What it’s like to have a traumatic birth during a pandemic
A traumatic birth isn’t something any mum wants to experience. Least of all a first time mum, and even less so in the middle of a pandemic.
I gave birth to my first child, Jett, on Saturday 30th May 2020 via emergency C-Section. When I gave birth, it should have been the most magical moment of my life. Due to a traumatic birth and little to no postnatal care, it was sadly tainted.
My traumatic birth started with my 36 week scan, which took place when I was 37 weeks pregnant. A midwife informed me that my baby was measuring a little on the large size. As a result, I would need a consultation about my birth options.
I had my consultation, in a small, stifling hot room at the hospital. The doctor spoke softly and was wearing a mask. I was unable to make out much of what was being said. I heard him telling me that I would need an induction. This would be scheduled for 30th May, and in the meantime I had to get a cervical sweep. I was advised that my baby’s shoulders may get stuck, which would result in forceps or an emergency C-Section. He talked about me being at risk of bleeding out, so I would need an injection right after delivery. Worst of all, he told me how I would have to come in and face this on my own. This was because of restrictions in place due to the pandemic.
I sat there, trying not to cry and feeling numb. It was so far from the calm and peaceful water birth I had wanted.
Traumatic Birth – the First Cervical Sweep
There was only one thing to do between now and my scheduled induction. I had to do everything in my power to get labour started, beginning with a cervical sweep at the hospital. I went in feeling nervous, but knew I could handle it. It wasn’t going to be a patch on labour, was it!?
The nurse doing the sweep was lovely, but didn’t do my sweep properly. This is something I only realised after my second sweep (spoiler alert!)
Her fingers barely went inside me before she pulled them out and announced she couldn’t reach my cervix. I asked what this meant and she told me everything I didn’t want to hear. My labour could be a while away.
My midwife was far from impressed at my next appointment. She said an induction would not be a nice experience and it was the last thing she wanted for me. Her words were good intentioned, but only made me feel worse about my impending induction. She booked me in for a second sweep, on Wednesday 27th May. In the meantime, she encouraged me to have lots of sex, go for walks and make good use of my birthing ball. She was sure this would get things going.
The Second Cervical Sweep
Following the epic failure of my first sweep, I didn’t have high hopes for my second. It was at my doctors surgery this time, with one of my midwives (yes, I had two). She was a firm, no-nonsense kind of woman who I really got along with. As I laid on the bed, she told me to prepare myself. She wasn’t going to go easy on me.
She wasn’t wrong! To put it bluntly, she dug around inside me rather vigourously. A few minutes later she held up her hand and exclaimed “all done!”
She had pulled out my mucus plug, and everything that would have come away as part of my “bloody show”. I was thrilled and so was she. She got me to hang onto the side of the bed, squat down low and swing my hips from side to side. Yep, it looked as funny as that sounds.
She was confident this would set things in motion, but booked me in for a third and final sweep on Friday 29th May, just in case.
She told me to go home and eat 7 large prunes and go on a long, half hour walk. I didn’t eat the prunes (bleurgh) but I did go for a long walk. It was boiling hot that day. I honestly felt like I was going to die from a combination of exhaustion and heat stroke.
I spent the evening sat in anticipation, waiting for something to happen. There were a few small cramps and my lower back hurt a little but that was the extent of it.
Traumatic Birth – the Waters Breaking
On Thursday 30th May, I spent the day eagerly waiting for something to happen. My midwife text to check on me and was as disappointed as I was that there was nothing to report.
With my induction looming, I made sure my hospital bags were packed with plenty of things to keep me occupied whilst I was alone. We decided to try one more ‘old wives tale’ and ordered an Indian takeaway for dinner at about 18:30.
At approximately 18:45, my waters broke!
It wasn’t the exciting and dramatic gushing I had expected. I had gone to the toilet and when I stood up to wipe, water kept coming! Believing I was still weeing and had just lost all control of my pregnancy bladder, I sat back down. The bathroom door was open, so Jonny had heard it and said “…what was that?”
