The United States is ranked 61st in Maternal Health and we have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the developed world. For being one of the wealthiest nations, this country is one of the only ones lacking in maternal care.
Three weeks ago, I started hemorrhaging at home due to some retained placenta that was left inside my uterus from labor. So much blood was pouring out of me…I ran through the kitchen to get Dustin and rush to the hospital. I turned around and looked back at what resembled a murder scene. Blood everywhere. Literal pools of blood. I became lightheaded, struck with fear, and my body started tingling. I honestly wondered “is this it?” “am I going to miss out on watching my baby-girl grow up?”
I was sent to the ER downtown and immediately had an emergency D&C to remove the rest of the blood and clotting. I lost so much blood that evening that I required a blood transfusion. Soon afterward I started spiking a high fever and spent the next four days in the hospital being treated for potential infection.
Fast forward three weeks later to my 6 week postpartum checkup. I was feeling great and was looking forward to getting the okay from my doctor to do things like workout, hike, and have sex again. My doctor and I decided to do one last ultrasound to make sure everything was out of me, just for peace of mind. I was optimistic going into the ultrasound but was immediately crushed when I saw the screen…there was still more placenta in there…how the fuck is there still more? My doctor scheduled me for the following afternoon to do my second D&C, this time with a camera and ultrasound to make sure she was getting it all. I was terrified to go home and start hemorrhaging like last time. She called for more blood products because there was a possibility that I would lose a lot of blood like last time. My doctor also brought up the possibility of a rare condition where the placenta continues to grow back which results in the need for a hysterectomy. My terror and anxiety was multiplied by a kazillion at the thought of losing my ability to have anymore children and going through menopause at the age of 22.
As I write this, I’m sitting on the couch at home recouping from my procedure. My doctor confidently told me that she thought it all went well and she got everything out of my uterus successfully. I’m hoping and praying for no more complications and to finally heal properly. Before I go on, I just want to say that I’m beyond grateful my daughter was delivered healthy and safe. I’m grateful that I came out of the hospital safely. I’m also grateful for the doctors and nurses who took care of me both times.
But the more I think about everything, the more upset I become.
This. Shouldn’t. Have. Happened.
My entire healthcare experience during my pregnancy felt rushed. My appointments always felt rushed and even my delivery felt rushed. One second my doctor was there, then the next she was telling me congratulations on the baby and that she will see me in 6 weeks and walked out the door.
I shouldn’t have been rushed through my appointments and most importantly my delivery, accidentally leaving me with a large amount of placenta left inside of me. It took me trusting my gut and listening to what my body was telling me to initiate getting an early check-up and for my doctor to find out what was wrong with me. That just isn’t acceptable. After everything we go through, women deserve so much better than what we are offered.
People treat pregnancy as a fragile state. But once we have actually undergone the physical trauma and emotional exhaustion of it, we are expected to almost immediately rejoin the rest of the world as normal human beings even though we just went through one of the most life-changing and strenuous events of our lives. The reality is that it can take months to properly heal from childbirth and overexertion after labor could potentially lead to complications like depression, infection, uterine bleeding, or prolapse.
There is this attitude surrounding women in our country that “women have been doing this since the beginning of time and we can handle everything on our own.” And if they don’t live up to these expectations then they feel like there is something wrong with them. I remember two weeks after giving birth…being apologetic to others for feeling so tired, for the house being messy, and not being able to complete my assignments for school. Bullshit. I shouldn’t have to feel sorry for needing extra sleep and spending what little free time I do have to take care of myself emotionally and physically.
We should take our maternal healthcare and healing seriously like they do in other countries like France, where they spend a week in the hospital after giving birth or Sweden, where prenatal care is free, both parents receive a year of paid leave, and they have the highest breastfeeding rates and lowest infant mortality rates in the world. If we started talking honestly about the time and energy it actually takes to grow a human being inside you and recover from childbirth, then maybe women wouldn’t feel the pressure to return to “normal” as quickly as possible. Just maybe we would have better standards of care for pregnant women, and maybe I wouldn’t have hemorrhaged all over my kitchen floor, or ended up needing two separate surgeries to correct the issue in only a matter of weeks.