Birth Trauma- Guest Post-

(This is a guest post from one of Mama Births Facebook followers. I have wanted to do a post on healing from traumatic birth but really felt like I needed another persons perspective to cover it well. This post is so raw and emotional, I think it will speak to a lot of women. Normally this is my positive birth story day, and I know this is a little different, but I hope you will enjoy and learn from it. You can read the post in its original form here. Thanks and enjoy!)

Trauma? Healing? Possibilities?

A couple months ago I heard a term that I didn't quite understand, nor know how to process. The term was "birth trauma".

I always knew some births were hard, some births were traumatic, and that some births went in a direction that the moms didn't want them to go. I knew that births where there were stillbirths, or a mentally handicapped child, or a preemie, or a special needs child comes, and of course I can see where there is a lot of medical intervention (whether for good or bad) that can become a "birth trauma".

What I didn't know, was that a birth trauma can come from what today's society claims to be a natural, normal birth. What I didn't know was that a mama who had a vaginal birth, could easily be someone who has birth trauma. I didn't realize that birth trauma could actually, happen to me.

When I first heard this I decided I needed to delve further into what "birth trauma" was, and who exactly suffered from it. Was it something that was thought up, or was it something that many women faced? Was birth trauma a general term? And what encompassed having a "traumatic" birth?

The questions swarmed me. So I started my research. Come to find out there are TONS and I literally mean TONS of birth trauma support groups. There are things IRL there are things on line, there is a whole entire plethera of women out there that feel they have had some sort of birth trauma. By all sorts of means. Women who feel they were "birth raped". Women who had trauma because the baby was in distress, or they were. Women who feel they were violated with medical intervention where it wasn't necessary. Women who felt comefortable delivering at a hospital, only to be turned off by the whole situation.

Now that I did all this research, and all this speaking to other was time to disect my own heart, mind and soul. It was time to face what was potentially MY birth trauma....and I didn't even know it.

When I had my daughter I knew a lot....well, alot in terms of what the books, the doctors, the nurses, told me. I knew what was textbook, what was average, and what was medical. Turns out I had a very textbook pregnancy, no complications...and even though a long labor, it was a good one.

I went into labor on Tuesday morning after having my membranes stripped. 20 minutes later I had my first real good contraction. Not a practice one that was for sure. That afternoon I went to court, as I was suing an old landlord. The contractions continued, regularly, but spaced far apart. I didn't realize I was in early labor. To be honest I didn't really hear a lot about early labor, or that it could take days while preparing my body for the birth. I didn't know that I should go about my life and continue on doing what I normally did. While I did get out and about walking around, going to the store (even with my mom to get her nails done), I didn't think about anything except when was this baby coming, and why weren't these contractions more painful?

I kept wanting the pain...wanting everything to happen. I didn't understand why I was sent home from the hospital. They gave EVERYONE I knew pitocin...why didn't they give it to me?? (Little did I know then, it was a HUGE blessing in disguise.) So I went home and labored some more. And more...and then some more. Finally the contractions were intense. I knew..just KNEW this time they wouldn't send me home, that I was for sure going to have this baby.

I was in labor for a total of 3 days. 36 hours of that hard labor. I had an epidural that worked far too well, 5 hours before I delivered. It took me 40 minutes to push her out, because I couldn't feel a thing. I couldn't even lift my own right leg. It was totally numb and limp. While I thought at the time the epidural was the best thing, I now look back on it was only 5 more hours...and I would have done it without the epidural.

The doctor gave me a full out episiotomy. It was horrible to recover from. Hurt so bad. But I managed.

My daughter was placed on my chest and given oxygen, she was left there long enough for a few photos to be taken, and for me to think her eyes were brown..when in fact they were blue. I made a statement, "Your eyes are brown!?" and they whisked her to the warmer. For toxic injections, and to be handled by half a dozen hands that weren't her mothers, hands that were strange. Hands that belonged to voices she had never heard. When they felt she was healthy enough, and was injected (which I don't even remember seeing it happened so quickly and so discretely) she was given back to me. After I had been stitched up from a most-likely unnecessary episitomy.