“I think it was my waters… but I’m not sure”
More water trickled out when I stood up, so I sat back down. This happened three or four times before I felt confident it had stopped. I moved to the sofa, sat down, and more water appeared! Was I weeing myself or were my waters breaking? I text my midwife straight away. She excitedly confirmed it sounded like my waters had broken! I needed to call the labour ward and get to the hospital to be checked.
Typical, with an Indian takeaway on the way!
Traumatic Birth – Had my waters broken?
I was at triage until 9:30pm checking if my waters had definitely broken or not. To me, it was obvious they had. However, because I had changed out of my wet clothes and put dry pants and a fresh pad on, and no more water had come out, they didn’t believe me.
They made me take my pants off and lie on a giant paper towel. They wanted to wait to see if any more water came out. In the meantime, they took my blood pressure and monitored baby’s heartbeat. I was sat with a mask on. It was boiling hot and when they took my temperature it was showing as too high. I’d only had a Covid test the day before, and had been given the all clear, so they told me to take my mask off and cool down. They took my temperature again and it registered as normal and okay.
All the while, I was left feeling confused and frustrated. This would not be the first time I was disbelieved and ignored, all creating a traumatic birth experience for me.
The nurses on duty still weren’t satisfied that my waters had broken. They decided to do an inspection with a speculum. The nurse in charge had a look and suddenly I could feel myself sat in a large pool of water. Of course they believed me now. The nurse said “Yep, your waters have definitely broken – there’s so much water I can’t actually see your cervix!”
Sigh. I could have told them this two hours ago, if only they’d listened.
Thursday night – Broken Waters
Eventually, I was allowed home. They gave me the instruction to come in 18 hours later so they could induce me, at 12:30pm, or sooner if something happened. I had to call ahead to let them know I was coming.
Jonny had kept my curry warm in the oven for me, bless him. I devoured that at about 10pm and was ever hopeful that it might start labour. Again, I had some twinging back pains but not much else, and certainly nothing agonising.
For the first time in ages, I slept soundly through the night… which was just as well, given the next few nights I would have!
I still tried to prevent an induction
On Friday morning, there was still nothing. Bouncing on my birthing ball, I binge watched Selling Sunset and painted my nails. I was hoping and hoping…but I had accepted my fate. I knew I was going to be induced. As 12:00 approached, I called the ward to let them know I was going to be coming in in half an hour.
Just in case, I asked “My partner definitely can’t come in with me, can he?”
“No, not until you’re 4cm dilated”
So that was it then. I had to go in alone.
We packed my bags in the car and drove, mostly in silence, to the hospital. Jonny stopped at Asda on the way to get me some Lucozade. Whilst he was in there I cried and cried and cried. I didn’t want to cry infront of him, so tried to get it all out before he came back.
The goodbye at the hospital was the hardest. Jonny and I had spent almost our entire relationship side by side. Now we were about to experience the biggest milestone – apart.
We had a big hug and Jonny promised he’d see me soon…
Then just like that I was walking into the labour ward, pulling my suitcase behind me.
Traumatic Birth – Being in triage
Sad, scared and alone. It’s not how any new mum, least of all a first time mum, wants to feel at the start of labour. Or at any point in their birth, for that matter. I feel this probably contributed to the traumatic birth I experienced.
On triage, I had several lovely nurses tending to me. They had to put my cannulas in – something I had never had done and was not looking forward to. One nurse tried and failed several times to get one in my hand. I have pale veins, so she – and I quote – “took a guess” and got the wrong place. I could feel my blood, hot and sticky, pooling around my hand.I refused to look at my hand. It wasn’t until she’d cleaned me up and correctly put one in before I looked at her again.
I’m terrified of needles, so this was one of the most painful and sickening parts of my labour for me!
After this, they did the usual observations – taking my blood pressure, monitoring the baby’s heartbeat and all that jazz. They got me hooked up to a drip and then I just sat and waited until they were ready to move me to a delivery room.
I was given some good news…
A friendly nurse came to my bed and said “Right, ready to go then? Who’s coming down with you?”
“What? I didn’t think I was allowed anyone with me, they told me on the phone…”
“What?! You definitely are! We’re not that mean! I mean, I’ll go and double check but I’m pretty sure you can have someone here with you!”
