When a Birth Experience Still Feels Traumatic

When a mother gives birth and still feels traumatised by the experience months later, it needs to be spoken about and the grief expressed so that the mother can heal. Women may carry the grief and trauma of a bad birth experience for the rest of their lives, if no one is listening.The following conversation took place recently between myself and one of my previous clients, Louisa. Unfortunately, Louisa has moved to another country in the interim, and is struggling to find a midwife or service that will meet her needs.

Dear Marianne, with the 2nd birth getting close, I can’t help not to go over the 1st in my mind. I also read lots of articles from your blog and I noticed that there are several things that didn’t really happen during my birth according to what you normally recommend and believe in. For example, we didn’t wait till I felt the urge to push and I was pushing anyway …which was in the end the most difficult part for me. Also you suggested I try to push, for a short while, laying on my back which you say on your website doesn’t work. And then I had a quite a big tear even though I used the Epino for one month prior to the birth. So these things leave me now wondering what I have done wrong and what should I avoid for the next time. I know it has been a year and a half and you probably don’t remember the details anymore. But if you do and find the time, I would really appreciate to have your thoughts on this. It would help me to complete this experience in my mind and move on to the next one. Thank you.

Dear Louisa, in retrospect, we could have perhaps waited longer to see if you would get the urge to push. I remember that the fit between your pelvic bones and the baby’s  head was quite tight and that the head was not coming down without quite alot of effort from you. I have had a few mothers who do not get the urge to bear down spontaneously, and while this is the ideal, it may not always happen. Sometimes the nerve endings in the rectum may not be as sensitive to pressure as they could be, and I have had this experience with women who have difficulty with constipation. I haven’t looked over your notes so I’m just answering off my memory and you may have to correct me. I was also a little concerned during the pushing stage, as I heard the baby’s heart beat becoming tired. I remember we tried all sorts of positions for you and that being on your back absolutely did not work. Sometimes it helps, depending on the position of the baby, as it may open the pubic arch, but pressure on the sacrum can be very  painful when lying in a semi-reclining position. And yes, occasionally the perineum will tear even with the use of the epi-no. No, you have not done anything wrong, and yes it was and still feels traumatic. I am really sorry you still feel traumatised, and that I may not have been patient enough during your birth.
The second birth is generally easier: the hip joints are more flexible, the body is familiar with the process, and is now experienced in the release of just the right amount of hormones and chemicals and everything usually happens more smoothly helping to heal any residual trauma felt from the first birth experience. I would recommend that you search and settle for a midwife who will hold the space calmly for your body to work naturally, who will expressly not do any of the things you fear. I would recommend lying on yr side for the actual birth as this is kindest to the perineum. I would recommend that the pushing happens gently as I do not think you will have the same problems this time. I really appreciate your honesty and questions.
I have just helped a mother who was quite traumatised by the first birth at home give birth to her second baby. This mother really wanted this one to be calm and non-traumatic. She was not disappointed. Search until you find the right person who gives you this feeling.  I think it is healthy for women to read that birth may not always go as expected, even with ‘natural birth midwives’! And that we need to share the negative things we feel as well as the positive. May u be blessed with a calm untraumatic experience this time round. Love and hugs Marianne

Thank you very much for your fast and caring response. What you say makes a lot of sense to me and it does make me feel better about the experience. In the country where I now live, unfortunately, it is not possible to take your own midwife to the birth and you have to take the one that is available at the hospital or birth clinic. And if you do take someone, they will not be in charge of the birth anyway. I think home birth is not allowed here…because i asked a couple of times and didn’t even get an answer as if that is out of the question. I am going to visit a birth clinic next week which is run only by midwives…maybe that will be a good option. And you can definitely put the question on your website. Because that’s how I got a bit anxious about things….by reading about all these perfect natural births, wondering what happened with mine. Thanks again. Love, Louisa

3 thoughts on “When a Birth Experience Still Feels Traumatic”

  1. A really sensitive approach.. Thinking about birth and let us remember that each birth is unique.. It has it’s own sets of norms. Wishing Louisa a perfect birth this time around. She can be connected, peaceful and soft in her body, yielding to the ever increasing pressure as the most powerful muscle in the human body coaxed her baby through her pelvic bowl. We will all be thinking of you Louisa.

  2. marianne i just teared up. your gentle response – the fact that you took responsibility for possibly being impatient, and that you are open about how even a home birth can leave a women traumatised in the best of situations… i wish there were more midwives out there with your honesty and the ability to admit mistakes. you are a rare woman.

    1. Dear Bronwyn

      Thank you for your heartfelt remark. The trick in life is always to stay open and receptive to our own feelings and the feelins of others, both positive and negative. When our grief is heard, the hurt and loss can heal and make way for joy. Some close friends have really been there for me in times of terrible grief and loss, enabling me to open my heart to love. I am truly grateful for this.

What do you think?