WHEN I had my baby, I was 27 years old. I had an episiotomy, which I hemorrhaged from. I was POINT two away from a blood transfusion. A very large and painful hematoma formed around the area. I was forced to stay in hospital for six days after the birth – my baby was sick.
One day I was told that I was going to be given some sort of herbal solution to put in my maternity pad to help with the wound. I received an large and unmarked syringe which I applied as directed. When the doctor came back she had said that the stuff in the syringe was in fact a laxative that I was to take orally and she laughed at me.
A week later – the day I got home from hospital – the stitches came loose because my flesh was so damaged, the stitches had nothing to hang onto – like a vintage, moth bitten cloth.
When I had a look ‘down there’ to confirm there was something wrong, I couldn’t tell which was the wound and which was my lady part. When I called the hospital they refused to see me. I was sent to a GP who insisted that they see me. Back at the hospital they made me sit on a hard plastic chair in a room full of pregnant woman for hours and hours. My baby was at home and my boobs ached with milk.
I cried, and cried and cried. I was so scared.
On the charts marking the damage after birth- 1 ( minimal ) to 10 ( maximum ) – I received a 9. My physio marveled at the fact that I was still continent ( ! ) I received short wave therapy but when the infection set in we had to change to laser therapy- (the word laser used to give me such joy, I was thinking Star Wars. ) These sessions would leave me with a very painful throbbing.
The physio asked if some photographers could come in on Monday to take a picture for a ‘before and after’ – to be printed in a book.
(At last- I’M PUBLISHED! )
I couldn’t believe this was happening. I wasn’t offered counseling, barely given any information – there was no one to talk to. A friend put me in touch with his girlfriend, who I had only met on Skype. She told me how to look after my wound- a woman I didn’t know, on the other side of the world, was of more help to me than any of the doctors, nurses, midwives that were there and meant to be helping me.
I think the worst part is that I felt no one wanted to help me.
I was treated with contempt.
So for 7 to 8 weeks I had to juggle soaking my open wound three times a day, hospital visits for my therapy and trying to adjust to life having a small baby mostly on my own as my mother went back to Australia and my husband had to return to work.
But I did heal, when it closed I was so happy, I had been terrified and very focused on getting it closed. I thought there was a huge chance of me dying because no one cared and no one would help.
So needless to say- sex wasn’t something I was ever interested in having again. And in a society that is obsessed sex, I felt like I was in my own private hell.
My body began to lose the baby weight but what I was left with was a shriveled, damaged shell that was unknown to me. My boobs were limp, as was my stomach and my bum. I was COVERED in stretch marks; they seemed to be carved into me. My smell wasn’t my smell.
I tried masturbating one night and I couldn’t feel a thing. I know my body went through the motions, but I couldn’t feel it. I was so worried I never would feel anything ( good ) again.
You know all those comments about loose women because they’ve had babies? Well, they are fucking lies. It was so painful.
My daughter is almost two years old and I still struggle with it. It’s not the same- I don’t think it ever will be, but it’s still not right. I think that the relationship with my body and with sex has changed in ways I haven’t even realized.
Sex used to be so many other things- it used to be cool, it used to be powerful, it used to be competition, it used to be a ticket, it used to be an act, it used to be fashionable.
PIC: Me, before
Now – I’m not sure what it is.
The picture above is what I was like pre- baby, and I can’t go back to that- not after having your vagina busted open and torn apart as the final result of this act.
So if I’m not using it to be cool, fashionable, powerful, get things, be cooler than her- what do I do it for?
I’m not convinced the girl I used to be in the above picture had better sex than me now – I just think it was easier for me to buy into all these trends to do with sex. I can’t and don’t want to go back to being her but I would like some of the ease back, some of the weight off.
But growing up and changing isn’t like that.
I wrote this post on my blog, Berlin Domestic, when I was living in Berlin trying to make sense of everything that had happened to me. It is disjointed, as I was. Writing was quite new to me then, I was using it as a tool to try and understand the events in an attempt to finally come to peace with it all. This is only a very small part of the whole story. Something I do not want to forget, it’s so important for me to find the words to describe pregnancy, birth and everything that comes with it because I feel what we have now, is inadequate.
My experience was not unique but it left me traumatised – it broke me. If I hadn’t started writing my blog and connecting with other people on motherhood, fatherhood, birth, sex, relationships, PTSD, PND, etc I’m not sure I would have come as far as I have.
Words are so powerful. As is friendship. As is understanding. Though my body healed years ago it has taken me this long to be comfortable with it, to be more accepting.
Thanks for reading.
Lily Mae is an internationally exhibited and published artist and writer.
She is on Twitter @LilyMaeMartin