I was going to have a magical birth.
A water birth, with low lights and music playing softly in the background.
We even had a playlist.
Even when my blood pressure spiked and I ended up with the induction that I didn’t want we still played that playlist.
There was I singing away into my gas and air, kneeling over the bed, not knowing that in an hour or so I’d be hurtled up to theatre one. A category one emergency section.
A baby born blue.
Life rubbed back into him.
To this day when I look back all I can remember is snatches of conversation.
The doctors telling me that if the anaesthetic hasn’t worked when they scratched my tummy for the third time they were going to put me to sleep.
My husband holding my hand telling me our baby would be here soon. When I’d already felt him be lifted from me.
Pleading, praying, muttering “Dad you make sure my baby is ok.”
My husbands tears as he brought him to meet me.
The indescribable feeling of love.
Waves of tiredness as I held this new baby that was all ours.
Pushing the traumatic birth to the back of my mind. It was a one off. It wouldn’t happen again.
A second pregnancy
I downplayed my first traumatic experience.
It wasn’t going to happen that way. I knew differently this time. I knew what I was doing.
Ok so I wasn’t cut out to have a water birth, or organised enough to have a playlist. But this baby? This baby was going to be my all natural healing birth.
This time I was going to do it “right”.
The same issues arose. My blood pressure got higher and I was taken in for induction.
History repeating itself?
Panicking myself with every rise and fall on the monitor.
Nothing happening. Pretty boring.
A decision made about lack of progression 16 hours later and I was prepped for surgery.
Just as I was being taken down, the heart rate dipped. Even through the epidural I needed gas and air to help with the ripping pain in my abdomen.
It was fine.
I was fine.
Maybe I’m not just cut out to give birth. A section is fine. I didn’t need a healing birth anyway. Just a baby.
A c-section that saved my life
For me and the baby.
Turns out lightning does strike twice, traumatic births can happen the second time round no matter what you do. What’s worse for me, playing on my mind, was that the trauma of my second birth meant that both my son and I were in danger of losing our lives.
A uterine rupture. Caught just in time. To save him. To save me. To save my uterus.
When I look back I am upset with myself. For insisting that I had a go at a VBAC and allowing an induction even when I always said I didn’t want to go through that again.
I am plagued with the why didn’t I just go for a section.
Why didn’t I stand my ground?
Whilst I am thankful that my second son and I are here to tell the tale. I can still not help but over analyse and assess the “what if”. How life would be different. Would it have changed our decision to add to our family?
Once again, birth trauma pushed aside. Papered over the cracks. It was all good. We were living, breathing and growing.
Third time lucky
Then we decided that our family wasn’t quite complete.
I became pregnant with our third baby and this time the birth trauma of my previous births wasn’t going away.
It wasn’t being papered over.
It was bursting through the cracks and manifesting in my brain. The little what ifs and the you’re pushing your luck here trickling through my brain.
This time my previous birth trauma led to me developing antenatal anxiety.
Something I didn’t think would ever happen to me. Days spent worrying, panicking. Nights spent the same way.
The little demon on my shoulder, whispering, tearing me apart.
The worry that third time was a step too far.
Outwardly I was fine. I would tell anyone who asked about my previous experiences and brush over the upcoming birth with a breezy of course this one will be a section.
Hiding my fear. My anxiety.
Until one day when it all tumbled out and I was put under the mental health care team to work through the previous birth trauma that was shaping my third, and final, pregnancy.
CBT. Talking. Writing. Meditation.
I asked question after question to my doctors. Researched the what ifs, the impossibles. Practised positive affirmations and breathing when it all became overwhelming.
Most importantly I took the blame I had laid squarely at my own shoulders for the traumatic births of my older two sons and realised that it was NOT my fault. Birth trauma the way it happened to me was through nothing I did. Nothing I could have done would have changed the outcome.
And I was strong to have gone through all this.
Acceptance, when it came, gave some relief.
A planned c-section, with a healthy, crying baby. Where my husband was able to go and cut the cord. Where I saw him immediately and didn’t spend hours being stitched up.
That was the healing birth that I desired.
Birth Trauma will always be a part of my story
I will always live with those two traumatic births. That will never go away. They shaped the start of my journey into motherhood and I will never forget the feelings of terror during each labour. Nor will I forget the impact that antenatal anxiety had on me.
What I have taken, and will continue to take, is that my birth trauma does not define me, my relationship with my sons or my relationship with my husband.
It has made me stronger than I ever realised I could be.
This week marks Birth Trauma Awareness Week 2019, raising awareness of those who are not yet able to speak out. That is why I will keep on telling my birth trauma story – you are not alone.