Menu

I finally have the strength to talk about my traumatic birth

One to 5% of women experience a postpartum hemorrhage after giving birth.

I finally have the strength to talk about my traumatic birth

[Trigger warning: This essay describes one woman's emotional journey with postpartum hemorrhage.]

It's my daughter's first birthday, and I haven't written in the journal I bought her since she was born. I picked it up around 20 weeks into my pregnancy when a doctor let it slip that I was having a girl.

Usually, words pour out of me. But the words in this journal start and end a few days before my daughter's birth. I told her I could feel she was ready, and we couldn't wait to meet her. How we would take a picnic blanket to the park and enjoy the blossoms.

FEATURED VIDEO

But in the one year since her birth, I haven't been able to bring myself to write an additional word. How do I talk about how much I love watching her grow without addressing the shadow that reminds me, "You would have missed this"?

A year ago, I nearly died, and I don't know how to write that into a baby book.

Her birth could be described as everything I hoped for and worked towards. It was the opposite of my son's, which was an induction with heavy Pitocin, episiotomy forceps delivery and manual removal of placenta.

This time, I had the best team imaginable: doula, midwife, spouse and nurse. I was in a coveted room in the birthing center of a hospital in New York City. I had the birth pool, dim lights, hypnosis tracks in my headphones and all the time I needed. I also had the OR just a few floors away. Which is why I am here today.

One to 5% of women experience a postpartum hemorrhage after giving birth (classified as more than 0.5 liters blood for a vaginal delivery and more than 1 liter of blood for a cesarean). Severe hemorrhage is when you lose more than that, and it's the leading cause of maternal deaths worldwide.

Severe in my case was losing more than 2 liters of blood after the second stage of labor—the birth of the baby—and during the manual removal of my placenta (again). The average person carries 4.5-5.5 liters in their body. Such rapid loss of blood means your blood pressure plummets and you lose consciousness. In my case, it dropped to the lowest reading my midwife had seen on an alive person.

Suddenly it was all numbers, questions and beeping machines. All I wanted was to see my baby. There were transfusions, fluids and more numbers. "You're so lucky, you know," they said. "In any other time..." "You scared us." "Don't even think about having any more, okay?"

I was angry.

"Ms. Smith, you buzzed?"

"I just want to see my baby."

"When you are stable."

Let me tell you, there is nothing stable about a woman who can't see her baby.

If birth is primal, this feeling is savage. Twelve hours after she was born, I met her properly. As incredible and smushy-perfect as the pics my husband had been sending while I was in the ICU.

We chose a name that means "alive."

The first few months of her life were blissful and bubble-ish but not the kind I thought I'd journal about. There were no walks and no blossoms. I couldn't leave our 700sq ft walk-up apartment for six weeks. When I did, I bled more and slept for days. Ten weeks later I was craving nature, so took a train out of town only to end up in the hospital again, exhausted, but mostly, deflated. I bled for three months.

But I grew up in a positive mindset household so I switched on the gratitude version of my internal monologue: "I am grateful to be alive on this day. I am grateful that I have been forced to slow down. I am so very grateful to clean this smeary poop. I am blessed to drink this microwaved cup of coffee."

In my healing, I've learned that it's also okay to be sad, and frankly, angry that it happened at all. Bummed that I missed the first day of her life, and was so incapable for two months of my son's. Frustrated that instead of some kind of divine rebirth, the past year has felt like being only half-alive. Sorry that my husband has taken on the full burden of that. Angry there was no warning after my first birth that this could happen. Confused about what caused it. Devastated that if I was to have another baby, it could happen again.

More so, I'm heartbroken that this happens around the world every day. Every day, around 830 women around the world die of childbirth-related complications, 35% of which can be attributed to postpartum hemorrhage.

I can't give blood yet. I can't change the fact that this is such a huge issue around the world. But a year after picking up the pieces, I'm feeling ready to do something. Even if the first step is talking. And digging out the journal again.

You might also like:

In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    The one thing your family needs to practice gratitude

    And a tradition you'll want to keep for years.

    Gracious Gobbler

    I think I can speak for well, basically everyone on planet earth when I say things have been a bit stressful lately. Juggling virtual school, work and the weight of worry about all the things, it's increasingly difficult to take even a moment to be grateful and positive these days. It's far easier to fall into a grump cycle, nagging my kids for all the things they didn't do (after being asked nine times), snapping at their bickering and never really acknowledging the good stuff.

    But the truth is, gratitude and appreciation is the kind of medicine we need now more than ever—and not just because the season is upon us. For one thing, practicing gratitude is a scientifically proven way to boost our happiness, health and relationships. More importantly, we need to ensure we're cultivating it in our children even when things are challenging. Especially when things are challenging.

    I'm ready to crank the thankfulness up a few dozen notches and reboot our family's gratitude game so we can usher out 2020 on a fresh note. So, I've called in some reinforcements.

    Enter: the Gracious Gobbler.

    Keep reading Show less
    Shop

    Chrissy Teigen opens up on losing her baby: 'Our grief was so public'

    "He just wouldn't survive this, and if it went on any longer, I might not either."

    Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

    Chrissy Teigen (and any parent mourning their baby) gets to grieve however they want to. And for Teigen, a person who lives life out loud on the Internet, sharing her story was part of mourning, and she just shared more of it.

    When Teigen and her husband John Legend lost their third child, Jack, about halfway through Teigen's pregnancy, many internet commenters were shocked that Teigen chose to share photos of the event on Instagram. But in a powerful essay for Medium, Teigen made it clear that she doesn't care what people think about those pictures. She posted them for herself and for mamas who've lived it.

    FEATURED VIDEO

    "I cannot express how little I care that you hate the photos. How little I care that it's something you wouldn't have done. I lived it, I chose to do it, and more than anything, these photos aren't for anyone but the people who have lived this or are curious enough to wonder what something like this is like. These photos are only for the people who need them. The thoughts of others do not matter to me."

    Keep reading Show less
    News