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Queer woman traumatized by wife's 'complicated' birth; says, 'I am now reliving my assault.' AITA? SHOCKING UPDATES.

Queer woman traumatized by wife's 'complicated' birth; says, 'I am now reliving my assault.' AITA? SHOCKING UPDATES.

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When this woman is completely traumatized by watching her wife give birth and feels triggered, she aks Reddit:

"I'm traumatized by my wife's birth and I don't know how to get over it. AITA?"

Trigger Warning: Mentions of SA and descriptions of childbirth.

At the start of 2023 my wife (27F) and I (26F) discovered that our attempt at home insemination had worked and that we were expecting a baby! This was my wife's first pregnancy and childbirth but we have a six-year-old daughter who I carried and delivered in 2017.

I'm in a doula program, have been to EMT school, have attended other births besides my own, and felt very confident in my ability to process the situation and support my wife.

While I think I excelled as a support person, I'm left dealing with flashbacks and anxiety in the aftermath of her birth experience. For the sake of this story, let's call my wife M and my son F.

At 1am Monday on her way to the bathroom, 37+3 days pregnant, M’s water broke. I immediately called the hospital and because she had yet to do her GBS test, a common test done at the end of pregnancy to determine a certain infection risk...

they decided to put her on antibiotics for the duration of her labor to stay safe- so we had to come in right away.We spent the night in the labor and delivery room with...

M only experiencing extremely mild, random contractions and in the morning around 9am she decided to start an induction drug to get things moving- Misoprostol.

This drug takes about 16 hours over 8 rounds and acts as a cervix softener and induces contractions. 16 hours later, at about 3:40am, M was only dilated to 1.5 and was having moderately intense contractions about three minutes apart and baby F was looking great on the monitor.

But, the lack of of progress meant she would now need to try Pitocin, a notoriously painful induction drug that causes extremely powerful contractions and is very effective in progressing labor.

I had Pitocin during the birth of my daughter in 2019 and I prepared M for some of the pain she may start feeling and reminded her that I was there for anything she needed.

She wanted to labor and deliver without an epidural as I had done and I was happy to support her in that but we'd also had extensive conversations about pain management options and the availability of the epidural.

In standard Pitocin fashion, M’s contractions went from about a 7 on the pain scale to a quite unmanageable 10 quickly and after 30 hours of hospital time and labor she finally made the choice to get an epidural and ease her suffering.

When she got the epidural, she received a catheter and two tubes were placed into the uterus to monitor contractions and baby’s heart rate from within, rather than from the often unreliable monitors on her belly.

At this point she was confined to the bed but was in much better spirits. She received another cervical check at this point and we learned that she was only 3 centimeters dilated after hours and hours of labor.

The general consensus amongst her care team was that M still hadn’t entered true active labor despite all of the painful contractions but that they could keep trying! M, for her part, was just happy to not be in pain anymore and happily welcomed a nap. Her Pitocin was increased but she didn’t mind because she couldn’t feel it!

Unfortunately, F did not take the Pitocin increase well and started having intermittent decelerations in his heart rate that they thought may be attributed to her uterus squeezing him in an unfavorable way.

While the care team was concerned and alert about the situation, they stood by vaginal delivery still being the safest and most reasonable course of action for the time being.

For my part, I internally panicked every time his heart rate dropped on the monitor. I knew this meant things could turn quickly if his decels got worse and I also knew that their options with Pitocin would now be limited.

I had now watched my wife be in agony only for her to get relief from her pain and immediately have our son start experiencing distress. Fun times.

For hours, we simply waited it out and trusted the care team, unable to increase Pit. Eventually, her doctor decided to do an amnioinfusion, which is where fluid is placed back into the uterus through a tube in the cervix.

This was to offer more cushioning to baby F and hopefully stop his decelerations which were not being helped by adjusting M’s bed position as they had hoped. At this time they noted that she was still at 3 cm dilated.

I started to think that with her lack of progress, his decelerations, and the risk of infection because her water had been broken for more than 30 hours, that we were heading towards a c-section or that she or the baby might get really sick or hurt because their bodies were going through so much.

I expressed my concerns privately to her nurse at the time who said they hadn’t given up hope and had seen labors like this end in success, but that she also completely understood my fears...

that my assessment of the situation was reasonable, and that if I were the patient and asked for a c-section at this stage it would be a request she would honor and agree with without question.

She suggested I gently share my thoughts with my wife but trust the process either way. Not to my surprise, the doctor came into the room shortly after and said in casual terms that the amnioinfusion was basically...

our last hope and that c-section might be an option worth discussing soon but that we also had the option of continuing to labor along indefinitely as long as there was no infection and baby F was tolerating it.

