Blog Takeover - Birth Trauma
Birth Trauma by Emma @mothering_it
We welcomed our baby girl into the world over two years ago- it feels like yesterday. She was here, after keeping us on our toes for weeks. My waters went at 30 weeks pregnant. I was hospitalised for most of the remaining weeks. The care in those 4 weeks was so inconsistent, my anxiety was sky high. We knew our baby girl was small and had stopped growing. My consultant was on holiday for three weeks, I was just left because it felt like no one wanted to take responsibility. I had an untreated infection and at 34weeks my labour couldn’t be stopped and baby was in danger staying put.
At this point I’d already had 2 babies, this was my third. My first two pregnancies and births weren’t as I’d imagined either.
With Eliza by the time it came for me to be induced- I was already in slow labour but not progressing quick enough. I was so ready, but it felt bittersweet because we knew when she was born she would need help.
It wasn’t the birth experience I had hoped for, far from it and still two years and another baby later, I look back with so many mixed emotions.
Before I talk about Eliza’s birth I want to say to any first-time mums that birth can be the most amazing, beautiful, peaceful and empowering experience. Even if it doesn’t go to plan or there are complications it still is the most amazing thing to bring a person into the world.
I also want to say that I am so grateful that I have my baby now a toddler and that regardless of whether it was the birth I’d hoped for, the start to her life and all of us as a family I do know how lucky I am, I really do.
Our dates weren’t particularly accurate and Eliza was measuring small we think perhaps now looking back that actually she was earlier than 34 weeks which would explain why she needed so much help once she was born.
The day of her birth I was already in hospital, in slow labour. I’d seen my two eldest daughters who were missing me- the time away from them felt like a life time. It added to the stress, but I knew I had to be in a safe place to bring their sister into the world.
I couldn’t quite believe that the next time I would see them I would be a mum of three.
I was being assessed four hourly because of the infection, my waters were already trickling.
The midwife explained that when a delivery room became available we’d be moved over, I’d be put on a hormonal drip to induce my labour. Not what I wanted at all. But my hopes of a non invasive delivery were already out of the window. This unfortunately was the first part of feeling out of control and deflated.
I’d already been prodded and poked more than in any of my other pregnancies in those four weeks.
We waited all day until about 6pm with my contractions coming on stronger- I started to think we’d been forgotten about.
We passed the time by watching tv, went for a walk and then bounced on the ball. This was not how I wanted to labour; in a hospital ward with someone else the other side of thin curtain with bright lights, and alarms going off every 2 seconds, knowing I wouldn’t be able to hold my baby straight away.
I had a huge range of emotions flooding in. I felt so let down by my body but was also excited at the thought of meeting my baby in the next hours.
We were moved over to a delivery room.
We saw a consultant who explained that they would put me on the hormone drip for 4 hours and hopefully things would start to progress, the baby had to be monitored very closely due to her being small and premature. I was given antibiotics because of the infection.
I felt stuck like I couldn’t move around.
Those four hours went by and I didn’t feel any change. I knew my body wasn’t favouring- again I felt like I was failing.
As the evening went on the consultant came back in concerned that I still wasn’t progressing even with the strongest amount of hormones being pumped into me.
I asked for them to break the rest of my waters as I just knew this would work it did with my other two babies. The consultant wanted to leave it a bit longer or perhaps maybe just take me for a c-section. At this point I felt like I wasn’t even in the room whilst I was discussed- I felt like my body was failing to not only grow and keep my baby safe, but failing to deliver too.
And I guess this is where things started to go off course, the beginning of a downward spiral of feeling lost, scared and totally out of control.
I was tired I’d been in slow labour for weeks and weeks. Exhausted at not knowing.
The midwife examined me to see if she could break my waters if needed and told me I was still only 2cm dilated.
I felt so disheartened, like my body was doing the wrong thing and I became pretty confused as to what exactly was going on.
A few hours had passed it must’ve been nearly 11:30pm when the midwife came back in to check on us and to say that because baby has remained stable she would try to break my waters. She was very reassuring and for the next period of time stayed with us- I felt supported and cared for for the first time in my pregnancy and labour. I will always be thankful for this woman.
It was the first time I’d felt relief and like yes I was in control... she broke my waters and within 15 minutes I went from mild contractions to long, hard contractions. I totally zoned out, I asked to be able to sit on the ball so I could be upright... in my head I thought yes it’s going to be ok, I’m going to do this.
Our midwife was amazing- the best I’ve had out of all my births something I am forever grateful for- I knew that towards the end she had no choice to do what was safest and my care was out of her hands. I will always remember how safe I felt in her care though and it’s something that will stay with me and massively helped me in my recovery after this birth.
