Grief And Guilt {The Birth Trauma Experience}

by Alisia on November 22, 2013

Trauma after the birth of a baby is a ‘special’ kind of trauma.

It’s a bittersweet kind of trauma. It’s a silent kind of trauma. It’s an invisible kind of trauma.

And if your baby is healthy, it is usually considered an unjustified kind of trauma.

I suffered from birth trauma. It was agonising, painful, and heartbreaking. I was alone, and misunderstood. It began the first night, a few short hours after the birth of my first daughter, from the moment my partner went home for the night. I was alone in the dark in my single room with this tiny little newborn. I held this chubby baby girl in my arms, and felt nothing but sadness at the experience we had gone through together to bring her into this world. I’d feel a stab of shame every now and then, and scold myself for being so ungrateful – my baby was here, wriggling in my arms, and I had the nerve to even consider mourning the experience that brought her to me. I would quickly go back to the sadness, mourning the loss of a dream – a beautiful and empowering birth experience. That night was the beginning of a four year battle with birth trauma.

My grief was deep, and some days I felt I was drowning in it. I floundered, being hit by waves of sadness, disappointment, and anger. I replayed the labour over and over in my head. I beat myself up with ‘what if’ and ‘if only’. I felt responsible; I blamed myself. I felt cheated, let down; I blamed my partner, I blamed the midwife, I blamed everyone. I tried to pinpoint where it went ‘wrong’, where I  went wrong. News about new babies had me sobbing, even watching birth scenes in movies was painful. A phone call from my sister, hours after the birth of her son, left me feeling like I’d been hit by a truck, and I hid behind shelves in the department store I was in and I just cried and cried. I bitterly wished for every woman to have a horrifying experience, and I felt an unimaginable hurt when I saw women emerging from birth empowered and ecstatic. It wasn’t that I wanted every woman to experience the pain of birth trauma, but I just wanted to them to know my pain.

 

I suffered terrible postnatal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, even though my trauma largely went unacknowledged. Where it was acknowledged, it was usually deemed unwarranted. My experienced was pushed away and minimised by well-meaning but hurtful comments from others…

 “Years ago, you both would have died. Thank goodness for modern medicine.”

“It’s just one day in your life.”

“You were probably never going to give birth naturally anyway.”

“It’s probably because of your birth plan. You can’t control birth, you know. If you didn’t have such high expectations, you wouldn’t be so disappointed.”

“At least you are both alive and healthy, that’s what really matters.”

The comments were so hurtful. I felt like very few people understood. What about me? I would think. How can you say I am healthy? I feel like I am falling apart. Does my mental health not matter? I should have been overwhelmed with love for this tiny little bundle of joy, but instead I would hold her, look at her, and wish that I felt something. I was numb.

Sometimes I retold my birth story. I rarely came across anyone who had a story like mine, and people would cringe and exclaim “oh my goodness that’s terrible”, and then tell me their story. Sometimes they would have their own war story to tell, and I would listen and we would joke about never doing that again… But that wasn’t what I wanted.

I craved validation. I craved acknowledgement. I just wanted to tell someone my story, have them hold me as I cry, and look me in the eye and say: “I’m so sorry. You were cheated. You deserved better. You should have been able to birth the way you wanted. Your pain is justified. You have every right to grieve, without guilt.”

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Maybe your birth trauma hit you straight away, or maybe it slowly grew, beginning as a nagging feeling you didn’t quite understand and growing into a deeper pain. Maybe your plan for birth went way off course, or maybe you didn’t have a birth plan but you wished that you had. Maybe you sometimes think that you weren’t informed about your choices, or maybe you think your pain could have been eased if you knew, and expected, less.

Maybe you had a caesarean. Maybe you had an instrumental vaginal birth. Maybe you had an unmedicated birth. Maybe you birthed in a hospital. Maybe you didn’t make it to hospital. Maybe you birthed in a birth centre. Maybe you had a planned homebirth. Maybe you asked for pain medication, and didn’t get any. Maybe you asked for support in a drug-free birth but was pressured into using medication. Maybe you had an unexpectedly fast labour, or an unexpectedly slow labour. Maybe you refused a procedure, but it happened anyway. Maybe you wanted a certain procedure, but no one listened…

Or maybe, none of this happened. Maybe it’s not about how you birthed. Maybe you birthed exactly as planned – but your trauma relates to how the nurse spoke to you or looked at you or ignored you…

Maybe you feel unsupported, alone, unjustified, silly, or even selfish. Maybe you’re sad. Disappointed. Angry. Hurt. Jealous. Afraid. Ashamed. Guilty. Responsible. Maybe you don’t feel any of those things…

Birth trauma can happen to anyone, in any situation. Birth trauma can happen to you, and even to your partner. Your experience is totally unique, and it doesn’t matter how anyone else feels about their birth or what anyone else would have done. Birth trauma is about how YOU feel about YOUR birth. Birth trauma is about YOU and YOU alone.

But make no mistake, you aren’t alone. Right now, thousands are alongside you, silent in their trauma and suffering.

Birth trauma is real. And needs real support.

To the mothers out there, dealing with birth trauma, I want to offer you my empathy, and my deepest condolences. Birth trauma is real. Your pain is real. Your pain is justified. You deserved a wonderful birth experience, and it is unfair that you didn’t get that. You deserve support. You have the right to grieve without guilt.

To the partners, friends, family, midwives, doulas, doctors, nurses, acquaintances… offer your empathy, and your deepest condolences. Birth trauma is real. Their pain is real. Their pain is justified. They deserved a wonderful birth experience, and it is unfair that they didn’t get that. They deserve support. They have the right to grieve without guilt.