Stunned, I tried not to get my hopes up, but I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea what was happening! I was just hoping and praying that I could have Jonny with me!
The nurse came back, “Yes, you can definitely have someone here with you! Call your partner and tell him to come down now!”
I was crying all over again, this time with happy tears! I called Jonny and excitedly told him he could come down and gave him my room number. The lovely nurse picked my bags up for me, commenting on how little I had (when I thought I’d brought too much, ha!) She took me to my delivery room and my worries disappeared.
Starting my induction
A leading cause of my traumatic birth experience was the lack of information given to me. This was definitely evident at the start of my induction.
I was told I had been moved to the biggest and nicest room on the delivery suite and – bonus – one of the only rooms with a fan. When Jonny arrived, I couldn’t have beenn happier. I was in a nice room with all my bits and pieces, Jonny was here. Maybe I was going to have an okay birth after all!
I reached into my bag to pull out some snacks. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and at almost 2pm was now starving!
The nurse looked up at my bag of Percy Pigs and bottle of Lucozade and shook her head.
“Sorry, you can’t eat whilst you’re being induced. And no fizzy drinks either! Just water or weak squash. Did no one tell you?”
No, no one had told me. I wouldn’t have turned up with a shit tonne of Lucozade and snacks otherwise. Why had no one told me that whilst being induced I couldn’t eat?
I needed food, pronto
I explained that I hadn’t eaten since 8am that morning. With it likely that I wouldn’t eat again for at least 18 hours, the nurse sent Jonny out to get me some proper food before they started my induction. In hindsight, this was incredibly fortunate because I wouldn’t eat again until about 9am on Sunday morning!
With food devoured in record time and everything in place, I told the nurse she could “go for it”. I felt a great sense of anticipation – there was no going back now. There’d be no eating or drinking, aside from water, probably very little sleep, and baby would be on the move! It was intense to say the least.
The nurse hooked me up to the drip that would begin my induction at approximately 4pm. I sat back with Jonny, playing UNO and watching TV on his iPad, waiting for my labour to start.
The start of my labour
It didn’t take long for my contractions to start, and when they did, they were very regular. I was experiencing them every 3-4 minutes, but they weren’t too painful. It felt like mild period cramps – not the nicest feeling but easy enough to ignore.
By 6pm the contractions had intensified a little. They were still very regular, something I was assured was a good sign. Jonny went out to get some dinner. When he came back, both he and the nurse advised that I might be more comfortable making use of the gas and air. It’s hard to explain – the contractions weren’t painful, but they felt like they were right in my bum. It was just incredibly uncomfortable.
Sadly, there was a nurse swap. My lovely nurse who had made my day by letting Jonny come along had to go. She said she wanted to stay to meet my baby but sadly she wasn’t allowed. I wish I could remember her name. I’d love to send her a card and some flowers. She really put my very anxious mind at ease at the start!
The next nurse was okay, she kept herself to herself. Jonny and I made our way through all the usual Friday night TV – Gogglebox, Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back and The Last Leg. All the while I was sucking away at the gas and air. I don’t think actually did much in terms of pain relief but acted more as a distraction.
The evening went on…
Getting an epidural
Throughout my whole pregnancy I had been adamant I’d have a natural birth using only gas and air. I didn’t want to be “out of it” when my baby arrived, I wanted to experience every moment.
By 11pm, this plan was out the window. I had struggled slowly to the toilet a few times, Jonny pushing my drips behind me. He made sure all the various wires going in and out of me didn’t get tangled. I had leaked waters/wee/other bodily fluids through two pairs of pj shorts and two pairs of pants. Luckily there was no poo, which I had been dreading, ha!
Often I would get to the loo only to find nothing needed to come out, it was just the contractions putting pressure in my bum. I would shuffle back to the bed, struggle to get in. At this point, I was hungry, aching and tired. I wanted an epidural.
A few weeks back, when writing my birth plan, I had made Jonny promise to stick to my plan. If I begged for pain releif he was not to let me cave in. He was to help me with my positive birth affirmations and breathing. I would get through it without.
