My Birth Story
On 17th June 2016 I gave birth to our son and became one of the 42,000 women who suffer Post Natal PTSD
resulting from Birth Trauma each year.
It wasn't something I had ever heard of until my diagnosis 9 months later. I knew that some women's births
could be "difficult" but I had no idea the life changing impact a traumatic birth could have, or that a traumatic
birth could result in Postnatal PTSD. I thought PTSD was just for war veterans, firefighters or train drivers.
All very typically masculine roles. Not mums!
I had a perfectly healthy pregnancy and like many first babies, Seth was not ready to be born at 40 weeks. During my appointment at 40+3 the midwife asked if "my induction had been booked yet?". This was the extent of the consent sought by the midwife. When I asked what induction involved she said they would "just pop in a pessary to stimulate labour".
By Wednesday 15th June I still hadn't gone into labour so I went in at 7pm for my induction. Due to a baby boom there wasn't anyone available at that time so my husband and I offered to go down the canteen for an hour, which was welcomed by the midwife. We went back upstairs around 8.30pm. A new midwife then opended the curtain, said "let's get your induction done", and asked me to scoot further down the bed. I couldn't see my husband or her, I felt pinned down by the bump and I remember saying to myself, "its just like a smear test, it will be over in a minute". I could not have been more wrong.
Nothing could have prepared me for how unbearably, brutally painful I would find it having the pessary inserted. I felt like I had been violated. That moment broke me and has changed me forever.
What made matters worse for me was the fact that this was now 9pm, time for my husband to leave. I was sobbing uncontrollably in the fetal position, holding his hand, unable to speak. The midwife knew I had had "a hard time" so she allowed him to stay for another 15 minutes but after that I was on my own.
The pessary didn't work. I had to go through the same process and pain all over again at 4am, by myself.
Then again at 10am. This time the consultant performed the procedure. This included a sweep performed without my knowledge, and therefore my consent, and she forced my cervix open. I still struggle to describe these events. It was so far removed from any idea I had of what happened during birth, it still blows my mind that this is routinely being pushed onto more and more mothers.
What really struck me during my labour, and ever since, is the lack of CARE women receive as mothers.
It took a full 9 months to pick up on my PTSD. The rest of my labour went smoothly so nobody was looking for a problem but I knew something was wrong. I was a different person, not just as a result of being a new mum, but a totally different personality. I was angry, extremely irritable and completely irrational. I went from being laid back, confident and able to travel around the country by myself at the drop of a hat to being completely contained within my home and Wigan. Travelling to see family went from normality to something I could no longer handle. The loss of the routine would make me spiral into a complete control freak for a full week leading up to any trips where I would obsess about minute details and always imagine the worst.
I felt like I had entered the hunger games and I was the only person who could keep my son alive. I was dismissed by everyone I spoke to and told to be grateful for my healthy baby.
Then there was the sleep deprevation. The advice commonly given to new mothers is "sleep when baby sleeps". I couldn't. Every time I closed my eyes my mind would race, imagining all of the possible ways my baby would die if I dared to close my eyes. I would eventually fall asleep at 8pm until the night feed around 1am. Then that would be it. After the baby went back to sleep I would be wide awake, mind racing again. About my birth. About my baby dying. About all of the times in the past people in my life had taken advantage of me or ignored my wishes. Then it would be 6am and time for the next feed and the day would begin, with me not having slept since 1am.
I will be forever grateful the community midwife who recognised what was wrong and set me on the path to getting help.
So many times after giving birth I found myself asking the question, "How bad does it need to get before somebody cares how I am?"
It was this question that lead to me founding Care For Mum.
Since my birth I have become a true birth geek, dedicated to educating myself on the topic of birth and birth trauma and joining the fight against birth trauma and the devastating effects it has on women and families. I believe we need to educate on the impacts of over-medicalised births, from health care professionals, to family members, to employers as it affects all areas of a person's life.
Somewhere along the line we have forgotten that women's bodies were designed to give birth, but that doesn't mean a woman's body is unchanged by the process. Women do an amazing thing by giving birth. Give them the respect and support they deserve. Care for Mumxx