Recovering From A Traumatic Birth Series: Pt 1 - Birth Trauma
I wrote the first version as a single post in 2018 for another blog. It was a long, long post. It also needed updating.
So, here is the new version which will appear as an 8 part series.
Let me say from the outset that I’m talking about recovery from a psychological and emotional perspective.
Let’s also take a look at what I mean by traumatic birth. In my world, it’s not just when things go wrong from a physiological perspective, it’s very much about when your birth, no matter how it might look to others, left you feeling completely shocked, afraid, and as though your entire concept of your Self, 'who I am', has been blown to smithereens. This can happen because your right to autonomy over yourself, and your abilities as an adult, were ignored and treated with disregard and disrespect. Perhaps because of that, birth became something done to you and not something you did for yourself. You may have feared at the time that you and your baby were going to die. Without a proper explanation of what happened, you were left feeling scared, confused and not really understanding how you ended up in this hell-hole of devastating feelings and emotions. The aftermath of giving birth can be a lonely and isolating place which just adds to the difficulties.
It is not whether any interventions during birth were necessary or not, that’s not the issue. It’s about what happened, how any interventions were carried out. It's about how you were treated by those present at your birth. If you were not given proper explanations that were meaningful to you, were excluded from decisions about what was going to happen, were scared into compliance without regard to informed consent, or were treated like a walking incubator instead of a thinking, feeling human being, this can cause serious psychological trauma.
Sometimes the aftermath of a birth experience is coupled with symptoms of trauma/PTSD – flashbacks, night terrors, constantly reliving what happened, living in a constant state of fear, anxiety and hypervigilance. Sometimes it all spirals down into depression.
What makes it all the more difficult is that you have a new baby to look after, perhaps other children, a home, a job, a life. Yet, on top of all this, you're expected to be grateful for a healthy baby. If your baby was disabled or has died, then you're expected to be grateful for any other healthy children you may have or that you're alive to have more children.
Here’s the thing – of course everyone is grateful for a healthy baby and especially after a traumatic birth. But a healthy baby is not the point here, it’s actually a completely separate issue. Having a healthy baby is NEVER compensation for having a traumatic birth experience. Having a healthy baby does not validate a traumatic birth and make it acceptable, nor make it something to be dismissed and ignored either.
I've come up with a seven-step process that, from a trauma therapy perspective, seems to be helping people get to a place of peace alongside their experience of birth trauma. Like most processes, this is unlikely to be a straight road going from one step to the next. You'll find you wander about, sometimes processing several steps at a time, sometimes not needing to process anything, but just sit quietly as you cogitate. Sometimes you need to go back to think through some aspects again. It's an ever-shifting process and that's how it's meant to be. When trauma comes in and disrupts our world, it throws all the pieces of who we are up into the sky. As the pieces fall back down to earth, now is your time to rearrange the jigsaw of who you are into a new pattern. A pattern you choose this time.
These are the steps to the process and I'll be posting one each week until they're all there for you to see:
Step One - How you feel matters.
Step Two - Challenge that little voice inside your head.
Step Three - Whose truth is it anyway?
Step Four - A question of balance.
Step Five - Tell your story loud and proud.
Step Six - Claim your autonomy.