Jonny stuck to the plan
Jonny was true to his word, bless him. I said I wanted the epidural and he held my hand and stroked my back. Over and over, he asked if I was sure. He told me he knew I could do this without it. He said he thought I could go a couple more hours with just gas and air, he told me I was strong enough to go without. Bless him, he really did exactly what I wanted him to, which I love and appreciate.
But when he left the room to get me some water, I made the decision myself.
“Are you sure? Don’t you want to wait until your partner gets back and decide then?”
I shook my head and told her I definitely wanted the epidural, please and thank you. So she went to find the anaesthetist to get me booked in for an epidural.
The relief was sweet
It took a while for the anaesthetist to be available but when he was, I couldn’t have been happier. I obviously had my back to him so he could do the epidural, which is fine because I hate needles. I don’t even remember it going in. Jonny assures me the needle was massive – so much so that he almost passed out! He had to go outside to get some air haha!
All I know is that as soon as he injected me, there was sweet, sweet relief. You feel this cold sensation all down your back and then spreading across your body and then…nothing. I was so at peace that I fell asleep for a few hours. This was such a relief and just the best feeling.
Jonny pointed out how big my contractions were on the monitor yet I felt absolutely nothing. That sweet, sweet epidural. I wish I had had it sooner!
Traumatic birth – Saturday morning
Waking up at approximately 5am, I was in pain. A lot of pain. It was clear to me the epidural had worn off, and I was feeling my contractions again. It felt like really intense stomach cramps, and I lay there crying and grabbing my stomach. I raised this with the nurse who just told me to use the gas and air!
I kept raising that I was in pain. About an hour later I was finally listened to and had the epidural topped up.
It was so frustrating to have been in pain for so long simply because I hadn’t been listened to. It could have so easily been avoided!
I had a vaginal inspection and to my dismay I was only 4cm dilated! After all this time! The doctor was worried about how slow moving my labour was going. At this point “C-Section” was first mentioned. Suddenly, there was another midwife swap, as I met my third midwife of my labour so far. She encouraged Jonny to go home and get showered (and I told him to feed the cat!) I tried to get some more sleep.
Nothing was happening
The morning went on, with several more vaginal inspections to check how dilated I was. I didn’t know until afterwards that I was well within my rights to deny these as they leave you open to more exposed to infections. Again, antenatal classes would have come in handy here.
My dilation was mixed – slow, then fast, then slow, then fast.
As a result, I was constantly told, back and forth, how I would deliver. Naturally, nope I needed a C-Section, no it would be a natural birth.
Mid morning, about 10am, exhausted and fed up, confused and worried, I broke down in tears. I begged for a C-Section and for them to just get on with it instead of messing me around. I told them I was too tired to push, I had no energy and couldn’t do it.
The doctor told me there were two emergencies ahead of me and I would be better off delivering naturally if I could. I hated hearing this after the C-Section option having been thrown out there multiple times. I just felt that no one was listening to me or cared about what I wanted, how I was feeling.
This was not the birth I wanted, with stress and tears. It was far from it.
Traumatic Birth – being denied skin to skin before my baby was even here
One of the worst parts of my pregnancies that plagues me to this day was the fact I was denied skin to skin before my birth even happened.
Immediate skin to skin was always part of my birth plan. When the idea of a C-Section was thrown about, I asked if this was still a possibility. I was told no, if I had a C-Section I would not be allowed skin to skin. I was confused, because I have seen photos of women who had C-Sections getting skin to skin. In fact, I’d seen it happening live on shows like One Born Every Minute.
Confused, I asked why this wouldn’t be allowed.
“We don’t let mums who have C-Sections have skin to skin. It’s such an awkward thing to do, to lay the baby across mums neck whilst she’s lying down. It makes it hard for baby and for mum to breath.”
I now know this to be untrue. At the time, I was confused. I had seen mums have C-Sections at this same hospital and they had skin to skin. But I was so exhausted that I just accepted this in a total daze and state of confusion.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing. I wish I had argued more, demanded skin to skin unless there was a medical reason not to. But I didn’t.
It can’t be undone. It’s something I will never get back, but I will never forgive the midwife who gave me this bullshit story or myself for not arguing back.
