Somebody asked me if I wanted my baby to die, and I died a little inside...
I first wrote the list below about 7 or so years ago. Please be aware that it might be Triggering for some. This is a post about the Trauma that some women experience during childbirth. It is very important to know that many women will have wonderful, empowered births and that lots of midwives, doulas and other birth workers are working tirelessly to improve maternity services for the better.
I hate that I was so naive as to expect 'Them' to guide me through labour
I hate that 'Their' ARM (Artificial Rupture of Membranes) was the beginning of the end, as my baby was back to back with a deflexed head and I was lying down for Foetal Scalp Electrode
I hate that 'They' asked me if I wanted my baby to die. (It was actually a Him)
I hated the shivering
I hated the vomiting afterwards, so much so that I had to ask for less effective pain relief so that I wouldn't be sick
I hated having to care for a baby with an abdominal scar as well as a broken wrist (broken a week before I went into labour)
I hate that I couldn't even look at my scar for years afterwards
I hate that I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression and my marriage broke down
I hate that I lost two years of memories. I can't really remember that much of life back then
I hate that 18 years on I could still cry about it. (he's 23 years old now and I no longer cry)
I hate that my Vaginal Birth After Caesarean nearly 12 years later was affected by the primary Caesarean and I ended up with spinal and forceps and not feeling the birth
I hate my episiotemy
I hate that I'll never get to feel a baby being born
I LOVE that I've become a Doula because of my childbirth journey, teach the Wise Hippo Birthing Programme, and offer bodywork using the NO HANDS Massage approach
I LOVE that I've met some gorgeous midwives who show me what midwifery should really be like
I LOVE that I now know some very wonderful people all working to make a difference in maternity services so that our daughters and their partners may not necessarily suffer birth trauma
I believe I am fortunate in that, although it took me many years, I have been able to process my feelings about my Caesarean birth. I wouldn't have done this had I not decided to become a doula, and then a childbirth educator, in order to help women and their families avoid the kind of experiences I had. During a training course I was able to use EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to confront the person who asked me if I wanted my baby to die. ALL the emotion was released as I yelled at the imaginary person in front of me, telling them that of course I didn't want my baby to die, how dare they say that, advising them exactly where they could go, before sobbing my heart out. I have never had a memory of that particular part of my labour. It was my baby's father who told me about that many years later and using EFT to deal with it has enabled me to release the trauma I felt surrounding my son's birth. And then I really could begin to see the positives that my experiences have provided me.
Each of us is unique but sadly too many women experience some common feelings during birth such as:
a loss of a sense of control
not feeling heard by health professionals or support people
feeling isolated and alone
feeling anxious and afraid
fearing for your baby and/or your own life.
Around 25 to 34% of mothers consider that their birth was traumatic and up to 9%, according to research, will have symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD and it's symptoms are considered a psychological injury though, not a mental illness. You can recover from an injury but if you leave it untreated it can evolve into a mental illness like Post Natal Depression.
PTSD symptoms, which are causing significant distress and affecting day to day activities and function, can fall into three categories.
1. Re-experiencing symptoms
flashbacks, intrusive and recurrent thoughts about the birth
re-occuring dreams or nightmares
intense or prolonged psychological distress at thoughts, or physical reminders, of the birth
physical distress and panic at reminders of the birth
2. Avoidance symptoms
blaming yourself or others about the cause or consequences of the birth
avoiding thoughts, feelings or conversations about the birth
avoiding activities, people or places that remind you of the birth
part or complete loss of memory of the birth
negative beliefs or expectations about yourself, others, or the world
lack of interest or motivation to take part in usual social activities
feelings of detachment or numbness about your loved ones and friends
inability to experience loving or joyful feelings
reluctance to have another child
3. Symptoms of increased arousal/reactivity
difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep
problems with concentration
irritable or aggressive behavior
reckless or self-destructive behaviour
exaggerated startle response
However the great news is that now we have a variety of therapies which are simple and yet effective at releasing the negative emotions surrounding birth experiences. EFT, more commonly known as Tapping, and The Rewind Technique are just two. Other treatments such as medication or talking therapies like counselling or CBT are available on the NHS but it should be noted that repeatedly talking about trauma can inadvertently drive it deeper and perhaps make PTSD worse.
It's not just mothers who experience birth trauma. Often it is also the father because they are obviously just as emotionally involved in the birth of their child. Midwives, doulas and other birth workers can also be affected as they too are witness when births become traumatic. Women who have experienced abuse in the past might find that birth may trigger symptoms.
Can you relate to the words I wrote about my experiences? Can you see the symptoms I had personally within my writing above? It really doesn't matter what the mode of birth was, whether it was a vaginal birth or a Caesarean birth, because any birth can leave someone feeling traumatised about one or more aspects of it. It doesn't matter whether you are the mother, the father or a witness. The good news is that it shouldn't have to take you as long as it did me to release the trauma from your experience.
The important question is, if it's been more than 4 weeks since the birth (it could be years!) do you still experience any of the symptoms in the three categories above?
If so please give me a call! In fact, if there has been any kind of trauma in your life give me a call. It doesn't have to be birth related. I offer a 30 minute FREE telephone or Skype call in which we can discuss how The 3 Step Rewind Technique can enable you to process your trauma, in just 2 to 3 sessions, and begin to live again!