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.

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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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2 Replies to “Never being part of the natural ‘birth’ club: Cesareans, Birth Trauma and PTSD”

  1. You HAVE given birth ‘properly’ because you gave birth to a baby regardless of which way they exited. Once you’ve carried a baby for 9 months, their exit plan is just that a means to an end. The end result is the gorgeous newborn baby and all those amazing newborn cuddles, don’t ever feel like you did it the ‘wrong’ way or that it wasn’t perfect 🙂 Both of mine were born vaginally and I have to say it hurts like hell, just as I know a c section is painful afterwards and takes longer to recover. No way is better or worse than the other, so long as we are lucky enough to have a child at the end of it in my opinion. Don’t let anyone, including yourself make you feel bad in any way, birth is a scary thing anyway and especially after what you went through.

    Stevie x

  2. Stick with your choice and know at a deep level that you’ve made the absolute right one. I can’t begin to imagine how dreadful your experience was – so glad it ended well.
    I was 17 in 1970, 8st 13lbs at 9 months pregnant. Baby was breech and not showing any signs of turning. In those days, they X-rayed(!) & the presentation showed up clearly. 2 days after my due date I was at the ante-natal clinic. Eminent obstetrician in charge, estimated a 6.5lbs baby. He turned to a nurse colleague (ignoring me lol) & said to admit me in 48 hours & induce if I’d not started labour. I was married but still a kid & certainly not used to speaking up to challenge eminent people doctors or anyone. I knew I had to say something so asked if they’d considered a C-section. He put his head on one side, looked at me & said “If that’s what the lady wants, that’s fine”. He went on to explain some of the features & risks & said that if I did go into labour before, I’d be given a chance to deliver ‘naturally’. What mattered was that I’d spoken up & he’d listened. I was told to come in 2 days later, the C-section would be done the next day. As it happened, my waters broke as I was packing to go to hospital, I was admitted, had many hours of not much labour but nothing at all distressing for either of us, the Cesarean happened that evening & my (very healthy, beautiful 6lbs 9oz daughter) arrived safely.
    You’ve probably worked out by now that, as a Mum, there’s an endless list of things to beat yourself up about: this isn’t one of them.

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