At approximately midday I had my final vaginal check. It was determined that I was as good as fully dilated – something I could have guessed. Moments before I had been getting the urges to push and had been trying for a few minutes. However, the inspection indicated that there was some of my cervix that was refusing to come away. An emergency C-Section would now be required.
Suddenly, everything went very quickly. Some paperwork shoved in my face that needed signing, despite the fact I could barely hold a pen. There was no indication as to what I was signing to. All I heard was “in case we need to remove your womb”.
I’d never had any major surgery before. I was absolutely terrified. The idea of having my womb removed had put the fear of God in me. Jonny was thrown some scrubs to put on. We were both given masks to wear and then suddenly we were on the move to theatre.
I was so scared I started crying and I had uncontrollable shakes. They were so severe I couldn’t even speak properly because my teeth were chattering too much. We were told we couldn’t film the birth like we wanted, but we could take photos. Thankfully Jonny would still be allowed to cut the umbilical cord.
I had no idea what would happen next. I was terrified, I felt sick, I was crying. Again, it was so far from the birth I had envisioned. How could this be the best day of my life when it felt so much like a nightmare?
Once in theatre, everyone was really friendly. They wiped away my tears, they all introduced themselves and were super chatty and comfortable to be around. They really did put me at ease, which I appreciated. There was a guy in there cracking jokes, trying to make me laugh. I threw up over myself and they were on hand instantly, wiping my face and allowing me to be operated on without a mask. Again, I really appreciated this.
It took ages to get me numb using that spray they have. Over and over they were spraying me and checking what I could feel. Every time I could still feel something. Eventually, when I couldn’t feel anything, the screen went up and the process was about to begin.
I was told everything that would happen ahead of when it happened.
“You’ll feel tugging now”
“You’ll feel some pressure now”
…and so on. Suddenly, I could “feel” a wet sensation and I knew he must have been pulled out. The nurse stood by my head said “Can you see him?” as I scrabbled to pull down the screen.
Jett Louis Jarvis had entered the world
Suddenly, there he was. Shrieking (thank God, it was music to my ears) and perfect. I could hear Jonny crying and saying “he’s perfect!”
“9 pounds 9! 9 pounds 9!!!” I could hear a nurse excitedly shouting from the other side of the room. Jonny had cut the umbilical cord and our baby had been wiped and wrapped in a towel. He was carried over to us to be laid in Jonny’s arms. Jonny said “Here he comes, our burrito baby!”
And there he was.
I was stitched up and put back together (again, with someone warning me of everything I would feel ahead of it happening). Jett was laid in Jonny’s arms and I stroked his little face. I only wish someone had captured the moment on camera! But it will live firmly in my mind forever.
The hour after the birth
I was wheeled to the recovery room with Jonny where our baby – Jett – was finally laid on my skin. He latched onto my breast straight away and began to feed. I laid back, absolutely exhausted but elated. This was everything I had wanted. Skin to skin and to breastfeed my baby, with Jonny by my side supporting me. In that moment, that bubble, I was over the moon and on top of the world.
It was over too soon, though.
I had been promised that Jonny could stay for two hours after the birth, to bond with our baby. Instead, he was rushed away less than an hour after Jett’s dramatic arrival. He got no a proper cuddles or any skin to skin himself.
Jonny tells me he was taken back to our delivery room so he could get changed out of his scrubs. All of my carefully packed belongings had been shoved into a trolley with no care or consideration. Jonny said this made him especially angry as there was a clear lack of care towards me and my things. When I reached my cubicle, my belongings were shoved all higgeldy-piggeldy in a far corner that I couldn’t reach. My charger, my clothes, my baby stuff, all completely out of reach. No one was around to get them for me.
This was just the start of the horrific postnatal care that would contribute to my traumatic birth experience.
Traumatic postnatal care
What contributed most to my traumatic birth experience was definitely my postnatal care – or rather, the lack of it.
I find it quite upsetting to think about how neglected I was on the postnatal ward. Particularly as a first time mum who needed advice and guidance.
