Memories of Birth Trauma Past

Warning: This is potentially triggering to other mommas who had traumatic birth experiences

This past weekend my husband said to me “Hey Michelle, can we get rid of these pills?” At first I had no idea what he was talking about because I’m not taking any medication and then when I saw the pill bottle I knew. He found some leftover anti-anxiety pills that I had to take after having my daughter. You know, that time I had a very traumatic birth experience that lead me down a spiral of uncontrollable anxiety and resulted in a trip in the ER after being home from the hospital only 2 days. (Here’s part one and part two of that story and here’s a link to more information about postpartum anxiety)

I had no idea that when I left the hospital with this little love bug I would be tested in ways I never imagined.
I had no idea that when I left the hospital with this little love bug I would be tested in ways I never imagined.

Now that there’s been almost 2 years of distance between that point in my life and where I am now, I don’t think about what happened as often as I used to. But is the trauma still there? Yes. Just seeing that pill bottle brought up the memories and some of the anxiety I felt when dealing with my own post-birth mental health crisis.

I still wonder why I couldn’t have the smooth, vaginal birth I wanted. The last thing I wanted was a c-section. Was it necessary in my situation? Probably, considering that my daughter scored scarily low on the apgar test and was unresponsive when she was eventually taken out of my body. I will never forget the fear I felt when I didn’t hear her crying. In every birth scene you see in a movie the baby starts crying immediately when born but I heard absolute silence. I saw her whisked away from me and remember begging the doctors to tell me what happened. WHY WASN’T SHE CRYING? Why wouldn’t anyone tell me what was going on? The look on my husbands face when he had to choose between staying with me for the rest of the surgery or going with our distressed newborn and leaving me alone – that fucking kills me. Kills me.

Deep breaths. Even just writing this now is causing tears to stream down my face. Almost 2 years later and yet when I let myself really think about what happened, it feels like yesterday. Sometimes when I’m alone in the shower and my hand brushes over the scar on my lower abdomen, I have to do everything in my power to not let the memories flood in.

While I’ve healed physically and have done a lot of emotional healing, I am afraid to have another child because of what happened. I say in a silly tone to people that my husband and I are “one and done” but deep down, there’s really not anything funny about it. Deep down the idea of birth, the possibility of having to once again lay on that metal table and be cut open, causes me emotional pain and fear. I’ve always wanted at least two kids but I don’t think I can do it. Despite how awesome my daughter is, I can’t go back to that place.

My happy, healthy, almost two-year old.
My happy, healthy, almost two-year old.

24 thoughts on “Memories of Birth Trauma Past

  1. Thanks for continuing to share your journey Michelle. I am still angry at the way you (and countless other women) were treated during birth. It is unfortunate that birth has become so overly medicalized, and that no one seems to care about the birthing mom’s anymore – as long as baby is healthy, right? Well, I think that is crap. Of course we all want a healthy baby (who would say they didn’t??) but the emotional and physical health of the birthing mothers seems to get lost in the process. Yes, C-sections and other medical interventions are necessary for certain situations, but that doesn’t mean it has to be traumatic. We all deserve dignity and respect – and we all deserve to have the fear taken out of our birthing experiences.

  2. I did notice that people finally stopped asking when we were having a third around the time grant was four if that gives you a time frame for when the annoying questions will stop.

  3. What an amazing story.

    Your girl is beautiful.

    And re: the people who keep asking – people are just naturally nosy and awkward. Your response is perfect.

  4. Thanks for sharing your journey. I think it really calls to light how serious mental health issues are for new moms, well all moms really, and shines a light on how weak the support for them can be.

    I want to tell you with the utmost respect, compassion, and empathy, that even if your labor and delivery had been everything you wanted, it could have still been traumatic, or even worse. There is just no way to know. I still sense that you are holding on to what could have been. I also sense (in the anger) that you feel like the experience is holding you back from what you really want.

    I had a “natural” <> birth with my first who is now 3. It was a water birth in the hospital and was everything I specified I wanted. It was incredibly traumatic as well. A 29 hour labor with no epidural and wanting to hang myself with shower tube. When I scooped her out of the water she was unresponsive and not breathing. She scored a 2. Then I got out of the tub, and in all of the chaos, I hemmorhaged which went completely un-noticed. After a serious bout with postpartum anxiety (I was shocked at how similar my feelings were to what you described in your other posts), breastfeeding issues, almost needing a blood transfusion, and months of therapy, we all recovered. It has been loooong road, and one that I have come to accept I will be on the rest of my life.

    All of this affected me for years, and would prevent me from being able to be fully present with my daughter. I found that after a lot of therapy with very good therapists, when I was finally able to accept the experience and let go of “what could have been”, I was at peace and could reach my full mom potential. I always tell my husband that “letting go” is A LOT easier said than done. It’s been the hardest work of my life. I got a tattoo a few months ago when I felt I had overcome another bout of PPA after my second birth that means “freedom” to remind me that I am free to make the choice to let go. That I have the power to leave the past behind, and move forward. And to remind me that everything deserves the freedom to be accepted just as it is – my children, my job, my ability/shortcomings as a mom, etc.