It was a 'normal' hospital delivery. I stayed for 48 hours so they could continue to test her for jaundice several times, and to make sure her blood was OK..for who knows what reasons.

I went home and we started our amazing life together. Breastfeeding came quickly to her and I. She latched on and just fed. After 8 weeks I decided to wean her. She wasn't ready, but weaned to a bottle and formula fairly easily. She was just an easy transitioning baby, so I suppose I was "lucky". I weaned WAY too early...and in a misinformed manner. I didn't know I could keep breastfeeding. I didn't know it was OK. I didn't know I could work around any schedules I had in order to breast feed. I didn't know I could do it discretely enough. I just plain didn't know. I didn't even know to ask, because by the books, I was doing what was right.

Fast forward a year and a half, and we are trying to get pregnant with baby #2. This is where I believe part of the "trauma" comes in. Even though I feel that even with my daughter's birth, there could have been things handled much differently.

I didn't even KNOW about homebirths. I didn't know it was an option, a choice, or anything anyone would chose to do unless their labor happened so quickly they had no choice. I wasn't raised in a real birthy environment. And it wasn't a regular thing for me to see a baby nursing. Even though my mother nursed her infants, it was only for a few months. And then it was time to wean. So I didn't have the examples of free birthing, of open birthing, of the natural, sensual, sexual aspect of birthing has.

It took us almost 2 years to conceive baby #2. After a year of trying with no success, we talked about getting tested by fertility doctors to see if there was a problem. We both agreed we could get tested but then what?? Would we pursue fertility treatments? Would we go into debt? Were we willing? The answer was a clear and resounding no. If the Lord didn't want us to have more children, then we weren't going to have more children. That was literally our thinking. We felt that we didn't need medical intervention in order to conceive, we either could...or...coudln't. (It is so odd to me here, the hindsight. We believed God would know if we didn't need anymore children. That His Will was what was best for us, if that meant no more children. We were willing to accept a barren womb, and one blessed child. We were against the medical interventions....yet, our choices later did not reflect this thinking at all. Which is why I believe there was what I now can label, "birth trauma".)

Eventually I became pregnant. Because we were "trying", I tested often. I felt odd, and decided to go to WalMart and buy a test. I had to use the restroom so I took it right there in the store. There stood a faint line. I asked my sister if she saw it, and surely she did. Oh my goodness I was pregnant. I called my husband, who in turn called everyone before I got home!

When I got home I busted out my calendar and determined (which was determined to be accurate later) that I was 3 weeks and 3 days pregnant. It was a miracle the test even showed positive!! I was SO early in a pregnancy. I went to bed, happier than I had been in a LONG time.

The next day I woke up sick as a dog, throwing up, throwing down..literally coming out of every part of me. I thought it was morning sickness. I called the doctor and said, NURSE! I have been vomitting for 10 hours, what is wrong!? Turns out, I had the flu! ahaha...the day after the 24 hour flu, I started spotting..then I started to was bright red.

I took another pregnancy said positive. Of course..even if I were miscarrying, my HCG levels would still be high enough to present a positive on a test.

I decided to call the doctor, who of course told me to go to the ER. Why bother him right?

The ER does an external U/S but I was too early on and you couldn't see the baby! So internal U/S here I come. It was uncomfortable and quite unpleasant. I don't feel I enjoyed any part of it. But we found the baby (which they thought could be a tubal, and that was causing the bleeding) who was right where he should be. Safely tucked into the thickly lined his womb.

The entire time the ER staff was talking to me about this U/S..they kept saying, prepare yourself if it is tubal to abort this pregnancy. Get rid of what is causing the problem, they said. Are you kidding me!? I spent 2 years trying to GET THIS BABY IN THERE! And you want me to prepare to "abort this thing"!? I was appalled. I was mortified...I was traumatized....and didn't even know it.