 

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{ 104 comments… read them below or add one }

sue November 23, 2013 at 5:54 pm

It has been many decades since the birth of my son, my first child, went completely opposite from the way I had planned it. My OB said that I could specify in writing no meds at any time, but I thought that this was extreme, and that he understood that I wanted no meds unless absolutely essential. He was the only one in the practice in town that week, so he was overworked. When I arrived at the hospital after my water broke, a young med student interrupted the nurse’s preparation to take a very long and detailed history from me, which prevented me from starting the breathing practices. I should have chased him away, but I didn’t, and everything went downhill from there. My husband was kept out of the room until the student finished. No one was with me to coach me until I was having very painful contractions, and I couldn’t use the techniques that I had learned effectively. In addition, I had injured my lower back the previous year, so the pain in that area was at times even greater than the contraction pains. My husband was probably too frightened to use the coaching techniques we had learned in a course, the MD finally arrived, gave me a paracervical block, then ordered an epidural. The resident who was to administer the epidural couldn’t find the right injection location, kept telling me to keep still while I was having active contractions, and my husband finally asked to have a supervisor do the epidural because he was afraid that I was going to end up with spinal injuries. In response to his request, he was told the leave the labor room. Eventually I was given a 2nd epidural, which caused me to be unable to feel the contractions and push during them. My husband couldn’t feel them on my body either, so the MD decided on a forceps delivery after about 12 hours of labor total. He probably had appointments with his patients in his office in a few hours. My hands were tied down, and so when my son was given to me to hold after he was born, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to with my hands tied to the sides of the bed. So instead of removing the ties, the doctor told the nurse to put my baby in his bassinet. I didn’t get to hold him until I left the delivery room. Apparently the staff all had learned that I was a “failure” at natural childbirth (although only one nurse did any sort of coaching), and the aid who combed my hair in the recovery room told me that the next time I would be a able to do it, but she didn’t know that we were not going to have any more children. So even after all these decades, I keep obsessing about how I should have done things differently.

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Susan December 1, 2013 at 5:41 pm

I am very sorry that you and your son had to go through an experience like that.

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carissa December 6, 2013 at 10:05 pm

I’m so sorry, you weren’t a failure at childbirth you were robbed of your abilities by their stupidity.

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Stacy November 23, 2013 at 7:38 pm

With my first, I planned a homebirth. I had an excellent midwife, but I really needed a doula! My son was transverse, but my midwife was patient and he moved head down, but was trying to come out right ear first. It just wasn’t going to happen. I had a Cesarean. I was sad and disappointed and it took a few years to process it all. Then, 3 1/2 years later, our daughter was born. She was a planned VBAC. We chose to have her at home with a CNM and a supportive doctor on-call. However, at 8cm, I knew something was wrong. As difficult as it was for me, we transferred. That was the WORST drive of my life. . .I knew I was going to have another section. My dreams of a vaginal birth were shattering, so when I got to the hospital, I was a raging mad woman. My doctor met me with a smile and said the kindest words that completely broke away all the anger. She said, “Stacy, you are a strong woman and you have labored beautifully. There is nothing wrong with you or your baby. You are perfect and I wish that this hospital supported VBAC so that I could continue allowing you to labor, but you know we can’t do that. We will follow your Cesarean plan to the letter!” And she did. I had a very empowering birth! Additionally, during the surgery, my doctor discovered that my daughter was laying sunny side up with both of her hands at her face. It would have been difficult to birth her vaginally. Also, I had some internal problems that she was able to fix during the surgery! Now, 10 months later, we are expecting our 3rd child and our 3rd Cesarean. I will write up a mother/baby friendly plan and I know that my plan will be respected!

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Emily November 24, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Your story just gave me chills to read. What an amazing doctor. You deserved every bit of kindness and respect that doctor gave you :)

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Martha December 1, 2013 at 3:29 pm

How amazing of that doctor to give you that gift! To know that having a csection, you did not fail!

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Sarah November 23, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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Sara November 23, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Thanks for this – and I apologize in advance for my long winded response.

I wasn’t even sure what kind of birth I wanted have when at 32w I was hospitalized with severe pre-eclampsia. Five days later it developed into HELLP syndrome. At 33w1d I was to be induced but we found out that although she was head down when I was admitted, the night before I felt her dancing and sure enough, she was transverse breech. There was no way I would’ve made it through an induction anyway – my platelets were nearly gone and my liver was in the process of shutting down. They put me on magnesium and I felt like my face was on fire and I became a bit incoherent. Like a slap in the face, they told me not only would I need an emergency c-section, but I had to go under general anesthesia and be asleep when my first baby, the baby I worked almost 2 years to conceive, would enter the world. My husband couldn’t be in the room either. We didn’t know what gender were having and begged for a last minute sono to tell us the gender but it was too late and they had to wheel me in for surgery. I have never been more scared of anything in my life and I pray that I never feel that fear again.
In surgery my 3lb 8oz baby girl was delivered breathing and crying, and was sent to the NICU. I had a hematoma in my uterus. The placenta couldn’t be detached. There was talk of a hysterectomy but the doctor (who wasn’t my regular OB), knew my history and didn’t want this to be my only opportunity to have a kid. Two hours later placenta accreta was removed and sent to pathology, but in the process I lost half my blood volume.
At some point I woke up and my husband came in and together a nurse told us that it was a girl. I was in and out of consciousness. Over a year later I have only the foggiest memory of this conversation. I woke up a few hours later and remained in recovery on a morphine pump. Through the night I was transfused 4 bags of blood and a bag of platelets. The magnesium was resumed. I fell asleep and woke up every 5 minutes for 3 hours from 3-6am. I begged for ice or water. Women came in and out of recovery and I was still there. I heard babies crying and mother’s nursing. I was moved back to L&D, then to a private room away from everyone else. I didn’t get to see my baby because I wasn’t allowed to even sit up. In the middle of night #2 monitors went off and nurses came running in. My oxygen was down in the low 80s. I had a partially collapsed lung and fluid in my other lung. I was out of veins for a decent IV and they spent 45 minutes poking me trying to find a vein everywhere imaginable – even in my feet. My hand was so swollen from an infiltrated IV that nurses took pictures of it and drew lines on it. When the swelling receded a few days later, the line that was drawn on my hand was actually at my elbow.

Nearly 48 hours after giving birth, I finally got to meet my baby girl. I felt numb. I dont think I even cried. They sent me to regular post partum and put me in a 4 person room. All the other women there had vaginal deliveries and had their babies with them. It was torture and I begged and begged until they finally moved me. I had looped bowels and my stomach extended further out than it did at 33w pregnant.

