Birth Trauma | My Experience
Birth trauma. It’s almost a taboo subject. If you and your baby survive the perils of childbirth mostly intact, you’re supposed to celebrate, be too loved up with your new bundle of joy to worry about the experience you’ve just been though.
But it’s not that easy is it?
If you’ve read X’s Birth Story, you’ll know I didn’t exactly have a great labour – the short version is 23 hours, back to back, ending up with a failed epidural, forceps and a postpartum haemorrhage.
Sounds pretty bad, right?
Oddly, I’ve managed to move past the physical things that happened. It took a while, and many sleepless nights of tears and panic attacks. Now, as we approach X’s 3rd birthday there’s only really one thing guaranteed to send me spiralling downwards.
And that’s the hour after he was born.
Last night an article popped up on my Facebook feed about the importance of this first hour after birth. And without even reading it I suddenly found myself unable to breathe, tears flowing and an all too familiar feeling gripped my heart.
We had an instrumental delivery because both of us were knackered – he was almost out but his heart rate was dipping significantly with every contraction, and I had been awake for nearly 40 hours by the time he was born. When he finally made his entry into the world, he was popped up onto my chest – I was too tired to see straight so I barely remember this bit. I remember the sound of Hubby cutting his cord. And then X was taken away to be checked over.
It’s then I remember the midwife yelling for someone, shouting PPH – postpartum haemorrhage, ie. lots of blood.
Birth Trauma | My Experience
It was almost an hour before I got to hold X again – he was at the other end of a long delivery room, screaming. I was being stitched up again and again in the attempt to stop the bleeding – Hubs said it looked like a murder scene. My midwife leaned over me and gave me the gas and air back – “Suck on this till it feels like your face is going to fall off…” I could feel them stitching, but it was nothing compared to hearing my son screaming at the other end of the room.
Hubs was torn between holding my hand and looking after X.
I understand why I couldn’t hold him – I was exhausted, having not eaten anything for nearly 24 hours and being awake for 40, I was seriously dehydrated, dealing with the remaining pethadine in my system and bleeding profusely.
The next few hours were a bit of a blur – I don’t remember holding X for the first time. I do remember a midwife shoving him at my boob though.
Holding him. I don’t remember the first time I held my son, and it kills me. I’m sure lots of women don’t remember it – labour isn’t exactly fun and games. But in the midst of everything else, this one point is what my mind keeps coming back to. And I’m certain other people have far worse experiences than I have had, far far worse, but that shouldn’t, and doesn’t, make my feelings any less valid.
Nearly 3 years on now, and it’s not the trauma of the birth itself that still gets me but the aftermath. It took me weeks to bond with X, he didn’t feel like mine. I spent days in a fog of feeling like an utter failure as a mother. But I never let him out of my sight if I could help it – the thought overwhelmed me with panic. The first time we went anywhere with the pram I had actual white knuckles from holding on to the handles so tightly. Even now I hate him running off by himself, and it kills me every time I drop him off to be looked after by anyone else.
I’m sure, with time, this will pass. He starts nursery in April so I’ll have to get used to it! And he’s far from the helpless little thing he was that day now. I doubt I’ll ever fully recover from this though, but over time the pain will ease.
But it’s still not something we talk about, birth trauma. We laugh off our labour stories, “oh god yeah, it was awful… ha ha ha!” but I wonder, deep down, how many of us have been traumatised by events around giving birth.