June Connell is the owner and founder of Happy Birth Way, a childbirth education company. June is a Natural Childbirth Educator certified by the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) as well as a doula and yoga teacher. As our guest in today’s podcast, June shares with us her passion for childbirth education and her mission to empower and educate women and couples for the birth experience. June is a wealth of information and also shared several resources for healing and resolution following a traumatic birth. Finally, just for Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond, June is offering her program Understanding Birth at the special price of $79. Mamas on Bedrest will also receive unlimited e-mail support from June, a 15 minute one on one consult via phone with June and a free copy of her e-book, Easy Eating for 2.
Recently my husband and I were talking about things and we broached the subject of my pregnancies. I’ve had a dicey pregnancy history to say the least and each pregnancy had its share of drama. What I never realized was that when I was at my most vulnerable and most broken, my husband was doing his best to shoulder my pain and the burden of his own feelings of inadequacy.
My husband is a process engineer. In simple terms, he solves problems for a living. In his world of semiconductors, he figures out ways to make computer chips hold more information and to be able to access and distribute that information easier and faster. Don’t ask me for more details because that is the extent of my understanding of what he does. What I can say is that he becomes very frustrated when he can’t solve a problem or when a process is not cut and dried. I imagine my pregnancy history totally warped his circuits!
My first pregnancy ended very early in miscarriage. I had just learned that I was pregnant and had jetted off to a conference. I miscarried in the hotel room a couple of days into my trip. I didn’t call my husband or even go to the emergency room. I knew what had happened recognized that the miscarriage was complete (I spare you the graphic details) so I waited until I got home to tell him. He felt horrible that he had not been there. I told him that there was nothing that he could have done, it just sort of happened. I realize now that was of no comfort to him. He wanted to be able to ease my pain, to share my burden. He could not so he felt like he had let me down. He felt like he had failed me.
My second miscarriage (third pregnancy) was also early, at about 9 weeks. I knew that I was pregnant and was feeling great. When I went to my OB for what I thought would be the routine first OB visit and to get my vitamins and set up my monthly appointments, I was told instead that the sac looked abnormal and that there was no heartbeat. I had had an ultrasound 3 weeks earlier (due to my history of early miscarriage) and everything had looked fine. What a difference a few weeks makes. But because everything had looked good at 6 weeks, when my husband suggested that he reschedule an international business trip the same week as my first OB, I told him not to worry, to go ahead and take his trip and I’d be fine. I was so wrong. I was utterly devastated when my OB told me that the pregnancy was not viable and cringed at the thought of calling my husband in Japan to give him the news. Distraught, I spoke with one of the pastors at my church and this very sweet young man told me that no matter how it may hurt my husband to hear the news over the phone, it would be far worse to wait until the end of the week when he returned.
It was truly one of the worst phone calls of my life. My husband was already concerned when he picked up the phone and heard my voice because I never called him while he was away internationally (he always called me!). Before I could say anything I began to cry. Then he was really worried. I finally sputtered out what had happened and all I heard at first was silence. Then, “I’m coming home”. I knew that he was presenting some data to the higher ups in his company, so I told him to finish his meeting and then to come home which he did.
But the most maddening and frightening time had to be the birth of my daughter, my second pregnancy. This pregnancy had been fraught with all kinds of complications from spotting at about 16 weeks to “cramping” throughout much of the pregnancy which I now realize were possibly preterm labor (Ignorance is bliss??) contractions. I went into real labor (which I was not supposed to do because of previous fibroid surgery) at 36 weeks and 6 days. My OB’s patner evaluated me and decided to proceed with the c-section.
The anesthesia made me immediately sick, so I vomitted though the entire delivery. When they first brought my daughter out, my husband says that she was blue and floppy. I could not see her but she did cry so I had assumed she was okay. The cleaned her up and whisked her off because of breathing issues. At the same time, my OB’s partner was trying to stitch me up and each time she threw a stitch, my uterus spouted blood like Old Faithful. And there, standing in the middle of the operating/delivery room was my process engineer husband; not understanding what was going on with his little girl, unable to help his vomitting and bleeding wife and no one explaining a damned thing to him. When we spoke about that night, he got very quiet and a little pale and said, “I wasn’t sure if I was going to lose one or both of you that day.”
To put this in perspective, we had this discussion about 2 months ago. My daughter will be 9 in October. He has been carrying around this fear and angst for nearly 9 years. No one ever asked him how he was doing after the birth. Sure, people congratulated him but for the most part, all eyes were on me and my daughter. I had been cut and had hemorrhaged. She had been in the NICU. He was just the dad. Yet, he most likely had the most vivid memories of that night and they are not good ones. It was a scary. It was bloody and for someone who likes order and control and nice neat processes, this was the complete antithesis. Another explosion of his “internal hard drive”.
Today there are many books and resources to help dads with the pregnancy and birth process. I so recommend that everyone read Dr. Bruce Linton’s post “From Man to Dad: How Fatherhood Changes Men” on Pregnancy.org. While his post does not address traumatic birth specifically, it does address many issues that face men as they become fathers. Dr. Linton has some other wonderful information on his website FathersForum.com.
Hearing my husband’s recollection of my daughter’s birth has really put it in a different perspective for me. We cannot forget that dads have also “given birth” and with that process there may have been some very scary, harrowing and even near death moments that dad experienced-more so than mom. It’s important to check in with dads and make sure that they are doing okay because many dads who experience births like my husband did are at risk for post partum depression.
Given my line of work, it’s embarrassing to admit that I didn’t recognize my husband’s pain for nearly 9 years. So I write this blog to all the mamas, family members, friends and loved ones to raise their awareness about birth trauma in men and its potential to lead to post partum depression in dads. Ask dad how he is doing; ask open ended questions and observe dad’s response. If dad seems quieter than normal, more detatched or perhaps inappropriate it may be that he is masking depression. Be aware and help dads get help.
Daddy & His Girl!
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