You’re sitting in a room, all alone. You’re seated on the edge of the bed and your body feels heavy as it sags towards the floor. You’re breathing hard. Shallow. You close your eyes because when you do that, the reel inside your head begins to slow and the flickering images start to make a little more sense. But they’re still there and you know that no matter what you do, those images are staying. Imprinted on your soul forever. Because you’re changed forever.
Someone beside you reaches for your hand. They know you’re broken. You’re scared. You’re screaming for help. You don’t know what they’re thinking. You don’t know what they’re feeling. You don’t know if they understand. But you need them. And as they take your hand in theirs you fall into them.
“At least your baby is here, healthy and happy! That’s all that matters.”
And the world comes tumbling down.
I have heard this so. Many. Times. I have learned not to react. Not to shut down and wallow. Not to question myself and my own reactions to what happened. I’ve learned that not everyone understands. They can’t. They won’t. I’ve learned to appreciate that birth trauma is still so misunderstood.
I get comments and emails and messages that question my motives for writing about birth trauma. What happened to me is nothing compared to what happened to them. They went through what I did and they aren’t traumatised, so why am I? They’ve been through much worse, what gives me the right to complain? They don’t have a baby, happy and healthy, at all. So how dare I feel cheated, or mournful or angry?
I won’t dismiss your feelings. But I won’t accept that it’s ok for you to tell me a healthy baby is all that matters. I matter too. My birth experience matters. My emotional wellbeing. My state of mind. I matter as much as you do.
I took a baby home from the hospital and I will always ALWAYS be grateful that I did. I will always know how lucky I am. I will always appreciate the work that was done to save my son’s life. But I will also always remember the horror that was his birth. I only wish I could forget.
A healthy baby is important. But it is NOT all that matters.
Before I became a mother, I knew very little about pregnancy and the extent of my birth plan was to have a water birth, with no pain relief. In reality, my firstborn arrived thanks to a relatively calm ’emergency’ c-section, following induction and a whole load of pain relief medication. I remember visitors later remarking that I was handling the pain really well, and this I took to be a compliment. Pain after a c-section was supposed to be intense, right? I mean, they sliced open my belly and rummaged amongst my organs a little bit. That’s going to hurt, isn’t it? And yes, it did. But I was handling it well, so all was good. Until the next time.
The pain you get after a c-section is unique to you. Your pain threshold, your body, the way you heal- it all plays a part. Whether you keep up with your pain relief meds, whether you rest enough when you get home, and whether you take the time to be kind to yourself- they are also important factors. How many c-sections you’ve had, how fit and well you were before you gave birth, how well you were during pregnancy- more variable factors to consider. So when people ask me what the recovery is going to be like, there is just no way I can tell them. I am me. You are you. And that’s the best way to be. (more…)
We’d been there for hours and the room was crowded and I could feel the strength of my resolve slipping through my fingers. I could see the people around me but their outlines were blurred and they moved so fast . It was impossible to keep up. To take it all in. I couldn’t do it. Too tired. Too scared. And then they were pushing up the bars with a BANG and rubber soles were hitting the floor with squeaks. And blurry faces were covered with masks and words were being thrown over my head and everything started to slip away. And that was the longest silence I ever heard.
As the beep beep beeps of my son’s little heart began to die away.
And only silence followed.
In the time where his heart should have filled the room, there was only silence.
And in the space where my heart should have been there was only silence. A black hole. A void. Gone. He was gone, I was sure. (more…)
My son was born six years ago. When he was four days old, I googled ‘birth was horrific‘ because I was looking for some kind of reassurance that I wasn’t alone. That what I’d been through wasn’t unique to me. That my experience didn’t make me a freak of nature. Until then I had no idea that birth could be like that. No idea that I would be scared, battered, bruised and alone. No idea that the word horrific could even be associated with what I’d been assured would be one of the most amazing life events I’d ever experience. And I discovered a new phrase. A phrase that summed up what had happened to me. A phrase that made me feel sick. A phrase that since went on to fuel me.
I’d had a traumatic birth. And so had other women. I was suffering the after effects and had many signs of PTSD already. There was a reason I was feeling this way.
When he was ten months old, I started to blog. And this blog became the sounding board for all the horrible things I was feeling. The sleepless nights. The anger. The isolation. And not long after this I signed up to be a media volunteer for the Birth Trauma Association. I wanted to tell my story so that changes could be made. So that other women knew they weren’t alone either. So that birth trauma would not be a phrase that made my skin crawl. It would empower, educate and unit instead. (more…)