I frequently see women asking in online forums how other women who have faced traumatic pregnancies and births have decided whether or not to try again.
I was that woman after I had my second child.
Growing up, I legit wanted 8 kids. When I didn’t get married and start popping them out at 20 I pedaled back to 6. When my singleness continued a few more years and then I married a student we decided to wait a little longer and figured we’d go for 4 and then see.
But then there I was at 29 with 2 kids and really really unsure if I could handle another pregnancy.
I won’t go into all of the details here, but if you’re interested in knowing the whole backstory to my pregnancies and births here’s my birth stories post.
Here’s the highlights reel:
- I struggle with anxiety, it gets worse while pregnant especially considering that my mother, on top of multiple miscarriages, lost a baby at 38 weeks. So I don’t feel better once I get to the “safe zone.”
- Overall the pregnancy was pretty normal, nothing too crazy. Started experiencing symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) at 36 weeks- I wasn’t expecting to be comfortable, but it was pretty bad.
- I went 10 days past due, and had an excessively long labor and ended up with a level 3 tear that was really awful to heal from.
- We moved away from a good group of friends 3 days after I found out I was pregnant, I struggled with finding a group of friends in the new area.
- My thyroid was being mismanaged which resulted in excessive fatigue and depression.
- SPD (or as I have come to refer to it- Hell Crotch) started at 10 weeks. Literally I went straight from morning sickness one day to extreme pelvic pain the next. Being in constant pain certainly didn’t help the depression. I spent hours crying multiple days a week.
- My doctor was the worst. I told him I was in pain, he shrugged it off- “yeah, you’re pregnant.” I finally opened up about the depression, which was really hard for me to do. He responded, “I don’t treat pregnant women for depression, go for a walk.” I CAN’T WALK!!!! I’M IN CONSTANT PAIN!!!!!
- My doctor also told me he would induce me early because he didn’t want me to have another big baby and risk tearing again. I was ok with this because I super hated being pregnant and wanted to be done the moment it was safe for her to be out. And then he decided not to with no explanation.
- Due date rolled around- I was DONE, I couldn’t take it anymore. The pain was unbearable, and other joints beside my pelvis had started to kill as well. I was not ok mentally. I was not suicidal by any means, but I would have gladly accepted a tranquilizer and then have them wake me up when it was over. I went in on a Monday begging for an induction. He said no. Here’s how the exchange went:
Dr: Maybe we could do Wednesday, wait no, Friday
Me: Or Wednesday
Dr.: What’s 2 more days?
Me: That’s not 2 days, that 5 days (in my head- “clearly you’ve never been in constant pain if you think it’s ok to put someone through it for extra days- I’m not going to be ok if I’m in pain another 5 minutes!”)
Dr.: We’ll do Friday but I can see about sweeping your membranes today to try and get things moving.
- He swept my membranes with my consent, but he did not warn me of the risk of contamination especially considering I was Beta Strep positive. He did however tell me that I would bleed a little but definitely shouldn’t go to the hospital until I knew I was in labor because triage gets mad when doctors strip membranes and women show up and have to be sent home, and if I did go in I most certainly shouldn’t tell them that he stripped my membranes. Yes, I consented, but this was certainly not INFORMED consent.
- I bled a little and passed a lot of mucus the next day as expected. I also started to feel a little gross but didn’t think anything of it because I was overdue and hadn’t felt particularly great in 9 months. So I was obedient and didn’t go in until I knew I was really in labor. The thing is that because I was passing blood and mucus I had no idea that I was also leaking fluid all day. Long story short my uterus had basically turned into a petri dish for Beta Strep. When I arrived at the hospital I was running a fever, my baby was in distress, I had a very traumatic unplanned natural delivery (still waiting on that epidural!), I didn’t even get to see my baby right away so I didn’t get the rush of endorphins immediately following the pain of delivery, and my baby had contracted Beta Strep so she spent the next 10 days in the NICU on IV antibiotics.
In the months that followed I developed symptoms of post traumatic stress- along with post partum depression. I would have dreams where my OB was the “bad guy.” I would have waking nightmares reliving the delivery. And to make everything worse, my pelvic pain did not resolve. The thought of ever being pregnant again had me shaking and crying.
About a year and a half later I learned more about Beta Strep. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know it could be FATAL for the baby. That brought back all of the trauma and then some. Around this same time my pelvic pain had improved through physical therapy, but I would still have flare ups each month with my cycle and if I pushed myself too much physically.
I began to really resent that platitude, “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” Because in my experience I was finding that that which didn’t kill me just gave me post traumatic stress.
How on earth could I risk putting myself through more constant pain that might result in permanent damage to my body? Would it be wise to put myself through another potentially huge bout of depression? Was that fair to my family? And how could I make sure that I didn’t pass Beta Strep to another baby?
