Since I started this blog, I have ‘met’ so many women who have been through a traumatic birth. Some women have dealt with it well and are moving on with their lives- after all, when you have children to deal with, what else can you do other than move on or break down? Some women are still coming to terms with what happened to them and that is where I consider myself to be right now. Some women have shared their stories with me and some women find that the details are still too raw and painful to put into words right now. The fact of the matter is that all of these women, myself included, have suffered birth trauma to some extent or another and the sad thing is that hospitals and GPs are still ill equipped to deal with the after-math. Not only that, but hospitals are severely understaffed and under-funded and so the chances of more and more families experiencing a terrifying birth experience does not look set to diminish. I wouldn’t wish those dark days on anyone.
Many women I’ve spoken to have been telling me that should they have another child, they would like to have a c-section in an effort to avoid a similar situation. I requested an elective section when I fell pregnant with the baby and was subsequnetly talked out of it. I was dismissed. A report on The Guardian online in November 2010 stated that “The NHS is responding to a surge in cases of birth trauma by setting up specialist support services to reduce the rising demand for a caesarean delivery from those who, after a bad experience, are scared to undergo labour again.” Again, I was offered ‘counselling’ after my son was born and I can’t say that I feel enclined to labour again, should I decide to have another baby. The very though fills me with dread.
The ‘counselling’ I received came via a retired midwife, inconsiderately based at the same hospital where the near tragedy took place. I can’t tell you how scared I was walking down those corridors again. re-visiting the scene of the crime as it were. I had two sessions. The first consisted of telling the counsellor a little about myself and how motherhood had changed me. Then she proceeded to give me advice on how to handle my ‘difficult’ baby. Apparently, she has always wondered about mothers who pull their hair out over a baby that won’t sleep. Apparently, HER babies were never a problem because she knew how to deal with them. What a way to make a person feel just a little bit more uselss as a parent. The second session involved us talking through my birth notes.
I sat there in her sterile, over-heated and window-less room and poured over the notes from both of my births. I read about how each of my labours deteriorated in the same way and how each of my babies almost lost their precious lives. I read about mistakes that had been made, not once but twice. I discovered that my precious son had been taken from me limp and blue and had had a tube inserted down his throat to get him to breathe. The first hands that held my children were not mine. I read words that were not true, not how I remembered them. I read notes detailing how I had been ‘unnecessarily’ upset during my labour with my son (after being told I wasn’t even in labour). I read the awful, chilling words:
“6.30- heart rate decel.
6.32- we ran to theatre
6.35- knife to skin.”
and the slighly more optimistic:
“6.45- live male born.”
I sat there, tears cousing down my face and my breath catching in my throat. I sat there, trying to understand this foreign language and scrawled handwriting. The backdated notes, written post-event due to the chaotic nature of events. The ugly, poorly phrased “we ran to theatre” rising in my throat. I sat there with my crisis before me and my counsellor? She sat at her computer, typing up some notes from her previous patient. After a while she asked if I had any questions. Anything she could help me with. I thought so hard about that. I doubted there was anything she could really help me with. But I wanted to help myself. I asked her why they had had to use general anaesthetic. That was the thing I had most difficulty accepting. I felt that if they’d kept me awake, I would’ve been a lot better equipped to deal with it all. She told me she would get back to me.
How does the NHS expect to deal with the rising numbers of women requesting sections due to birth trauma, if this is their idea of a midwife counsellor? Dr Tracey Johnstone claims that “Women are more frightened of labour and delivery now. Among women there almost seems to be a competition about who has suffered the most during childbirth, talking about 18-hour labours and the like, and that scares other women before they have their babies”. How can the NHS expect to deal with birth trauma affectively if this is the opinion of their consultants in foetal medicine? I did not request a section because I had listened to horror stories. I am not naive or stupid. I suffered birth trauma. I almost lost a child. I wanted to avoid that second time around- wouldn’t you? Instead, I was subjected to a second emergency section and I was left traumatised and desperate. I am not in competition with anyone. I am simply a woman who almost lost two babies, perhaps through errors in judegement. I am a woman who was not offered sufficient after-care and who was certainly not counselled. If I do have another baby, I will not be delivering naturally. I hope that you realise that is not an easy decision to make- its the only one I can make.
**Please take the time to visit The Birth Trauma Association website if you have been affected.