The pregnancy was rough as far as I was very tired and threw up all the time. I was so upset in the beginning, depression started settling in. By the time I was 5 months pregnant it was very clear I was suffering from prenatal depression. I knew of post partum depression, but prenatal? What kind of freak was depressed while pregnant!? ME that is who!

It spiraled downwards. I was testy and irritable with my daughter. Who endured more than she should have had to...the yelling. Man I was a yeller. I had no patience, I didn't try to gain any. I expected far too much from a 3 year old. I love her to death, and am willingly and eagerly making up for the times she had to listen to me, now.

My marriage became rougher and more rocky. It already was because it was so strenuous and stressful trying to conceieve and believing you had some sort of secondary infertility. We fought all the time. It was so unbearable..I felt like I no longer wanted this baby. Why was I growing a baby to bring him into my miserable life? The depression grew. The trauma grew. And I didn't even know it.

Then I actually go into labor. I labor at home by myself in the night for 8 hours. It started at 1AM. I had been having strong contractions during that evening and during my walk that night. But nothing that I considered anything more than the Braxton Hicks I had already been experiencing. So I went to bed, comfortably, and next to my husband.

I woke at 1AM with a real contraction. It was a nice strong, long one...I woke up having to breathe through it. I got up, and walked around for a little while, and the contractions didn't seem as strong anymore. So I went back to bed. The contractions came again, so I started nipple stimulation during them, to keep them going stronger and longer. (The one thing I did know about midwifery care and tactics then!) This definitely worked.

So I started a slow and calm nightime laboring. It was just me. I was in a T-Shirt and bare bottomed. My husband was asleep, and I wanted him to stay that way, I wanted him rested for the delivery. Our daughter was asleep in her room, and being the great sleeper she is, I knew she wouldn't wake up.

Walking up and down our stairs worked so well. It helped the contractions stay really regular. Then they started to hurt more, so I went to the tub. The shower helped so much...the hot water beating down on the contractions, helping dull and soothe the pain. (I bet had I kept this up, I could have delivered right in the tub, but didn't know about that then). I switched from walking, leaning over the bed and rocking my hips, being in the shower, walking the stairs, and laying in bed to get through the next 8 hours.

At 9AM I woke up my husband and said that we needed to go. We called the sitter who was supposed to take our daughter, and that sitter decided to bail on us for a ridiculously WHACK reason. So Todd had to stay home with Hailee, and I rode to the hospital with my brother and my mom. It was terrible. I was being separated from my daughter and husband. I was crying. I didn't want to leave them. I had my husband's warm, soothing, soft, rhythmic breathing body to lay next to all night, and now he was away from me. And we had NO IDEA what we were going to do with our daughter! What was I going to do? My family! Again, more trauma.

We get to the hospital, check in, and head upstairs. In a wheel chair of course. Pssh..... I get upstairs, and had to be put in a triage room, because the others were all filled, and there was a mom about to start to push, and I could probably have her room soon. I was hooked up to monitors right away, and taken away the priveledge of being able to eat and drink. Which I had been utilizing all night long. More trauma. My mom snuck me soda anyway, because I wanted her too, and believed even then, that eating and drinking during labor was very important. No matter what the hospital said. (Again, in hindsight, if I would have dug deeper into what I barely knew of, and sort of believed in, I would have had so much more control, and it could have been MY birth, not the doctor's).

The doctor comes in. This is the same doctor that delivered my daughter. While he is a good doctor, he is very medical..very, very medical. Believes he knows what is best for the woman, rather than him learning from the woman and her body. Anyway, the doc states that it is time to break my water. He broke it with my previous labor as well. I didn't know I could say no. I didn't know I had the right to say absolutely not! BUT, I did freak out. I kept saying, NOW? husband isn't here yet. We can't do it right now! But he insisted, said it would help, and that he was there now, so it needed to be done now. So I let him do it. I should have kicked him. Grrr...

