close
SM-Stamp-Join-1
  • Selfish Mother is a growing global community and we'd love you to join in. Our Club is FREE and it takes 1 minute to join! Once you join you'll be able to share posts and events immediately... why not get involved!

  • Your basic information

  • Your account information

View as: GRID LIST

Birth Trauma: How and where to look for help

1
Often, I think of my Mum and my own birth, which took place in the early 80s. After having had a pretty straightforward pregnancy, she ended up in hospital a month before her due date and was induced a week later due to pre-eclampsia. The birth was traumatic in itself as I ended up being delivered in a theatre with the use of forceps (the surgeon literally had a knife in his hand ready to do a C-Section when it was realised that I was too far down the birth canal!). Post-birth Mum suffered a post-partum haemorrhage, in which she lost 4 pints of blood and
SelfishMother.com
2
therefore had to have a blood transfusion. She rather mildly says that this was ‘pretty bad’ and that she felt ‘odd’ for a number of weeks afterwards, also adding that at her 6-week check up with the doctor they commented on just how black and blue she was down below, due to the forceps intervention. Within a year and a half of my birth she suffered two miscarriages, something which she attributes to her body not being ready to support pregnancy again, which for Mum was trauma added upon trauma. When she finally did conceive and carry a child 3.5
SelfishMother.com
3
years later thankfully a very understanding, although terribly named, consultant (Mr Pain!) helped to alleviate her very specific anxieties about birth, as his wife had suffered a very similar birth trauma, this she says made a big difference to her mindset.

Whilst Mum admits that this experience did, of course, traumatise her, she is unbelievably stoical about it all, always pointing out that at least we both survived, which wasn’t the case for the poor mother next to her in the ward who died and her husband went home with a new baby, but without

SelfishMother.com
4
his beloved wife (this woman was younger than her, Mum was 25) this was an immediate reminder that whilst she had most definitely suffered, our family unit was still intact. Also, I know she works hard at her positivity – I’m not saying that this always helps with birth trauma, but for Mum this did and allowed her to heal somewhat, along with exercise and putting her energies into raising me – she was lucky in this respect that she felt able to do these tasks.

Another factor my mother attributes to her healing from birth trauma was the

SelfishMother.com
5
generation before her. The 50s, the original ‘Call the Midwife’ era had seen her mum giving birth to her at home, regardless of the fact that it was a very difficult breach birth and a mother in law, who was chloroformed in her own living room after birth to remove a retained placenta and deal with a haemorrhage. So for Mum, she felt that her experience wasn’t dissimilar to what the women in her family had already endured, which helped her to understand and heal. Both these wonderful women viewed their experiences as the nature of childbirth, so
SelfishMother.com
6
what was the point of worrying about whether it was traumatic? It was, of course, but that was the meaning of labour! They sympathised with my mum most definitely, but the attitude really was that ‘a healthy baby is what is important’, a line which even now in so many situations trips so easily off the tongue. Time helped to heal, along with two subsequent, relatively easy births – in comparison with my birth at least! – which, with the factors listed above meant that my mum healed as best as she could, in fact I would say incredibly well, from
SelfishMother.com
7
her traumatic birth experience.

It is easy to look as these stories almost as historical, the early 80s were more than 30 years ago, the 50s, 30 years on from that, however, what shocks and surprises me now is that so many of these attributes in dealing with birth trauma still exist. The idea of a stiff upper lip, the mantra of ‘a healthy baby is what is important’ and a general desire to dismiss it as being ‘all over and done with now’. Trauma happened back in the 50s and 80s, along with every other era, but now I almost feel as if birthing

