I really don’t know how to label my story. It’s a birth story. It’s a story of loss. It’s a postpartum confession. It’s my journey to motherhood; grim, raw, tragic and beautiful all blended together.
I was so ecstatic during that first ultrasound when it was discovered I was carrying twins. My husband and I just smiled and had no words. I knew instantly I was carrying a boy and a girl. The “big” ultrasound confirmed my mother’s intuition that I was carrying a perfect little boy and girl.
No other concerns or abnormalities were found and I was pressured to get the flu shot to protect from the new scary swine flu that was just coming around. It was my first, last and only flu shot. Over the next week I got sick, what I didn’t know was I was having an adverse reaction to that vaccine, but I digress . . . I called my OB to tell them about the constant back pain I had. Every hour I called they told me to drink more water, lay on my left side and try to rest.
After a couple hours I called my sister who had a child the year before and told me to go to the hospital to get checked out. Before I left I went to the bathroom and blew my nose. Then the most terrifying thing happened. I felt my son’s head in my vagina. My husband rushed me to the local hospital down the road but they didn’t have the medications to stop my contractions.
I was transferred to a hospital that could stop my labor and keep me on bed rest until my children were viable outside of my safe womb. I was so full of hope. Once I entered the second hospital no hope was offered. They said there’s nothing they could do and it’s better to just “get it over with”.
No time to process was offered, no answers to my many questions were offered, no compassion was offered. Our parents and siblings sat in the room with us. Few words were exchanged. Just many tears and dashed dreams. I was in pain from the pitocin and emotionally frayed from my pending losses, so I accepted the epidural and let the numbness wash over me.
One nurse kept coming in and put the doppler to my stomach and kept telling me what great heart rates they had. After the third time my father who knows me so well had some words with her in the hall. I’m thinking to myself “Really lady?! Keep telling me what great heartbeats they have while I’m trying to emotionally prepare myself to to birth them and watch their hearts stop beating? How helpful!”
The time came to greet my children. A moment I looked forward to but came too soon. The medical staff tried to prepare me that they won’t be “cute” but that will never work on any mother giving birth.
My son came first I held his tiny hand gave him his name and sent a pray to the God I believed in, but was currently angry with, to claim my son and daughter in a life after this one. I watched that strong heart beat and tried to soak in his every feature because I knew this would be the only day I could spend with him. When his heart stopped beating I let the rest of my family look over his tiny features in awe and gave birth to my daughter.
She looked so healthy compared to my son. I watched her struggle to breathe and begged the doctors to help her. They said their hands were tied and it wouldn’t help anything. So I watched her struggle to breathe for the longest 10 minutes of my life. I gave her a name and allowed myself to cry.
It was too much to do at once. Watching both of your children die is too much for anyone to bare. Then came in this resident, while my family is sitting around me passing around my children’s bodies and taking tender photos he inserts his hand into my vagina and into my uterus to start “cleaning me out” in his words. I begged him to stop and he claimed I shouldn’t feel anything because of the epidural but I explained I did feel it and it was painful and I wanted him to stop.
He ignored me and continued to rape me until I was “clean”. I know that word rape is strong and it’s not meant to take away from any other rape victims, but what I experienced is birth rape. I was touched and without consent, but because he was wearing a white coat and I was “numbed” people like to think it doesn’t count.
But I count.
My body has worth and my consent matters. I was given some time to say my goodbyes and send their tiny bodies to rest in a morgue instead of a nursery. I was then transferred to a postpartum room.
I heard the other women “Oh” and “Awe” over their precious bundles of joy and newborns wail in hunger. Those sounds echoed in my mind and I could not rest. My OB came in to visit me and offered words of “comfort” like, “Don’t worry you are young, you can have more”.
I tried to asked questions about postpartum and what to expect. Like . . . Will my milk come in? What do I do with the bleeding? When is a good time frame to start trying again to get pregnant? All of these questions fell on deaf ears and I received no answers, so I was left to my own devices.
That following week I made final arrangements, I found a two for one special on cremation and planned a memorial service. The service was nice, I wrote a poem and so many family and friends showed their love and support for my tiny grieving family. Everyone wanted to hug me but I was in incredible amounts pain from the engorgement I could barely tolerate them.
After the service I developed a fever and landed myself back in the podunk hospital that didn’t have the medication to stop my labor. I had a nasty infection and was laughed at by the OB who discovered I was using tampons for the postpartum bleeding and lectured me on postpartum care.
I felt like a dumb naive little girl.
I felt worthless. I felt uncared for by all medical professionals who crossed my path. I just wanted to let the infection take over my pathetic failure of a body so I could go be with my babies in Heaven. I felt that way for a good year and suffered from PTSD.
I’ve since has another daughter and son and just discovered I’m pregnant again and suffer anxiety attacks during the pregnancies. I feel silly thinking those births can heal me. I love my rainbow babies. They are the greatest pleasure and joy in my life, but it’s not fair for me to expect that they will ever fill those holes and cracks in my heart after all these years.
Sure, the first year is the hardest and it gets a little easier to manage that pain, but it never goes away. You never forget those feelings, scents, pains, and statements made to you. I write this story not to get pity or sympathy but to reach and impact others. I write this sacred story to influence OBs and L&D nurses to encourage them to practice more informed consent and compassion. I write to reach that person who knows a friend or family member who’s lost a child and know that dropping off a rotisserie chicken might not be enough. I mainly write to reach that women suffering in silence who has experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss and feels alone. It’s a sad sorority to join but you are never alone.
Katie Johnson | Mama to Peter and Macie born and died 6 years ago, Evie 4 years old Dempsey 2 years old | Connect with Katie on her website: Oh So Mom