I know that women experience traumas throughout their lives in different ways and in different circumstances. But I want to talk about traumatic birth experiences and how they change us throughout our lives, possibly even impacting our relationships with our child.
We go into birth forced to trust. Trust is paramount to the experience. We have to trust our bodies to do what is required to bring our child from our womb out to the world. We must trust our team that is there to support and assist, and provide safe advice to be in our and our baby’s best interest. We must trust that they will listen and follow our requests for the birth experience we have planned. So what happens when any of this fails us…sometimes trauma, to us or our baby.
This is my personal story of my traumatic birth experience. I was 21, a nurse (pediatric at the time) and having my first baby. I had researched everything and had decided to follow the Bradley Method which was very popular at the time. I liked the premise that labor and birth was a natural experience not a disease and wanted no intervention, though I did choose to deliver in a hospital. My biggest fear with the pregnancy had been that my water would break while giving bedside care to a 6 year old patient and having to explain that their nurse had not just pee’d her pants.
My water did break but fortunately at home in my bed and that is where my birth story begins. All my preparation paid off and I succeeded in the no intervention experience I had desired ALMOST. My contractions started soon and augmentation was never discussed or thought about (at least that I am aware of). It was difficult as I had dry heaves nearly throughout labor with every contraction, which did assist in a fairly rapid progress for a first labor. I quietly focused through each contraction and heave and then came pushing. I pushed and I pushed for hours and after 3 hours I was finally transferred to the delivery room, where I pushed some more. My baby was malpositioned and not wanting to budge much.
I had chosen the obstetrician who had delivered me, as my mom spoke of him with fondness relating to her own birth experiences. He had been open to following all my requests and seemed on board with my birth plan. We had discussed everything and there was nothing bizarre, just basically let me labor naturally with little to no intervention unless discussed with me first. He kept his hands off agreement until the delivery room, where all that changed. Now I am not going to portray that how my baby was delivered was not necessary, as the labor nurse I have been for over 30 years knows, his choice of delivery was most definitely required BUT the manner in which he carried it out still haunts me to this day.
After a time period he felt was adequate he drove forceps around my baby’s head with no warning to me at all. Unmedicated it was excruciating but nothing like what was to come. He then pulled and pulled causing pain that ripped through my entire core. It felt as if he was turning me inside out rib cage and all. And then once my son was delivered, he smugly sat on his stool between my stirruped legs and said, “Would you like me to use some local anesthetic honey to sew this up?” It took all my remaining strength not to kick his smug A$$ off the stool.
I verbalized my disgust for the manner in which he had handled my delivery with my nurse in recovery, as she had been with me throughout and I could tell by the look on her face at delivery that she was as appalled by his actions as I was. I had labored and pushed without a peep but I am sure the scream that I let forth as he pulled was heard throughout the labor unit. She understood my pain. I also discussed it with my Mom and told her by no uncertain terms was I ever going to see him again. And I didn’t, I followed up and transferred to another practice following discharge.
My baby boy looked as though he had been beaten by many forces as well afterward, with his molded head that took days to overcome. The forceps had left some bruising but primarily it was the battle between contractions, pushing and my pelvis that left the longest lasting marks. He was fine though and I am ever so grateful to God for that.
Though this experience did leave lasting results, they have been positive for the most part. It let me go through my next two labors and deliveries with strength and resilience and EASE. That firstborn had definitely blazed the trail. I can say it changed my relationship with obstetricians whom I work along side nearly daily. I do have to keep some of the negative reactions in check and can say I have been fortunate not to see this behavior by many. It has made me a better labor nurse by understanding the raw strength it takes to birth a baby under the most difficult of circumstances. It makes me a stronger advocate for my patients and while being a part during difficult labor and deliveries it reminds me of the humbleness and mercy delivered by our Father during these times. My healing is complete.
As a birth photographer I also understand how important it is to document the positive and beautiful details of birth. Knowing how focused I was during my labors, I now know how detached I was to my surroundings. That inner place we go as we overcome this surmountable but exhausting marathon of labor often leaves us with little actual memories of the process at times. The healing that can come from seeing your birth through the eyes of a bystander documenting the loving support of your baby’s father, the care team, the quiet surroundings can help bring peace, comfort and healing after a birth that may not have gone as you had dreamed. It can help to refocus on the beauty of the experience. I am not there to document the wrongs. I am there to document the rights and their glories!
Jan is a Kansas City birth photographer providing services throughout the KC metro area. Please feel free to leave your experiences in the comments below, good or bad. You may also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Twitter.