Guest Post: The Conception of my Inner Voice

Guest Post by Amy. Amy enjoys reading, hiking in the mountains, and learning alongside her three children and husband in Orem, Utah.

My oldest child is turning 11 soon. Every year around his birthday, I reflect on the days leading up to his birth and simultaneously my birth as a new mother finding my inner voice.

My husband and I graduated from BYU, and just nine days later we fulfilled the next commandment by having a child. After all, “The greatest job that any woman will ever do will be in nurturing and teaching and living and encouraging and rearing her children in righteousness and truth. There is no other thing that will compare with that, regardless of what she does.”- Gordon B. Hinckley. My path was laid out for me. There was no discussion about any other option i.e. working after graduation, continuing with schooling, traveling for a time before starting a family, etc.

I went to the doctor that the nurses recommended. This doctor told me I needed to “put pictures up of you around your apartment with the words ‘don’t feed me’”. I only wanted to please him, so even though that comment devastated me, I tried not to gain any weight for the next appointment. Eventually, our baby’s due date came and went. I was also not dilated and 0% effaced. This is not uncommon for first babies, but I went to the hospital for a non-stress test. My amniotic fluid levels raised red flags for my medical team. The next day I got another NST and it showed my fluids were increasing to the point where I had enough to be carrying triplets. Everyone assured me it would be okay and this would give my doctor an excuse to get the baby out sooner. I felt excited when my doctor scheduled me for an induction the next morning. I had to ripen my cervix using Cervidil and was up the whole night. I would finally see this baby soon; no one led me to believe there was anything to be anxious about. They were the experts, after all.

The next morning, the nurses started my IV and pitocin. At his convenience, my doctor broke my water before I got my epidural. It was excruciatingly painful with my posterior cervix. And it was enough water to spill over the bed. I finally received the epidural and the waiting game started. I labored all day long. The doctor came to me and said “you can either push for 3 hours and struggle or I can get him out within 15 minutes with my forceps”. Being the peacemaker that I was, and also someone who relied on the knowledge of others, I thought I would please him and my family members who were all there waiting for me and get him out sooner with the forceps. After all, he was the doctor and knew better than me, and I didn’t want people waiting!

The anesthesiologist gave me a “whopper dose”; my legs could have been completely chopped off and I would feel nothing at all. With my legs up in stirrups, spread and swollen, I pushed when I was told, and within a few pushes and yanks from my doctor, our son was born.

The pressure coming from my birth canal was extremely jarring. I couldn’t stop vomiting. With no food in my stomach, my lower extremities completely dead weight, and no sleep the last 24 hours, I felt pretty terrible. He was beat up from the forceps but otherwise seemed perfectly healthy. Big and brawny for a newborn at 9 pounds 5 ounces, I was smitten.

By the next day, he started projectile vomiting green bile. He was put in the ambulance to a hospital with a better trauma care unit. My husband followed the ambulance while the nurses and my mom helped get me checked out of the hospital. My birth wounds were extensive, but the distance from my baby with some unknown illness sent my body into a constant state of stress that wouldn’t let up for weeks.

The x-rays showed an intestinal blockage. A pediatric surgeon came from the children’s hospital to do a biopsy on his rectum. It came back absent of the nerve endings that move our stools to our rectums. He feared there would be a bowel obstruction, so he scheduled a surgery for the following morning at the children’s hospital, which meant another ambulance ride and surgery on Christmas morning. The surgeon said he possibly had Hirschsprung’s disease–a disease where in utero the nerve endings in your colon never developed, so bowel movements are extremely difficult or impossible without surgical intervention. The nurse put together a folder of colostomy care and information on this rare disease. I had never even heard of a colostomy before. This information left me and my husband in complete shock and quiet panic.

The surgery went well. My husband and our families were alone in the waiting room that morning. I am forever grateful for the medical professionals sacrificing their Christmas morning with their families to save my child. I never got over the shock of seeing my son’s pink colon sticking out of his abdomen. By the time the new year arrived, we were home with our new baby boy trying to figure out how to change colostomy bags, nurse, and live in that newborn fog.