Jonny couldn’t be with me, I could have no visitors – that was thanks to Covid. My curtains had been drawn around my cubicle when I initially arrived to give me privacy whilst I got settled. Then they were left, and I couldn’t open them because I literally could not move.
I was so alone. I was scared, I was upset, I was lonely and I just felt so stressed.
It was not a nice environment to be in
The ward was over 30 degrees and I was dripping with sweat. I was told they didn’t give out fans to people on the ward. A kind lady lent me her handheld fan but she was leaving an hour later, so then I was stuck.
Eventually, a nurse came bustling in and set one up for me, out of reach and faced away from me. I asked to move it and she said:
“No, it can’t face you or baby, he won’t like it. You’re lucky we had this fan spare in an empty room!”
I was’t ungrateful – I just wasn’t benfitting from a fan that wasn’t facing me. I ended up stripping naked and lying in bed with everything out. Now, I was past caring.
I wanted to be at home
That night was genuinely the worst night of my life. I couldn’t sleep. I was in pain, the bed was uncomfy and I had no help. Nurses had told me not to lift or change Jett. I was to press the buzzer and someone would do it for me. “That’s what we’re here for!”
I pressed the buzzer over and over and no one ever came. I was bawling my eyes out in desperation and frustration. Frantic, I was texting Jonny at 3am because I had no idea what to do.
It took me 20 minutes a time to ease myself up, lean over and lift Jett from the cot. All of this was done in absolute agony. When a nurse saw I had lifted him, she told me off, saying I shouldn’t be doing that. But what choice did I have when my baby was crying and no one came when I pressed the buzzer? When I was crying?
On two separate occasions he took over half an hour to settle, only for the most annoying nurse I have ever encountered to come bustling in to check my blood pressure and wake him up both times. She would laugh about it, and even made the unhelpful comment “Oops, guess nobody is getting any sleep tonight!” I hated her, and told Jonny so in an angry, lengthy text message.
Frustrated and exhausted, I then began to feel like a failure. The ward was deadly quiet. No one else’s babies were crying – yet here was mine, crying almost constantly! I felt embarrassed, I didn’t want to disturb the other mums or the sleeping babies. This only made me more stressed, which I think Jett sensed, and made things worse.
Sunday morning – the morning after the night before
The morning didn’t start so bad. I was able to have some breakfast, the first thing I had eaten since Friday afternoon. I was so relieved!
A lovely, elderly volunteer came and gave me a bed bath. I had bled through my sheets and she wanted to give me a clean down there. Embarrassed, I tried to protest. She patted me on the arm and told me that’s what she was here for. Then, once clean, she helped me out of the bed – the first time I had stood up since Friday night! She removed my catheter and put me in clean underwear – my disposable Always Discreet Boutique pants. She hadn’t seen them before and said how handy they must be!
I took advantage of being up and grabbed all my bits, moving them closer to the bed. She helped me change Jett and have a cuddle and then left. I wished she had been there through the night.
I was told someone would be along to clean my blood soaked sheets, but no one came. Instead, I was left to perch on the edge of my bed for the rest of my time there.
When would I be discharged?
My scar was checked, along with my blood pressure. I was given two pots to wee in the next time I went to the loo, as it had been a while since I had been to the toilet independently. I was scared about the toilet part as everyone had warned me how awful it would feel. Maybe it was because I had a C Section but I was able to go for two massive wees and have a bowel movement with no fuss and no pain.
I had a shower, which was awkward with two cannulas in my hands that kept getting stuck in my hair (blee). I put on fresh pyjamas and felt a bit more human. Then I waited.
It was about 2pm when I was given the good news. My stats were all fine, Jett had perfect results from all of his tests and I could go home! I just needed to wait for some medicine.
I was overjoyed! Someone had said I might need to be in for two nights. I know if that had happened I would have discharged myself. There was someone on the ward who had been there for twelve days, totally alone. I felt grateful that I had had just the one. She was now allowed home too.
We celebrated together and awaited our medicine… which didn’t come until 5pm. 10 injections that had to be administered daily. No one showed us how, we were just given the needles and expected to know what to do. Not exactly handy when both you and your partner have a fear of them…
The end was in sight
I grabbed my medicine and was ready to go. My bags were packed and Jett was in his going home outfit. Jonny had already dropped off the car seat and was waiting outside. I just needed my canulas removing.
