Never being part of the natural ‘birth’ club: Cesareans, Birth Trauma and PTSD

Let’s get a few things out of the way first, before we get going. We are grateful.
Grateful we have a son. I am grateful I was able to conceive, I am grateful we had a healthy baby. I am grateful that my son and I lived to tell the tale of my first birth ‘experience’. I am grateful I am now in the position to have another child. We are beyond lucky, grateful. And a baby is a baby is a baby.

An ‘in the nutshell’ look at my first birth experience: Forty Two weeks, Induced, Three days of waiting & labour, severe sickness, diamorphine, epidural, three shift changes of midwife, 10cm, two hours straight of pushing, epidural runs out, baby turns back to back, absolute agony where I no longer cared if I lived or died, theatre, forceps, failed forceps and emergency cesarean.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 13.56.03

Photo Credit: birthphotographers.com Facebook Page
2015 Image of the Year by Nichole Hanna Photography.
Link provided

After an emergency cesarean, during your next pregnancy, you are asked how you feel about your next birth. The midwives will discuss with you the various implications, risks, elements of opting for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth after cesarean) and a planned cesarean.

I have been quite adamant that I would not go through what happened to me the first time again. Almost aggressive in my stance on this (particularly hard for me as I find it hard to say what I want and find it hard to say no / big people pleaser complex). I ‘feel’ that they (the hospital/ nurses/ midwives) do not want you to have a planned cesarean. This may not be the case … but it’s just the vibe I get. So I am pleased I have stuck to my guns and all my notes read “wants a planned cesarean“.

So why is it that I can barely get through a sentence about this without breaking down in tears about the subject?

Because what if my choice is the wrong choice?

What if I am closing myself off from the possibility of experiencing giving birth?

It’s almost too ridiculous to type (none of my friends, who have been through natural labour have said “Steph! You simply MUST experience it!) but there’s a part of me that feels like I will never be part of the club. I missed out on giving birth – the way we are designed to give birth.

Ridiculous – yes. I know.

My emergency cesarean was not a nice experience, it affected my partner badly too, and I feel it severely damaged my ‘bond’ with my son. He wasn’t handed to me for what seemed like an age. He was over in the corner. I couldn’t see him. I didn’t hold him. My partner walked over and showed him to me briefly before he was taken off to be weighed and I think put in a blanket (I can’t even remember).

My plan was a water birth.

I see photos, these beautiful photos of babies being held straight away by the relieved and ecstatic mother in the pools or in the bed – and I can’t help but envy that. I want to feel that bond.

After talking about my first birth experience in tears repeatedly to my midwife – she mentioned Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and The Birth Trauma Association.

We were so relieved to have our child and to be alive – it never occurred to me that I was in any way scarred by my experience – other than the psychical scar at the bottom of my stomach.

But I’m scared. And that’s the truth of it. Scared of making my decision – and scared of the decision in itself.

Will I always regret not giving myself the chance to experience it? Will I never feel as though I am in the club?

“The most important factor is getting your baby safely in your arms, it doesn’t make you any less of a woman.” The amazing words of my beautiful best friend.

After the comments made about IVF last week and thinking about all the ways we now have to bring children into the world I am reminded that – a baby is a baby is a baby.

And in much the same way, a birth is a birth is a birth.

I just need to believe it and to reconcile my decision to myself.

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If you like this post please come and find me at my new blog – http://www.mummyswritingdarling.co.uk

and my Facebook page – Mummy’s Writing, Darling

Twitter – @sivitersteph

 

 

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12 thoughts on “Never being part of the natural ‘birth’ club: Cesareans, Birth Trauma and PTSD

  1. I understand how you feel. I had an emergency c-section (the hospital called it a civil war c-section because it only included local anesthesia due to some horrible emergency circumstances) with my oldest son. The process of labor almost killed him and the emergency c-section almost killed me. I didn’t see him for hours after he was born whole I dealt with shock, siezures, low blood pressure, & blood transfusions. So when his little brother came around I choose a planned c-section. Everything went perfect the second time around. I often felt guilty about not having the child birth experience and have even heard some crappy comments (mostly from my in laws) about not having natural birth or being a “real woman” but what made it easier for me is that my boys (who are 5 & 10) now love the fact that they came out Mommy’s tummy & not her yucky vagina. It’s so silly but it makes them feel special that they didn’t come out of a ladies private parts. Which I guess probably sounds gross to young boys. Also my husband tells me horror stories about things that happened to his friends wives vaginas after vaginal birth that killed their sex lives. Since I never gad vaginal birth I don’t have any of those issues. So instead of allowing yourself to question your decision and feel bad think positive. That little scar on your tummy will be a badge of honor for you and your children. They can point at it and say “We came from there” & most kids don’t get to do that (unless their moms are into indecent exposure). Also your vagina gets to stay a purely sexual organ (which your husband will appreciate and according to my husband his friends will envy). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment. What an insensitive thing to say to you about not being a real woman. I also hate people assuming you’ve had the “easy” option – but we both know it’s not in any way easy. I’m happy you’ve been able to get past it and feel proud. And the fact your sons love it is adorable.