My husband finally got there, and I was moved into an actual birthing room. That move was so uncomfortable, because as soon as my water was broken, my contractions hurt to the point I couldn't control myself and had no one to center me, and pull me back. I sort of let the pain take over my mind, rather than letting my mind take over the pain. I was wheeled to the other room, and because I was on my back, I knew it was time for an epidural. It hurt SO BADLY to be on my back. I didn't know then, that being on your back is literally the WORST position to have your baby in. That it makes your pelvic opening the absolute smallest on back lying position, than any other position your body can be in. Anyway, the other doc comes in, whips out an epidural in no time. Except this time it doesn't work. I have a cathedar in my back, with drugs running into it, and it doesn't work. So where the heck are the drugs going in my back if they aren't going where they need to to make this epi work!?

I had no time to worry or freak out about that, because once again, I was too impatient, and had no centering, and only 30 minutes after my epidural was in, I was pushing out my child. They told me his oxygen was low, that he had meconium, that I couldn't have him on my chest. It took me 20 minutes to push him out, because the epidural didn't work He came out blue. Completely blue and purple. I have no idea what happened after that. As I didn't see my child for over a half an hour.

What I DO remember however, was a horrible episiotomy. More trauma. That I told my doc and his entire staff, my entire pregnancy, I didn't want. I was against, to do anything possible to NOT have one. I didn't know it was better to tear and just heal from that. I remember him sticking the needle with the Litacane in my perineum. It hurt. I mean I could feel my son's head coming out, and that needle was all I could focus on, and it hurt. Before I knew it he popped out...he didn't need to, I could have pushed him out on my own.

The epidural cathedar was left in my back for 5 hours. I couldn't even bend forward to change my own son's diaper. It was terrible. And it made me so sad. ( I am in tears writing this.) Trauma....again.

I begged to go home. They refused. I wasn't allowed to go home. I was told no.

Breastfeeding was hard with my son at first. He couldn't get latched on, and when he did, I barely had enough colostrum to make him happy. Eventually we "cup fed" him some formula, and a few days later my milk came in.

He was an amazing breast feeder. He LOVED being on the boob. He was so happy there. He was always calmed by being put at my breast. It was a beautiful thing. The only problem was the post partum depression had sank in so deeply and so severely I was selfish and uncaring. I wanted time for me, not for him. I wanted my body back. And I stopped breast feeding him at 4 months of age. FAR before he was ready. And he made that very clear by his lack of wanting a bottle, his lack of wanting formula. It was a fight, and one that I fought..stupidly, and selfishly.

We decided we didn't need anymore kids. We had two. A boy and a girl. Besides, everyone says that is the perfect family and we should be grateful for what we have. We didn't have the money. I didn't want to be on birth control anymore. I knew it was partially to blame for the severe PPD. So we had a vasectomy. Even though I truly believe under it all, deep within us, neither of us wanted it done.

So here we are now, in August 2010. And I am realizing that I had trauma from the very beginning of this whole second child ordeal, things I didn't deal with. I didn't go through the emotions, or let my true feelings out. I suppressed so much for the sake of others, the world, society, was horrible.

I have birth trauma. And it is very real.

I feel that I need what I have hear referred to as a "healing birth". I don't know that I will ever be able to feel as if things went the way they were supposed to if I don't get another go at it.

Only problem is that vasectomy. So we are waiting for work to slow down. The reversal doctors office doesn't have any openings in the next month anyway.

It is just so shocking to me the possibility that this is what has happened to me...and the more shocking reality that I really didn't even know it.