SelfishMother.com
8
women are stuck between a rock and a hard place, the rock being the ‘expectation of birth’ and in some cases being mis or under informed about what could lie ahead, and the hard place being that if your experience is traumatic and therefore so far removed from this ideal, that you feel you are solely responsible for the events that unfold. I know that this is certainly true for my case of birth trauma. I wasn’t prepared for what happened to me with my second birth and I certainly didn’t feel like I could cope with the events unfolding, but
SelfishMother.com
9
afterwards the constant re-living of each moment would take my breath away – I could be making lunch, having a shower, walking into town – and the flashbacks almost felt like a physical blow! I felt ‘not me’ and I felt embarrassed and ashamed because other than a very scary hour and a few days in hospital, me and my baby were fine. Compared to my mother’s and grandmothers’ birth stories, my birth trauma surely should have been less shouldn’t it? Why couldn’t I forget it? Why couldn’t I just ‘get over it’? Ridiculous I know, because now
SelfishMother.com
10
I understand why. I was traumatised, I had every right to feel traumatised, my capacity to cope had been stretched beyond belief, it didn’t matter how it compared to other peoples’ experiences of birth trauma – it was my trauma and chasing my own ‘thought tail’ was never going to get me anywhere. This is why trauma should never be dismissed because what matters is how the person in question viewed their birth, not how it seems from the outside, or where it would fit in a pecking order of traumatic births – birth is not a bloody competition,
SelfishMother.com
11
although it certainly feels like that sometimes!

Healing for me didn’t happen overnight, there were many factors that attributed to my healing. The first was attending Birth Afterthoughts, which had it not been for a close friend who had experienced a traumatic, premature birth, I would never have known about, so I owe her a debt of gratitude (or at least a large gin!) Birth Afterthoughts is an NHS supported service where you can go and discuss your birth with a senior midwife and ask any questions you want to know the answer to. In my case I wanted

SelfishMother.com
12
to know why my retained placenta had happened and whether there were any missed signs precluding to an issue with my birth (The answers: Sometimes retained placentas happen – no rhyme or reason – and no, my birth up until that point had been relatively straightforward.) I also needed to know how much blood I had lost (½ to ¾ of a pint, which again the midwife said was an appropriate amount and actually reasonably good for a retained placenta) and how much danger I had been in at the time, as one of the health professionals present at my son’s birth
SelfishMother.com
13
touched my forehead at the end and said to my husband and I, with a puff of her cheeks, ‘Well it was touch and go there!’ Which I had translated as near-death, but the senior midwife assured me that she felt her colleague was merely saying that it looked for a moment as if they had a more severe situation on their hands, when in actual fact my retained placenta and half a pint of blood loss was actually a much better outcome than had been expected. So, the Birth Afterthoughts was a brilliant service to address the medical side of my worries, queries
SelfishMother.com
14
and concerns, but as for the healing of the mind? That took a few varied avenues: 3 free counselling sessions also offered through the NHS and suggested by my midwife immediately after my son’s birth; talking to my friends, a group of wonderfully patient and kind mothers who didn’t mind me going into great detail, where I didn’t feel judged or embarrassed for my experiences, thoughts and feelings and where they too shared the stories of their own traumatic births; helping me to see that I was not alone.

Hypno-therapy was also a game changer for

SelfishMother.com
15
me. I saw a trusted friend who helped me to relive and then re-frame my birth experience, a device which I wasn’t too sure about at first, but now I am a complete convert. The mind is such a powerful tool and when ‘fight, flight or freeze’ mode is evoked it can feel almost impossible to shake, but with the right help, suggestion and encouragement, improvements can be made, this was certainly the case for me.

Finally, the last part of my healing process was giving birth to my third child, which I understand not everyone wants or can do, but my

SelfishMother.com
16
daughter’s birth helped to show me that it was nothing I did, nor nothing I could control which led to my retained placenta and my subsequent birth trauma, because whilst I understood that this had to be true, I didn’t believe it until my placenta had been removed. It shouldn’t have mattered to me, and in some ways I would have been interested to know how I would have coped with a retained placenta a second-time round; hopefully understanding more about myself and the situation would have helped, but this is something I will never know, all I do
SelfishMother.com
17
know is that after all these therapies (for want of a better word!) I came to terms with my birth trauma and now view it as a part of me, rather than something to be ashamed or scared of. I can also now look back on my birth experience as just that, an experience, not necessarily a pleasant one, but I no longer feel any panic when I think about or re-live it. I can even watch ‘One Born Every Minute’ again, something which before my second birth I had always found a pleasurable experience, but afterwards filled me with anxiety-ridden, heart pounding
SelfishMother.com
18
horror, often leaving me in tears, so much so that I had to stop watching for at least 3 or 4 series. Now, much to my husband’s annoyance, I can sit and enjoy (is enjoy the right word?) watching ‘OBEM’! My hubby says endure!!!