      Like

  2. Hi Stephanie,

    It really does sound like you had a distressing and challenging first birth and I’m glad that you’re finding a way to reflect on it, and come to turns with the emotional scar that it left you with. This wound will eventually heal although the scar will probably still ache from time to time. It’s a big thing you’ve gone through. And to dismiss your experience with a casual ‘but your baby is healthy’ doesn’t seem right to me! (Although no doubt it is said from a place of well-meaning from a friend who doesn’t like to see you hurting.) BUT your feelings are important too. Your emotional wounds matter. De-briefing with a counsellor could be a really good thing to do (or maybe at a trusted ante-natal group? Possibly a Positive Birth Movement meeting?) and this counselling could well help to heal your wounds and leave you feeling more confident for your next birth.

    I’m glad that you’re thinking carefully about what you’d like to happen next. You seem to have doubts about what you want… The fact that you’re crying when you think about your decision seems telling. I think it’s interesting too that you say you’re a people pleaser, because that means it can be very difficult to assert for your own rights in a medical environment. It often means that your own choice gets ignored/overlooked, which often means that interventions upon interventions get piled on.

    As a counter to the above comment I’d like to add that my children are quite happy to have been born through my vagina. I’m glad to be able to explain in a matter-of-fact way that this is where they came through and I don’t like to attach any shame to this area of my body. After all, my daughter may well give birth one day, and my son may well be watching/helping his wife/partner give birth one day and I don’t want them to feel that the vagina is a shameful organ, only for sex. It is a remarkable piece of the body, just like the womb, just like ovaries, just like eyes, just like the brain, just like breasts (which are not purely sexual organs either, but in fact wonderful organs that are designed to make milk!).

    And no doubt there are “horror stories” from women who have experienced trauma to their vagina, perineum or clitoris during vaginal birth which means that their sexual experience is either different or impaired later on (although sometimes these things can be put right) and yet for each one of these “horror stories” there is a positive story too. Where sexual pleasure is as it was before birth, or even better. I think it’s important to remember that all women are very different and to make generalizations is not useful, again it silences the individual woman’s experience.

    You may well find this article useful (it was written by the prose category judge of the Mother’s Milk Books Writing Prize):
    http://www.bestdaily.co.uk/your-life/news/a573059/a-healthy-baby-is-not-all-that-matters.html

    Wishing you all the best – I hope that you find peace with your first birth experience and get the birth you truly 100% want second-time round.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Stephanie,

    It really does sound like you had a distressing and challenging first birth and I’m glad that you’re finding a way to reflect on it, and come to turns with the emotional scar that it left you with. This wound will eventually heal although the scar will probably still ache from time to time. It’s a big thing you’ve gone through. And to dismiss your experience with a casual ‘but your baby is healthy’ doesn’t seem right to me! (Although no doubt it is said from a place of well-meaning from a friend who doesn’t like to see you hurting.) BUT your feelings are important too. Your emotional wounds matter. De-briefing with a counsellor could be a really good thing to do (or maybe at a trusted ante-natal group? Possibly a Positive Birth Movement meeting?) and this counselling could well help to heal your wounds and leave you feeling more confident for your next birth.

    I’m glad that you’re thinking carefully about what you’d like to happen next. You seem to have doubts about what you want… The fact that you’re crying when you think about your decision seems telling. I think it’s interesting too that you say you’re a people pleaser, because that means it can be very difficult to assert for your own rights in a medical environment. It often means that your own choice gets ignored/overlooked, which often means that interventions upon interventions get piled on.

    As a counter to the above comment I’d like to add that my children are quite happy to have been born through my vagina. I’m glad to be able to explain in a matter-of-fact way that this is where they came through and I don’t like to attach any shame to this area of my body. After all, my daughter may well give birth one day, and my son may well be watching/helping his wife/partner give birth one day and I don’t want them to feel that the vagina is a shameful organ, only for sex. It is a remarkable piece of the body, just like the womb, just like ovaries, just like eyes, just like the brain, just like breasts (which are not purely sexual organs either, but in fact wonderful organs that are designed to make milk!).

    And no doubt there are “horror stories” from women who have experienced trauma to their vagina, perineum or clitoris during vaginal birth which means that their sexual experience is either different or impaired later on (although sometimes these things can be put right) and yet for each one of these “horror stories” there is a positive story too. Where sexual pleasure is as it was before birth, or even better. I think it’s important to remember that all women are very different and to make generalizations is not useful, again it silences the individual woman’s experience.

