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┬áto 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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Do not feel any pressure to have an erotic labour

When I was twelve, at the puberty milestone (a stage of growing up, not the local pub) a lady came to our school to talk to us all about tampons.

I can’t remember the speech she gave and as a lady in her thirties now I’m wondering how she stretched it out into a speech but I do remember the boxes of free tampons she handed out.

I couldn’t hold mine as I had all my fingers in my ears, loudly humming the tune to Grange Hill. But I do remember seeing one and being absolutely petrified.

As the lady told us calmly about how to use them I gave her a suspicious stare and told myself there aint no way in Hell anything like that was being inserted anywhere near me. Was she crazy? I felt much the same way when we went on to learn about penises the year after.

So you can imagine how I felt when someone told me where babies come from.

Last week I sat down to watch a lady on ‘This Morning’ talk about how she had an orgasmic erotic labour.

I thought I would hate her. Not my type of woman, I thought. But I didn’t hate her. I listened with interest, munching on my popcorn as Philip Schofield carefully danced around the intimate details of a lady having an orgasm during an erotic labour as though he was casually asking about the new series of Home Fires.

She seemed nice – and it’s lovely that she had such a lovely experience. Good for her.

At the end of the interview Phil asked if every woman had the potential to orgasm during labour (I’m paraphrasing) and the lady remarked on how there was a culture of deep imbedded fear around giving birth – which was the problem.

I’ve heard similar things before – that it’s what our bodies are designed to do, that we should breathe the baby out, that it’s oh so natural – you just need to be calm and at one with yourself.

Why am I writing this? Do I have a point? Well, I just wanted to say to anyone out there who may give birth in the future –

please don’t beat yourself up if you’re not the type of person who can achieve orgasm through giving birth.

Please don’t feel any pressure to make your labour erotic. Some people just aren’t that type of person – and that’s really ok.

I was terrified when I was induced. I was not the type of person to do hypno-birthing (more like hippo birthing in my case).┬áStill now I would rather watch the human centipede part two rather than watch a lady give birth. But I got through it – twice.

There wasn’t a single stage that could have become arousing. I was under fluorescent lights, projectile vomiting, swearing at my partner to get me a bastard epidural in between listening to ‘I’m every woman’ on my iPod. To be honest I find it hard to ‘get in the mood’ under normal conditions, even imagining Michael Buble’s new Christmas album sometimes leaves me cold. It wasn’t sexy – it never was going to be – for me.

I’m not that type of woman. And if you’re not it’s ok.

There’s enough pressure nowadays for us to have a natural birth, to enjoy it, to treasure it, to do it drug free …

I don’t want anyone to feel added pressure to take in an Ann Summers goodie bag and a Barry White CD.

If you can do your labour, as she did, at home, in the dark, with her partner, all mermaid like – I genuinely applaud you – if you just aren’t built that way – I applaud you too.