If you are suffering from birth trauma, whether it be recent or linked to a birth from a long time ago, there are now so many movements to help you with your recovery, I only wish they were better known, but I believe a change is coming, where birth trauma is not only recognised but accepted, with offerings of help and

SelfishMother.com
19
guidance – I know a change is coming because these wonderful people below exist, so for further information on birth trauma or for someone to talk to whose wealth of knowledge holds far more experience than my own, please see the Instagram links and website addresses below.

I must also point out that I feel very strongly that whilst many women suffer from birth trauma, this doesn’t mean that subsequent births can’t be a positive experience. I am living proof of this, as are many of my friends who I am in the process of interviewing for their

SelfishMother.com
20
birth stories and so within the next few months you will be able to read a range of birth stories that are poles apart from each other in terms of experience yet involve the same mother. To find out about positive birthing and hypnobirthing these followings links are an excellent starting point: @thepositivebirthcompany, which now offers free hypnobirthing videos on their YouTube channel, as well as paid courses and retreats. @positivebirthmovement which can offer support through a local positive birth group and has also published ‘The Positive Birth
SelfishMother.com
21
Book’. Finally, @mumologist and @theyesmumum.

Another avenue for exploration for all mothers, but particularly important if you are vulnerable after a birth trauma, is to embrace ‘self-care’, I am new to this and for me it is been a revelation! Far from being selfish, it actually helps to strengthen yourself and your relationships, as a happy mum equals a happy baby, so it makes sense to put yourself first sometimes, but to also make sure that what you are using your ‘me-time’ on will be something that is truly beneficial for you. I am

SelfishMother.com
22
following these two ladies on Instagram who are a fountain of knowledge for ‘self-care’: @suzyreading (author of ‘The Self-Care Revolution’) and @mothers.wellness.toolkit (author of ‘The Supermum Myth’).

Birth Trauma Links:
Instagram:

@drrebeccamoore
@howtohealabadbirth
@mamasmindmatters
@motherkind.co
@mamas_scrapbook
@whentheboughbreaksdoc
@bryonygordon (author of ’Mad Girl’ and founder of Mental Health Mates)

Websites:

Birth Afterthoughts – specific to each area so please Google for your

SelfishMother.com
23
area

Welcome


http://www.unfoldyourwings.co.uk/

SelfishMother.com
OneBlogEveryMin

By

This blog was originally posted on SelfishMother.com - why not sign up & share what's on your mind, too?

Why not write for Selfish Mother, too? You can sign up for free and post immediately.


We regularly share posts on @SelfishMother Instagram and Facebook :)

- 27 Mar 18

Often, I think of my Mum and my own birth, which took place in the early 80s. After having had a pretty straightforward pregnancy, she ended up in hospital a month before her due date and was induced a week later due to pre-eclampsia. The birth was traumatic in itself as I ended up being delivered in a theatre with the use of forceps (the surgeon literally had a knife in his hand ready to do a C-Section when it was realised that I was too far down the birth canal!). Post-birth Mum suffered a post-partum haemorrhage, in which she lost 4 pints of blood and therefore had to have a blood transfusion. She rather mildly says that this was ‘pretty bad’ and that she felt ‘odd’ for a number of weeks afterwards, also adding that at her 6-week check up with the doctor they commented on just how black and blue she was down below, due to the forceps intervention. Within a year and a half of my birth she suffered two miscarriages, something which she attributes to her body not being ready to support pregnancy again, which for Mum was trauma added upon trauma. When she finally did conceive and carry a child 3.5 years later thankfully a very understanding, although terribly named, consultant (Mr Pain!) helped to alleviate her very specific anxieties about birth, as his wife had suffered a very similar birth trauma, this she says made a big difference to her mindset.

Whilst Mum admits that this experience did, of course, traumatise her, she is unbelievably stoical about it all, always pointing out that at least we both survived, which wasn’t the case for the poor mother next to her in the ward who died and her husband went home with a new baby, but without his beloved wife (this woman was younger than her, Mum was 25) this was an immediate reminder that whilst she had most definitely suffered, our family unit was still intact. Also, I know she works hard at her positivity – I’m not saying that this always helps with birth trauma, but for Mum this did and allowed her to heal somewhat, along with exercise and putting her energies into raising me – she was lucky in this respect that she felt able to do these tasks.

