Mental Health Monday: Dealing with previous birth trauma during pregnancy
I spent a long time denying that my first birth was traumatic. When I accepted that I did have some birth trauma I spent a while playing down how bad it was. Yes it was traumatic but it wasn’t THAT traumatic. How could I be traumatised? What right did I have? I’m healthy(ish) and my son is healthy(ish) and we had made it through the whole thing relatively unscathed.
Turns out, I was wrong. Very wrong. I didn’t really let that trauma in, I didn’t accept it or start deal with it until I was already pregnant again, three and a half years on.
Where did my birth trauma come from?
My labour was 18 hours, culminating in an episiotomy and forceps delivery. My spinal anaesthetic took around 5 attempts to insert between heavy contractions. I pushed for 2 hours solidly with no progress and had pethedine which was making me lose consciousness between contractions and wake up in extreme pain and confusion, scared out of my wits.
My baby was in distress, registering a heat rate of 58bpm. At one point a consultant told me I “wasn’t trying hard enough”. I remember begging my mum to help me, and saying that I couldn’t do it. A midwife cajoled me, saying that everyone thinks they can’t do it and then they do. I couldn’t communicate that I could feel that my baby was stuck because I would basically pass out at the end of each contraction. I believe my baby was stuck because I was told that I “must be ready to push by now”, so I started pushing before my body told me to.
Now, I am pragmatic. I know there are worse births, but this was not okay. I was not okay. This whole ordeal was followed by a harrowing week in hospital. As my son fought jaundice, just about escaping transfusion I was readmitted because of infection caused by retained placenta.
What’s going on this time then?
I wrote about taking control of my second pregnancy very early on, but as my due date approaches my head is now focused on the impending birth.
In thinking about how things went last time I began to recognise that the root of my trauma was the very stark and sudden loss of control. When things were taken out of my hands it was terrifying.
I am tackling the issue by filling my head with information because knowledge is power. I’m learning more about how my body works, what it does and why. I’m researching pain relief options. I know what the side effects are and whether they can slow down labour or pass through the placenta to the baby.
I’m sitting with my midwife and letting the tears roll down my cheeks as I explain how I HAVE to be in control. Even if things go wrong I NEED the information and the facts, no matter how frightening they sound. I need a plan in place for everything so I know that what is happening to me is MY choice, and I consent. I’m very determined not to have any unnecessary medical intervention this time. Sometimes things are beyond our control, so it is important to me to have a comprehensive plan in place for a variety of outcomes. I’m going to meet with the midwives at the hospital midwife led unit to write up a formal plan. My plan can be communicated with the team ahead of time so they don’t accidentally repeat mistakes.
Honestly, I am not even scared anymore. I have prepared so much, and I feel at peace with the choices I have made. My birth trauma has become an unlikely companion, steadying me for what’s ahead. Things are changeable, as they always are, but I have the knowledge I need to make changes to my plans if I need to. I still get emotional about last time but all that does is fuel my determination to have a better outcome this time. I’ve found the process so far to be very therapeutic and I feel like I have made steps to recover. Keep an eye out in the next few weeks for my birth story!