Facing up to my birth trauma demons

Having had two, pretty traumatic, birth experiences it’s understandable that we questioned whether we should ever expand our family.

Fast forward just over three years past my last birth and here I am.  Pregnant once again, nervous, anxious and under the perinatal mental health team.  But pregnant nonetheless.  Another baby, another birth to go through.

As I have said time and time again, both of my births had an incredible outcome.  A healthy baby boy to take home with us, a family, my c-sections saved us all.  Each time.

c-section

The wonderful junior doctors of the NHS saved my firstborn whilst the skilled doctors in Dubai saved both me and my youngest.

Although I suffered birth trauma, I was lucky that everyone came out relatively unscathed. That there were no birth injuries.  I wasn’t let down and medical negligence was, thankfully, the last thing on my mind.

Yet even though I had the best outcome I could ever wish for with the boys I still suffered from birth trauma and the resulting anxiety.  Flashbacks and worries highlighted by the fact I am pregnant again, having to face it again.  That once again I will have to give birth, and for me birth is associated with birth trauma.

Birth Trauma

Part of the reason why I found my birth experiences highly traumatic, aside from the emergency life saving nature of them, were that they were so far away from the birth experience I pictured.  They were a million miles away from the perfect births I had planned.

That first traumatic birth

I aimed for a natural birth, no drugs, the baby to be pushed forth and my husband to look between their legs to tell me whether we had a boy or a girl.

A perfect moment following a perfect birth.

And for the beginning it worked, darkened room, singing into the gas and air tube, perfectly relaxed, excited and waiting for the

Instead what happened was a dramatic dash to theatre where we barely remembered our names let alone the camera, and had the (wonderful, drug giving, calming, water providing) anaesthetist say congratulations on him, with a whip round of our heads and a shout of HIM?!  As we realised we had a baby boy.

A baby boy who was born blue, who had life rubbed into him.

One who was latched on to me as we were trundled from the room.

Memories pushed to the back of my mind.  The birth, traumatic, but put aside in a box, not to be worried about.  It wouldn’t happen again.  Besides, I had this perfect baby boy to stare at.  To look after.  He consumed me.

emergency Caesarean section

The supposedly healing second birth

The one that was meant to strip away all the anxiety and stress from the first, turned out just as traumatic.  If not more so.

Determined for a VBAC a series of events led to the eventual arrest of labour and trip down to theatre.  Opening me up they discovered that the pain I had been feeling through the epidural was in fact a rupture.

Stitching me up, laughing, joking, I was none the wiser until later on.  Holding my newborn in bed, feeding him gently when my doctor walked in and told me matter of factly what had happened.

Shock.

Numb.

“Oh OK”

Was about as much as I could stutter out – as I lay there.  He did tell me that I would get pregnant again, in fact he went as far as to say we would be able to do gender selection out in Dubai.

Still shellshocked I just nodded.

And then dealt with it, once again, by putting it in a box.  Concentrating on the lovely little boy in front of me and watching his sibling bond grow.

And here I am again, third time round

Pregnant, with this hanging over my head.

Having had my first perinatal appointment I know one of the best things to do for my anxiety is to talk about it, to understand and to keep talking.

What happened in my previous births is not the standard, it is not normal.

This time will be different, this time I will have more control.

A planned section date, an understanding of what will happen at what time.  The support of my husband, my friends and a healthcare team I trust.

And until that happens I will keep talking about it, keep understanding that the past does not necessarily affect the future and will keep looking after myself.  Physically, mentally, mindfully.

Birth trauma affects more women than I ever realised, and often the very nature of having a new baby to focus on, to look after, means that it is pushed away in a box until the fear rears it’s head when you have to face it straight on again.

12 weeks pregnant bump

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