Rewinding 24 years...
Yesterday was my son's 24th birthday.
24 years since the day that started me on the journey to where I am today. The journey is not finished but I've come a long, long way since then.
I was naive. I fully expected that the 'experts' would guide me. We didn't have the internet back then so I had no real plan for birth except that I did not want an epidural and I did not want a Caesarean Section.
My waters were artificially broken at one point and the outcome was inevitable. There was old meconium in the waters so I was restricted to bed with a foetal scalp electrode. As labour was not considered to be processing fast enough I was augmented. 15 minutes after the artificial hormones were started I was asking for pain relief!
It was decided that I still was not progressing fast enough and baby was not always happy with the artificial drip, the diamorphine and my being stuck on my back. So I was to be examined with a view to forceps.
One look was enough to realise that my baby's head was brow presenting which meant that it was trying to come down through the pelvis at the head's widest part. And of course with being on the bed and with no amniotic fluid left there was no way my baby was going to adjust his head during artificial contractions. A vaginal birth was not going to happen!
During my learning as a doula and childbirth educator I have come across a fair bit of ancient wisdom and was very angry to realise that there are quite a lot of things that could have been suggested which might have made a difference. I have felt extremely let down by those 'experts'.
I was very upset at the idea of a caesarean section so said as much. However, by this point my memory of the experience is gone. My mind protected me by deleting my memory from this point onwards until after my baby was born.
My first memory after my boy arrived was getting my toast and tea in recovery. I'd taken in a jar of Marmite so I could have some on my toast. Whoever prepared it had no idea about Marmite and so it was thickly spread. My mum said I took one bite, went green, tried another, put the toast down and went to sleep.
It should be stated that I also had my left forearm in plaster as I had tripped and fallen a week beforehand resulting in a buckle fracture of one of the bones in my wrist. So, you can imagine that baby care on the postnatal ward with an arm in plaster and an abdominal wound was not the easiest.
One midwife/maternity care assistant was a gem and even took me for my first shower, wrapping my plaster cast in plastic and washing me as I stood under the shower. I thought this was the height of luxury and that everyone got this!
However, another midwife was entirely the opposite and less than compassionate when I didn't know what my baby was crying for.
Fast forward a week and I'm home with a new baby, an abdominal wound, an arm in plaster in a new flat I'd only been in for a week before going in to hospital, along with husband who didn't get any parental leave.
The only thing I could get right now was to breastfeed. And breastfeed I did! But as the weeks and months went on I became more and more depressed. I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression and given medication, referred to postnatal support groups and I just got on with it.
But I was floundering and lost all joy in life. I don't have many memories of my son's first two years. I realised I couldn't imagine another 20, let alone 40 or more, years as a wife and we tried mediation and counselling. But I had lost any feelings for my husband. So I asked for a divorce.
Some years later I met and fell in love. We eventually decided to have children together and I fell pregnant. My daughter was due approximately 11 years and 9 months after my son was born. Around that time I was speaking to my ex husband and he told me something about our son's birth.
Apparently, someone had asked me if I wanted my baby to die. You know, at that point when I had said I didn't want an operation?
I filed this information away in my mind. I had absolutely no recollection of this. Had I had too much diamorphine?
So anyway, I have access to the internet now and have been planning my Vaginal Birth after Caesarean. I DEFINITELY don't want another Caesarean. There was no question! There was no option presented to me about place of birth and I was told I would require intravenous antibiotics in hospital because that was the standard protocol for anyone known to be a carrier of Group B Strep. However, I had learned enough via an online forum about birth, VBACs in particular, to know that I would not consent to induction.
A dating scan (I didn't know then that I could have declined this) brought my EDD forward by 9 days and although we protested that this was impossible due to my short cycle apparently the medical team HAVE to go with the machine. So eventually, after declining an induction booked for 42 weeks, my VBAC baby was born at 42+1 weeks (40+6 LMP). There was intervention but she was a VBAC! I was elated about that.
I came home and after a while began posting back on the VBAC forum, finding myself sharing all the information I had so carefully bookmarked when planning my VBAC. I began to enjoy being a virtual doula and decided that this is what I wanted to do.