Another factor my mother attributes to her healing from birth trauma was the generation before her. The 50s, the original ‘Call the Midwife’ era had seen her mum giving birth to her at home, regardless of the fact that it was a very difficult breach birth and a mother in law, who was chloroformed in her own living room after birth to remove a retained placenta and deal with a haemorrhage. So for Mum, she felt that her experience wasn’t dissimilar to what the women in her family had already endured, which helped her to understand and heal. Both these wonderful women viewed their experiences as the nature of childbirth, so what was the point of worrying about whether it was traumatic? It was, of course, but that was the meaning of labour! They sympathised with my mum most definitely, but the attitude really was that ‘a healthy baby is what is important’, a line which even now in so many situations trips so easily off the tongue. Time helped to heal, along with two subsequent, relatively easy births – in comparison with my birth at least! – which, with the factors listed above meant that my mum healed as best as she could, in fact I would say incredibly well, from her traumatic birth experience.

It is easy to look as these stories almost as historical, the early 80s were more than 30 years ago, the 50s, 30 years on from that, however, what shocks and surprises me now is that so many of these attributes in dealing with birth trauma still exist. The idea of a stiff upper lip, the mantra of ‘a healthy baby is what is important’ and a general desire to dismiss it as being ‘all over and done with now’. Trauma happened back in the 50s and 80s, along with every other era, but now I almost feel as if birthing women are stuck between a rock and a hard place, the rock being the ‘expectation of birth’ and in some cases being mis or under informed about what could lie ahead, and the hard place being that if your experience is traumatic and therefore so far removed from this ideal, that you feel you are solely responsible for the events that unfold. I know that this is certainly true for my case of birth trauma. I wasn’t prepared for what happened to me with my second birth and I certainly didn’t feel like I could cope with the events unfolding, but afterwards the constant re-living of each moment would take my breath away – I could be making lunch, having a shower, walking into town – and the flashbacks almost felt like a physical blow! I felt ‘not me’ and I felt embarrassed and ashamed because other than a very scary hour and a few days in hospital, me and my baby were fine. Compared to my mother’s and grandmothers’ birth stories, my birth trauma surely should have been less shouldn’t it? Why couldn’t I forget it? Why couldn’t I just ‘get over it’? Ridiculous I know, because now I understand why. I was traumatised, I had every right to feel traumatised, my capacity to cope had been stretched beyond belief, it didn’t matter how it compared to other peoples’ experiences of birth trauma – it was my trauma and chasing my own ‘thought tail’ was never going to get me anywhere. This is why trauma should never be dismissed because what matters is how the person in question viewed their birth, not how it seems from the outside, or where it would fit in a pecking order of traumatic births – birth is not a bloody competition, although it certainly feels like that sometimes!

Healing for me didn’t happen overnight, there were many factors that attributed to my healing. The first was attending Birth Afterthoughts, which had it not been for a close friend who had experienced a traumatic, premature birth, I would never have known about, so I owe her a debt of gratitude (or at least a large gin!) Birth Afterthoughts is an NHS supported service where you can go and discuss your birth with a senior midwife and ask any questions you want to know the answer to. In my case I wanted to know why my retained placenta had happened and whether there were any missed signs precluding to an issue with my birth (The answers: Sometimes retained placentas happen – no rhyme or reason – and no, my birth up until that point had been relatively straightforward.) I also needed to know how much blood I had lost (½ to ¾ of a pint, which again the midwife said was an appropriate amount and actually reasonably good for a retained placenta) and how much danger I had been in at the time, as one of the health professionals present at my son’s birth touched my forehead at the end and said to my husband and I, with a puff of her cheeks, ‘Well it was touch and go there!’ Which I had translated as near-death, but the senior midwife assured me that she felt her colleague was merely saying that it looked for a moment as if they had a more severe situation on their hands, when in actual fact my retained placenta and half a pint of blood loss was actually a much better outcome than had been expected. So, the Birth Afterthoughts was a brilliant service to address the medical side of my worries, queries and concerns, but as for the healing of the mind? That took a few varied avenues: 3 free counselling sessions also offered through the NHS and suggested by my midwife immediately after my son’s birth; talking to my friends, a group of wonderfully patient and kind mothers who didn’t mind me going into great detail, where I didn’t feel judged or embarrassed for my experiences, thoughts and feelings and where they too shared the stories of their own traumatic births; helping me to see that I was not alone.

