There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
Have you told your birth stories to others? The real stories, not the watered down, made for TV versions? There can be so much healing and growth in sharing our birth stories with one another. Sharing your stories can also help you change the original narrative around the birth if it was negative into something more positive and helpful to you and your family.
I realized after the birth of my second child, a birth that in a lot of ways was an “easy” birth (minus the need for Pitocin because of an early induction scheduled by my doctor), that my first birth was quite traumatic in a lot of ways; from the baby getting stuck in the birth canal, to the use of a vacuum that didn’t work in pulling baby out (and left her with a jelly like wound on her head for days to come), to a huge number of hospital staff entering the room all of a sudden and with no explanation, to needing a quite severe episiotomy to finally get said baby out (a wound that took months on end to finally heal). Our baby was healthy, but in a lot of ways after her birth, I was not so healthy.
Sometimes we need another birth experience of our own, or to hear another person’s birth story, to help us understand and name what we actually experienced. It took me a while to name my first birth experience traumatic, and took me even longer to allow myself time and space to grieve the loss of the birth I had wanted and expected to have with my first baby. This has nothing to do with having healthy babies, and everything to do with something feeling scary during the actual birth, and that this anxiety continues to play out and be processed in your mind after the birth is over.
It’s also important to realize that traumatic births do happen, and they may even happen more often that we realize, as this isn’t a topic often discussed with others. This being said, you get to define if the birthing experience your had felt traumatic or not, and how severe you feel the trauma was, a Big T Trauma or a little t trauma, or often somewhere in between the two.
Birth trauma can present with very similar symptoms to PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), but with less severity overall.
Here are some symptoms of birth trauma to be on the look out for:
- A heighted level of distress during or after giving birth
- Re-experiencing the traumatic birth in your mind
- Nightmares/trouble sleeping/disrupted sleep
- Intrusive thoughts
- Avoiding anything related to the birth trauma
- Feelings of guilt about what happened
- Hypervigilance to the world around you
- Heighted worry about your baby’s safety
- 10.Blaming yourself for the birth trauma
- 11.Depressed mood
- 12.Not having clear memories about what happened surrounding the birth trauma
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, please reach out to a doctor or therapist in your area so you can start to heal and to feel back to yourself again.
Are you grieving any part of your birth experience? Often our expectations and reality don’t match up, so our experiences can be very different from the hopes and dreams put on your ideal birth plan. You are allowed to feel sad about not having the birth you wanted, while also feeling happy about your new baby and this special time in your lives. You can hold these two seemingly opposite emotions at the same time.
What you may be grieving from your birth experience:
- Not having your doctor or midwife of choice deliver your baby
- Needing a C-section when you planned on delivering naturally
- Having an unexpected medical issue arise
- Having to be knocked out with medication because your distress level was high during delivery
- Not feeling informed/heard by your doctor, midwife or other staff members
- Not having your needs taken into consideration
- Not feeling cared for by the doctor, midwife or other staff
- Not delivering in your chosen location- the hospital, a birthing center, at home
- Having a traumatic delivery
- 10.Having a baby that needed to stay in the NICU
- 11.Delivering your baby earlier or later than your due date
- 12.Having heightened anxiety about the birth itself, pain, needle phobia, etc.
- 13.Not having the birth you planned for, be it natural, with an epidural, or a scheduled C-section
- 14.Wishing your had chosen a different doctor or midwife
- 15.Wishing you had used a doula and/or hired a birth photographer, or had used someone else entirely for these services, if at all
- 16.Wishing you had had more of a support system with you at the hospital, or had more/less hospital visitors
- 17.Added stress around the time of year of the delivery- was it hard to get to the hospital/birthing center because of the weather that time of year?
Would you add anything to this list?
Healing from birth isn’t just a physical endeavor. It’s a mental and emotional one too. Sharing your birth story, even one that involves birth trauma, can be very healing to you and others. It can help you to feel less alone as you grieve the loss of the birth you wanted, as you move towards fully embracing the birth you actually experienced.