Reflecting on birth trauma

birth trauma

Our first daughter was born in 2006. It was a planned pregnancy, and we were over the moon when we discovered we were expecting a little girl. We planned a water birth at the local midwife led unit, and spent hours decorating the nursery, choosing a pushchair and buying little outfits. 

But of course, things don’t always go to plan. 

My due date came and went. There were concerns about the growth of the baby, as I measured large for dates. I was booked for an induction, which would mean no birthing centre. Luckily, I went into labour the night before my induction date, and we headed to the unit as planned. I was examined and monitored, and they discovered my baby’s head was too high. I wasn’t allowed to go in the pool. There were concerns about the possibility of a cord prolapse, where the cord delivers before the baby. This can be life threatening. 

The decision was made to transfer me to the consultant unit by ambulance. 

On arrival, there were concerns about the baby’s heart rate. It was dipping. They needed the baby out. 

They tried a ventouse delivery, where a suction cap is attached to the head. After 2 contractions, the cap peeled off of the head. Forceps were trialled, and she was almost here…..when they lost the fetal heart rate.

I was given a general anaesthetic on the spot, and my baby was delivered by crash C section. 

I wasn’t awake when she was born. Kevin wasn’t allowed into theatre. 

She was taken to special care. My poor little daughter, needing resuscitation and support. 

It wasn’t supposed to be like that.

Our story ends well. Our baby came home with us after a few days, and she is now a happy and healthy 11 year old. But things could have been so different, and that had a massive effect on me. 

I suffered hugely with postnatal depression. I struggled to bond with my baby girl – my mind wouldn’t let me. In my mind, the last thing I heard was that they had lost her heartbeat. I convinced myself she wasn’t going to make it. So how could this pink, snuffling baby in my arms belong to me?

I suffered with guilt. SO much guilt. Guilt about how I couldn’t birth her naturally. Guilt about her needing resuscitation and special care. I felt like it was all my fault. If only I had done things differently, then she would have been in a better condition. 

I suffered with the flashbacks, and the nightmares. I would wake screaming and sobbing in the night, convinced she was gone. I had constant flashbacks of moments during my labour – the ambulance, the hushed talk of cord prolapse, the heart rate slowing, the rush of consultants and anaesthetists around me. The poor, tiny baby in a plastic incubator, covered in wires and machines. 

Birth trauma is a very real problem.

11 years on I am not ‘over it’. I know how lucky I am to have a healthy baby, but a healthy baby isn’t all that matters

There are so many causes of birth trauma, and it doesn’t have to stem from a traumatic delivery like mine. It can be all manner of things that trigger that fear and horror. It can be as simple as feeling like you have lost control of what is happening to you. It can come from a member of staff that made you feel uncomfortable or as if you were an inconvenience. It can come from an infant loss, a late miscarriage or a stillbirth. It can come from a horrific birth injury, or from a situation that left you needing the services of clinical negligence solicitors.

There is no right or wrong. Birth trauma doesn’t discriminate. 

It can be such a hard one to deal with. Many new mums don’t speak up. They are so often told to ‘get over it’ or told that ‘lots of people have bad births’. We are made to feel guilty for thinking about anything other than a healthy baby. Yes, that’s the most important thing, but it’s NOT the only thing that matters. 

You matter too. 

If you, or anyone you know has been affected by birth trauma, then please – speak out. It IS OK to say you aren’t coping. It is OK to say that you aren’t ‘over it’ 10, 15, 20 years down the line. It stays with you, and it’s always there. And it’s OK to ask for help. 

The Birth Trauma Trust aims to:

  1. Raise awareness of birth trauma and its impact on families
  2. Raise awareness of the importance of kind, compassionate and respectful care
  3. Improve perinatal mental health support following birth trauma
  4. Support families to make evidence informed choices 
  5. Reduce Birth Trauma by improving maternity care

They are a fantastic resource, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. Please don’t suffer in silence. Speak out. You matter, your experience matters. Birth Trauma is very real – I know. I have been there, and although I am not ‘over it’ yet, I feel better able to manage it, thanks to counselling and support from some wonderful healthcare professionals and from other parents who have been there. 

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