I didn’t realize how horrible my first birth experience was until I had my next child with a different doctor and had grown up a bit. I want to give my 22 year old self a giant hug. I was so young and ill-prepared for such a major transition in my life. I know this isn’t an uncommon thought for first time parents! But I resent that I felt the need to have a baby to check the next box. I resent that I relied on the knowledge of others to tell me what I needed instead of searching for myself; I had no inner voice.

The Prophet, his counselors, and Quorum of the 12 apostles taught me that I needed to heed their voices. Church on Sundays taught me to listen to my Bishop’s advice and counsel. For the Strength of Youth told me how to dress, what to listen to, what to read, who and how to date, and who to be around in my life. The Young Women values taught me what things I ought to value and cherish. My temple covenants told me what I needed to do to get to the highest Kingdom in Heaven. This reliance on others for my decisions and life path led me to many points in my life that I am forever grateful for. But it robbed me of figuring out me: I needed permission to live authentically and advocate for myself. Here I am in my thirties and I am just now figuring out my inner voice.

My biggest hope for my children and for all humans is that they live their lives knowing they can say no, disappoint people, and advocate for themselves. Up to this point I have lived most of my life feeling unable to do that, and it has limited my growth and development. I know my son’s diagnosis had nothing to do with others’ wishes for me, but I wish I had some autonomy and confidence in myself in the whole experience of pregnancy, birth, and recovery. These experiences were the conception of my inner voice.

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9 Responses

  1. Lavender says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Amy. Men should never tell women to have children – for so many reasons – but your experience highlights one of the biggest ones: it is a woman’s body that rips and tears and stretches and bleeds, a woman’s mind that changes and develops and grows, a mother’s heart that is confused and exposed and suddenly outside her body for her children. Such an easy thing to say and a shocking thing to experience. Men told you something, and you experienced something else. I grieve and resent with you. I am so so glad you are finding your inner voice and teaching your children to find theirs.

  2. Viva Clark says:

    I loved this so much, Amy! I needed to read this exactly how you articulated it.

  3. lws329 says:

    I have had similar experiences and walked away with similar convictions. I had a c-section with my first child because my doctor didn’t want to wait for me to be ready to give birth and I didn’t do my own research and bowed to his authority.

    My 5th child was born with anal atresia. He had a colostomy bag for about 18 months. It’s very challenging, as you know.

    I chose to be home with my kids. My mother worked in my teenage years and I expected to want to work. After working until my oldest was 2, I wanted to be home with him. I had a powerful dream I understand as direction from God to stay home with my kids. I followed this direction.

    I try to put put God’s personal direction in front of external authority. I still regret failing to do that with my first birth. Making our own choices instead of handing them to others is very important. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  4. SD says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! Having had similar experiences (learning not to trust my own decision making skills and a traumatic first birth), I relate to so much that you’ve written.

  5. nicolesbitani says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I love that you don’t try to erase the trauma you experienced while holding space for its role in the conception of your voice.

  6. Katie Rich says:

    “My biggest hope for my children and for all humans is that they live their lives knowing they can say no, disappoint people, and advocate for themselves.” Amen. It is so hard to get comfortable with disappointing someone else so we don’t disappoint ourselves.

  7. JC says:

    **I went to the doctor that the nurses recommended. This doctor told me I needed to “put pictures up of you around your apartment with the words ‘don’t feed me’”.**

    That is appalling. I’m sorry that happened to you. Policing anyone’s body is wrong, but doing so to an expectant mother is beyond vile. You are absolutely beautiful in the picture you posted – inside and out. I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability in writing this.

  8. Heather says:

    Amy thank you! It breaks my heart to know how many of us were taught NOT to listen to our selves but always defer to external (often white, often male) authority. I have totally agreed to all sorts of these so as not to make a fuss. Let’s all hug ourselves and teach our kids better.

  9. Emily U says:

    Amy, I’m sorry for what you’ve been through. It’s a huge thing to grieve over when we realize what could have been different had we been taught to trust ourselves and value our OWN development.

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