Hypno-therapy was also a game changer for me. I saw a trusted friend who helped me to relive and then re-frame my birth experience, a device which I wasn’t too sure about at first, but now I am a complete convert. The mind is such a powerful tool and when ‘fight, flight or freeze’ mode is evoked it can feel almost impossible to shake, but with the right help, suggestion and encouragement, improvements can be made, this was certainly the case for me.

Finally, the last part of my healing process was giving birth to my third child, which I understand not everyone wants or can do, but my daughter’s birth helped to show me that it was nothing I did, nor nothing I could control which led to my retained placenta and my subsequent birth trauma, because whilst I understood that this had to be true, I didn’t believe it until my placenta had been removed. It shouldn’t have mattered to me, and in some ways I would have been interested to know how I would have coped with a retained placenta a second-time round; hopefully understanding more about myself and the situation would have helped, but this is something I will never know, all I do know is that after all these therapies (for want of a better word!) I came to terms with my birth trauma and now view it as a part of me, rather than something to be ashamed or scared of. I can also now look back on my birth experience as just that, an experience, not necessarily a pleasant one, but I no longer feel any panic when I think about or re-live it. I can even watch ‘One Born Every Minute’ again, something which before my second birth I had always found a pleasurable experience, but afterwards filled me with anxiety-ridden, heart pounding horror, often leaving me in tears, so much so that I had to stop watching for at least 3 or 4 series. Now, much to my husband’s annoyance, I can sit and enjoy (is enjoy the right word?) watching ‘OBEM’! My hubby says endure!!!

If you are suffering from birth trauma, whether it be recent or linked to a birth from a long time ago, there are now so many movements to help you with your recovery, I only wish they were better known, but I believe a change is coming, where birth trauma is not only recognised but accepted, with offerings of help and guidance – I know a change is coming because these wonderful people below exist, so for further information on birth trauma or for someone to talk to whose wealth of knowledge holds far more experience than my own, please see the Instagram links and website addresses below.

I must also point out that I feel very strongly that whilst many women suffer from birth trauma, this doesn’t mean that subsequent births can’t be a positive experience. I am living proof of this, as are many of my friends who I am in the process of interviewing for their birth stories and so within the next few months you will be able to read a range of birth stories that are poles apart from each other in terms of experience yet involve the same mother. To find out about positive birthing and hypnobirthing these followings links are an excellent starting point: @thepositivebirthcompany, which now offers free hypnobirthing videos on their YouTube channel, as well as paid courses and retreats. @positivebirthmovement which can offer support through a local positive birth group and has also published ‘The Positive Birth Book’. Finally, @mumologist and @theyesmumum.

Another avenue for exploration for all mothers, but particularly important if you are vulnerable after a birth trauma, is to embrace ‘self-care’, I am new to this and for me it is been a revelation! Far from being selfish, it actually helps to strengthen yourself and your relationships, as a happy mum equals a happy baby, so it makes sense to put yourself first sometimes, but to also make sure that what you are using your ‘me-time’ on will be something that is truly beneficial for you. I am following these two ladies on Instagram who are a fountain of knowledge for ‘self-care’: @suzyreading (author of ‘The Self-Care Revolution’) and @mothers.wellness.toolkit (author of ‘The Supermum Myth’).

Birth Trauma Links:
Instagram:

@drrebeccamoore
@howtohealabadbirth
@mamasmindmatters
@motherkind.co
@mamas_scrapbook
@whentheboughbreaksdoc
@bryonygordon (author of ‘Mad Girl’ and founder of Mental Health Mates)

Websites:

Birth Afterthoughts – specific to each area so please Google for your area
http://beyondbirthtrauma.com/
http://www.unfoldyourwings.co.uk/

Did you enjoy this post? If so please support the writer: like, share and comment!


Why not join the SM CLUB, too? You can share posts & events immediately. It's free!

Post Tags


Keep up to date with Selfish Mother — Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social media