Saturday, January 23, 2010

What birth trauma looks like.

*if you have had a traumatic birth this could be a trigger for you*

I just clicked on a link and read a birth story. It was not a nice birth story but one of a woman bullied into a caesarian who suffered a lot of trauma both during and after her experience.

And I found myself bawling my eyes out.Thinking about how Tannah was bought into the world and about my own trauma and wondering if it will ever really go away. Wondering if in 20 years from now I will still be right back there at Tannah's birth every time I read a traumatic birth story or see a photo of a baby at a hospital birth.

Tannah was dragged into the world by vacuum extraction after a short, induced and incredibly painful labour. By the time she was born I was hooked up to monitors-including one that was inserted into her precious scalp-and I was so stoned on pethedine that I was passing out in between contractions. Not the birth I had imagined and worked on.

When I was pregnant I sought out a birth centre and chose to ignore the statistics thrown at me-that three quarters of us in the birth class would be "transferred out" for a list of possible complications as long as my arm. I wrote my birth plan, I packed a homeopathic kit and I spent hours talking to my belly baby.I was having her in the birth centre-it would be easy and beautiful. Then, after a lot of pre labour, I allowed the first intervention. A late scan.
The scan "showed" that I had low liquor or waters-so I was monitored (2nd intervention) for "suspected hind waters leak". Baby was fine but then I was to come back for more monitoring etc etc. I was desperate for my birth centre birth so I agreed-thinking that the fact that all was OK would keep everyone reassured. I was not prepared for what happened at the next round of monitoring.
I was told that waters were still "low" and though baby was fine my cervix was "favorable" so they would be breaking my waters. The registrar actually told me this mid vaginal exam (VE)and assured me it would send me into labour for sure and best I do it now so I could avoid another VE. Artificially broken waters are not a reason to transfer out. I was still safe-and I was going to go into labour "for sure". All good. I agreed.
Then buckets of water exploded everywhere after they were broken.
"hmm-they didn't seem that low" says the registrar.
I call Luke-this all went on while I was alone-and tell him to get to the hospital ASAP-we're having our baby today! I was so excited and sure it was all going to be fine, despite being terrified. I squatted, I climbed stairs-because I was not allowed to go home, and told that I had 4 hours to make labour happen "on my own" or they were going to do it for me.
4 hours pass. No labour, not a twinge, nothing.
I cried a little when I was transferred out. But I was still hopeful.

That hope faded with the first artificial contraction-that happened about 2 minutes after the drip was started. It was almost 2 minutes long and had me doubled over in pain. A midwife who walked in saw the monitor and said "oh love if it starts like that this is going to be awful"
Then I really cried. Terrified and feeling like a rabbit in headlights. But no time for that 2 minutes later another contraction. Not much I can do for pain relief when I'm strapped to a monitor and only able to move in a semi circle-not to mention those syntocin contractions. From the get go I was offered drugs-even though I made it clear that I was crap with narcotics-they make me drowsy and pukey. I begged for a shower and got my wish, but not before the midwife turned up the drip so by the time I got in I was barely able to stand and the contractions were a minute apart.
3 hours into my labour an OB came in looked at the machine, ordered me up on the bed for a poke around and announced that I probably had a few hours to go. I freaked, there was no way I could keep it up. I begged for an epidural but it was going to take too long (my saving grace from a c-section I believe) so I took the pethadine-complete with another drug to stop the puking. It was about half an hour before Tannah was to be born.
That got me up on the bed-much to the midwifes relief and had me completely out of it and still in pain. Apparently it only works in half of women for pain. Something that maybe could have been bought to my attention before having it.I was passing out all over the place and being shaken and yelled awake. Things spiraled out of control from here. Tannah was in a terrible position(me lying on my back) and her heart rate was not great (syntocin) and I had a cervical lip. They pushed the lip back but I was roughly handled by 2 doctors before the 3rd could push it back over Tannah's head-while I screamed. Then they put a monitor into her scalp. Then I started pushing-but it wasn't happening because I was lying flat on my back pushing uphill. Her hear rate was not good. She needed to be born. If I had had the epidural this is the part where I would tell you I was wheeled off for surgery-but I had not. So the OB put a suction cup on my baby's beautiful head and started to pull.
If you imagine this is gentle tug to "help" her out think again. His/her (I can't remember) foot was on the end of the bed for leverage and I remember feeling terrified that her whole head was going to come off. I pushed with all my might and the OB pulled so hard the suction cup detached from Tannah's head-taking with it a chunk of scalp. It was put back on and Tannah was born into the arms of a complete stranger-and in front of Luke, a midwife, another OB and a pediatrician-as well as tye cleaner who was changing the bin at the time.
She came out screaming and was put on my (dressed) chest. This moment is still as clear as if it were yesterday. She stopped crying and looked into me like "oh thank goodness you're here. I'm safe" Then she was whisked away for all the "essentials". weight, measurement, apgars etc. She was 37 weeks gestation and weighed 7lb 2oz Apgars were 9 and 10. All that intervention for a baby who was perfectly happy gestating in suspected low waters.