Unknown said…
Just want to say thank you for sharing your story, and I am so sorry to hear of your experiences. And also to let you know that it is possible to heal and 'move on' without having another birth - we have women who attend our support groups who are not having any more babies, but want to make sense and make peace with their births. We have a blog called "The Truth About Traumatic Birth - what you need to know on the healing journey", if it can be of any help to you or anyone else reading this. It takes a lot of courage to talk about a traumatic birth, and to 'go there' and explore your experience. Thank you for bringing to the fore such an important topic, and thus offering other women the chance to understand what happened for them. Wishing you all the best in your healing journey.
Mama Birth said…
Thank you- shared your site on my FB page-
Anonymous said…
I just wanted to say thank you so much. The whole Birthing world is in denial about how easily a woman can be traumatised by birth. Everything Moms experience is denied, downplayed, blown off, written off, but that doesn't make it go away. Birth needs to be given back to women- men should never have taken it over in the first place.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for your willingness and the strength from within to write about this. I toy with the thought of whether or not I had birth trauma with having my son. I never got a + HPT. I had to get a blood test because my body wasn't making enough HCG to register on an OTC test. Then, I was so scared of having a miscarriage that the first 3 months were torture. I spotted after a bellydancing class and immediately stopped dancing. (I haven't been back since.) Come to find out - after continued spotting and way more sonos than anyone should have in a typical 38-week pregnancy - I had a pool of blood behind where the placenta attached and it had to work itself out or get absorbed into my body. Either way, that was the most anxious I had been since the start of college almost a decade earlier. Getting through the 27th week was torture. (I was delivered at 27 weeks gestation in 1982 - with little/no complications other than chronic respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis & pneumonia.) From the words, "Your test results came back and it's positive", I knew I wanted a natural birth. No drugs - no asking me if I want drugs. I was convinced I was going to go au-natural. And I had a birth plan. Oh did I have a birth plan! 3 pages of a "plan" that went out the window on Mother's Day (how ironic) when my blood pressure (BP) skyrocketed and two months later, delivered my son via C-Section after induction wasn't successful. My 9-month secret (AB because we didn't find out boy -Benjamin - or girl - Alyson - until delivery) was 4#4, 18" long and skinny as a bean pole - but handsome and the light of my life, to this day. I hope some day I get a second chance. I'll be in a better frame of mind and in a better physical state to hopefully prevent the severe preeclampsia and sterile-operating-room scenario again. In all honesty, what it boiled down to was the trust of my OB. I started the BP meds late-May/early-June and went weekly throughout July for testing. I knew when they walked me from the perinatal testing unit to L&D and said they were calling my OB and to begin induction, I was scared stiff but knew I was in good hands. She wasn't on-call that day but made sure she was there for my delivery. I can't wait to tell her we're doing it again!
Marissa said…
What an amazing story. Pregnancy and birth are the most vulnerable and also can be the most powerful time for woman. The way the obstetric establishment cavalierly treat mothers like cattle... I get so angry. If I met you in real life, I'd hug you. You're not alone.
Thank you for sharing that, I know it's not easy to finally come to that conclusion. Nor is it a widely accepted concept. I am going to link this onto my blog as well. I had my son when I was 17 and my birth was so very traumatic, cold, without any consent or information that my son now almost 13 is an only child. I am a doula for this reason I believe but I don't think I know myself how to deal with my own trauma outside of trying to help or prevent others from their own and fighting the system that causes this. You are a warrior!
Gwendolyn said…
I know it's been a few years since you posted this story but it was so moving and brought me to tears. I am currently 39 weeks with my second child and have just recently realized how much I do not trust my doctors. Like your story I did everything they told me to for the first one... pelvic exams, sweeping membranes, epidural, pitocin. Thank God everything went okay except my son was really jaundice and breastfeeding never worked(I ended up pumping for 4 months).
This time around my sister has been opening up my eyes to the fact that my body is my body and my baby is mine as well. I've been really struggling to find the balance between what the doctors tell me and what is really the truth. I feel I may have come to this conclusion too late, but I'm educating myself as much as possible so when my baby comes I will be comfortable telling the doctor "No" when necessary.
Thank you for your story.