My birth trauma belongs to me

my birth trauma belongs to me_ghostwritermummy.co.uk

When I was eight years old, I got stuck in a lift in Malta. It was a really old, rusty, shuddering lift with plenty of previous ‘incidents’ under it’s belt, so it really should not have come as any great surprise. I was alone. I’d convinced my parents to let me run up to the hotel room by myself to get something- I don’t remember what- and I’d promised not to use the lift. But I really wanted to use that lift! I really wanted to prove I could do it. I was brave enough. I was prepared. I’d seen my parents jam their fingers on two buttons at once to get the lift to creak and groan it’s way to the next floor. I’d seen them step down carefully, avoiding the inner mechanisms of the lift shaft. I was more than convinced I could do it too, should the lift stop for me. Which I was sure it wouldn’t.

But it did.

Standing alone in that lift, the lights started to flicker a little before pop! All was dim and still. It was daytime, but not inside that lift. An emergency light may have come on at this point, as in my memory the light in the lift was a dull green. I quickly pressed the alarm button, and then two other buttons at the same time, expecting the lift to carry on it’s reluctant journey to the next floor. It didn’t move!

I suppose being eight years old, my perception of this situation was a little out. Immediately, I was terrified. Nobody answered my alarm call. The lift was stifling hot- air conditioning wasn’t on the agenda in Malta in the early 80s. The lift was silent and imposing. The small space around me was growing smaller by the second, and I was all alone. I started to cry, to shout for help. My finger pressed down on the alarm button again and again, but I had no way of knowing if it was even working as all I could hear was an eerie silence. The odd crack or groan from the wires that held the lift, and me, suspended in mid air. Was the lift going to fall? Would the doors open to reveal a gaping black hole of nothing? Would anyone ever come to rescue me?

I was rescued. Eventually. I was lifted to safety by the hotel porter. He wrenched the doors open, reached down and lifted me up onto solid ground once more. I will be forever grateful to him for saving me, for bringing me out of that lift. Out of the lonely isolation of fear and anxiety. Out into the world where everything was ok again.

Fast forward 30 years, and I very rarely take a lift if I can help it. When I do have to go in, I can feel my pulse quicken. My heart starts to hammer in my chest and the fear makes it way up from my toes to my teeth. I was traumatised for years about this incident.

my birth trauma belongs to me_ghostwritermummy.co.uk

Taking a lift is something that many of us do every single day, without even thinking about it. Without fear. Without incident. But not for me. And perhaps you can understand why, after reading what happened to me in Malta.

Why then, is it so hard for some to understand that I have also been traumatised by my son’s birth? Why is it hard for some to accept that what happened to ME traumatised me? Why is it so hard for some to recognise that changes need to be made in the way that women are treated after birth trauma?

My birth trauma belongs to ME. You will never ever know what it feels like to be me. And just because I was not involved in a typically traumatic situation (such as a car crash) it does not mean that I cannot be left traumatised by it. For the record, I am insanely grateful to the surgeons who cut me open and saved my life. Saved the life of my babies. But I am still traumatised by what happened. It was still a traumatic event in my life, and one that only I will ever really understand.

My c-sections themselves were not traumatic. My surgeons were very competent and I am very proud of the fact that I have been through emergency surgery twice, planned twice, and live to tell the tale. I am proud of my c-section scars. I am proud to be a c-section mum. But I do not think that assuming all women SHOULD feel proud is helpful at all, because if you don’t then what? I do not think that telling women they were not robbed of an experience is helpful. I do not think that dismissing genuine emotions and trauma is helpful.

I DO feel robbed of an experience. Just as I wanted to ride the lift all by myself, I wanted to birth my babies all by myself too. I wanted a water birth first time. I wanted to go into labour fourth time. I wanted to feel my body working with nature to push my own baby into the world. That is why I attempted to do so twice. That is why my planned section with Elsie broke my heart. That is why I grieve for the birth experience I never had.

my birth trauma belongs to me_ghostwritermummy.co.uk

I am not stupid. I know that grieving for a birth I never had is nothing like grieving for a baby that never made it home. But that does not make my feelings any less valid. I will not be swept under the carpet. i will not be silenced. I will not rest until more people understand birth trauma.

It is not simply ‘being upset’ about a birth experience. It is so much more than that. But ultimately my birth trauma belongs to ME and you will not take that away.

*I’ve been long listed for the Seraphine Mum’s Voice award at the 2016 Tommy’s Awards. If you think I should be shortlisted please email mumsvoice@tommys.org with Ghostwritermummy as the subject tittle, plus a few lines on why. Thank you!

 

8 Comments

  1. December 18, 2015 / 6:28 pm

    I’m guessing this is about the convo with a certain TV personality the other evening, lovely. You’re right, telling women they were not robbed of an experience is unhelpful because just like any other platitude it means we’re denied the opportunity of talking about it. Denying birth trauma doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Birth trauma and not taking my baby home is a double whammy that happened to me. Bereavement counselling was difficult enough to find, while the trauma counselling I’ve only just been able to find nearly two years later (it seems ‘the system’ failed to realise I’m perinatal due to the lack of baby). I know the fact you took your babies home doesn’t diminish your trauma; there’s no better or worse. It’s all crap. When you’re dealing with the effects of trauma, looking ok from the outside meaning it’s difficult for people to understand the maelstrom of emotions on the inside. Everyone’s views are valid, and everyone wants to be listened to. Sending love xxx
    Leigh – Headspace Perspective recently posted..Not Long Until The Force AwakensMy Profile

  2. December 18, 2015 / 10:08 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. My son was born in July and after a 30 hour labour, ventouse, manual moving and forceps finally my baby boy grit out. He got a collapsed lung in the process and me a third degree tear. So after the birth I was left in a recovery room which just a midwife (daddy was with baby in SCBU) and a phone call to my mum resulting in sobbing. To this day I still get cold sweats and nausea when ask about how his birth was and thinking about how it could have been makes me want to cuddle my boy and apologise over and over x
    Jenn recently posted..10 Things I Said I’d Never Do Once I Was A Mother…My Profile

  3. December 19, 2015 / 12:59 am

    I cannot profess to know exactly how you feel but I love that you have put into words that confusion that people sometimes have. All I try to do is recreate those feelings just before having my own children about how desperately I wanted my labours to turn out. Many congratulations on the long list – good luck for the shortlist. A Merry Christmas to you – hopefully see you during 2016 x
    Helen at Casa Costello recently posted..20 Minute Marzipan Mince PalmiersMy Profile

  4. December 19, 2015 / 11:37 am

    My 1st was an emergency section too, and id say you sum it up pretty well. Unfortunately I have lost a baby at term and a birth experience too through that 1st experience, and yes your right, the grief and pain are on very different planes, but I cried for months over not being able to birth my baby myself and I had some serious PND from the trauma of an emergency situation, it filled me with a lot of fear!

    Great Post x

  5. December 20, 2015 / 8:40 am

    You are spot on…..I too had 2 c sesctions both emergency and I grieved that loss of labour my body felt deprived no one has ever seemed to understand but that does not lessen it. Have always been scared of lists you story made me shudder!
    Becky recently posted..Toys from your past and their value todayMy Profile

  6. December 22, 2015 / 6:07 pm

    I am sorry you never got to have the birth you wanted. I delivered two babies ‘naturally’ but wish I had chosen a section when the option was given to me. I am not saying that would have been easier but I don’t think it could have been any worse. getting our babies safely here can be horrendous but at least they are very worth it! xxx
    Charlotte recently posted..Share A Smile – Enid BlytonMy Profile

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