I wasn’t sure about sharing this post because this topic might be TMI and writing about it means I have to relive it in my mind. I decided to share my story because someone might be going through the same situation, and God knows how many times I googled it to see if anyone was going through the same thing just to find some comfort. Up to this day this blog has been mostly about food and recipes, but I’ve changed so much since I started it a few years ago, and I feel like now I have so much more to say.
First things first, What is a third degree perineal tear? Is a tear in the vaginal tissue, perineal skin, and perineal muscles that extends into the anal sphincter (the muscle that surrounds your anus). Well that escalated quickly!
When you go to prenatal classes they usually explain that vaginal birth could result in a tear, but I don’t remember hearing you could tear all the way down to your anus! That’s something you would’ve remember, right?
When I was delivering my beautiful baby girl, her head got stuck in my pubic bone. I was given two options, use forceps to guide out my baby’s head or have a C-section. The doctor told me that if we used the forceps she’ll be born in 5 minutes, so of course I chose the forceps, only five more minutes to hold my girl, bring it on! (besides I had been in labor for 23 hours and I just wanted it to be over).
Emi was born right away but I ended up with a third degree perineal tear (assisted deliveries, e.g. forceps, have a higher probability of ending in 3rd or 4th degree tears). In that moment I didn’t feel anything, THANK GOD FOR EPIDURAL, they stitched me up and we were in our room an hour later enjoying life as parents.
When the anesthesia wore off I felt a lot of pain but I assumed it was normal, after all I just squeezed a tiny human out of me. It was my first baby and I didn’t know what to expect. The nurses that were taking care of me kept saying the pain I was feeling was normal so suck it up (of course they didn’t say that last part but it felt that way). Once we were home, I constantly repeated to myself “I can do this”, “you’re a mom now so stop being a wuss”, “once the stitches heal it’ll all be better”.
One day while I was taking a shower I noticed a big blood cloth in the tub. I called my clinic and they told me to go to the emergency room. The doctor said some of the stitches were infected… How could they get infected if I was being so careful keeping them clean? He said it had nothing to do with cleanliness, I’ve been putting too much pressure on them by sitting for long periods or walking too much. They had to remove all the stitches (not only the ones that were infected) right away with no anesthesia. I held my husband’s hand and prayed the whole time. When they were done I was in shock, thinking “why me?”.
They didn’t stitch me again, one doctor even said it wasn’t necessary that it would heal on its own. That didn’t sound right to me so I went to see my OB/GYN. When she was checking me I could tell by the look on her face that something wasn’t right. She told me that I needed to go through perineal repair surgery to properly close the wound. The moment she left the room I couldn’t hold it anymore and I started crying.
I went through surgery feeling guilty for not being there for my newborn who needed me 24/7. Somehow I felt all of this was my fault. My husband reassured me that wasn’t the case and took care of everything. I’m so thankful for having him in my life, I couldn’t have gone through this without his support.
Everything seemed to be okay for the first couple of weeks following the surgery. I went to my post-surgery appointment and my doctor said the stitches weren’t healing properly, nothing wrong with the way I was taking care of them, but my body was reacting in a weird way to the healing process. I kept getting a red skin tissue around the stitches, which had to be cauterized (my doctor used a stick that looked like a large match) and removed. It was an in-office procedure with no anesthesia, it hurt a lot but not as much as everything else I went through. Unfortunately I had to do the same procedure 3 more times until it finally healed.
After surgery, it took me 2 months to stop taking pain killers, 4 months for my stitches to heal and 6 months to be able to sit comfortably without special pillows. Physically speaking I’m completely fine now, however I still have some work to do on the emotional consequences of this experience, no worries I’m getting there. It’s not my intention to scare future moms, but I believe we need to prepare for every possible scenario.
Even though my family and close friends know about my story, it’s scary to share it with the world, it makes me feel vulnerable. But I want to send a message to those of you who are going through the same situation: you are not alone, this is not your fault and YOU WILL HEAL, even though it’s going to take some time, you will be yourself again.