I had to start pumping milk 3 days after birth. It took 3 days of pumping just to get colostrum. About 10 days to get milk. I never got close to making enough. The birth, the blood loss, the lack of bonding, the magnesium, the lack of a baby’s suckle, it took a heavy on my milk supply. I pumped, nursed and supplemented with lots of formula. Although I went on to nurse for 9 months, I never ever pumped more than 5oz, and the 5oz happened only once ever – I usually averaged 2oz in 45 minutes of pumping.

My daughter did great for an 3.5 lb IUGR preemie. She had no setbacks in the NICU and was home nearly a month after she was born. She is still a little underweight for her age but at 2.5 years old she is ahead in all other developmental categories. She is my miracle, but that doesn’t make it alright.
Its taken over 2 years to admit this openly. But her birth was the absolute worst day of my life. It was a nightmare, and I really can’t imagine a birth that resulted in a live baby and mommy and no hysterectomy possibly going any worse. When people say “it was all worth it” and “its ok cause look how great she is,” I want to rip their throats out. I’ve accepted what happened, but that does not make it OK. That does not give anyone the right to disregard my experience. That doesn’t take away the fear of next time. And that doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for what I do have. It took 2 years to get over the PTSD and PPD. I lost my job. I lost the joy of the first year with my first born child. I see new moms now with their babies and I wonder why I was so lost and scared my first year. I thought that was normal but I was in denial of how badly my soul was injured. It took a long time but I finally feel emotionally stable again.

I hope one day my husband and I can birth without fear. The trauma we both suffered looms large and is underlying behind our decision to continue to grow our family. We haven’t found the courage yet to try again. I hope one day to have a VBAC, but most of all, I just hope to have a birth that was better than my first. Almost anything resulting in a live baby and mommy and existing uterus HAS to be better than that. It has to be.

I

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Devorah Leah November 30, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Oy Sara, I know nothing I say can even touch on the trauma you experience, however I want to let you know that it is totally worth it to try again. As awful as that day was for you and as traumatizing as the birth was, God willing next time you’ll have the birth you are looking for. I know I wanted to slap people to for disregarding how traumatic my first birth was and then thank God we had another baby boy at home, healthy, and thinking of his birth still puts me on cloud 9. Just don’t give up :). I hope next time every thing is easier for you, from conception to birth to mothering and in all ways.

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ann November 23, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Thank you for sharing so openly and for all those who shard in the comments. It has been a little over two years since our traumatic birth experience and I’m still struggling. I had PTSD and PPD and saw a therapist for a while so I’m a bit emotionally stronger than I was 2 years ago but I still struggle. I continue to grieve the loss of the birth experience I dreamed of and have been feeling so alone in this struggle. Reading about others who continue to struggle is so powerful for me. Thank you.

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Nerida November 23, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Thank you. {heading off to cry in a corner, all over again}

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Malta November 24, 2013 at 6:53 am

Me aswell, I went through this but I didn’t even know it was something women suffer from until I read this article in a newspaper http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/zion-lights/birth-rape_b_2155384.html
Thank you for writing this we need more awareness of birth trauma so that we can learn how to prevent it.

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sue November 24, 2013 at 8:24 am

28 years ago last Friday, Nov 22nd…. It still hurts … I still can’t watch a normal birth (well any birth) without Crying… Thanks for sharing :-)

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Nicole November 24, 2013 at 3:59 pm

This made me cry…I found myself in the article.

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Nikki November 24, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Thank you!

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Brittany November 24, 2013 at 4:47 pm

I thank you so much for this. I had never heard of birth trauma. I felt alone in this until I read your article. My first son was born on October 19,2013. I went in for an ultrasound and non stress test on Thursday the 17th. They sent me straight over to labor and delivery to be induced because his fluid was at 6 (it was 13 the prior week.) I was on pitocin. Right away I was upset because I wanted to try to do it all naturally. After almost 50 hours on the meds and my water being broken I was rushed in for an emergency c-section. His heart rate plummeted and I had no Idea what was happening. I was quickly knocked out. No one was allowed in the room. My husband and our moms got to see him after about 20 min. I lost a lot of blood and was in surgery for 2 hours. I have been told I saw him after I came to but I don’t remember. I was placed in the PICU and He in the NICU. That same night they transferred me to the main hospital ICU because of a high fever and I couldn’t breath properly on my own. Later to find out I was septic. An infection had somehow entered my blood they say most likely through my incision. It was 3 days of touch and go. I was terrified that I was going to die. After tons of antibiotics, tests and breathing meds I was finally able to see my son. He is beautiful. But I was only allowed to hold him for ten minutes every 6 hours because he was jaundice and under the lights. I was able to go home at 7 days. He stayed 2 more days. The day we brought him home should have been amazing… But I ended up that same night having to be readmitted and being opened back up. The infection had caused an 6 in abscess behind my uterus. I spent another week in the hospital. I went home on IV strength antibiotics so I Was unable to nurse him. I am just now cleared to nurse but since I have been only pumping so my supply is really low. I have had panic attacks because I am terrified that I am going to end up sick again and the infection is not gone. We have been down a rough road together but luckily my husband and our moms have been there all the way with us. Again I say thank you for this. I no longer feel alone.

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Dana November 24, 2013 at 9:35 pm

yeah… several babies, first one with a hospital midwife, second on the side of the highway, the next 3 at home, Number six was born by surprise C-section in Orlando when we were headed to vacation in Jamaica! She was in the NICU for 5 weeks afterward. It was a hard year of PPD… lots of loss and tears… had a hard time being a good mom to my other kids. I was so shocked, so mad.. I KNOW those comments… the people who do NOT understand.. who think you are a whiny baby. She was born in January, 8 years ago…. almost nine now. She is a gem, and I had to see her as a co-partner in my pain. She did not like her shocking birth, the IVs, the separation, the struggle. Gosh, what people could say to me… *I* had been a surprise C-section (failure to progress – no premie) but “it saved my life ‘twice’ ” ag! Shut up! I Think all C-section babies are startled and shocked when they are so briskly removed from the womb… all they have known. It was not a happy day. I still hate it when docs CONSTANTY ask for “date of birth” BLAHH!!!! I what to say “oh, you mean the worst day of my life?? that day?? oh it’s January 6, 2005. sigh… In the last 8 1/2 yrs I have moved past it, but the pain is there… I have gotten some validation. a few understand… even having my boy, my 7th, at home, helped. There is something to be unhappy about every birth. usually small things… I pray blessings of comfort as you grieve through this… I read grief books, they fit best. hugs to your wounded soul…

