Maybe don’t read if you’re currently pregnant because I don’t want it to scare anyone. My birth wasn’t this awful scary thing that I never want to do again. I know there were empowering aspects too which I’ll probably also write about at some stage. It seems fitting to cover this off in birth trauma awareness week so here we go.
I didn’t really know what birth trauma was and I definitely didn’t label my experience as traumatic, at first. What I have come to learn is that birth trauma isn’t exclusive to people who went into birth with a firm ‘plan’ that didn’t work out. We went in flexible in almost every way. I was mentally prepared to be let down by my body, I even mentally prepared to be let down by my birth partner just in case, you never know what might happen in those moments. Instead I was let down by the midwife, not my midwife, but the back ups back up midwife because of course labour doesn’t wait for midwife availability. I’m going to lay off the details of my trauma because I don’t want anyone to feel the need to compare or to make anyone feel bad in any way but what’s important is that there were things I didn’t anticipate, felt disrespected and violated by, and would have had different if I had the chance.
Maybe trauma isn’t even the right word for my experience but in my experience it fits the outcomes associated with birth trauma. I’ve hesitated on calling my experience ‘traumatic’ for a long time (really only 10 months but it feels like a long time) because it feels small in comparison to what I’ve read and heard happen to others. My response to my birth isn’t something I consciously chose, it’s not something I just need to “get over”. It impacted my initial bond and created a hesitance to share my birth story without putting the disclaimer on it that I know I’m lucky to have a healthy baby and have been able to birth ‘naturally’ (meaning vaginally), or sometimes just not even being emotionally capable of sharing because of the high probability of being overshadowed by someone saying their birth was worse. That doesn’t take away from the fact that I felt and still feel let down by that midwife and my entry to motherhood. It was detrimental to my confidence as a māmā in the first weeks and months, it made me feel as though maybe I didn’t know what I was doing, that I wasn’t cut out for this. It had similar impacts for my partner but that’s his story to tell.
We felt a complete lack of respect for our cultural wishes and just a lack of respect for us as the parents. She didn’t even have enough respect to stay in the room half of the time. This isn’t about placing blame. What happened happened and it’s time to release it but I want to identify my birth, and other births, as being positive and empowering while still having traumatic aspects. If it weren’t for those traumatic aspects then my partner and I truly believe things would have been different for us, it would have given us more confidence as parents right from the very start and given the beginning of our journey a more positive start instead of being tainted with figuring out how to process what had just happened and whether that was normal. It took weeks to decide to make a complaint but it’s never too late if you’re in the same boat.
Just because your birth might not have been the most traumatic in comparison to someone else doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t valid. It’s not the end of the world but it’s still valid. It doesn’t define you and you can recover from it, but it can take time and that’s not dramatic, or over the top, or your fault. You’re not dwelling, you’re processing and recovering so you can move through it and develop yourself as a result.
We don’t have to tolerate someone else’s view of what traumatic is or let it define our experience because at the end of the day it is our experience.
As always, you got this māmā!