Quickly, easily, and comfortably — according to most women, this trifecta of adverbs describes the…
If you are interested in hearing a more in depth exploration on considering another baby after trauma and why we need to pause before asking when someone is having a baby, you can listen to Alissa’s emotional podcast episode of Myth of Motherhood here.
Everett is two and I’m still recovering from his birth.
You read that right.
And I’m sharing that to celebrate my progress, acknowledge that birth recovery takes longer than 6 weeks, and because after my fourth-degree tear I couldn’t find anything helpful or hopeful or realistic around what I could expect from my recovery.
I have so many thoughts and feelings about our two year birth anniversary, but that’s not what we’re here to discuss. This article is an invitation into my thought process in considering a second baby.
I say considering on purpose. Because I’m scared for many reasons.
I’m scared that I won’t be able to handle another subdivision of my time and energy. I’m scared that our apartment is too small. I’m scared how it will affect my relationship with Jeremy. My relationship with Everett. He won’t be the baby anymore.
And I’m still scared of my body.
Ok, so I’m nearly two years out from my fourth-degree tear which to review is when your vagina, perenium, anal sphincter, AND rectum tear during childbirth. You can read more about my rectovaginal birth here.
After my surgical repair with upwards of 40 stitches I am fully continent. I have sex and have a great time. I pee and poop confidently and without pain. I do experience constipation from time to time due to pelvic floor muscles (namely the puborectalis, the one from the squatty potty commercial) remaining short and guarded from the trauma. Acupuncture and TCM are helping tremendously with this.
I still see my pelvic health PT who is incredible in treating my physical injuries while also caring for and honoring my emotional trauma. We’ve mobilized my scar tissue and eased tension from guarded muscles. She’s so awesome she wrote this article about what to expect in a Pelvic Health Physical Therapy Session.
So here’s the deal, when you tear a muscle, or overstretch a muscle, it doesn’t stay loose and long. The muscle contracts and gets short and tight to limit range of motion to protect you from further injury.
And the pelvic floor is made up of…muscles.
You know what the studies say about giving birth again after a 4th-degree tear and the long term effects it has on women’s health and quality of life? What they say about chances for a lifetime of pelvic pain, fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse?
There are none.
There is no information.
- Our healthcare and political systems don’t care about women.
- Fourth degree tears get misdiagnosed all the time.
- Because they are misdiagnosed or misreported, the statistics around rate of occurrence is unclear. This ambiguity prevents funding to study the long term effects of extensive tearing so there are no statistics around future birth experiences, long term effects on quality of life, or anything else related to the physical trauma.
- People who DO have this experience are traumatized. They may be unable to talk about it because it means reliving the event or feel so ashamed or stigmatized because of the common symptoms they live with. Fecal incontinence, fistulas, failed repairs, chronic pain, colostomy bags, etc.
But if we put together the pieces of information we do have about other muscle injuries like herniated discs, torn muscles, trauma, injury, etc., I can put two and two together.
And to reinjure these muscles will make this all more complicated. The pain cycle, the fear, the lack of safety in my body. And I don’t want to gamble with the quality of my life.
It’s not a second baby so much that makes me hesitate, although I know that’s a big transition and certainly fuels some of my fears, it’s pregnancy and birth.
Now, people have started asking me when I’m going to have another baby. And I know all of these conversations are initiated with love and excitement. But as a mother who had a traumatic birth, a birth injury that is still sometimes an issue, and PTSD, it hurts when you ask me this question.
I felt it as soon as my son was born and people came to visit. “I’m not here to see you, I’m here to see the baby. “I don’t care about you anymore, I want to see the baby.” My mom had warned me that no one would care about me after having the baby, and she was right.
I struggled postpartum. I couldn’t walk down the block and back for a month. I couldn’t sit upright for maybe 2 months? I don’t know, because I sat weird for closer to 5 or 6 because I was terrified. I cried when I went to the bathroom.
Then, the nightmares started that my tear would reopen and all of my organs would fall out. That the midwives would be on top of me again bearing down with all of their weight to force Everett out of my body. Of vomiting until I passed out. Of repeatedly losing control of my bowels because the medication they needed to give me to stop the hemorrhaging causes a laxative effect.
It was humiliating. And terrifying
I’ve spoken about my fourth degree tear. I’ve talked about having a traumatic birth. I’ve talked a lot about my butthole IRL and on my podcast.*
Jokes are a coping mechanism of mine. They help me process what actually happened, normalize it a little bit, and also get a sense of how bad it was based on people’s reactions. In small, tolerable bites.
I’ve now been in therapy for two years, on medication, and working really hard to overcome the PTSD to move through the trauma. I don’t want to be ruled by it forever, I don’t want it to influence my relationship with my husband or my son ever, and I don’t want to bring ALL of it into a second pregnancy.
I live in this every day. I relive the moment every day. I get flashes of my terrifying recovery every day.
People who are opening, creating, and holding the space for me to answer honestly are the ones who can ask about my family planning. The ones who are offering to help me talk through how to wrap my head around this while also caring for myself.
I MATTER in this scenario.
I’m scared that the weight, both physical and emotional, of carrying another baby will break me.
This isn’t a cry for help because I’ve got my team in place. I have a therapist, a psychiatrist, friends, and family who make me feel seen, loved, and supported. But when people say things like “Everett wants a brother.” Or ask me to have another baby. It reminds me how little we care about mothers.
We have to stop leaving the mother out of the equation.
And that’s what happens when you flippantly ask someone “When are you having a baby?” “When are you having another one?” “I’d love for you to have another baby.”
Something else to consider..
- Maybe I’m trying to get pregnant and am having trouble.
- Maybe I’ve been trying.
- Maybe I just had a miscarriage.
- Maybe I just had to end a pregnancy.
- Maybe my marriage is struggling.
- Maybe I’m doing IVF.
- Maybe I think about this everyday because it involves me dramatically adjusting the plans for the next three years of my family’s life.
- Maybe I’m terrified and scared that without the support of medication for a panic attack during pregnancy, I’ll fall apart.
We don’t know what someone else is carrying.
And our family planning and journey isn’t about what other people want. It’s about us.
It’s about me. It’s about meeting myself exactly where I’m at and honoring myself. Taking care of myself. And unless you want to walk through the steps with me and support me figuring out what I need to feel safe in order to continue growing our family, don’t ask me if I’m having another baby.
If you don’t want to talk in depth about the health and function of my anal sphincter and the coordination of my puborectalis, don’t ask me when I’m having another baby.
If you’re not prepared to hold ME when my PTSD is triggered and assure me I am safe now, please don’t ask me when I’m having another baby.