This is what I want you to know about birth trauma

This is what I want you to know about birth trauma.

I didn’t choose this. This didn’t choose me. It just happened. One moment we were fine, and the next there were tubes down my throat and wires in my body and silence screaming into the stillness of the room. One minute voices, the next nothing. One minute feet pounding on the floor and the next, only the softness of floating. One minute pushing, the next being cut open.

One minute life was normal, the next it was not. Cannot ever be again.

But it was nobody’s fault in the end. A catalogue of disasters. A string of mistakes. A collection of bad decisions. A life, paused.

And this is what I want you to know.

what I want you to know about birth

Sometimes, I might not answer your text. Most times I won’t pick up your call. Usually I won’t want to meet face to face. It isn’t you. It isn’t me. It’s just the way it is.

And this is what I want you to know. 

I can’t always feel excitement when a new pregnancy is announced. It might take me some time to congratulate you, or it might be spontaneous yet filled with sadness. I can’t always stay in the room when the conversations slides around to labour and birth and how many stitches and what medication and how many pushes and the state of your pelvic floor… I can’t always listen, or contribute to your tales. I can’t always be here, unwavering, unrelenting and unconditionally.

And this is what I want you to know.

You don’t need to pity me. Listen to me instead, and show kindness and compassion. Don’t compare your journey with mine; we’re two different people and our lives will never be the same. Don’t assume that what you have been through is more or less important. Just appreciate that I have a path behind me, and so do you. And remember we also have a path ahead of us. If you want ours to cross some day, please don’t give up. Don’t push me away. Don’t take me for granted. Don’t assume that time has healed.

And this is what I know you will never know.

How it feels to be me.

How it feels to see that room each time my eyes close.

How it feels to remember the white hot panic as the theatre doors crash open.

How it feels to look down, to see a baby by my side and want nothing more than to turn away.

But this is what you already know.

I will not give up. I will not let what’s happened be the thing that defines me. I will not give up on you, either.


  1. December 6, 2015 / 10:01 pm

    I could have written this. I know. I know how you feel. And I want you to know I am ALWAYS at the other end of the phone if you need to message me. You’re such a strong person, and it’s easy to forget that – but just look at what you have done, you’ve brought those beautiful babies into the world and you’ve helped me to realise that it’s OK to feel the way I do.
    Kate recently posted..Silent Sunday 6/12/15My Profile

    • Drycleanonly
      December 7, 2015 / 3:44 pm

      Yep. I know what this is like. My son’s birth was horrific and it pains me to be around people who go on about how beautiful birth is. It can be. But not for me. I still have nightmares where I am under attack in some way and I suffer with nightly insomnia. My son is a joy. But physically and psychologically I am somewhat damaged.

      • ghostwritermummy
        December 9, 2015 / 12:46 pm

        I am so sorry. 6 years on and I still suffer nightmares now and then too. It really doesn’t go away, but the pain does lessen over time. How old is your son now? x x x

    • ghostwritermummy
      December 9, 2015 / 12:49 pm

      I know you know. Thank you so much lovely, you are a really wonderful friend. x x x

  2. Drycleanonly
    December 7, 2015 / 3:43 pm

    Yep. I know what this is like. My son’s birth was horrific and it pains me to be around people who go on about how beautiful birth is. It can be. But not for me. I still have nightmares where I am under attack in some way and I suffer with nightly insomnia. My son is a joy. But physically and psychologically I am somewhat damaged.

  3. Drycleanonly
    December 9, 2015 / 4:49 pm

    He’s 19 months. And bright, funny and full of personality.But we all say that don’t we?! It’s strange having PTSD. It took a while for me and any other professionals to put a name to what I was experiencing. My partner is great and I have had a lot of support. But you do not factor in the type of experiences we share when planning for your baby. My mum has supported me a lot. However none of the other mothers I am now friends with went through anything like what I did and they are a lot younger than me. And none of my other friends have had children so they don’t really get it. I have not taken any ADs ever but did have some CBT which really helped. How have you coped? What strategies did you/ do you use? It can be really lonely when you battle with trauma.

    • ghostwritermummy
      December 10, 2015 / 2:25 pm

      When my son was 8 months old I went to the GP for help. I wasn’t sleeping- I used to sit outside his bedroom door listening to him breathe, convinced he was going to stop. I really thought that he wasn’t supposed to be here, that he was supposed to die at birth and that it was only a matter of time. This was when I was at my worst. My GP listened to me talk, listened to me telling him I needed to sleep and his advice was this. Take anti-depressants and stop ‘worrying about controlling your womb’. What he even meant I will never know! A couple of years later I went for counselling but the counsellor told me that he wasn’t qualified in birth trauma and after 2 sessions ended it. I’ve had nothing since and I guess I cope by writing, and seeking support from others who understand. My ‘care’ hasn’t been great to be honest, and I’ve had no additional support in subsequent pregnancies either x x

      • December 16, 2016 / 8:55 pm

        Lot of smarts in that potgsni!

  4. Joan Workman
    December 13, 2015 / 10:39 pm

    Sorry – just don’t get this. Yes, labour and childbirth is messy, painful and definitely not a rose-tinted experience. However as someone who has experienced a stillbirth I would suggest that the above contributors should be eternally thankful for a healthy living baby as the result of all their ‘suffering’.
    Get over it!

    • ghostwritermummy
      December 14, 2015 / 11:36 am

      Firstly, I am really sorry for your loss. Secondly, thank you for your comment. I really have thought long and hard about how to respond and I cannot simply publish and move on. I am sorry that you feel this way, but I must point out that a healthy baby is not all that matters!! I appreciate you are coming from a very painful place and I cannot pretend to understand what it is like to lose a child. But to tell a woman who has had a traumatic birth that she should be grateful for her living child is very insensitive and exactly the reason why I will continue to raise awareness and promote understanding of birth trauma. Maternal mental health needs to be protected, no matter what the outcome of birth. And ignorance needs to be eradicated so that ALL women can receive the care they deserve. Please do not assume that I am not grateful for my son and that I do not know how lucky I am. But that does not diminish what I went through and what needs to change in our maternity services. It also does not mean that birth trauma is not real, or individual to each woman. Thanks to your comment I am more determined than ever to continue to write about my experiences so that I can reach out to more women.
      I wish you peace and I hope you are receiving the care and support you need x

  5. Drycleanonly
    December 15, 2015 / 9:49 am

    Hello Joan, I am so so sorry for the loss of your child. A devastating thing to happen.

    Please hear me when I say that in my circumstance I did not make the trauma happen or wallow in it. For months my nightmares included my baby’s head being microwaved (the worst of the nightmares), flash backs about the hospital, continual dreams that have included shards of glass being inserted in my skin, car crashes, drowning, plane crashes, wires being inserted in all my body, being shot, stalked etc. You get the picture. I did not and do not want these manifestations and never had these before the birth. Nightmares, insomnia and anxiety are common after trauma. This is not a trauma competition and I have no experience of what you went through.

    I would love to get get over it but it is not that simple. I would never tell a stranger who has experienced loss and trauma to get over it.

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