Written by Susanne Remic from Ghost Writer Mummy
When you’re pregnant, there’s no shortage of anecdotes, advice and ‘top tips’ to help you through each trimester. What to eat, wear…even what to name your baby. And there’s plenty of information on the birth too. Expect it to hurt, but expect it to be worth it. Ask for drugs, but not that one, or that one. Make a plan, but don’t expect to stick to it. Nobody really prepares you for when that birth plan you spent ages poring over actually does get thrown out of the window. Birth trauma isn’t really something we like to talk about, often in case it upsets or frightens women. But for the 200,000 women in the UK suffering the effects of a traumatic birth, it’s something that needs to come out into the open. We need to talk about life after a traumatic birth.
My son was born seven years ago and his birth was so far removed from the plan I had in my head. He was my second child and it was assumed that I knew what I was doing. My first had been born via emergency c-section after induction and so I was being urged to go for a ‘natural’ birth this time. You can read more about his birth on my blog, and in particular this post, written two years ago. Safe to say, the effects of that day still affect me now.
Birth trauma can be really hard for some people to understand. Especially if they’ve never experienced birth, or have only had a ‘straight forward’ or uncomplicated experience. The quote; “trauma is in the eye of the beholder”(Cheryl Beck) is one that has always stuck with me, and one that I repeat often. It’s not our job to analyse whether or not a person should feel traumatised by their birth experience. We need to show empathy and we need to listen.
I left the hospital seven years ago with bruises snaking down from my neck to my knees. My neck was difficult to move because it was so sore from the breathing tube. I couldn’t climb the stairs to put my daughter to bed. Sleep was near impossible for flashbacks, nightmares and cold sweats. This went on for months. Long, lonely days filled with tears, anger and regret. And shame. I was- and still am – so ashamed of myself for being unable to deliver my baby the way I had wanted to. Grieving the birth I felt I should have had.
Life after a traumatic birth is hard. It’s lonely and scary. Quite often, people around you don’t want you to feel traumatised after what is supposed to be a happy event. I suffer from PTSD and anxiety. Often, I have nightmares and flashbacks. My days can be low. It’s been a continuous battle between feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy and fear. Some days are better than others, and on those days I burn with anger at the things I’ve missed out on because of it all. Every day can be different.
You’re expected to carry on, move on, get on with it… when all you want to do is curl up into a ball and cry.
To love your baby fiercely the moment you set eyes on him…. when all you want to do is scream, ‘that’s not my baby!’.
Stay quiet, for fear of upsetting other women or making ‘a fuss’… when all you want to do is shout as loud as you can because of the injustice, the pain and the fear.
Path to Recovery
It’s taken me seven years to finally get the help I need to be able to begin on the path to recovery and I’m currently having regular cognitive behaviour therapy sessions. During one session, my therapist asked me about the early days with my son, and how I managed to get through it all following the trauma of his birth. Looking back at those days, I remember them as horrifically painful and yet I am here. I am here, and I did not break after all. When my son was ten months old, I started to write about his birth and from there I have met many other women who have been in touch say that they understand. Other women who have been through traumatic experiences that have shaped their lives. Those with similar passions to make changes so that their daughters don’t suffer the same.
Birth Trauma Trust
If you have experienced a traumatic birth, please, please find someone to talk to. Someone to really listen, without judgment and without expectations. Seek help sooner rather than later, and most importantly be kind to yourself. Birth can be traumatic, but it doesn’t need to destroy you. Myself and the lovely Emma set up the Birth Trauma Trust with an aim to support women after birth trauma, and we’ve made it our mission to raise awareness on the impact that birth can have. We run a weekly Twitter chat #BirthTraumaChat (every Monday at 8pm) and we’re always happy to chat if you need someone to talk to. Everyone needs that someone who will hold their hand.