I’m a planner by nature. I like to know exactly what I’m doing. I am not Elsa, I do not long to go into the unknown. When people asked if I was going to have another kid it was actually really painful because I didn’t know, and it’s hard for me to say, “I don’t know.” So here’s the first thing I had to learn:
Get Comfortable with the Unknown
There was one other big point in my life where I had to accept moving forward into the unknown, maybe that helped prepare me. When I was about to come home from my 18 month Latter-day Saint Mission I didn’t know what (more like who) was waiting for me. I had taken off from my teaching program which followed a very specific set of classes each semester. While I was returning in January, I couldn’t restart the program until the summer. I was getting home 2 weeks into the semester but could still enroll in fluffy fun classes if I wanted to (think water aerobics and history of the hymns!). I hadn’t heard from my boyfriend in a while, so I had no idea what I should be expecting there. I got permission to start looking through courses on my Preparation Day and kept trying to put together a schedule but nothing was coming together and it was super bugging me. Finally one day while I was reading in my scriptures, I wasn’t even thinking about my situation and what I was reading was not related at all, out the blue a very clear voice came into my head, “Be flexible.” I responded, “I don’t do flexible.” And the voice reiterated, “You need to be flexible.”
I decided not to take classes and figured I could get a job as a substitute teacher because that’s pretty darn flexible. And as things unfolded, that’s exactly what I needed for that semester.
That all played out over the course of a few months, however, the baby question hung in the air for a couple years. I didn’t get clear answers when I prayed about it. Ultimately I had to accept that I didn’t know and had to be comfortable with the unknown. Keeping options open, but not making plans.
Ready for another mission story? This one is from before the mission instead of the end. I almost didn’t serve my mission because I almost got engaged. It was a crazy and very confusing time. I believe strongly in seeking personal revelation, and I had received a very straight forward answer that I needed to submit my application to serve. But then life happened and another door opened and I wasn’t sure what to do. I prayed a lot, I read scriptures a lot, I pondered, I made pros and cons lists, I went to the temple, I did all of the things so that I could get an answer from the Lord. And here’s the answer I finally got, “These are both good choices. Make one.”
Lord, I am willing to do EXACTLY what you tell me to do, why won’t you TELL me!!!!
I got to the point where I wished that if I was supposed to go I would get a clear sign and if I was supposed to stay then maybe I would just like break my leg or something just enough that I wouldn’t be able to report to the Missionary Training Center.
One day I was telling a friend my thought process and she gave me some of the wisest words I have ever heard:
“Yes, but what you’re asking Him to do is take away your agency.”
Sometimes the Lord does have very specific instructions for us and we need to use our agency to decide to follow (like when he told me to submit my mission papers, and later when he told me to be flexible). But I feel like, at least for me, he frequently leads me to a place where I have to make a choice. God has to make a lot of really difficult decisions between GOOD things all the time. If we’re going to become like Him, then we are going to have to learn how to do the same. Ultimately, they were both really good choices, neither would lead me down a bad path they were just different paths, and the Lord wanted me to take ownership over my decision.
When I started actually seeking an answer about whether or not to have another baby, here’s what I got: “Wanting to take care of yourself and the family you already have is a righteous desire. You will also be blessed if you have another baby.”
He wasn’t going to tell me what to do, he wanted me to own this decision too. Thanks.
The Tipping Point
A few months after my little girl turned two, Santa brought her a big girl bed. Apparently the sleigh didn’t have room for a whole bed so Santa just dropped off some boxes from Ikea and let us disassemble the crib and put together the bed ourselves. Santa’s real nice like that sometimes.
As we took down the crib I lost it.
My husband tried to comfort me and said, “I know it’s hard when they grow up.”
The thing is, I wasn’t crying about her growing up. I was crying because there wasn’t another baby to put in the crib.
A lot of my childhood dreams were obviously naive and they’ve changed or I’ve moved on from them. Others I’ve just had to let go of and that’s ok. I love my life and in so many ways it has turned out how I NEEDED it even if it wasn’t what I thought I WANTED. I have no desire to have 8 or even 6 kids anymore. But never in any reworking of my dreams and plans could I have fathomed only having 2 kids and suddenly I was facing that reality and it hurt at the core of my identity.
In the days that followed I realized I had hit a point where my sadness about being done outweighed my fears of trying again.
I realized I really did want to try again, but I was still really scared, however I was finally ready to face those fears and do something about it.
Take Time to Take Care of YOU
I was rather overweight after my daughter was born- it’s been a lifelong struggle really, but it had gotten really bad.
When she was coming up on a year old I finally found the right doctor to take care of my thyroid disorder. Amazing how having enough thyroid allowed a lot of weight to melt away (and improved my anxiety and depression dramatically!).