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Aaron November 24, 2013 at 10:11 pm

My wife has experienced this same thing. And all I can say to all women who have experienced this trauma and sense of worthlessness, or pain, or grief about how it happened. I will tell you as a supportive husband and a male, it is real and my empathy goes out to you. The only thing that I have ever said that made sense to my wife is this, I am proud of you no matter how it happened and I could not have done what you did. Therefore, I could not have done what any of you wonderful women have done and are doing or experiencing. You should take a solemn pride in the fact that regardless of the outcome YOU did this, not one else. That is something to be proud of. For what its worth.
-A-

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Emily November 24, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Thankyou for sharing this, a little validation goes a long way, doesn’t it.

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Rose November 25, 2013 at 12:31 am

I just don’t talk about my experience ever because no one wants to hear it. We had a miscarriage the year before our daughter was conceived and when I had a scare 10 weeks into her pregnancy I stopped believing I would ever get to meet her. Family of ours lost their baby girl at 24 weeks and our whole family was in mourning. I was then made to feel very guilty that my baby was healthy and my pregnancy was successful…
All the while my health was spiralling out of control, I have High Blood Pressure so as of 20 weeks I needed to visit the hospital fortnightly for lots of check ups. I never had any appointments with midwives, I always saw doctors, and everything was always so morbid. I was hospitalized 4 times when my blood pressure went up too high and at 34 weeks I had a doctor say to me, well you did well to make it this far, but you’ll be having this baby now, thankfully I was released the next day as my blood pressure levelled with medication. But I was now fearful every time I visited the hospital they wouldn’t let me leave, I needed to visit twice weekly now.
I was under the impression from conversations that they would let me go until 38 weeks at least but at 36 there were minor traces of protein in my urine and so they brought me in for induction. I wish I would have asked more questions, been more aware and more educated but after 2 attempts with prostin, an agonizing balloon catheter and 3 days, I had still only dilated 1cm.
They said they wouldn’t break my waters unless I had dilated to 2cm but they did anyway. After 2 hours the nurses recommended an epidural and I refused and relished in the few short hours of labour I was lucky enough to go through, I was made to have an epidural after 6 hours and it only lasted an hour or two anyway.
after being poked and prodded and drugged and monitored for such a long time the nurses were saying that they didn’t know what the doctor was going to do next. My blood pressure was going up when the contractions got stronger and I had to have some drug I can’t even remember what it was to stabilize my bp and it made me pass out, then our daughter’s heart rate spiked and it was the first time we thought she was in trouble.
The doctor quickly said that he would only let me be on sintocin for one more hour and I wasn’t even 4cm dilated by then so we all agreed to go to theatre and have a cesarean. We went from a dimly lit relaxing room to a cold bright operating theatre and Iwas terrified, I was fortunate enough not to have a local but a spinal instead. Our beautiful daughter was born although I don’t feel as though I gave birth to her, and she needed oxygen straight away. The moments she was with us in the room were the most elated of my life and I thank God for her every day. She was taken to the SCN in an incubator and kept there over night.
Because of some of the drugs they had given me I needed to be cared for intensly over night so I was transferred to a completely different ward in the hospital. My husband asked me if I wanted him to stay with me or go to our daughter, I should have asked him to stay but I told him to go and be with our baby even if I couldnt be there.

The next day after popping lots of pills through the night the doctor came down to sign that I could be released and come up to see my little girl. It took 4 hours to be moved from that ward to the maternity ward and when they transferred me to a wheelchair blood poured out of me all over the floor, that was so immensely humiliating.
When I got upstairs I was so drugged out I could hardly even see straight and I needed to rest before I saw our daughter, refreshed and somewhat passed the previous events we walked up to see our little girl and I got to hold her for the first time, it was amazing and I love her and I am so grateful for her, but I had never bonded with her for fear that I might lose her, I thought that this feeling would go away when I finally met her but as a result of so much medical intervention I felt as though we were strangers.
I told our story of Hope (our daughter) to a few beloved family and friends but I have tried to keep this to myself for such a long time because of my guilt and shame over having a healthy baby.
Hope was in the SCN for 11 days before we got to come home together and every night without her I would ball my eyes out that I had failed so horribly as a mother.
Writing this has made me realize how much I have healed since then, 14 months ago bit I am at a loss of how to prevent this in future deliveries and to advocate for myself and my family…

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Milla November 28, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Dear heart, so sorry for your awful experience. Please research a raw vegan diet for your future pregnancies, it is almost impossible to have blood pressure problems when eating raw vegan. Hire a doula to be your informational support and advocate right through your pregnancy, labour, delivery and post partum. Go through as many as you have to in order to find a doula who makes you feel safe, comfortable and full of courage. May the future always be better than the past. xxx

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Shelley Rosenberg November 30, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Rose,
Knowledge is power, just as Milla is suggesting. Educate yourself. And take REALLY good care of yourself nutritionally even before you THINK of conceiving, surround yourself with strong knowledgeable people to advocate for you and cover all possibilities with your health care provider. If they won’t talk to you about your desires, find someone else. You may need to travel. Be strong and courageous. And work with someone to release your fears.
Blessings

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Nicole Moore November 25, 2013 at 5:38 am

So many truisms in this article… The silent pain, the lack of validation, the way birth trauma hangs around for so long… I am so happy to see more and more, birth trauma being bought to the Light. For those who experienced it, and those who entered the world in it.

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Kaurina Danu November 25, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Thank you for sharing your story. It is so, so important. So true about wanting validation. That’s exactly how I felt too.

It sounds like you have come a long way in healing. I feel like offering my help to you or any other woman experiencing the emotions of birth trauma. I dealt with the trauma of my own son’s birth and have found a way to completely heal it so that now I look back and feel clear and positive about the events. But it involved quite a journey.