When I got her back I tried feeding her but she was drowsy (pethedine)and we only had a little success. She was wrapped in blankets and I was not allowed to carry her back to my room-she had to be wheeled and so did I. I had a LOT of stitches and all I wanted was a shower. I discovered later when I unwrapped her that she had a gaping hole in her scalp from the vacuum. Months later I discovered that they had injured my cervix with it too, making any kind of penetrative sex excruciating for about a year.

I remember getting home and unpacking my hospital bag. My birth plan and homeopathic kit were still in there. Untouched. I cried and cried.

I was "so lucky" to have a healthy baby out of the whole mess. I came home from hospital and tried to cope. We had a lot of trouble getting breastfeeding up and running. Tannah was in a fair amount of pain for at least the first year-her scalp, neck and back needed to heal from the incredible pressure of being dragged out of my body. She screamed. A lot. She didn't sleep much. I stumbled through the days, weeks,months telling myself it was no big deal until I heard Sarah J Buckley talk about birth trauma when Tannah was 10 months old.

My world fell apart. I was angry. I was upset. But most of all I felt so guilty that I had "let" all of these horrible things happen to me and my baby. It took me longer to realize that it was not my fault and longer still to accept that that's the shit that women are offered every day in hospitals around Australia. They are bullied with fear, they are traumatized with unnecessary intervention and ultimately women and babies are damaged emotionally and physically every day and told to accept it as "normal" and consider themselves lucky thanks very much for the "help".

I've since had 2 homebirths. I never felt afraid or bullied. I always felt respected. After each babe slid into my arms easily (I know it's not always the way with homebirth) and gently I felt elated and empowered. It was not something that was done to me and my baby. And each time I have cried buckets for Tannah and I and the birth that was so awful and traumatic for us both-knowing it could have been different.


Anonymous said...

it leaves me speechless every time I read a birth story that is quite similar in parts to my own traumatic birth experience...

"Wondering if in 20 years from now I will still be right back there at Tannah's birth every time I read a traumatic birth story or see a photo of a baby at a hospital birth." I think about this a lot. It's been almost 5 years, but it's still feels a bit different and the impact it has one me has changed along the way, but it's still there...


Sazz said...

Shae, Tannahs birth is one that never leaves *me* so I cannot imagine just how fucking hard it is to have lived it :(

*hugs hugs hugs*

Juniper said...

((hugs)) - there are similarities in that story with my own first birth story (pethadine and my reaction to it, induced contractions - though with the gel not the drip, still excruciating with no "down time") and I still think back to it (13yrs later) with a tear in my eye, and remember how it took me a few years before I could even *consider* going back and having a second baby.

Reading your story made me sad for you, and totally mad at the whole hospital system etc... So many first time birth stories are so similar - why why why? We go in with such high hopes yet we are naive to the reality of the hospital system and we are almost "set up" for failure. Not fair!

Like you, I progressed to homebirth, (but took to my 3rd child to do it) and thank goodness, because despite undiagnosed breech, it was the most rewarding and fulfilling experience of my life.

But I sometimes feel sad for the naive and optimistic young woman I was before my first birth. She had no idea, that you virtually have to *fight* to get what should be every woman's right - the opportunity to birth in a safe, secure environment and not be scared and/or cajoled into the cascade of interventions that feels almost inevitable in the hospital system, even in the "birth center"...

Nic said...

Huge hugs

Spiralmumma said...

*hugs* from me too. Quite a few similarities between Tannah's birth and Sienna's. Five years down the track I'm ok about it-but 2 years ago, approaching her 3rd birthday I remember getting quite distressed, I found joining Sammi's Birth healing site very helpful.

