Aren’t you glad you are not pregnant anymore? These words sent a visceral reaction through my body and soul. After a traumatic birth experience, going 24 hours without seeing my twins, unrelieved pain, and sleep deprivation, hearing these words felt like a betrayal. I believed that this person would know how I felt and expected more compassion. The problem was in having expectations that I never communicated.
I delivered my twins five weeks early due to pre-eclampsia, a condition in which your blood pressure becomes elevated due to pregnancy, and the only cure is to deliver. After 16 hours of labor, a c-section was needed because of failure to progress. As I lay in the Operating Room, the only thing I could think of was how my body had failed my babies, I was no longer safe for them, and I feared that their premature delivery would cause complications. I remember hearing their cry and feeling relief, which was short-lived. The babies went to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and I did not see them for 24 hours due to staffing being low. I was still on medication that required a nurse to transport me to the NICU and stay during my visit.
The day that I was sent home, I went to change from my hospital gown to the clothes I came in with, which happened to be maternity. I saw myself in the mirror and stared at my swollen belly which still resembled being pregnant. I took the painful walk to the NICU to see my son, who would require another week of monitoring. I cried inconsolably because it felt like his whole family was leaving him behind. Part of my heart stayed behind in the hospital that day.
We went to stay with my mother-in-law because going home was not feasible at the time. We lived in a third-floor apartment. I was in pain, caring for a newborn, and getting no sleep. My hospitalization played in my mind like a movie on replay. Images of the team of nurses hooking me up to the medicated drips, the BP machine going off to warn the staff of my elevated numbers, the babies' heartbeats, having the epidural attempted three times, the anesthesiologist denying my reality that the epidural was not working, being brought to the OR, begging the surgeon not to start the c-section because I could feel the scalpel, hearing the babies cry, babies being taking away, the intense itch from the anesthesia, the yearning to see my babies and not being able to, the intense pain of the meds wearing off, the frustration with my milk not coming, the pressure to breastfeed, the need to rest and keep moving to prevention complications. Between my hormone levels dropping and feeling the grief of not carrying the pregnancy to full term, I cannot stop crying. I felt judged for my feelings and received comments such as “you are lucky they are here,” and “other babies have come much earlier and spend longer in NICU.” I want to believe that the comments said were intended to make me feel better, yet it had the opposite effect, my feelings felt invalidated.
After a period of grief, I was able to step back into my power and coach my way through it. I realized I had given my power away by expecting others to know how I felt. I decided to set boundaries, let others know that their words hurt, and let go of the fear of how it would be perceived. The response I often received was, “I did not mean it that way.” I found support with other twin moms who had similar experiences and chose to validate my feelings. I now help others do the same and help raise awareness that words have meaning, and we must ask ourselves, are my words better than silence?