After a little while of breathing through the contractions at parts I was laughing it was amazing until I started to feel the need to push... I kept breathing the baby down imagining trying to bring her into the world, happy thoughts... every time I breathed her down and the contraction eased off the pressure released and it felt as if she bounced back up. This went on for a while. The midwife started to look a little agitated and I could tell something wasn’t quite right, she told me she was going to speak to the duty doctor, to stay out and keep doing exactly as I was.
By the time she came back I’d lost my cool, something didn’t feel right, she checked the monitors, nothing was said to me, she pressed the buzzer and straight away the room filled with people, incubator, tubes, doctors, nurses, another few midwives...
Being strapped up to all the monitors meant I had no access to the natural pain relief I wanted to use like the bath or shower I asked for some gas and air.
At this point in time I lost it again.
I was out of control.
To me, birthing a baby with no pain relief is a mental game, it’s about being in-control, not fighting the pain and just flowing with it.
I pleaded to be given some more time and to know what was happening. My midwife just came and squeezed my hand.
I explained to the doctor that I felt lost, out of control, like something wasn’t right with me or the baby, like I couldn’t do this anymore, that I felt scared for my life. Now, looking back we can see I was clearly in the transition phase.
The duty doctor examined me and I had to lie on my left side on the bed. It was not how I wanted to lie, it was uncomfortable and not how my body was screaming at me to birth.
The next twenty minutes are honestly such a blur. I remember bits but not the important ones, like the actual birth of my baby. I remember feeling scared. Again, scared for my baby’s life. Scared for my life. I felt out of control.
I was 8cm dilated and my cervix had thinned out, but the babies head wouldn’t stay down to go to 10cm I found out after it was maybe caused as she was small or because she had a very short umbilical cord.
My baby was distressed, they were concerned. They didn’t tell me I just knew by the looks.
I remember looking at my husband saying I can’t do this, take me away from here. The doctor had his hand holding the babies head in place I was told to not push that I’d need to be take for an emergency c-section or possibly an episiotomy. I started to sob. It felt so wrong I could feel the baby right there I knew I was so close, but I felt so violated, the lights were bright, there were over ten people in this tiny room discussing me and the baby without even saying anything to us.
I needed someone to tell me I was doing ok, that I was safe, that my baby was safe that I could do this, to relax...
It’s honestly like I was somewhere else in that moment. I think now how lucky I am that my babies don’t take a lot of pushing to come out, otherwise I would have been rushed to theatre.
I’d birthed two babies vaginally before I knew I could do this, my body knew it too.
I am so thankful that this was not my first experience giving birth, because somehow, my body just knew what to do, even though in my head I was totally gone. I pushed with everything I had. I surrendered and let my body overpower everything.
I have never felt such intense fear. The doctors hand was still there I knew I’d just gone to 10cm I could feel my body stretching I looked at Andy and I said I’m going to have this baby now and with my contraction I pushed- that one push and Eliza came into the world. The doctor just caught her she cried then was taken I remember that... we have no photos of her being born. All I remember thinking was thank god all these people can stop touching me. I don’t remember much else.
I do remember feeling like I was somewhere else as they then started to work on my baby in the corner of the room. She wasn’t breathing. I couldn’t look.
I hoped from here that a sense of calm would now come. At this point the adrenaline shakes started which is totally normal post birth. I was still lying on my side with my legs spread, I couldn’t move. I felt frozen in complete shock. If I hadn’t of pushed I’d be in theatre now. I delivered the placenta.
I’d had my baby and by this point she wasn’t even in the same room as me.
I am in total shock.
We were totally alone there wasn’t a professional in the room.
The next few hours were spent in the delivery ward as I struggled to keep the shock at bay and my body was left shaking. I couldn’t speak. Five hours later the midwife came back in. We hadn’t seen or heard about our baby I was still in the same position they’d left me in still shaking and cold. So was my husband we were both in shock.
I was told to try to express some colostrum for the baby who was in neonatal and after I’d had a wash I could go and see her.
I don’t know what happened in those hours- neither of us do those hours were totally lost.
As soon as I heard I could go and see her I went into autopilot washed and walked out the room it gave me a purpose.
I spent the weeks after her birth trying to make up for the fact my body had failed her by exclusively pumping to feed her.
In my head it was my fault she was on breathing support in intensive care, that my body didn’t labour smoothly, that I failed.
So, what have I learnt on my journey of trying to heal from this experience?
Birth trauma is real. It is so very real and it takes time to heal. I am over 2 years on and I can only just tell this story without sobbing. I wanted an experience where I felt empowered, where the focus was the happiness of meeting my baby, not the chaos, uncertainty and emergency situation. Time is a healer. I will keep hoping that I can, one day, find some sort of peace.
I find so much joy knowing that my girl is here, healthy now and although the birth which wasn’t just the hours in the delivery room it was the weeks before leading up in slow labour passed from pillar to post fuelled by anxiety and the postpartum where we spent a month in hospital with glass between us I know that I would do anything to have her here and I will one day come to terms with it because right now we are ok, we made it through it all.