    There is a story I have heard that really helped me – it goes something like this: There were two monks walking in the forest. They came across a woman who was struggling to cross a river. The older monk picked her up, carried her across the river, and put her down. The monks continued walking. The younger monk said, “you picked up that woman, you know we are forbidden from touching women” and older monk said “I may have picked her up, but you are still carrying her”.

    I feel for you. I really hope that some of what I said helps even just a little. It brings tears to my eyes to think about your continued suffering.

    Your little girl is soo cute, and has beautiful brown eyes just like my daughter’s. There is nothing like a little one to bring you right back to the present.

    Take good care.

    1. Amanda I loved your entire response. Thank you for taking the time to share this with me. I loved the little story too. I also got a tattoo right around my daughters 1st birthday – how funny! Mine is a lotus flower on my wrist to represent something beautiful coming from a struggle. Hugs to you too and thanks again.

  5. Michelle,

    I too am grateful for your courage to tell it like it is. Here, in Vancouver alone, I hear tens of traumatic birth stories every year, and how the overwhelm scares women, not just from having another baby, but from sexuality, their emotions, and basically just feeling safe.
    I realized how many women there are in the world who go through this and have very few recourses, and how birth interventions are on the rise in North America and most of the world. Knowing we can heal from such things (both babies and mothers and partners) made me want to do something to reach a lot of people.
    You may find it interesting/helpful/ or a resource for others like you to visit The Secret Life of Babies 4 week online birth recovery program I made. In it, I give everything I know about healing trauma, pre and perinatal psychology, and bodywork after my years of practice helping families heal. .

    Blessings to you,
    Dr. Mia Kalef

  6. You have come a long, long way and I am so proud of you. You are a wonderful mother, have created an amazing forum for other moms, and have even found a new spiritual path all just in the last 2 years. I seriously am constantly amazed and proud to call you my sister. I understand your feelings of being affraid to have more children completely. I felt that way and my first birth wasn’t nearly as traumatic as yours. I wouldn’t worry about it. Time and inspiration will let you know if more children are in the cards or not. In the meantime, keep being amazing 🙂

  7. Thank you for sharing this story (This was the first time I read the whole story). I nearly passed out the day I had to go back to Manchester Hospital to return the rented breast pump after our traumatic birth experience. The panic snuck up on me that day-I thought I was fine. I still have a tough time setting foot inside there and it’s beeb almost 5 years. I should be over it, but I still get the clammy hands, quickness of breath…I can’t even imagine how it is for you. I’m glad that you had and still have the support network to help you through the more difficult moments. Screw anyone else who just doesn’t get it. Hugs to you.

  8. First off, I just read your story and I need to say that it was truly courageous of you to share it. I have a close friend who also had a traumatic birth experience and she made the difficult decision to not have more children for the same reason. No one should judge you for making a decision based on your mental health and the future of your family. Hopefully whatever decision you make about the future of your family will be right for you and you will only be supported.

    1. Thanks Cora. I’m pretty fortunate that my parents aren’t pressuring me at all to have another child but I have started to notice that other people are now asking when the second one is coming. I just smile and say not anytime soon.

  9. Your birth posts always leave me teary. I love you, Dear Sister. Thank you for continuing to share your journey and your healing. ♥

  10. Hugs, Michelle. I had similar reservations about having a second child after my very traumatic birth experience with Olivia. Her initial APGAR was a 2. A FUCKING 2. Nearly nine pound full term baby gets the side eye in the NICU, lemme tell ya! I was absolutely terrified to give birth a second time. Zero control over how it’s played out – in my case it was random meconium aspiration. I am happy to say, though, that my birth experience with Audrey was the most peaceful and joyous occasion of my life. Then she was colicky, but that’s a whole other bag of cats, isn’t it? 🙂 You and the hubs will make the best decision for your little family, which is perfect with one child or several. xo

  11. First, I just want to say how brave you are to write this. I can’t imagine how you must have felt when you didn’t hear your daughter’s first cries – terror comes to mind, but I suspect it’s even deeper than that. You’ll know what the right decision is for you and your family, be patient and let it come. Perhaps in writing this, you can release some of those fears.

  12. Small steps. Every day you are doing the very difficult work of recovery from trauma. Nobody sees this happening, perhaps aside from your husband, and I believe that makes it all the more challenging because to the outside world all seems well, even to those who know. The two-year mark often brings well-meant questions about a second child, which are not really appropriate in any context, except perhaps from the closest friends and family, who should know better than to ask. Hopefully, by being able to tell your story in this forum, it will be somewhat easier to handle the issue when it resurfaces. Don’t forget that you are not alone!

    1. Melanie, I know your response was meant as a comfort to Michelle, but I have to say, I found comfort in your words as well. Thank you.

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