Mama Truths: Traumatic Birth – What Does it Look Like?

My name is Fi and I had a traumatic birth experience.

On the face of it I had a perfect home birth. I had prepared with a Daisy Birthing course and Couples Workshop.  I had read every research article, blog, opinion piece and watched all the positive birth videos my heart could handle!

I wrote affirmations and my birth plan with pride and fierce concern for mine and my baby’s well being. I coached my husband on what to do with the pool, interventions and such like.

My community midwife whom I had seen for every single antenatal appointment was on holiday when I went into labour……

“I can’t find a heartbeat”

I just didn’t want to be fussed or touched.  I had agreed to allow one heart rate monitor to be done when the midwife arrived and then I just wanted to get on with it.  It was so quick, 3 hours all in really.  Twinkly lights, soft music, my mum rubbing my back, my husband tending the pool and my emotional needs.  The baby was low, I was pushing, he was moving.  I was convinced he wouldn’t fit and we all had a laugh!  Then the midwife tried to get a heart beat.  My husband asked her not to.  Then he left the room.  She did it anyway.

I can’t find a heart beat

All those things I said before, aren’t really memories I don’t think.  I recorded the birth for posterity. I watched it back and I think I now recall the images from the video, if that makes sense.  But those words, the words the midwife spoke when she tried to find my baby’s heart beat and couldn’t, are seared into my memory like fire.  I ‘woke’ from my labouring state, that deep and wondrous birthing state that allows women to flow with the sensations and bring their babies earthside.  I woke and I heard her say,

I can’t find a heart beat.”

I honestly thought there and then that my baby had died and I was stricken.  This is seared into my memory and I replay it so often.

This is a traumatic birth and resulting birth trauma.

No one person can say how you will feel about what happens to you during your labour.

No one can look in from the outside and tell you that you should be feeling grateful for a healthy baby and ignore your emotions about how your baby was born.

Traumatic birth does not have to be an emergency or flashing blue lights or life or death.

Plan A, B and C

This Daisy mum’s story shows the importance of planning for every eventuality:

“I really, really wanted to avoid any medical intervention, mainly because the thought of epidurals, forceps or a c-section made me feel sick with fear!  A friend of mine, who had a wonderful birth experience (my ideal!) recommended Daisy to me as she had found it really helpful”

Having strong feelings about the type of birth you want is normal and natural, despite what people may try to persude you otherwise!  But it’s so important to think about what might happen.

“I was offered an epidural to help me cope.  This was something I was adamant I hadn’t wanted and I found myself almost immediately accepting once I understood that these tests would be taking place every hour and I was still only 5cms dilated.  My husband was so sweet in double checking with me that this was really what I wanted as I had made him promise to do so, even if I said I wanted one, as I really didn’t want to go down that route!  I remember explaining to him that all of my tools had been taken from me”

When things take a route you neither wanted nor hoped for it can be hard to carry on as your options are slowly taken away.  This mama had a great support team around her.

I remember saying that my birth plan must have seemed very naïve and silly, but they reassured me that it had actually been very realistic; I had laid out my plan A, B and even C (which is the one I ended up having!) and had always said they were only to be followed where possible and safe for my baby and me. I still find it funny that out of my whole birth plan, it was actually only a few lines that ended up being the most important and useful to the medical team.”

It’s never silly to plan, this team found the words regarding plan C helpful and it proved so useful to this mama’s experience.

Despite it being my worst-case scenario my actual caesarean was a very positive experience and is filled with very happy memories for me”

But emotions are real and birth grief is real, even with positive memories to cherish:

“I was also really disappointed with myself as I felt like I had not handled the pain well at all and had taken the easy option by accepting the epidural so early on. I also felt that I hadn’t given birth “properly” as I had ended up with a caesarean. On top of this I felt sad and angry that I had been denied the gentle and natural birth that I had so wanted”

Healing and Moving On from Traumatic Birth

It is possible to heal from traumatic birth. Surround yourself with people who will listen and respect what you are saying.  Seek help from online communities and tell your GP or Health Visitor.  Access the perinatal mental health team in your area.

If you can then therapies such a counselling, EMDR and hypnotherapy can help too.  Perhaps you might want to explore the idea of a rebirthing ceremony to help build new and better memories of when you first met your baby.

But above all, please know that you are not alone.

Love Fi x