I’ve been a doula for many years and have helped other women clear up so much of their birth trauma. I really want to be of assistance to anyone else who might be looking for help.
My contact info is on my website at http://www.prenataljourney.ca/

Thank you for your story.

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Bpi Mom November 25, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Our baby was injured from traumatic birth, it was the hardest day of my life. I left the hospital feeling violated and abused. Fast labor is a force of nature I can’t describe, my full water broke with my first contraction and I went immediately into full labor giving birth less than 2 hours later. The staff did not believe I was in full labor so without labor support I was forced to labor by myself on my knees on the hospital floor. I begged to see a doctor but they refused to call anyone and were very frustrated and angry with me, I was yelled at for being on the floor and humiliated by the staff but I had no where else to go. When a doctor finally did come to my our son’s head was already coming out, he was in shoulder dystocia position and stuck in the birth canal without oxygen. Our son was born black and not breathing. When they revived him they rushed him to NICU, the nurse who earlier refused to admit me came to my room and set my blanket down about 5 ft. away from me, she practically taunted me boasting that she had had natural labor with 5 children and then left the room leaving me there shivering and unable to reach the blanket. My tail bone and pubic bone had broken during labor and I was in great pain but no one evaluated my injuries for 3 days. I was refused a wheelchair because it is standard policy for moms to walk after labor so they had me walk 50 ft every 2 hours to the NICU for three days, every step was agony. Our son’s arm was and IS partially paralyzed (brachial plexus injury), his neck weakened on one side, his face droop on one side (facial nerve damage), he struggled to breath for months (diaphragm/phrenic nerve damage) and has a brain stem injury- all from birth. My bones will not ever heal completely but it is my mind, spirit and soul that struggle with this the most.

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Milla November 28, 2013 at 12:54 pm

What a shocking, unbelievably sad story my dear! Words cannot express how much I feel for you. I’m a doula and I wish I could have been there to help you, advocate for you and validate you. Please consider researching hyperbaric oxygen therapy to help your bone injuries to heal. I hope you are receiving trauma counseling. All my love to you and your little one.

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Carrie November 29, 2013 at 9:22 am

Oh mama, I’m so sorry! I hope this hospital is aware of what they have done. No one should ever have to endure this kind of treatment. Please, as Milla said, consider HBOT. My son has had amazing results with it from his Hypoxic injury (HIE & CP). Much love!

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Jennifer February 18, 2014 at 10:50 pm

I do hope you have contacted a lawyer and filed a complaint with the hospital and AMA. These people need to lose their licenses and jobs! My prayers are with you and your family.

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Justina November 25, 2013 at 11:22 pm

I have been reading this blog for a long time and I have shed a lot of tears over a lot of the posts and stories. Never have I related to one so closely as this and never have I cried so much with grief and thankfulness at the same time. Thank you for this validation and thank you to all the others who have commented. Although our stories are not happy I take solace that I share them with you.

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Alexa November 26, 2013 at 10:15 am

I have read this website without comment many time before. I’ve never felt such a strong pull to any one particular post. I cannot express enough gratitude for your words – it is very true how just a little validation on how we’re feeling can go. I’m tired of feeling anxiety over my birth experience and I’m afraid that it can’t be something I can get past. My baby’s birth day was the best and worst day of my life – she and her arrival are two very different parts of the same story. I sincerely hope no other woman ever has to go through what I did. I always thought of myself as a strong woman – mentally, physically and emotionally. My birth wreaked havoc on every aspect of that and I just hope that some day I can come to terms with it and move past it.

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petrichor November 26, 2013 at 2:03 pm

It has been somehow good to read all the terrible stories, so I will share my own. My first daughter, I knew something was wrong even though it was a textbook pregnancy. At 41 weeks I had a total breakdown and begged my midwives to induce because I really thought she was going to be stillborn. I had been in constant anxiety the entire pregnancy, which I tried to chalk up to two previous miscarriages and a lot of chaos and stress in my husband’s family situation (who lived next door, unfortunately). The pitocin contractions weren’t horrible but I chose to get the epi- they didn’t do “walking” epis, and in fact I got the strongest epi of anyone I know. I couldn’t feel anything or move anything from the waist down, at all. This contributed to nearly three hours of totally numb “pushing” during which my midwife and nurse were bickering with each other. Great, a tense, irritable atmosphere for birth. I found myself unable to vocalize thoughts…the thoughts were trapped deep in the back of my mind, unable to make their way to the surface. I wanted them to turn the epidural down or off so I could feel to push, but all I could manage to do was ask if the epi was still “on” and they laughed and said, “Don’t worry, it’s on,” as if I was afraid of more pain. Finally at 13 hours she was born and IMMEDIATELY taken away by a NICU team who…I forget why they were even there! I kept asking if it was a girl or boy. My husband went with them and no one was talking to me. Finally I found out it was a girl and she had a cleft palate and was breathing too fast. They let us take one picture and took her away to the NICU. I was totally crushed, having the instant love connection to her and barely getting to hold her. I am a bleeder so the blood and the placenta was taking forever and I had no idea how she was, I was sobbing. The nurse finally made some comment about cleft palates not being too difficult to repair but I was worried about her breathing! I’d had strong premonitions the entire pregnancy and I was the only one who realized they were validated at this point. She turned out to have a rare chromosome disorder; luckily, 8 years later, she has delays and difficulties but is healthy. The trauma is better, but it’s still there, despite a natural birth center delivery of my second (which had its own relatively mild trauma). My stepfather, not having kids of his own maybe didn’t “get it” and took the pictures off of my husband’s camera and made one of those little books. The front cover is the one picture of the first time we held her and is a photo of me with my eyes closed, not even able to attempt to smile as the emotional devastation I was overwhelmed with. Inside are close ups of vaginal birth, another thing I find that I’m very sensitive to is a lack of privacy and modesty (“You won’t care who sees you naked!”…I did, and still do). I think the only way I could have a non-traumatic birth would be at home in dim lighting with my husband outside of the room with a very, very trusted and caring midwife. But I don’t think I’ll ever do it again!

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Mrs. W November 26, 2013 at 5:24 pm

I can relate, as much as I wish that I couldn’t, I can.