But, I hit another plateau and was doing a lot of yo-yoing. While SPD is not necessarily based on weight, (it’s more of a hormonal issue- you can be very overweight and not have issues with it, and you can be very fit and still have issues with it) being overweight definitely doesn’t help anything. And since I was still having regular pain flare ups, getting pregnant on top of that didn’t sound like a good idea. I knew I needed to lose a substantial amount of weight as well as strengthen my core and maintain it before I would feel comfortable getting pregnant.
I started looking into programs and stumbled upon Noom. I could write a whole blog post advertising Noom. It was an AMAZING experience and exactly what I needed. While it uses calorie tracking it focuses in on sustainability and getting to the root of why you eat the way you do. It improved my health in ALL aspects of life- physical, mental, emotional, even spiritual.
I lost a lot of weight, but more importantly I built a lot of muscle and was actually sustaining the weight loss. About a month in to the program my pain flare ups went away. I had hoped to get back to my wedding weight. I didn’t quite get there, I got back to pre-first pregnancy weight but was also much healthier at that weight than I had been before my first pregnancy or even 10 pounds lower than that at my wedding weight.
Find the Right Doctor and Make a Plan
I knew I needed to find a doctor I could trust but wasn’t sure how. My really awful doctor, that you know- could have killed us- he was very highly rated online. One day a friend of mine opened up about her struggles with depression during her recent pregnancy and how her doctor had helped her so much. I disclosed that I was considering trying again but needed to find a good doctor and she encouraged me to go talk to her doctor. I set up a well woman visit to establish care, but was expecting to have to go back in to discuss potential pregnancy related questions. But the doctor was awesome and talked to me about my questions during the well woman visit.
I gave her the (even more) brief history of trauma I had experienced and amazingly she listened.
When I asked her about depression in pregnancy she responded, “I absolutely treat pregnant women for depression, there are several pregnancy safe meds, but I might encourage you start with counseling.” Ummmm……besides the pregnancy safe meds, why on earth didn’t my other doctor ever refer counseling??? Certainly can’t argue counseling being dangerous for the baby at all, but you know what IS dangerous making people suffer through depression unassisted and making them feel like their concerns are invalid.
When I talked to her about my issues with SPD she told me that she had a chiropractor that she highly recommended and would absolutely refer me to an Obstetric Physical Therapist if needed.
Based on my prior physical and mental trauma she recommended a c-section. I told her I had considered that or an induction at 39 weeks because the thought of going into labor naturally was too scary for me because of the risk of passing on Beta Strep again. And you know what she did, she listened, she agreed we could keep both options open, she didn’t try to push her plan.
She had a few more recommendations of things to do before I started trying again and she talked me through some of the precautions she would take during my pregnancy.
These doctors, they do exist, unfortunately sometimes you have to sift through some crummy ones to find them. If you don’t like your doctor- fire them! Find someone who listens and cares.
Keep Taking Care of Yourself!
You are as important as the baby. I think that’s part of my trauma from my last doctor. It felt like MY health and MY needs didn’t matter at all. Of course there are precautions and sacrifices that are required due to pregnancy, but there is so much help available.
Since getting pregnant my SPD has come back. I got to 14 weeks instead of 10 this time. Overall it has not been nearly as bad. I also started seeing the chiropractor she recommended who specializes in pregnancy, and HOLY COW!! It has been amazing and so helpful. I also respect my limits and take it easy. The pain isn’t gone, unfortunately because it is more of a hormonal issue they can’t really solve it, but it’s so much more manageable.
My mood has been so much better, I think mostly due to my thyroid being managed so much better but also not being in debilitating pain all the time goes a long way. I haven’t needed to be medicated or seek counseling at this point, but knowing that it’s an option if it comes up is probably another key to preventing anxiety.
My husband has been amazing and so supportive through all of this. Before we started trying again we had several discussions about what would be necessary as far as home maintenance and the kids and he’s been right on board. I told him if the pain started again that he was either going to have to do most all of the cleaning or we’d have to hire someone. Being on the same page and having a supportive partner is a really important key.
If there are first time or soon to be moms out there reading this- I hope you can learn from this and avoid some trauma.
To those that are in that deciding place- hugs! I hope this helps you work through some of your trauma and questions. And if your decision turns out to be no, good for you! I was talking with a friend about this a few months back and when I told her about how I realized my sadness was greater than my fear she told me about how she actually had the opposite experience. She had thought about trying again and realized her fear and reasons to be done outweighed her sadness and pain of being done. It’s so personal, there’s no right or wrong decision. Like I said before, taking care of yourself and your current family IS a righteous desire. If you’re on the fence, don’t be afraid to hang out on the fence for a while.