I’ve finally plucked up the courage to share a little of my birth story and hopefully this may help me to combat some of the demons my birth has created in me. The reason I say a little of my birth story is I cannot remember a lot of it. To cut a long story short I didn’t have any pain relief, was in labour for 3 days and can only think my brain has blocked the majority of the experience out due to trauma.
If you know me personally you will understand how much my labour experience has effected me and how I can’t escape the nagging feeling of inadequacy. I understand I am extremely lucky to have a healthy, happy baby and know my birth could have been so much worse. I know everyone has their own labour battle story. However I can’t seem to escape the absolute terror my labour has evoked, so much so I have vowed never to have any more children. The thought of being in the same position again causes me to physically sweat and feel nausea. I also have a deep sense of guilt and failure that I didn’t give my little boy the start he deserved. He didn’t arrive into this world with the loving arms waiting for him, which he deserved and I had dreamt of for so long.
Throughout my pregnancy I took all the advice, downloaded all the apps, read every bit of research I could find and attended numerous classes. I took all my vitamins and folic acid months before we even conceived our baby. I ate all the right foods and cut out all the foods to avoid. For months I have gone round and round in my head what did I do wrong? What did I miss? Was there something I could have done differently? I am starting to realise deep down there wasn’t anything I could have done and sometimes no matter how much you have prepped your body and mind mother nature is stronger and has a different plan.
Over the course of my pregnancy I developed a clear birth plan and knew exactly what I did and didn’t want in my labour. The top things on my labour wish list were: a water birth, my husband to cut the cord after delayed clamping and immediate skin to skin. It pains me so much to say I never got a single thing off my wish list and instead got a huge list of everything I didn’t want. To name a few I was hooked up to countless machines, led on a bed in active labour for 3 days in the same position, catheterised, suffered a tear and didn’t get to hold my baby for 2 days, as he was whisked off to NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).
I felt and still do feel completely robbed by the whole experience, as I felt there was nothing more I could have done to prevent the things that happened. I still feel cheated and I know me and my son deserved better. Some of you may say I was naive but throughout all my research and all the classes I attended it never entered my head I wouldn’t get the birth I wanted. I knew I might have to compromise or things may have to change but it never entered my head that I wouldn’t have at least one thing on my wish list.
I honestly mourn the prospective of a positive birth. I felt my baby was wretched out of me and whisked away in the largest incubator I have ever seen. My poor baby nostrils flaring, chest con-caving, fighting for air. Every gasp he made I felt myself become more powerless and more detached. Was this really my baby who I had nourished and cared for, for 8 months? What did I do so wrong?
My feelings of guilt and shame also turned into anger, especially as my hospital bed was overlooking the smoking shelter. All day I would see pregnant mothers come and go and with each mother I spotted smoking the more my heart broke. I had done nothing wrong in my pregnancy, had gone to great lengths to avoid passive smoke, yet my baby was in NICU. A very good friend, who had a similar experience to me, said even though our babies didn’t have the best start, they have the best futures. This really resonated with me and part of my recovery has been saying this to myself over and over. It is my mantra and every time that black cloud of guilt starts to engulf me I say it over and over.
Me and Ralph also had quite a lengthy hospital stay which I do try to see the positive, as it could have been so much worse if I had been sent home. Initially it was extremely hard as we were not on the ward together. Hearing other mother’s soothing their babies and talking to them, made my heart ache and shatter. All I wanted was to take my little baby home and try to establish a routine and understand our new normal. It was difficult for us to bond as a family, as any parent knows who has had a baby on NICU there really isn’t much privacy. I would have given anything to have those proud first family pictures, which unfortunately couldn’t be taken.
I also didn’t prepare myself for not feeling the sudden rush of love, which I felt every mother who desperately wanted her baby would feel. For a long time I have felt a real sense of shame but I need to be frank with myself, in order to try and move on. I honestly didn’t love my baby when we first met. In fact I can’t even remember our first picture being taken. I think this was also made worse by not having the golden skin to skin or initial bonding time with each other. For anyone about to become a mum please let me reassure you this love will grow and become the strongest and most intense feeling you will ever experience. It is ok not to feel that sudden rush.
So after rereading this post I do feel lighter and know I am at the beginning of a very long journey. Please do not mistake my anger, shame and guilt as ungratefulness for a happy, healthy baby. I know I can’t change the past but going over it might help to change my perception.
If anyone else has any experiences of feeling shame, guilt, failure or any other negative associates due to your experience of labour I would love to hear your story. I would also love to hear from anyone who has experienced a traumatic birth and who has then gone on to have other children.