At this point I opted to take the nurse’s advice to chat with M because the lack of urgency that was reassuring my wife was scaring me.

I asked everyone to leave and M and I had a conversation about everything that had happened, what I was observing, my concerns, how she was feeling, and I asked her to consider the pros and cons of a c-section but that I trusted her and our care team to make the right choice.

I knew that what I was suggesting to M, asking her to consider the c-section, was asking her to confront a major fear of hers. In nursing school she attended a patient's c-section that traumatized her and she spoke frequently throughout her pregnancy about not wanting it to happen to her. I felt so bad to be suggesting it. I still feel bad.

M, who had been extremely fatigued from labor, slept as needed, and was a little loopy from lots of drugs, hadn’t picked up on much of what was happening and didn’t realize that the length of her labor and the lack of progress were out of the ordinary.

The staff had also been telling us for hours that F’s decelerations were somewhat common and didn’t yet constitute an emergency. I wasn’t interested in waiting until they did constitute an emergency and tried my best to be patient (not a strength of mine).

When M and I talked, she was very appreciative of me being more clear with her about the situation. She hadn't even heard the doctor mention that the amnioinfusion was the last resort.We decided to talk with the doctor again and seek advice.

The doctor said she was understanding of our concerns, that she was happy to do the c-section, but that we might also want to wait a little longer to see if any changes occurred.

So, that’s what we did. If M still hadn’t progressed or if F had more decelerations we would pull the trigger on the c-section. After 6 more hours, baby F had three more decelerations and a cervical check revealed that M was still at 3 centimeters. So, it was decided that the safest choice was to do the c-section.

M was prepped for surgery, which took about 30 minutes, and then I joined them in the OR to be by her side. When I sat beside her she told me she had just heard she was at a high risk for hemorrhage and I did my best to reassure her that she would be okay.

Over the curtain we listened to panicked demands for more suctions as M bled. OB's snapped urgently at nurses to run and grab more supplies and we waited patiently for some sign that our baby was okay after such an ordeal, which was all that we could do.

The doctors informed us they had eyes on him, that he was beautiful, and that they were working on getting him out. We understood that meant he was stuck but we just had to trust them.

Through all of this, M felt immense pressure as the surgery unfolded. I kept petting her head and trying to distract her. She told me she was tired, that she was scared of her fatigue, that she didn’t want to fall asleep and leave me forever.

I held my whole entire shit together and assured her just to keep her eyes open and that I wasn’t leaving her. A few moments later, our son’s cry filled the OR and we were in tears.

They worked on getting him sorted and asked me if I’d like to meet him, but I figured the NICU staff that were caring for him knew what they were doing and that my wife would remember the moments she was alone during surgery more than my son would remember the moments before he saw my face at his birth.

I was just relieved to know he was okay and I stayed by M. As the hectic voices became replaced by laughter and relaxed tones over the curtain I knew that M was going to be okay. She continued to cry and I reminded her what she knew as a nurse- laughing doctors are not worried doctors.

As they closed M up, her epidural started to ware off and she could feel her surgery. Seeing her in that pain was so hard and all I could do was wait for her to get help and hold her hand, wishing I could swap places with her.

My wife, tough as nails, face scrunched and nearly breathless. Luckily, the anesthesiologist she had is a seasoned rockstar and she was quickly able to get her pain under control.

Once M was settled, a very kind nurse swapped places with me and held her hand while I went and said hello to our boy and brought a picture back for M.

I asked the nurse sitting with her to explain what was going on as a fellow nurse, to give her some structure. It seemed to help her to chat with somebody like that- a nice, objective, nurse-to-nurse conversation.

A few minutes later, baby F was in my arms and M was saying hello to him!As they finished closing M up they had me bring F back to the delivery room to wait for her. The next few hours featured close observation by nurses and fundal massages every 15 minutes to help M’s healing.

Soon we were in our recovery suite, M was comfortably in bed, and I was laying beside her going over everything that had happened and praising her for being the absolute strongest person I know.

What we didn’t know definitively (but suspected) during the surgery that we learned in the following days were this: M did hemorrhage. Because she had been in labor for so long, her uterus had weakened and wasn’t able to contract down to size as it was supposed to after baby F was born.

This lead to the bleeding. Overall, she lost 1.2 liters of blood. Luckily, the surgical team was fantastic and they were able to help her quickly and efficiently. F never would have been born vaginally and if we’d continued on our labor path he may have paid with his life and could have, at the least, been injured.

His head was not in the birth canal and instead his fist had gone through first, with arm and shoulder getting stuck in M’s cervix. Additionally, the cord had been wrapped around his neck. So, it took serious wiggling to dislodge him.