A friend paid for a doula course and bought me some of the essential reading and I was off! I devoured more and more information, learning from others experiences as they shared their births online and slowly as I supported local women as their doula. Every year I would attend study days/conferences/workshops and I found that I was processing more and more of my own birth experiences as well as reflecting on my life as a whole.
Signing up for an EFT course I found a way to go back to that time when I was asked if I wanted my baby to die. Knowing that my mind had blanked it out I used it in our training. I was able to Tap through the moment as I visualised someone standing in the doorway asking me this terrible question. I found myself sobbing and raging at this person, accusing them of insensitivity and saying all the things I should have said at the time. I eventually quietened down and came to peace. Until this point if I talked about my son's birth I wold get very emotional and often cry. Since that EFT session I have released the emotion surrounding his birth! He was 18 by this point!
So now I begin to realise that my diagnosis of PND might have been better as slight Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I fitted quite a lot of the criteria. As I was connected online and in real life to a lot of women who had previous Caesareans I was talking to a lot of them who felt traumatised. And as I worked with women as their doula to have empowered births I knew that it didn't have to be this way. I realised that every birth has the potential to be empowering and beautiful for women and that any birth could be traumatic if the woman perceived it so.
I attended a workshop led by Penny Simkin, When Survivors Give Birth, and realise the enormous impact childhood sexual abuse has on people, and how careful we need to be when sharing the birthing space of a survivor. The trauma survivors deal with is unimaginable.
All of my birth related learning has now allowed me to reflect on my life experiences and to recognise patterns and habits I have. I make a conscious effort to work on them. I better understand many of my 'failings' and recognise the effects of previous trauma in others quite close to me. I am now doing further work to process the deeper subconscious limitations I have.
Last autumn I was able to do training in the Rewind Technique. At last I had found a very simple yet powerful technique that I can use to help others to release the emotions surrounding traumatic events in their life. I was eager to start working with people to help them move on. Sadly, I had to put plans on hold due to family ill health and then bereavement. I have spent a lot of my free time dealing with clearing my mothers house, while having to take periods of time out to process grief and recharge myself. All I could do was keep myself afloat. I couldn't be present for anyone else other than those I might have been working for a the immediate time.
I am now at a point where I can reflect on the last year. In fact, its been a solid three years of challenges of various kinds which have left me just about coping. But this reflecting is very useful. I feel stronger and ready to move on. But I'm fully aware that my journey is not yet finished. I am likely to face further challenges from time to time. Because I've had challenges throughout my life.
This is what life is like.
I can recognise now the patterns that I follow when traumatised. This started when I was a child. I look back and see that I typically lose about two years of my life when I feel traumatised. Very few of them have had any drugs involved so I can't blame the diamorphine alone for the loss of memory after my son's birth. It was that I was traumatised.
Sometimes I wish I could have had the opportunities, available nowadays, back when I was struggling after my son was born. But I recognise I was not ready then and that my journey was to teach me so that I could then offer support to others now.
I wrote the following a while back:
I hate that I was so naive as to expect 'Them' to guide me through labour
I hate that 'Their' ARM 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 hated 'Them' asking 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 CS)
I hate that I couldn't even look at my scar for years afterwards.
I hate that I ended up with PND 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
I hate that my VBAC 12 years later was affected by the primary CS 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, and teach the Wise Hippo Birthing Programme, and offer bodywork using the NO HANDS Massage approach.
I LOVE that I've met some wonderful 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.
Being able to appreciate what my life experiences have given me allows me to continue to move forward. I am so excited about the opportunities available to us now, to deal with trauma and begin to live again.
Each of us has the ability to cope, learn and grow from our experiences. We can sink or swim. We can take the challenge and choose to use it to our benefit or we can allow it to quash us. We can reach out to others to give us a helping hand or we can hide away to struggle alone.
When you are challenged what will you choose to do?
If you have been traumatised by your birth experience would you like to reach out to me? Will you ask me to work alongside you so that you can process the trauma, release the emotions and move on? Don't let it take you 18 years to release your birth trauma.
If you are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, following previous trauma would you like to avoid being re-triggered by anything that happens during your pregnancy and birth? Would you like to leave previous trauma behind BEFORE you have your baby?
Don't you DESERVE that?
If you want me to help you please contact me now. I offer a 30 minute FREE telephone or Skype call in which we can discuss how best you can process your trauma and begin to live again!