I would not wish Birth Trauma on my worst enemy, sadder still, I can’t help but think that much of it is preventable, if only we cared enough to do so.

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Ev November 27, 2013 at 10:13 am

I, too, had a very traumatic birth experience with my second child. I had him in one hour. Yes, you read that right. I also suffered from severe tearing (requiring extensive stitches) and had to undergo physical therapy (for my bum) for a year-and-a-half post-birth. I also felt a full, wide spread of emotions and felt very emotionally unstable for some time afterwards. HOWEVER, this article seemed to LEAVE women who have suffered in this way with their feelings and with little to no hope for recovery or even peace with the events surrounding birth. I can NOT say that I agree with the idea that women should be left to wallow in their emotions. Just a trite offer of “support” and the “right to grieve without guilt” seems to do little to help mothers who have suffered in this way. In fact, it may actually help women to think they are OK and part of a group of semi-silent sufferers when they really may, indeed, need more help than they can muster alone or in a hands-off, on-line community. This article seems to undermine those who were trying to be supportive, help re-focus the thoughts of mamas with these experiences, and encourage them to look beyond the experience to the blessings. I fear for the mothers who have a gut-feeling they need to reach out and ask for counsel, help, and support from others who have NOT undergone the same experience, but could dismiss this instinct because the article seems to undermine the comments and offers of support. Yes, people will NOT say the right thing the right way or at the right time. Yes, people can say things that don’t appeal to our deepest desires, BUT we are NOT meant to be left alone or dismiss other supportive family and friends’ well-intentions. Granted, this article has opened up the opportunity for women who have experience this to share with others; however, it also seems to breed a community of women who are articulating woe and sorrow with little to no hope for recovery. This is fertile ground for depression, and could help deepen it by giving the impression that these scenarios will never end. I ask for lights of hope and recovery to be added, so I’ll start:
I have had another child since my trauma with #2. I was able to prepare my body for birth again and, though I did not get to have the birth I wanted (AGAIN!), I still got to experience the joys and blessings of birth all over again. The big picture, of which I am VERY thankful, is that all 3 of my children are healthy, happy, and thriving. Yes, I struggle with my body when I sneeze, cough, and get sick and have reminders of the trauma my body and mind underwent. However, my husband was and is happy to remain by my side and continues to finds me beautiful, despite several changes to my body. Ladies, there IS hope! There IS joy! There IS peace! I found these things by acknowledging that this birth made me stronger. Initially, I was NOT stronger. I was at an all-time low. HOWEVER, in the midst of the muck and mire, I found support from my true friends: those who loved me in and despite my emotions, physical ailments, and struggles. I realized how to read the sign ans symptoms of my body and seek help when I needed it. Yes, I was embarrassed and self-conscious initially asking for help, but I benefitted, as did my family. I am still seeing ways even 4 years later! I also recognized I was angry with God for allowing the circumstances and situations to play out as they did. I have had to recognize that through the fire of trauma, my personality and the relationships I have to my husband and family have emerged more refined and solid. Sadly, some relationships did not withstand the test, and I grieved these too, but I emerged better. I won’t lie and say I would do it all over again the same way, but peace CAN be made with how things DID play out. May ALL of you find peace and acceptance!!! Blessings to all of you in Christ Jesus, the Lord!

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Crystal Byrne November 28, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Thankyou for writing this you have described how I am feeling perfectly. I felt like no one understood me. And I am so tired of people saying how lucky I am to be here or that god only gives you as much as you can handle. My son has just turned one and I am still struggling every day even more now the anniversary has come around. I didn’t want to make his special day about me but found myself hiding late that night crying. Your story makes me feel as though I am not alone because unless you have been through that kind of trauma you just can’t understand.
I had a brain aneurysm that ruptured while I was 32 weeks pregnant and had brain surgery and an emergency cesarean on the same day while under general anesthetic. I didn’t get to meet my son for 3 days and spent weeks in the ICU on the brink of death. I still have pain 24 hours a day and have double vision which makes my emotional state worse. Thankyou again for making me feel like at least one person understands me.

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Zoe November 28, 2013 at 10:39 pm

I have never given birth myself, but I am an aspiring midwife, and reading all of these stories has made me even more determined to be one. Birth trauma is very real, and should not be trivialized. I hope that one day, after my education, I am able to guide women and help make sure that they achieve the birth of their dreams, whatever that means to them. Thank you for this post.

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Mandy November 29, 2013 at 8:38 am

I don’t want to write my birth story for my traumatic birth as I’ve written it many times. But I do want to say thank you for sharing this. It took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t alone in how I felt.

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Gemma November 29, 2013 at 9:02 am

This made me cry. You literally just described me. I tell my birth story and people either gasp then ask me when I’m having another “because it won’t be as bad second time around” or say “lucky you having such a quick labour”. Yes, I’m lucky to have a beautiful, healthy son but it was traumatic, emotionally and physically exhausting and it has left my nerves shattered. It has stopped me having another but I don’t want it to.

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Michelle November 30, 2013 at 2:29 am

Thank you so much for writing this post. I have suffered from grief and guilt from my sons traumatic birth for over two years. I worry that I will never really get over it. I have never felt understood at all, let alone validated. I can identify with pretty much everything you have written.
I won’t go into too much detail, but our son was delivered by emergency c-section under a general anesthetic. It was ugly, I was without my dignity and control, my midwife and husband were held away from me and our baby. I woke up feeling numb – completely disconnected from the experience. The baby my husband was holding, could have been anyone’s. His birth was scary and surreal, more like what I would expect from some kind of accident. Not the empowering and glorious birth I was hoping for.
I often feel ashamed that I have one of “those stories” that you just “shouldn’t” tell other people about. The crazy thing is, it is really important to talk about it. But I have never had any guidance on who to talk about it with or where to go. So I’ve felt very alone. I couldn’t understand how things seemed to go so wrong with his birth, but once our boy was born everyone else moved on and was happy – and somehow I was left behind with the grief. My midwife never talked about it with me, and it took months before I could get my husband to see how hurt I was and how much I needed to be heard. I ended up being diagnosed with PND – another thing I felt ashamed to talk about.
I understand those comments from others. I understand the sadness from feeling like it was my fault, like somehow I didn’t do enough – and so our start was so hard and sad. I understand feeling jealous and sad every time someone I know copes well with birth and having a new born. I’m jealous of the comments they get about how strong they are, or how well they did. It just doesn’t seem fair. I’m so glad to read that I am not alone.