In the process of dislodging him, F sustained an abrasion on his back that we’re still treating. For days after he was born it hurt when it was touched, he couldn’t lay flat, and he mostly cried. Two weeks later it's been completely healed.

For M’s part, she has been very strong. Despite a blood transfusion on day 3 in-hospital, her healing has stayed on track, she was up and walking fairly quickly after her surgery, and there haven't been any issues since.

She is enamored by our son. Her words four hours after the whole ordeal were "It was all worth it." We're home now and despite an anticipated bout of baby blues she is doing amazingly well, has no indicators of postpartum mental illness, and we're settling into two-kid parenthood.

Except, I am a fg wreck. I'm a doula, I've been to EMT school, I've given birth, and I've attended births and I think all of that experience and knowledge made it so much harder to experience and reflect on my wife's labor.

I wish I didn't have a frame of reference, an awareness of red flags. I can't help but feel she would have labored straight into a disaster if I hadn't spoken up. Would she have died if she'd been even more exhausted? Would my son have died after being in distress even longer and getting even more stuck?

Why were the OB's so comfortable when so much ended up being wrong? Why was an emergency the marker for recommending a c-section in more certain terms? I'm perfectly aware that a c-section is major abdominal surgery but my wife's water was ruptured for 40 hours and my son was in distress.

She fg hemorrhaged because of how long she'd labored for. Why wasn't that a consideration earlier on? I feel like because of EMT school and my own birth experience I have just enough knowledge for questions and not enough knowledge for answers.

Before we give you OP's major update, let's take a look at some of the top responses:

thatfromage writes:

That’s so hard. You aren’t just wounded, you also have eyes trained to see your wound from multiple perspectives at once. Pain can compound intensely under those conditions. What I am wishing for is a womb for just you.

A cocoon to carry you and these recent wounds through the difficult anniversary. I was in tears reading about the birth experience, even before the moral injury you sustained when you learned belatedly about the hemorrhaging and the alternate fate of your little one.

I hope that every single thing that makes you feel safer, from the small sensory stuff to big kinship bonds, is accessible to you right now and in the days to come.

You are a very brave and loving person, your family (chosen and otherwise) are blessed to have you. I hope you can find ways to be held that are just for you. Just a stranger sending you some love and seeing your pain.

strongcore writes:

I haemorrhaged for the same reason. 2.5 litres, and they only gave me iv fluids after?! Argh. But initially, it hit me differently, emotionally. Like, it all turned out OK, and that was most important, so I should let it go.

But one day, when my daughter was about six months old, it's like I was ready, and I asked my GP, did I nearly die? And he said yes. No nonsense or anything else, just, yes. I loved him for that.

Then, I started processing a lot of feelings similar to yours. Fear at the what-ifs, anger at my care team for letting it get that far, at myself for not insisting on this or that, and a really heavy sort of almost grief? It's a strange thing, grieving a death that almost happened, but didn't.

But it's what it felt like I was doing, looking back on it now. I can tell you it does fade and get better, just like regular grief, with time. Especially as the kiddos grow and fill up all the dark spaces with light. It's OK. It's going to be OK.

Also, just because I wish somebody told me back then, if your wife has plans to breastfeed, and your bub is crying and unsettled - after all that blood loss, I wasn't even making milk, and I didn't even know. Poor thing was hungry. Xx.

nakedgnome writes:

I’m really sorry that you had to go through this. The truth is, childbirth can still be traumatic. With all our miracle drugs and abilities to save lives, we forget the simple act of giving lives can take it as well.

As someone who actually did die and luckily was revived 20 minutes after delivering my son your wife is extremely lucky you were there advocating for her. You’re right. She likely wasn’t aware of what was going on. I wasn’t. I have very little recall of my labouring hours. You internalize it.

She probably was aware of the time that had passed, of all those contributing factors that would have helped her make the decisions she needed to make. But you were there, being the partner she needed, that strength she needed and now your family is home safe.

Thats the best outcome you could have hoped for in a situation that could have turned out a lot worse. You did exactly what you were supposed to do. Well done you. Now wrap your arms around your family. Love them. Because they love you.

I’ll never forget my husband’s voice begging me back as they revived me. I’m forever grateful for the time I’ve had with my family these last 30 years. I stopped with our one child… the experience kinda scarred us.

But I also know there’s nothing anyone could have done to change the outcome. It was just one of those things that happened. Thankfully we had we had skilled doctors in that room.

juliegram writes:

Sometimes its reasonable to whisper to yourself, to acknowledge, that doctors are not always right. They should have checked baby's position a long time before... and they didn't.

