What If You Were Traumatised By Your Birth Experience?

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 For some reason unknown even to me right now, I have been unconsciously listening and reading birth stories of women of different ages, and my mind has come to the conclusion that your birth experience when you are younger is infinitely more fear-inducing than when you are older.

In my own case, as a primigravida in her early 20s, I was so terrified of going through labour, my fear was not helped by the horror stories I heard, nor did the admonition not to scream when the pain hit help me at all. I was not looking forward to giving birth. It was a dreaded experience. I still recall most of what happened that day and I’m awe of myself at the fact that I did not scream the whole hospital down. So, when I screamed the second time around, honestly, it was not because I was in more pain, if anything, the pain was less, I was doing double duty and eye service…DH was close by, unlike the last time.  How else would he know it’s not easy giving birth?

To prove my theory, two women went through the same experience, one is the daughter-in-law of the one of the numerous grandmas on my street, she was a young girl, say in her early 20s, back then. She had gone into labour in the middle of the night, was rushed to the hospital, and I only knew in the morning, as she was always sitting outside, with the grandma, while I did my school run with the kids, but that day we didn’t see both women.  When I asked, I was told they had gone to the hospital.

When I asked again, later in the day, I was told, they were still in the hospital and no one broke the news that she had given birth. By my calculation, it was already over 18 hours since she must have been in labour. I was concerned, but thought she was one of those women who had ridiculously long labour.

The next morning was when I got the news that she was in labour, but her labour was not progressing as it should, in fact that the baby’s life was now in danger. They needed to sign off on an emergency C-section, which the Dad-to-be was reluctant about.  He did not sign, it was his mom who signed that the operation should be done, because, as she said, “I don’t want the death of someone’s daughter on my hands.”

In the midst of the happiness that both mom and daughter were safe and healthy, there was a tinge of sadness that it was C-section. You know, I actually thought they were worried about the extra expense of an emergency C-section, until I got to the hospital to visit the new mom, only to meet the young lady feeling very low and lacklustre. It was two days after child birth, yet she hadn’t breast fed her baby, her milk had come not in and she wasn’t even carrying or bonding with the new born.

When I tried to take her mind off the whole scenario, like the urine bag that was attached to her bladder, which she kept trying to push under the bed, her bump that she kept pointing to, she reminded me that “I tried oh”  to have done it twice. I told her that she would forget, like they always say. She told me to forget it, and that she was no longer having any more babies, regardless of whether it’s vaginal or C-section. Everything was too painful jare.

It’s been over two years now, she’s yet to have another baby and every time, I jokingly ask her, she tells me, “I can still remember that pain o, when I forget, we can talk.”

That same experience was what one of my older cousins went through with her last child, which turned out to be another boy ( she was looking for a girl), but you know what, if my cousin has a guarantee that she wil have a girl, should she get pregnant right away, she will be trying all she can to get pregnant, never mind that her DH has says he is done. As she always says, “He can always change his mind.” Which is really code for, she can always change his mind.

Let’s leave their romance. For that last child of hers, she saw heaven, from the pregnancy to the labour to an emergency C-section, it was one bumpy ride all through. That was the first time she was having a C-section, and an emergency one for that matter. At the beginning of the pregnancy, she had thought she was going to have a girl, because every one of her symptoms were pronounced, unlike her past experiences. When the scan said it was a boy, she thought “this must one special boy oh and indeed, he is one special boy”.

When she speaks of her birth experience, she says it matter of factly, not tinged with any sadness or wishes that it had been a different experience. That was just her experience. And that is the way she is with all her birth experiences.

My point is, the older you are as a first time mom, the more capability you have to embrace whatever your birth experience brings, without letting it tinge the rest of you. You just go with the flow. I guess that would be as a result of the maturity that comes with age.  Perhaps, my fellow younger mom might feel differently about childbirth and motherhood, when she is in her 30s, as right now, she is still rocking her 20s.

However, experiencing birth trauma can occur at different ages, and when that happens, there are things you can do to ease the whole journey for you, some of which  are listed below:

  1. Talk about your experience with someone you trust

you-are-not-aloneOften women who suffer a traumatic birth try to avoid having to relive the details of their experience. It can be hard to go over your experience and it’s important to have someone you trust who will listen to you. By speaking about your experience, you might be able to come to a clearer understanding of what happened, why it happened, and increase your chances of being able to move forward.

Talking with your partner, or a sympathetic ear will also go a long way in the healing process. Debriefing your birth experience can help you to release any negative feelings, and see your next birth experience as unique, not another repeat of your traumatic birth experience.

2. Make a complaint

download (1)If you believe your birth trauma was caused by poor maternity care by the staff looking after you, you can make a formal complaint to the hospital or your doctor.  I think, in this instance, there would be many of us making complaints. However, regardless of what is done with your complaints, this can give you a sense of being heard, and possibly bring some closure. Often, women who suffer birth trauma want to ensure other women don’t have to go through the same experience. By making a complaint you can bring inadequate practices to light. Whether something is changed or not is now left for the medical practice.

3. Have a plan for your next birth, and post natal period

birthing-plan.jpg.838x0_q80Often times, I hear pregnant women talk about how they want to give birth; one of my church members who became a new mom during the week, spoke of how she wanted to be able to drive herself to the hospital, and dramatically tell the nurses, “I’m in labour” and soon after push out her baby. That didn’t happen. There was no drama at all, she felt contractions, her hubby took her to the hospital where she stayed for the next three days, and she had an elective c-section.  Shikena! Her plan was thrown out of the window.

You plan but most times, having a baby can make a woman feel out of control, the baby basically determines how it’s coming. However, it doesn’t hurt to have a birth plan, especially after a traumatic birth experience. It can provide a well thought out map of how you would like to birth your baby, so you can make informed decisions each step of the way.

Not just the birth experience, the days and weeks following birth are as important as those leading up to it. Even if you do feel differently after your next birth, coping with a new born and other children can be a challenge and it’s a good idea to plan a post natal month. Consider how you will cope if your birth outcome changes, and organise to have support in place, if needed.

Now, to the brutal truth, you might still do all of these things and experience another birth trauma, which I don’t pray for, but you know what? You can cope better, having been there before.

Godspeed to you mamas!

 

 

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Photo credits:

1. http://www.vancouverbirthtrauma.ca/

2. http://www.hypnoblissbirth.com/

3. http://static1.squarespace.com/

4. http://media.mnn.com/

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