A Traumatic Birth Story :: What Expecting Moms Should Know

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This article is part of an editorial series, “Stork Stories,” brought to you by Fort Worth Moms. Join our subscriber list so you don’t miss a moment of “Stork Stories” and all Fort Worth Moms has to offer throughout the year.

Birth can be a traumatic experience for mothers.

Oh, pregnancy. We love the beautiful stories. The gorgeous bump pictures, the sweet birth stories where everything goes as planned. In an age of social media, where can we edit life to make chaotic moments look precious, it is so important to share the other side of pregnancy.

The stories of heartbreak, chaos, and trauma. 

I want to share one of my birth stories and the trauma that came with it. Birth trauma looks different for everyone. It can be hard to recognize our experiences as trauma.

What is Birth Trauma? 

Birth trauma includes the events before, during, or immediately following birth that induce a fear for the safety of your life. This can be anything from having to have an emergency C-section that you had not planned for or feeling as though you are not being listened to in the hospital room.

In the black community, birth trauma stems from the infant and maternal mortality rate in the United States. 

>> RELATED READ :: The Truth About Black Women’s Maternal Health <<

Fort Worth Moms shares birth stories in its editorial series, Stork Stories.A Rough Pregnancy

My trauma began with a miscarriage in 2017. After living with high blood pressure most of my life, I trusted doctors when they switched my medication. “Our approach is to care for the mother before the baby,” I was told three weeks into a new medication. I felt betrayed by the doctors in whom I’d put my trust.

One month later we were pregnant again. This pregnancy was rough. The doctor said I would be induced because of my lifelong history of hypertension. I was told I’d be given Pitocin. No discussion, no choice. Two months before this planned procedure, NPR shared Shalon Irving’s story. Fear consumed me. 

The thing I wish knew then is that there are in fact many choices for your experience, even when being induced. There are many pregnancy-safe drugs to choose from when needed. As well as other methods of induction, in addition to Pitocin, to try first. For example, my second and third birth were started via balloon. 

A Painful Delivery

In the delivery room, my plan to skip the epidural changed quick. To make matters worse, I made a request to up the medicine so many times that I couldn’t be given more. I was only about only about eight hours into a 15-hour labor. After about two hours of screaming in pain — asking for my doctor to come — a nurse walked in with a different drug for pain relief. 

I told the nurse I felt an intense need to push my baby out, and that my baby’s hand touched hers when she reached in there. But she told me “I had only felt her hand” and to “get more rest.”

As soon as she left the room, my husband and I watched as the baby played with the catheter between my legs, swinging it back and forth like a jump rope. The pain medicine had quickly worn off, and I lay screaming in pain for about an hour before another nurse came back in. With a very quick check, she was surprised to find that my baby was in fact coming, and I needed to start pushing before my room was even prepped. 

The thing I wish I knew then is to trust my mama instincts. When it is time to push, you will know. It is not acceptable to be ignored during this time. I knew baby was coming and unfortunately, I had to scream for hours to be heard. 

>> LISTEN :: What It Is Like to Be a Black Mother :: Momfessions Podcast :: Episode 39 <<

A Difficult Recovery

With five good pushes I delivered my tiny baby boy. He was six pounds, three ounces. I was stitched up, but within five minutes, it began to burn.

He was beautiful, and he was hungry. Not knowing any moms in my family who had breastfed, I had no knowledge of how to nurse my baby. It took about two hours before the lactation consultants arrived to help us, but by that time my inner labia was on fire. I was rushed to the operating room for a labial hematoma.

>> RELATED READ :: Black Moms Do Breastfeed {And Other Busted Myths} <<

By the time I made it into the O.R. room, the nurse told me it had swollen to the size of a golf ball. Within the next couple weeks as I began to recover, I had discovered that a part of my body had been changed forever. The procedure meant the removal of half my labia. It’s a constant reminder of my horrific first birth.

The thing I wish I knew then is to look into doula services. Contact one even if you believe you can’t afford it. There are non-profit programs with a mission to provide free and affordable doula care to those in need. A doula is a great resource to have in addition to your partner. They are a wealth of unbiased knowledge and an extra voice when you feel yours isn’t being heard. 

Mothers have been given the gift of strength. We handle our trauma in a variety of ways. For myself, it took more than a year to recognize my experience as trauma. But only 14 months later, I found myself back at the hospital. Giving birth to a gorgeous baby girl. 

2 COMMENTS

  1. Great article! This definitely needs to be talked about more!! But I’m super curious, how were you able to have another baby so quickly after experiencing that trauma? My oldest was an emergency C-section, which was very traumatic for me, and even though we were cleared to try again at 18 months postpartum (longer than the normal 12 months recommended due to my C-section and a few other issues), I was not mentally able to “try again” until almost 3 years later.

  2. Hi Amy! I agree, this is something that needs more conversations. Honestly, about 4 months post partum, I knew that we may want another child one day. But as my body was starting feel better, and our baby was starting to sleep easier- I realized that if we waited to try again, the more I sat and thought about what I experienced I was not going to want to go through that again!

    I also hadn’t fully comprehended my experience as a traumatic birth at that point. The only time I had heard that term used was for very specific birth experiences. I hadn’t associated my own birth as a trauma until I was talking to a friend and telling her how scared I was to have my baby. She reminded me that my feelings were valid and that what I experienced was a traumatic birth. At this point, I was due pretty soon. (Needless to say, I hadn’t fully dealt with my trauma) If I had had that conversation sooner, I would’ve spoken with a counselor after giving birth. My OB did acknowledge that the nurse on my shift was dealt with after my delivery and that it shouldn’t have happened that way. However aside from the Post Partum Depression screening, I don’t recall being asked about how I was doing, mentally.

    My second pregnancy was hard because of this and I was scared for most of that pregnancy. Even though we had discussed trying again when we did, I cried for probably the first 15 weeks of my pregnancy.

    The Silver Lining was that I had everything fresh in my mind though. It did help me to choose how to do things differently. I went with the Midwives, who were much more understanding and talked through all of the pptions I had for everythingthroughout the pregnancy. It was also a different hospital. I knew what questions to ask and could advocate better for myself. I was much more assertive the second time around being so soon after. Even more assertive and bold than my third pregnancy acouple years later. My second birth was so much smoother, so much easier. It was beautiful!

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