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Shelley Rosenberg November 30, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Reading these posts, I can feel the sadness, disappointment and trauma these women experienced as they gave birth. I’ve taken care of similar women prenatally and labor sat and witnessed them giving birth. I am a CNM who has attended both home and hospital births. My 2 children, now adults, were born at home. Now though, I can no longer work as a CNM where I live and be true to myself. So I am working in a tertiary care center as a labor and delivery nurse. As a nurse, I feel a different kind of disappointment and sadness but NO WHERE near as horrific as some new moms. Knowing how hospital policies, doctors with their own agendas….and yes, nurses, (sometimes especially nurses) treat women in labor and how women are deprived of kindness, respect, options, chances to continue laboring and bonding early with their babies—those issues make me sad to be part of a group of providers which is meant to honor birth and womens’ bodies. But I can humbly say I make a difference for every woman I take care of during my shift. I’m keenly aware of women wanting and planning for the perfect birth. We all want that. Unfortunately, and as evidenced here, that doesn’t always happen. Nevertheless, I have witnessed incredible strength, bravery, vulnerability, spunk, and love during some really challenging times. Women are the most amazing souls! Please know that your sharing may ease the pain for someone else. As women, that’s what we do…share. It starts the healing process.
So I have completed Martha Beck Life Coach Training. Now, as a midwife, I may not be holding a baby as it’s born but I’m present as women give birth to their true selves when they embrace their pregnancy, labor and birth experiences, no matter what the outcome is. Letting go of the thoughts and stories that cause us suffering can be difficult. If you’re having a tough time being OK with any of your birth experiences, I would truly be honored to work with you. You can contact me through my website shelleyrosenberglifecoach.com. Or contact me to just talk.
Blessings, Shelley

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Martha December 1, 2013 at 3:36 pm

I think something that is hard when you have experienced birth trauma is someone telling you why it is not that bad. Trauma is trauma, large or small.
My first birth was unassisted, and while I had some people in the room with me, no one knew anything medical wise and mostly observed. I was losing consciousness during contractions and only way I remember knowing my baby was still alive was he was kicking me hard during labor.

I came out of labor never wanting to ever do that again. My beliefs though, being anti~birth control, I was pregnant again, despite my terror and two years later, refused to go into labor because of the terror that gripped me. He was my only baby to go truly overdue with, and it was not until I dealt with some of the trauma from the first birth and accepted the fact I would have to go through it, did I go into labor.

I have had people tell me that it was not that bad, I should be thankful it was not worse. But those small traumas can effect your outlook and how you bond as well with your babies. It can be overcome, but it so helps to have supportive people by your side.

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Saskia December 2, 2013 at 6:32 am

This article & the comments section should be required reading for anyone involved in caring for women around the time of birth. If all obstetricians, midwives etc were fully aware of the extent of the trauma that women can feel following negative birth experiences we’d hopefully have more like the Dr who spoke so kindly & respectfully to Stacy, and who transformed what could have been a highly traumatic experience into an empowering & positive one. We can’t all have the perfect birth experiences we’d like to have, and sometimes even with the best care in the world it can be a pretty awful experience, but at least if all of the professionals involved recognised how hard it can be to come to terms with a difficult birth and treated women with genuine care & empathy people wouldn’t be left feeling the extreme trauma many here express.

This article resonated on some level with my own experiences, but really they pale in comparison to some of the stories others have shared. But even with my relatively mild experience I can identify with those feelings of grieving for the birth you never had, of having feelings left unresolved years later, and I can only imagine how much more powerful these emotions must be for the mothers who have shared their experiences here. You are all amazing, brave, strong women for surviving what you went through, and being able to tell your stories here!

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Eliza December 11, 2013 at 4:05 am

Thank you for writing this, thank you so much.

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Jasmine December 18, 2013 at 8:23 pm

I would like to share my birth story. I am considered a young mom, twenty years old when I had my daughter. I had no clue I was in labor, my contractions were mild and I just felt uncomfortable.
I went into labor at work. On my last day infact! When she suddenly stopped moving I thought I should go in. Turns out I had no amniotic fluid and she was ready to come
Out. My husband was on his way and my sister got there first. I was only aloud one person in my delivery room. My sister being the first one there held my hand. The nurses were rude and bossy. One told me to stop screaming and shut up. The doctor was forecful and rolled her eyes at me., I wanted to give birth on all fours. They said no, I wanted to walk around.. They said no. They wouldn’t let me call my mother. I felt so alone, I never felt so alone. When my husband did come I was pushing and they wouldn’t let him in the delivery room. They told him I said I wanted my sister ( I never said that). He missed the birth of his first born. I know my story isn’t half of what you guys went through . Big or small the pain is real. I find myself pregnant again and fearful.

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Lil December 23, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Thank you so so much for writing this and sharing it with us. After my traumatic birth experience, I felt like no one “got” it. Even my best friend who had a baby right after me (and an unplanned c-section herself) told me that I’m just too hard on myself. I was haunted by my birth experience, replaying the days of labor and interventions over and over, feeling sick every time I relived it. I felt like I was in a fog for months, and I hated myself and thought I was the worst mom on earth for not “enjoying” the newborn phase. I was convinced that everyone did this better than me. Now I know it was all due to the trauma and grief.
Your story is so healing to read. Thank you, and God bless you.