While I still feel ill at the thought of my labour,(and Liam's too though not as much) I am at peace with it too. Love and healing to you.

katepickle said...

Sending love and support.... I think the broken dreams of our first steps into motherhood never go away.... we just learn to deal with the grief a little better each day.

Lisa said...

i am so sorry for your traumatic birth experience. it makes me so sad to know that there are people who are supposed to be helpful (or at least most people think that is what Drs and nurses are for)that make it worse. i don't know how anyone could think that this is "just 1 day". good or bad, we never forget our births. sending big hugs your way.

Kat said...

Oh Dear God.
I did read your warning, really I did but I continued reading anyway. Im so sorry for what happened to you and Tannah. My dd's birth was traumatic, horrible and very much surpressed. We tried for ages (years) to fall pregnant with #2 but I was just wasnt mentally ready. I am now 12 weeks pregnant and terrified of birthing again. I dont know what to do.

Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo said...

I understand.

I totally understand.

Moo still has a crescent shaped scar on her cheek - NINETEEN YEARS LATER - from them trying to get her out of the birth canal with forceps during an emergency ceasar after a botched vacuum extraction...

And I was so sick afterwards - I nearly died - I didn't see her for 2 days.

So yeah. I get it.

But like you, I was older and wiser with the next two and got pretty much what I wanted.

Veronica said...

Reading this over a year later - it sounds like my birth with Amy. It was traumatic and horrific.

I had a second hospital birth with Isaac - but midwife only care. It helped that I birthed so fast, but I had no interventions and the calmest, most reassuring midwife who told me it was an 'honour to watch a birth like this'.

It was healing, the second birth. Amy's was horrific - also a vacuum extraction (HORRID THING)

Carly Webber @ My Life in Colour said...

Shae, I kid you not... this story is almost exactly mine! Up until the part where baby was stuck; I was in fact whisked away, epiduraled up and in for an emergency c-section. I cried about my birth experience every night for eight months. I was just thinking this week that I would write my birth story soon, maybe something that would help further with the grief (two and a half years on).
I feel for you but cannot imagine for one moment what it must have been like for you and your baby in those moments that differed from mine. *hugs*

Sarah M. said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story! With my son I planned on a hospital birth but my doctor was all on board for a natural one. We were going to have very limited monitoring and I was going to move around and walk. Well a week before my due date my doctor had a stroke so I ended up with her partner that did not believe in not having continuous monitoring, didn;t believe in letting a woman go into labor on her own. I was induced right at 38 weeks because I had a "big baby" and he was worried aobut me being able to deliver said baby. I'm 6 foot tall with really wide hips, I handled my 9 lb baby jsut fine.

When I was induced the broke my water and started pitocin and I went from no contractions at all to terrible ones. My doctor told me I might have to have a c-section everytime he came in and told me to just go ahead and get an epidural now so I didn't have to deal with it. I ended up on one of the pain killers, I'm not even sure which one, and it brought my blood pressure way up and i felt so sick and dizzy. Through all this my baby's dad was in and out of my hospital room and not being supportive in the least.

I couldn't relax and let my body do what it needed to do and I wasn't "progressing well" after 3 hours of the pitocin I was at a 3 so the nurse said that i needed to have the epidural to relax me. I am lucky that it actually did work and I got a little rest. Then I pushed for 6 minutes and had a baby.

I can't imagine if I hadn't been as lucky as I was. I still feel like I should have said no to the induction and trusted my body. To this day I still have back problems from the epidural and the thought of contractions makes me nauseous.

Anyways, thank you again for sharing. I think it is really important to talk about the experiances we have so that others can possibly have a happier outcome.

AlyceB said...

Oh my gosh. Shae, I have tears in my eyes. I am so sorry! I don't know what to say, but had to say just something {{hugs}}

Amba @ Team Mummy said...

I'm so sorry you experienced such a traumatic birth. I think, as first time mothers its so easy to get caught up in the medical side of things, we enlist to much trust in the health 'professionals' sometimes and things beyond our control happen.

Obv with you're second and third babies you felt much more empowered to make you're own decisions and to have those homebirths and for that I applaud you. Off now to read up (if I can find them!) the birth of Willow and Harper.

I know I felt much more confident as a second time mother. In both my pregnancy and birth. It was MY way or the high way haha. And of course my second birth was at the birth centre, over within 2 hours and my baby did not leave my chest for hours and hours after birth. It was the best experience of my life : )

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