When I released my book on cancer survivors, the feedback was universal—even those who had not been affected by cancer could relate to the impact of a traumatic experience. I realised that everyone is hurting from some type of issue whether it be physical, mental or emotional and that we all need the same things to heal.
One area in particular was the area of pregnancy and birth. I really wanted to bring this area into the light because it is still a topic which is hidden, with people embarrassed and ashamed to talk about subjects including miscarriage, loss and sick babies. In particular, women including myself, feel like we must have done something wrong during our pregnancy because we have not produced a healthy baby.
I wanted to share my personal experience so that you know that I have also been through some of these issues myself.
My first pregnancy was normal, thought I started having contractions at 37 weeks. As the maternity ward was busy, they told me to stay at home until the contractions were closer together. By the next morning, I was still having contractions but they were no closer together so we went into hospital.
I was monitored throughout the day, and by the afternoon, the medical staff were concerned about the lack of progress and they prepped me for an emergency c-section. After an epidural, I went into theatre and they quickly cut me open. Even though I was numb from the waist down, I heard and felt the difficulty in getting my baby out—her head was wedged in my pelvis and they had to yank her out with a few mighty pulls.
The expression "black and blue" was a literal description of my baby girl's head. She was whisked away while I was sewn up and taken to recovery where I had an awful reaction to the morphine, shaking so much that my teeth rattled for what seemed like hours.
The next two weeks were horrendous. My baby's liver was not able to cope with the bruising and she came so close to requiring a total blood exchange, meaning they would extract all of her blood and replace it with someone's donated blood. We are so thankful she turned the corner at the critical time.
My second pregnancy was anything but normal. At 14 weeks I caught a virus that I couldn't shake. I got sicker and sicker, losing my voice and coughing so much that I shredded the lining of my lungs and damaged my ribs. I was hospitalised and for the rest of my pregnancy it was the delicate dance of doctors wanting to give me medication to heal and me not wanting to do it in case it affected my baby.
He was born premature at 36 weeks with severe asthma and in a humidicrib for two weeks. The first six months of his life was spent in and out of the children's hospital. I am blessed that he is healthy now, but I couldn't help but blame myself for his condition. What if I hadn't gotten sick while I was pregnant? Did the medication that I had to take affect him? As I sat there, staring at him through the transparent walls of the humidicrib, my mind raced with anxiety and guilt and what ifs.
I have met many other women throughout my life who, though our experiences have been different, we felt similar anguish and self-blame. We have all had to go through a process of forgiving ourselves, working through all of the pain, to come to a place where we can move forward.
It can be done, and I share my story and that of other women who have endured a pregnancy and birth that did not go to plan, in my book. Read the stories, find out how we all dealt with our pain, and know that you are not alone.