Birth pretty much never goes to plan. Women prepare birth plans to have their dream birth experience.
However the baby has not read this plan and usually has his or her own ideas on being born. And when the birth plan goes out the window and shit gets real, some women are left trying to deal with Birth Trauma.
Birth trauma is the psychological and emotional impact on the mother or father following the birth of the baby.
It is a very real condition and probably affects more women than we know about because of the stigma surrounding it.
Mums, especially new mums, are expected to be joyful and deliriously happy following the birth of their their darling child. Of course most mums are happy and grateful to be holding their baby in their arms, as some mothers are not so lucky.
However our body and mind has gone through something extremely traumatic and this must be acknowledged and spoken about.
The mother must not be made to feel guilty for wanting to debrief and explore what just happened to her and she should not be made to feel like her feelings should be dismissed simply because the baby arrived safely.
My first birth was a traumatic one and this, combined with not being able to breastfeed, pushed me into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Postnatal Depression.
My pregnancy was pretty much trouble free (apart from severe pubic symphysis disfunction…) and I went into spontaneous labour two days past my due date after a stretch and sweep.
We were excited to meet our first born! My only birth plan was to go into hospital, have an epidural and push out a baby!
Things didn’t go to plan though. The baby was in the posterior position which meant that the labour was much more difficult.
The epidural I had didn’t work properly. By the time I was 10cm dilated, the epidural wasn’t working at all, the baby had passed his first poo inside me and his heartrate was dropping.
He was stuck in the birth canal. Off we went for an emergency caesarian. I remember screaming down the halls as they wheeled me into theatre.
They put the blue sheet up. It brushed my face and I remember at the moment, feeling beyond out of control. My body wasn’t mine.
The doctor began the operation and I asked “have you started? Because I can feel it.”
Yes. I could feel the operation starting.
So they put me under a general anaesthetic.
I woke up not pregnant anymore but without my baby. I didn’t know what I had, I didn’t know where my husband was. It was absolutely horrid.
I had not seen my baby be born, I did not have skin to skin contact for over a day. Two hours after the operation I was wheeled into a room and saw my hubby holding a baby.
How did I know he was mine? I didn’t see him come out of me. I wasn’t awake when he was born.
After two days struggling with intense pain of breastfeeding I decided to bottle feed. Turns out I have Raynauds Disease in my nipples.
I got milk fever when my milk and in which meant fevers and horrible body shakes. The whole thing was a nightmare.
The guilt of not breastfeeding and not birthing the ‘natural’ way pushed me into a depression.
I didn’t realise I had been suffering from birth trauma or PND until my son’s first birthday. And I didn’t realise I had PTSD until nine years later.
I realised at the time that I was reliving the birth every single night before I went to bed. It was like I was watching myself be wheeled into the operating room and being unconscious while they cut a baby out of me.
I went to the community nurse who referred me to a psychologist. I saw her twice, but what really worked for me was writing everything down.
I felt much lighter once it was all on paper and not floating around in my head.
I feel that if I had a proper debrief following the birth and support for my mental health during this time, I may not have suffered as I did.
The obstetrician should have sat me down and explained why it all went wrong and offered counselling.
Please, if you or anyone you know has been through a traumatic birth, make sure you get all the help you need. It so important. If you break an arm you get it seen to right? The same goes for the mind.
Trauma is so incredibly individual and personal. You can’t tell someone to get over it. And you definitely cannot say to a mother or father who has been through birth trauma “at least you have a healthy baby”. Big no no!
Let’s remove the shroud of secrecy and shame surrounding birth trauma. Let’s help those who desperately need it but aren’t receiving it.