How to know if you experienced a traumatic birth and how to cope with the negative impacts
Wow. Thank you. I think I’ve always known there was something beyond “difficult” about my first birth. I recovered enough to do it two more times, both of which were easier. But I’ve never forgotten it, or how I felt postpartum. This is so validating.
This is such an important topic and thank you for such a great article with lots of resources. After experiencing a traumatic birth 2.5 years ago, I have found a few things to be very helpful. EMDR therapy (online) to help process the trauma has been life changing for me. It was really hard at times and really effective at examining the trauma in a safe way. I recently found a woman who wrote my birth story after an online meeting where I told her the whole story, beginning to end. This was so helpful as I would get stuck around the trauma and was unable to get my words down on paper. Sending hugs to all of you.
Thank you for this post! I've always wondered whether my son's birth would be characterized as traumatic and it was very validating to read the symptoms and discussion here. The self-blame is the hardest part. Even though I know the circumstances of his birth weren't my fault, my brain still tries to twist them into something I could have somehow prevented.
We were waiting to be discharged from the hospital when my son had blood in his diaper. (Our concerns over his sleepiness, spit up, and disinterest in eating had been dismissed.) He was transferred to the NICU and had surgery for a midgut volvulus at 2 days old. It was hugely traumatic. The last time I looked at my journal from that time I cried- I documented every ounce of milk I pumped and every doctor update, it looks like the writing of a mad woman. But in the moment it helped me keep a little control in a very out of control time. Makes me wonder if I've actually fully processed what happened!
After that, my husband and I said we were done having kids..the trauma of 2 kids 2 years apart is also very real!! It's hard to acknowledge something is traumatic when you are going through it.
Thank you for sharing your story and giving others space to talk about this!
Thank you for writing this. It helped me put a finger on what it is that I've been experiencing. I know our experience has affected my husband, but I couldn't put words to what he went through. So again, thank you for explaining this so clearly. Just being able to have language to describe what has happened in our lives is empowering. I'm going to try writing out our birth story.
Trauma works in strange ways
I delivered my first baby in the car, with only my husband present. Strangely, I didn't find that traumatic, although my husband understandably did.
My second was born at the hospital, with a midwife and a student midwife and my husband all present for support. But the second phase of labour was so quick that I didn't feel at all in control, and I found it quite traumatic, even though everything was fine.
Another really important topic more parents should be aware of - thank you! We had a similar experience to you with our first, although it didn’t happen during COVID. The extra stress of that on top of everything else must have been really hard to deal with.
This is especially timely for me to read - although I was obviously not the person giving birth, the birth of our second child recently was quite eventful and, on reflection, traumatic for me personally as the birth partner. I had to deliver our baby with no midwife present in an unplanned birth, in my car, in the middle of a freezing cold night. Even though she cried when she came out and she appeared healthy, it was about fifteen minutes before the ambulance arrived and paramedics could assist. That fifteen minutes was the most scared I’ve ever been.
When telling the story to other people, they’d laugh and gasp as if they’d just seen it happen in a soap opera, and then say stuff like “I hope you found a good valet!” and “well at least she’s healthy and everything went fine” - but it could very easily not have been fine, and it’s taken me a while to stop having flashbacks and ruminating on the details of that night.
Where we live we’re fortunate that our health board offers a follow-up meeting with a senior midwife six weeks after birth to go through the events and notes, and discuss what went well and what didn’t. For us it really helped us process the events of the birth of our first child, and we’re definitely going to refer ourselves to it again this time.