    You may well find this article useful (it was written by the prose category judge of the Mother’s Milk Books Writing Prize):
    http://www.bestdaily.co.uk/your-life/news/a573059/a-healthy-baby-is-not-all-that-matters.html

    Wishing you all the best – I hope that you find peace with your first birth experience and get the birth you truly 100% want second-time round.

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  4. Your friend is so right in what she says. I had similar feelings towards my first birth, I felt like under no circumstances could I have an epidural because that would mean I ‘cheated’ and would feel inferior compared to other mums who did it naturally. I feel so ridiculous for thinking this now! Like u said, a birth is a birth is a birth. Xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh darling, a beautiful, honest post and it’s inevitable to feel an experience was taken from you, particularly with your first (I experienced the exact same thing) but your friend is right and I totally advocate that too and you know, now post happy c-section with my 2nd I don’t feel I’ve missed anything because I had the happy, calm, healthy elective, I wish I’d had with my first. I also had some counselling after my crash section which really helped me, to chat to someone who understood and gave me an emotional first aid kit if you like so I could go on and conceive in confidence that if I got OC (a liver condition again and needed/wanted a section) it would be OK. Really helped. Having an elective was the best thing for me and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for this article. I had a planned section first time around as my son was breach. I was mortified as we had planned a water birth. I tried everything to get him to turn. Including an ECV which was absurdly painful and bruised me badly, but worst of all, did not make my son budge. Second time around I was totally aggressive about my birth experience. We went to a hypnobirthing therapist and did everything in our power to be ready for a beautiful birth experience. Queue an 84 hour labour, various pain meds in the lead to that and then horrible inexplicable pains when baby started descending into the birth canal. What happened was that my bladder had adhered itself to the inside of my scar tissue from my previous section and as my baby was moving down the birth cana, he was pushing my bladder up, effectively tearing it. Off we go for an emergency section, through which I sobbed uncontrollably apologising to my baby for f&%@ing up again on the oldest of female evolutionary abilities. Reading your article I was in tears again. It’s a month on from my beautiful boys birth and I’m grateful every day that 1) I did at least get to experience contractions and my water breaking 2) that my baby was born healthy 3)that I am here to hold him, uncomfortable, but healthy. And yet…I am ugtey heartbroken that I will never get to be part of the ‘natural birth club’. I am crying as I write this, it’s all still a bit raw I guess,but I feel asif I am mourning the loss of a part of myself that I will never meet, an experience shared with my son that I will never have and perhaps a check-box that I will never have lived up to. While I work through it and process,I am grateful to read this kind of article that makes me feel part of another club and there is relief in shared experience. So thank you.x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Nadia – thanks so much for your comment. I understand your feelings. I wrote this months ago and am now happy to report i had my second son three weeks ago – via planned c section. As it is our last baby i know i’ll never be part of this club now but as you say – im part of another club. Through talking things through with my midwife and a specialist support MW I have really made peace with my two births. The thing that made me really see things in a new light was when my midwife told me it wasnt my fault. And it isn’t your fault either – it really isn’t. It doesnt make us any less of a woman or indeed a mother. I am so happy to have my babies and i am proud of how they came into the world now – be easy on yourself and congratulations x

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  7. I can relate to a lot of what you have written here Steph. I was induced at 37 weeks due to a pregnancy related liver condition (cholestasis) and went through 16 hours of labour, two epidurals, three midwives, failed forceps, a suction cap that fell off (still makes me shudder) and eventually am emergency c-section. I also felt like it affected my bond with my son as he was whisked away and the recovery process meant that I was pretty useless for a week or so afterwards too.

    I totally get the inferiority it leaves you with. I hate this shitty attitude about it being the easy option…it was far from easy! But I genuinely believe that as long as you and your baby make it through safe and well it really doesn’t matter how they get here. If I ever have another baby, I would give a lot of consideration to a planned section given the risks of VBAC. I honestly couldn’t care less about how others view it.

    If I’m being totally honest I guess I still wonder what a natural birth would be if I’ve somehow missed out. But in the grand scheme of things it’s not important. What is important is what kind of mother you are to them when they’re on the outside and you seem to be an excellent one! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks ever so much. This is an old post I accidentally re posted but did feel that way at the time. I had an elective c section in July to bring last born into our lives and it was the BEST decision I ever made. I think I’m over the feeling of inferiority now but I’ll always remember that having a c section isn’t the easy option it’s portrayed as. Thanks for your kind words X

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  8. Pingback: Tiny New Toes: Antenatal Depression - Mummy's Writing, Darling

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