"How a women perceives her birth experience has a direct impact on her need for debriefing. A birth considered normal to the professional might be considered traumatic to the women herself who carry's this experience for the rest of her life".
So let me set the scene for you: I've left work in my lunch break to pop to the hospital for my 36 week check up. This was my first pregnancy and I never thought that a rushed lunchtime appointment would end up an emergency c-section and a sudden and unexpected meeting of my baby boy.
Whilst in my casual lunchtime antenatal appointment with my student midwife Sophie (AKA beautiful legend) she took my blood pressure. The reading was 122/110 and I watched her face change and her eyeballs almost pop out of her head. She turned to me shocked then went to find another midwife for a second opinion. After a few more tests I was told that I had pre-calmpsia and toxemia.
(Pre-clampsia can be life threatening to both a mum and her baby. There is a high amount of protein that shows in the urine, swelling of feet, face and hands. It is most common in first time pregnancies, women over 40, teenagers, a history of diabetes, kidney disease and is hereditary. Symptoms to look out for are high blood pressure, swelling, headaches, pain in abdomen, vomiting, nausea, vision changes and dizziness.
Toxaemia is blood poisoning by toxins from a local bacterial infection).
So pretty much my midwives had just told me that my body was starting to shut down and my baby needed to get out of me asap. After chatting more to the doctor I called my husband to let him know he had to come to hospital as we were going to having a baby in a few hours....this felt very surreal....
In the moment I felt super relaxed and just surrender and went with what was happening. I figured stressing couldn't help the situation.
So Nek minute I was laying in a hospital theatre room, bright lights shining down on me like I was in a celebrity photo shoot. The room was full with approx 10 doctors and midwives quietly whispering and setting up. My husband above my head, my arms laid out like a crucifix with needles and IV's in my arms that were strapped in, as I waited to be cut open.
The moments before the surgery felt so awkward and numbing, and then all of a sudden there is a little baby boy laying on my chest. No pain? no contractions? no water birth I had wished for? What a bizarre way to end a regular work day right?
I remember initially feeling really disappointed that my body had failed me. I had done so much preparation and research and was looking forward to the birth process. Some may say I'm crazy but I felt like I had been robbed. Robbed of the experience of what my body was meant to do, experiencing the feeling of a contraction, discovering that bond and strength that you draw from your birth partner and then finally the sense of achievement I would have from accomplishing what I was designed to do.
I know I'm not the only one that has felt this way. Their is a small percentage of us freaks out there! I do realize not every women feels like this, but for meit was something I had dreamed of doing for a long time.
After my beautiful boy Banjo was born my body didn't get better like it was meant to, it got worse. I was transferred to ICU for 4 days while Banjo was in an INCU. This meant I could not be with my baby and due to the drugs I also could not breastfeed straight away.
My beautiful student midwife Sophie I mentioned (not sure what I would have done without her) would bring me pics/ videos on my phone so I could see my new little boy and try help me feel connected to him. After 2 days they bought him down for a quick visit to say 'hi'
Mothers Day 2013 is a day I'll never forget. The day I got transferred to from ICU to the general maternity ward and I could begin the journey of bonding with my son.
I'm not going to lie I felt very disconnected, that 'love you feel for them straight away' everyone talks about took a lot longer. It just didn't feel like he was mine.
After about a week I took Banjo home and started 'mumming', sweeping all that had happened under the rug and getting on with life because I was parenting now and this is what you do right? This is what so many of us do...just get on with life, but not realising that all these emotions would reemerge with my next pregnancy.
So 1.5years later and I'm pregnant with bub #2. I'm going to my antenatal appointments and suddenly being asked about my previous birth. This bought up a lot of emotion and in appointments I would try my hardest to not cry and keep a brave face until I walked out the hospital doors and broke down. I began to realise this was not healthy heading into my next birth and bringing this baggage was not a positive approach. I decided to seek counselling.
Going through the story and identifying the parts which raised emotions for me was therapeutic and very healing. My counsellor at the time gave me some advice to choose people close to me that I could trust (and feel comfortable to cry with) to tell my story too and tell them as many times as I needed too.
I realised that keeping it all bottled up inside was like drinking my own poison and letting go and processing with people I trust (who are great listeners) is the key to healing.
As a doula the debriefing time with my clients in the post natal visit is very important to me whether a perfect birth or not. Being able to let a mother and partner share their journey and through the process letting the raw emotions of joy, laughter and sadness come out is so important. We all share our most favorite memories of the birth which may have been missed by each other in the craziness of the day.
I just want women to see how holding on and bottling up your story can be unhealthy. If you decide to not have doula support at your birth I want to encourage you to have great support around you afterwards. This will help process your emotions and let the healing unravel.
A woman will always remember her birth story no matter how many years go past. Do yourself, your new baby, your family and people around you a favour and don't hold on to it. This is not only for your birth stories, it's for any chapter in your life where emotions are raw and hearts are vulnerable.
My motto is life is 'The best gift you can ever give someone is a better you'.