We all knew that giving birth was going to be tough didn’t we? But did we ever really think it would be traumatic. Did we think we would experience a birth trauma? Did we think it would continue to have a negative impact on us even after we had our baby and was trying to enjoy parenthood? I know I certainly didn’t!
I remember reading all the books when I was pregnant with my daughter 15 years ago (it simply doesn’t feel that long ago!). There were some great DVDs about how breathing exercises to help with the labour and I practiced a lot. I watched whatever TV programmes were around, this was the time before 1 born every minute and there was a series about birth doulas that I loved watching. I felt prepared. I’d done a birth plan. I was ready for my water birth and good to go… or so I thought, I’m a Psychologist, I’ve got this.
Well gestational diabetes put a stop to that. So instead of my serine water birth I was induced and ended up with an emergency c section!! I can still recall the pain of the pessary and that was literally the first part of the journey. So it was all a bit scary, painful and out of my control but I just went with the flow. I trusted those around me to make the best decisions for me and my baby. Sadly it just wasn’t the birth I had planned. During the birth, I was in a different state of mind, I didn’t really make much sense of what was happening.
I can recall family and friends visiting when I was in hospital. I remember sharing with them the whole of my birth story. It makes me laugh now because I didn’t realise I was doing it, or that they might not be interested! They were getting the story anyway! In the months after I wondered whether this was me simply making sense of what had happened. Almost desensitising myself to the trauma of not having the birth I wanted and being out of control. Even now as I look back it feels strange to see it as a traumatic experience, but it was!
Even as a Psychologist knowing and working around trauma, for whatever reason, I was not connecting trauma and birth together.
I think talking things through over and over again (sorry family and friends) helped me process it and make sense of what had happened. But even then, the next 6 weeks were some of the toughest in my life. So I was somewhat traumatised by the birth itself, now I had sleep deprivation to deal with. I can understand why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. I mean seriously how much the impact of being woken every few hours has on someone who is used to sleeping for a solid 8 hours non stop is simply phenomenal and seriously I had no idea it would feel like that. Thank goodness it was balanced out with some sheer joyful moments of cuddling my baby.
For many it doesn’t balance out and the negatives can outweigh the positives. It doesn’t have to be this way.
What you might notice if you are still impacted by your birth.
Thinking about it when you don’t want to
You might find yourself thinking about the birth when you don’t want to and it doesn’t come with a warm fuzzy feeling but perhaps it leaves you overwhelmed, troubled. Maybe you try and push the birth trauma you experienced to the back of your mind. You might try to shake it off but it doesn’t stay pushed back for long. Sometimes you find yourselves dreaming about what happened.
Being overwhelmed with negative emotions and thoughts
Maybe you think you’re not good enough because you didn’t have the birth in your plan. Maybe you think you’re a bad person for not being smiley and happy all of the time. You’ve got your baby, you’ve got what you wanted, you’ve got what you thought would make you really happy. It’s easy to see how quickly these thoughts could spiral down and leave you feeling really low.
Maybe you have hateful thoughts towards people who seem to have it all and cope well with their immaculate house. They’ve got the smiley/happy baby (remember how we compare our inner world to everyone else’s outer world!). They have got it all.
You might be thinking it’s over now but be unable to move on with your life. You’ve got what you wanted, your baby is here so why are you keep thinking about that horrible experience and not enjoying the moment?
If this sounds familiar, know that there is help out there for you. Psychological Therapy and in particular EMDR may help you to move past your difficult birth to engage in a better quality of life. Click here if you want find out more about what I do or to book a free 15 minute chat with me to see if therapy might help.
Click here for your free download to help you unhook from overwhelming emotions that often come after you have experienced a traumatic birth.