laid me naked on a table with extremely loud music playing, fought over their new sterilizing procedure, poked and prodded and then the smell of burning flesh reached my nose while this blue sheet that seems to hang upright on the baby stories on TV was laid within inches of my face and threatened to send me into shear panic. I sobbed, openly, uncontrollably sobbed and no one asked me if I was okay.

They cut, and then they pulled so hard that I thought surely I must be dying, that this couldn’t be the same procedure that woman smiled to the camera about on TV. The air was sucked from my lungs, my ribs felt as if they were breaking as my son was being ripped from my body.

Once out, they swept him away without telling me his gender. And, when I had the presence of mind to ask someone said “girl” while someone else said “boy”. And only moments later I felt them putting me back together. I felt my insides being reassembled and it wasn’t only unpleasant, it was painful. They asked if I needed anything and I said “no”, they decided “yes” and knocked me unconscious with meds without telling my husband who just saw my eyes roll back in my head. “Hooray his son was here!” “Oh God is my wife alright?” How terrifying for him. What a mixed up mess we had gotten ourselves into. And, this was only the beginning…

After my C-section, no one can remember me asking for pain meds and yet my husband and parents say I needed them. But, I’m the patient, shouldn’t someone have asked me??? It’s my body, shouldn’t someone have asked ME? So they doped me up on morphine and then something much stronger as my stomach began to distend. I am told that it was hard as a rock and much bigger than when I was 9 months pregnant and it didn’t seem to be getting better. Just worse and worse by the hour. The result of my intestines boycotting their misplacement and refusing to work. So in went the NG tube up my nose, down my throat, into my stomach...pump...pump...pumping...

All the while my son had severe jaundice and was kept 24/7 in the nursery. This, the time, when every baby book, every nurse, every everyone says is the most important time for a mother and baby to bond and I wasn’t there. I held my son for about an hour the first week of his life. Because I was too sick to care for him. Because I couldn’t walk to the nursery. Because I wasn’t enough.

And for the rest of my life I will wonder if he is in someway scarred because his mother couldn’t nurture him and love him the way a mother is supposed to the very first week of his life.

And for this I will never forgive myself.


  1. Wow. That is a heartbreaking story. I truly hope that you have sought therapy. Not only did you suffer from PTSD, but sounds like Postpartum depression as well. Left untreated, it can lead to many other issues down the road. I hope you have found a new OBGYN as well! I too, delivered my 1st born via emergency C-Section after over 60 hrs of labor, 3 hours of pushing, and 2 tries with a vacuum (which I didn't want!) and ended up with a nearly 10lb baby that wouldn't have come out that way, at least not from my body. Some women can deliver large babies naturally. I didn't have PTSD issues, but I did have postpartum depression that I did not treat right away. When I finally did, I had a much easier time dealing with everything: past, present & future. Hope you are enjoying your child today and embracing every moment you have together.

  2. Alissa, after first reading this my response wanted to be WOW. But then after thinking about it, I just want to say, you need to forgive yourself. Liam has turned out to be a great child who loves his mommy. Do not dewell on something you had no control over and Liam certainly isn't holding it against and never will :)

  3. Alissa, you are an amazing woman. Thank you for sharing your story, and the resource you found. While I know that you may never stop questioning that first week, I know that you are there for your son NOW. I am honored to know you - someone who obviously cares so much for the well-being of her child. As interpreters, you and I have both surely seen mothers who, for whatever reason, are unable to care. You are MILES beyond that. Having seen your postings on Facebook about places to go and things to do, I can only hope that, if I ever become a mother, I can be half the mother you are.

    I can't even begin to express how deeply your story has toucjed my heart.

    I'll say it again, you are amazing woman.

  4. WOW, what an incredible story. I am so sorry for all the trauma you experienced. Its such a shame that the Medical Model our doctors practice under has forgotten that we are PEOPLE. I agree, you need to forgive yourself. Although each of our experiences are unique, we all still ended up with the same outcome: we became mothers.

  5. I always tell people how amazing you are having endured so much throughout your labor, delivery, post partum, etc. I hope you know that regardless of anything that happened, you are such an amazing mom and Liam is so blessed to have you and Tim as parents! I am sorry for what you were robbed of because I know that must be heartbreaking. You are so dedicated, loving, and you sacrifice so much for being an amazing mama. Love ya!

  6. Hey, Alissa, this was a wonderful post. I had a traumatic first C section, too, and although I never read the book, I could probably have benefitted from its wisdom. After my first daughter, Karen, was delivered by section, I tried VBAC with #2. I was so disappointed after my water broke, and I went through 12 hours of labor, and yet I was at 2 cm. The doctor suggested we do the C-section and although I labored a few more hours, I finally agreed. Megan was a healthy 8lbs14oz. In the postpartum doctor's visit, I discussed my sadness and feelings of failure with my ob. He looked me straight in the eye and told me that I could adopt a different attitude if I chose to, and that my pelvis just wasn't wide enough to deliver that way. He said that in the past, my children probably wouldn't have survived birth, and that they had instruments for removing children from the wombs of women with narrow pelvises. I could, if I chose, be happy that I delivered in an age when technology allowed for safe Cesareans to be performed. One way or another you get a baby, and how they arrive is far less important than what goes on after. It totally changed how I felt about myself as a birth machine, and we happily planned C-3. Catherine arrived that way 2 years later.
    I was lucky not to have suffered the challenges with my health after the birth that you did, and I am glad of it. It sounds like you really had a time of it. I'm just saying that not all Cesarean births are like that; they aren't all ordeals. Thankfully!

  7. Hoping that through this blog, a little therapy, and time- that you will overcome your guilt. There was nothing you could have done differently. It wasn't your fault. It wasn't your fault. It wasn't your fault.

    I love you!

  8. Thank you for sharing your story Alissa. I had no idea what you went through to become Liam's mother. I am learning more through stories like yours about the trauma inflicted by cesarean births. A friend of mine just had her second C-section though she desperately wanted to avoid it (but her 11lb 11oz daughter made it too difficult). I forwarded her your post in hopes she could benefit from it and the book you mentioned. I truly hope you continue to heal every day.

  9. Alissa, I'm sure you have helped other mothers by sharing your childbirth experience and the resource you found to be so helpful. While I'm sorry you had to go through all that, I also know you are one fantastic mom and have loved and nurtured little Liam and given him a great start in life!


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