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Cathy February 11, 2014 at 6:38 am

When in labour with my 2nd child I was about to start pushing when the midwife screamed at my husband to ‘hit the red button,, NOW’ my baby’s feet were out, she was breech!! Within seconds I had 6 midwifes an a doctor telling me not to push, finally they were ready an told me to push with all my might, I did an her body came out but not her head, with her legs in the air on the next contraction she arrived an after some oxygen finally cryed out an was fine, well from the second they placed her in my arms I had an over whelming feeling that she was not for keeps, That when she was 21 she would die in a car crash or something like that, I tell my self I’m being silly but deep down I know for sure I’m going to lose her, I can’t tell my husband any of this and I also don’t feel like Iv bonded with my child properly because I KNOW one day my heart is going to be shattered an in my subconcense keeping a slight distance may mean less pain in the future, feel very guilty for not giving my heart totally to her, don’t know how to over come any of these fears or feelings, :(

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Sara February 12, 2014 at 11:47 pm

When I went in for my 39 week appointment with my first child, I asked a very simple question, how long past my due date will you let me go before you induce me?
Little did I know that this one question would devistate my birth plan. My doctor told me that he was willing to induce on Dec 27 (I was due Dec 28) at first I declined, but then he went on to tell me that he was leaving on vacation for 2 weeks on the 29th, and being a first time mom, I wanted MY doctor to be there for me when I went into labor, so i ended up agreeing to the induction. When I got to the hospital, I was dilated to 1cm and 50% effaced, they immediately started me on pictocin. After about 12 hours, I had only progressed to 2cm and my doctor said he wanted to break my water to move things along, and I agreed. The combination of recieving pictocin and having my water broken gave me very painful contractions that my body wasnt ready for, so the doctor offered me an epidural, which I accepted. 24 hours after arriving at the hospital, I still had not progressed past 2cm and my baby hadnt even dropped, so my doctor informed me that since he had broken my water and my labor wasnt progressing, he would have to do a c section. I was, and still am devistated. That was NOT how my birth was supposed to go. If I had done some research I would have known what I was getting into when I agreed to be induced, and I would have known that getting an epidural before 4cm could stop labor, and I would have never allowed my doctor to break my water without a true medical reason. I screwed up amd so did the doctors. Im hoping for a VBAC next time around and Im lucky enough to have a hospital that allows them in my area. I am educating myself so I can be my own advocate in the delivery room amd I can be prepared to say NO!

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Shawna Gibson February 18, 2014 at 10:02 pm

Thank you for putting into words what I have felt since the birth of my first child. I was so enamored with my baby that I didn’t acknowledge how I wished things had went and made similar mistakes with baby #2. Luckily with my last pregnancy I found a supportive midwife and was able to deliver my son on my own terms. I’m holding my 9lb 4 oz all natural VBAC baby right now and couldn’t be happier.

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Anna February 21, 2014 at 5:25 am

I’m so grateful for this post!
I still cry when I just think about my birth story…
I feel cheated,dissapointed,traumatized…
I was in labour for 2 long days! The nurses said that I was in labour,The baby was coming! But the doctor said that the contractions are too irregular and not strong enough,so those were possibly hust braxton-hicks coctractions…
After one and a half day (in hospital) I cried that I want my husband and mom beside me but they toldnme that I was not in labour,I should go to my room. I was totally alone in my room,I tried to be as positive as I could,I sang favourite songs,I tried to do some yoga…but it was ridiculous that I was literally alone. And I felt my baby,who tried to go lower and lower. I knew that something was wrong. But this was my first pregnancy,I did not know anything about being in labour…
After two days,in the early morning,I webt to the delivery room and I said that they should do something,I was so-so tired,lonely,frightened…
They said that okay,come in,we’re gonna give you an enema. And they did. During that I had several contractions,I thought I would die. I screamed. After that I was bagging that I wan’t my family,they told me that I should walk to my room for my phone and call them. And I did. Even if I was so tired,devestated. When I returnes to the delivery room,the doctor said that they would give me pitocin and they’d brake my water…I said,okay,I trust you. But at that point I asked for epidural. I didn’t want that in my wholw pregnancy but I was so tired an I thought that I want to push my baby out,so maybe the epidural would give me a small piece of brake untill I have to push..
Then my husband finally arrived. I still smiled,I didn’t want him to be afraid. I was chilled,the epi helped. I felt the contractions but I didn’t feel pain and it was a relief after two days of horrific pain (totally alone..). The nurses were talking to me about pushing,because suddenly I felt that I have to push. But then the doctor (who pushed his hand into me,it was the most paiful thing ever) said that they had to take the baby out immediately,because his heartbeat slowed down and he is too big…
So,at that point,I was shocked. ‘I’m gonna have cesarian…’ My last words to my husbands were: I’m afraid… Poor thing,he worried so much…
And that’s it. My baby was born with c-section. Because he tried to come out for two days,with no supervision…he tried so much,that the cord coiled to his neck,and he was so frightened,that he pooped into water,in the last minute…
They did not show me him after they took him out. I did not hear him crying. They showed me my baby after they dressed him up,but just for a half minute. And after that,the first time I saw him was 7 hours after birth. That’s the protocoll.
Then I had post-partum depression,I had problems with milk supply,I pumped,nursed for two and a half months,to being able to say,now I am exclusively breastfeeding. But in the beginning I had to give him formula…
I felt I was a failure. I couldn’t deliver him,he suffered so much in the hospital. He was infected by the meconium… I hadn’t got enough milk… I did not feel the eternal love..
Nobody understands what I feel. some of my family members say that maybe I am weak and that’s why I think my delivery was so hard.
Now my baby is healthy,happy. But there is not one day without feeling angry,cheated,unhappy about our birth story. I envy every women who had beautiful delivery.
I am happy that my baby is healthy but I feel I have to heal,as my scar does…

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Anna February 21, 2014 at 5:26 am

And sorry for my poor English,I’m hungarian..:)

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Maria April 8, 2014 at 6:43 am

I speak as a child of birth trauma, my mother had a terrible experience when I was born, and that of course reflected on her relationship with me, on how I felt in the world while I was growing up, and had deep impacts on my self esteem, as well as my mother’s. I am 25 now and to this day neither she nor I have really overcome what has happened.
I confess that I’ve resented her most of my life for thinking this was the cause to my social anxiety and complete lack of self-love, and all the abusive relationships I’ve had as a result.

Reading your post has hit me in a way that years of therapy haven’t. I realize now it simply wasn’t her fault and she suffered as much as I did, maybe even more.

I am deeply grateful to you for sharing your painful experience. I hope you will find the peace you need, as I have now.

Love,
Maria

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