I was told someone would be along in a minute to do it, but by 5:30pm I had had enough. A nurse was passing through the ward, so I grabbed her. “Oh, sorry – I must have forgot to send someone! Let me do it now”
I understand how busy nurses are. The NHS is completely underfunded and there simply isn’t enough staff. But when you’ve been ready to go since 2pm and by 5:30pm get told you’ve been forgotten about, it’s simply not good enough.
With everything removed, I looked around me. I had been told I could go, but how was I expected to carry my suitcase, my bag and Jett in his baby carrier when I could lift – well, nothing?
I waited and waited and waited some more. Then, I had enough. I shuffled to reception and asked if someone could give me a hand so I could leave.
By 6:30pm I was out of there, reunited with Jonny and on my way home. My ordeal was over.
Phew! You made it this far…
This post was probably more for me, than for anyone else. It was therapeutic to write it all down and get my frustrations out as I banged on the keys of my poor old laptop.
The birth I had dreamed of was a water birth, calm and peaceful. I wanted hours of loving, bonding time after the birth. The traumatic birth I experienced instead was so far from that. I didn’t realise just how much it had affected me until I was about 6 weeks postpartum and was discussing my experience with a few friends. That was when “traumatic birth” was first brought up – and I’ve been trying to process this ever since.
My birth wasn’t full of happiness and joy as I had imagined – as most first time mums probably hope for. I was prepared for none of it, experienced so many ups and downs and…well, trauma. Looking back, I get angry. One of the most magical moments of my life was robbed from me and that can never be undone.
Looking at the positives
I know I’m lucky, in lots of ways.
Jett was born happy and healthy – he was absolutely perfect. My C Section went smoothly. Jonny was allowed there for the entirety of my labour. I only had to stay in for one night, not 12. These are the positives I try to focus on, to help me deal with the negatives.
Next time – if there’s a next time – I will have a better idea of what will or can happen. I will be firmer in asking for what I want, and sticking to it. And I definitely won’t give birth at the same hospital. I think it would be far too triggering. Also, I would be too worried about receiving the same kind of treatment again.
Have you experienced a traumatic birth too?
Recent research shows that around 30,000 people a year experience birth trauma. Even partners can experience PTSD from watching you experience trauma. It’s important to know that you aren’t alone and you don’t have to suffer alone – or in silence.
From my own experience, here are some things you can do if you also had a traumatic birth and find that you are struggling:
- Talk about it I didn’t even realise what I had been through, let alone processed it. Then I spoke to someone. It was just a friend, but eventually, I spoke to a midwife. She runs a local Facebook group for new and expectant mums in the area. She wanted feedback from mums who had given birth during the pandemic, about their time in hospital. Speaking to her was so cathartic, and she gave me some useful advice and resources to make use of.
- Make use of the services that are available In my area, there is something called ‘Birth Reflections’. It’s a way to go through all the notes from your birth with a doctor and speak about your experience. I’m sure each area in the country will run something similar, so it’s worth asking! For whatever reason, services like this don’t seem to be promoted. I certainly didn’t know about it until I had the conversation with some of my followers!
- Check out Birth Trauma Association UK They are a charity who have a tonne of useful resources that are accessible to everyone following any kind of traumatic birth experience. I have found their Instagram particularly helpful – @birth_trauma_association_uk
The pandemic played it’s part
I know that my traumatic birth was influenced by Covid-19. Many of the things that contributed to my traumatic birth wouldn’t have happened if everything was “normal”. C’est la vie. What can I do?
I try to feel empowered by my experience, and feel like a warrior as I overcome my struggles. I hold my baby a litte tighter knowing just how much I went through to get him here. How much I still go through every time I am reminded of my experience.
My birth wasn’t the birth I had hoped for. But it still brought me the very best thing in life – my baby boy.
That’s what I choose to focus on now.
Love from, Florence Grace
(It’s taken me two weeks to write those words! Thank you if you’ve made it to the end!)