Birth trauma is an area of motherhood that often goes undiscussed and unacknowledged. The old saying has always been “a healthy baby is all that matters”, but is it truly ALL that matters?
Today’s post is a bit rawer than you might be used to seeing around here, but none the less, I think it is important to be open about my own birth trauma story.
My Own Story of Birth Trauma
Our beautiful middle child was born via an urgent c-section. This procedure occurred in order to save her life after she stopped moving for reasons that weren’t apparent until we were into surgery.
We learned during surgery, that I had somehow, contracted a rapid-moving intrauterine infection that would have resulted in her death had we waited any longer to get to the hospital after she stopped moving.
After she was delivered she was whisked to the other side of the room to be evaluated and from the surgical table, I cried asking for updates on my baby and if I could please hold her or see her.
For her first three days of life, she existed in the NICU strapped to monitors and IVs. She had to undergo multiple blood tests each day to make sure she had not contracted whatever, mystery infection had plagued my womb hours before her birth.
The Emotional Aftermath
Some look at our story and can’t help but see anything more than the miracle our sweet Ellery is. And boy is she ever a sweet, sweet miracle. Truth is I could have lost her at any moment in hours leading up to my c-section and I thank God every day that she is here.
What most people didn’t see following Ellery’s birth or see when they hear our story is me, the mom healing from an unexpected surgery, with wounds that ran deeper than the scalpel could cut.
Many people believe that once the baby is born and arrives home safely the world magically comes together into a perfect place. “Healthy baby” everyone always says. But my question is… what about mom?
Fear of Sharing My Story
For over three years I have feared sharing my story with others simply because I knew I would be judged.
Perhaps some would say I was selfish? Others might say I was ungrateful for the healthy baby I was able to take home?
I am not sure but I could always sense that sharing my true feelings regarding Ellery’s birth wouldn’t always be met with hugs and commiseration.
The truth is I am beyond thankful that Ellery is here with us today. Not a moment goes by that I don’t thank God for the early labor that made me pay extra attention to my womb or the nurses and doctors that didn’t dismiss my concerns and monitored Ellery closely.
And believe it or not, I am thankful for the existence of modern medicine that created a procedure where both I and my daughter lived beyond the mysterious uterine infection.
The Deeper Wounds of Birth Trauma
But there is another side to this story. A side that isn’t all smiles and thanks. There is a side of my story that involves me, a new mom, alone, crying in the shower at the hospital while I pulled back the bandages and saw for the first time the severity and seriousness that is a c-section.
This side involves me feeling indescribable anger at the world and situation that I couldn’t have my baby in my arms for more than a few hours before she was whisked off to the NICU. There was anger that I had to spend my days in the hospital holding a baby in the NICU hooked to monitors rather than snuggling her on my chest in the privacy of my own room.
For the weeks and months after Ellery’s birth, I existed in a world of half-truth. Each time I spoke with friends or family I presented a face of utter happiness and full-on joy. But at the same time, I wanted so badly to yell out in anger at the unexpected c-section that robbed me of the post-partum period I had longed for.
In those weeks after birth, I cried more times than I could count, at the fact that I couldn’t stand quickly, carry my toddler, or even laugh without immense pain for several weeks.
I was so angry at the world every time I had to tell my toddler “sorry honey, mama can’t” or that I had to ask for help just to get him in and out of the car.
My dreams for the post-partum period were ones of normal, mild discomfort but a quick bounce back like I had with Asher. I wasn’t prepared for one that kept me from doing basic daily tasks without pain for several weeks.
The Guilt and Shame Brought On By Birth Trauma
In those first few weeks post-partum, I would lay awake, replaying the events of my daughter’s birth wondering if there was something I had done or could have done differently.
Had there been a way to deliver her without intervention and a NICU stay? What had I done wrong? How had I failed her? But I wasn’t allowed or at least I didn’t feel like I was allowed to have those feelings outwardly.
Guilt would overflow me when I had those thoughts because without that c-section and NICU stay I wouldn’t have had my sweet, snuggly little girl.
I knew logically that Ellery was here because of those medical inventions and I struggled to reconcile my opposing feelings of gratitude and anger towards her birth.
It took several months before I arrived at a place where I was comfortable admitting to even myself, that I was thankful for the c-section but hated it all at the same time. It took even longer for me to feel fully guilt-free saying and thinking these things.
Acknowledging the Real Effects of Birth Trauma
Of course, at the end of the day, I would never sacrifice my own emotional well-being for the life of my child, BUT I think women need to be allowed to exist in a safe, accepting space.
Moms deserve a space, where they can feel gratitude for the medical intervention that saved their child’s life but at the same time feel anger, sadness or loss brought on by that same medical intervention.
No matter the magnitude of trauma a mom experiences in the birth of their child, their feelings need to be validated and heard. They need to know it is okay to feel those mixed, conflicting feelings. Moms deserve time and space to process and heal.
Moms Matter Too
It is so important that moms out there know they matter too after birth. No matter your birth story, you too have to heal, recover and process the events that led to the story of your precious little one. You matter too!
For some moms that might mean feeling nothing more than utter elation. But for others that might mean wading through a swamp of mixed emotions. It might mean struggling with guilt and rage and gratitude all in the same breath.
Most importantly, moms need to know that their feelings are no reflection of their love for their baby.
Moms, you can process the hard feelings and decide you are unhappy with how things panned out and still be over the moon in love with your little one. You don’t have to love your birth story to love your baby!