You don't have to discuss with wife, unless she decides to get pregnant again at some point. (I say that only because it seems to me it might hurt her more than help at this time. If you feel differently, you can decide, after she's healed).

Medical staff aren't always right. Unfortunately, there are plenty of patient's hurt every year. This may be stirring up a lot of fears from several directions: what if I cause a problem in my chosen doula profession? Wife was more right about her reasons for worrying than she realizes.

Baby was nearly, and may still, be injured. Babies do get lifelong pain from birth injuries, and he is too young to verbalize it. You were in a harsh situation, and all you could do was leave the staff alone so you didn't distract them at a critical time. So along with everything going on, I suspect you feel guilt. "I'm a medical person, why didn't I make this get better"

Is baby doing well? It might be that the affected arm needs to be checked, but I am no expert in that.

I wish you peace. Seek it in whatever way will help you. Know that I think you did all you could, you weren't there to be her medical person. She had both doctors and nurses for that. This is not your fault.

mayanthought writes:

Reading this story sounded almost word for word the same as my story except I'm not a doula and I haven't given birth. I did EMT training, I was very involved in the lead up to my child's birth.

I studied all the literature went to all the appointments. I was the primary medical decision maker because S knew she wouldn't be clear headed during the process.

Labor was 30+ hours and dilation never went past 4. We eventually tried Pit. S initially wanted no pain medication but eventually had to go on light relief as labor continued and there was no progress.

Eventually S asked for an epidural and I supported her as I knew she felt like she was failing just asking for it. A's heart rate dropped to sub-60 twice. I could see the fear in our nurse's eyes, hear the concern in our OB's voice. Or maybe it was just mine.

The decision was mine. The weight of it was unbearable. I couldn't sit there and watch my wife go through this, but I also knew how terrified she was of going into surgery. I also knew how terrified she was of losing our child.

We had the surgery. It wasn't as traumatic as your experience but not far off. It was rough, but we all survived.

More importantly, it was 16 years ago next month. The trauma and pain and horror of the event eventually gave way to all of the other things that comes with being a parent. S and I talked it out, and we worked through our trauma as a couple. It was rough and unpleasant, but we did make it through.

And today we are raising one hell of a kid and neither of us could be more proud of that child.

I tell you all of this to say you are not alone. You walk a path that others have walked before you and others will walk after.

There is support out there, friends that you don't know that are cheering for you, loving you, praying for you without ever even knowing who you are. You are a goddamn Rockstar and you're gonna be an amazing mom. Hell, you already are.

And now, OP's major update, which includes her history with assault:

I keep replaying everything in my head and feeling like things could have been so bad. It was terrifying. I wish I could just be satisfied with having a healthy wife and son but I feel so traumatized by the entire thing. It is triggering feelings of my assault. I reliving it.

It's coming up on the anniversary of my being sexually assaulted over a decade ago and every year around this time I really struggle, and that is playing into my feelings right now too.

I just keep thinking about how powerless my wife was, replaying the visual of her body being manipulated around because she was essentially paralyzed from the waist down by the epidural. I keep seeing them putting tubes in her.

She was calm, she was consenting, and she wasn't feeling any pain and I should be okay with those parameters, but I just can't get over how powerless she was. It flashes in my mind constantly and I feel so stupid.

I think my biggest realization from this is that birth trauma can happen to the people that give birth but it can also happen to their support people. There's no dialogue in society about the mental health struggles that happen in the postpartum period to non-birthing parents.

There are Dad groups, but I don't feel I fit in there. I certainly don't feel I fit in the postpartum mother groups this time. So where do I go? I just want to enjoy my wife and son.

I'm just at a loss. What do we do with an atypical traumatic experience? How do we categorize it, validate it, reflect on it, build tools for it, process it, and heal from it if it doesn’t fit the commonly constructed parameters for a traumatic experience?

I think I’d feel better if I knew there was a more commonly recognized strategy for handling birth trauma in partners, or if I had a group of people I could easily and readily commiserate with.

But the fact that my trauma in this event is further complicated by past traumas AND my identity is not “usual”- as a former healthcare worker, as a doula, and as a lesbian (and not a dad) all combining to shape my experience, I’m not exactly swimming in a sea of similar fish. Not to say that I’m all alone, either. But it’s hard to know where to turn.

TL/DR; My wife had a complicated childbirth and hemorraged. She and my son are fine but I'm left feeling traumatized despite being a student doula, going to EMT school, and having given birth myself. I thought all of these things would be tools to help me when she gave birth and I feel instead like it's just made it all worse.

Any advice for OP? This is a complex situation. What would YOU do in her position?

Sources: Reddit
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