This week is birth trauma awareness week, it’s also the week that my son will turn two. On my to do list for quite some time has been to annotate (rather than edit) a small but important section of my birth story I wrote a few weeks after giving birth. I’ve learnt a heck of a lot since then as both a mum and as someone who works with other mums in the perinatal period, one of those things is the impact that words can have- particularly for those who have experienced trauma. For this reason, a particular passage I wrote no longer sits well with me. Read on to discover more including the passage highlighted in bold italics and my annotation following.
“I am prepared for whatever turn my birthing takes” Caesarean Birth Story of baby Max
After watching the introductory video for the Online Hypnobirthing Australia Course – I knew that it was going to be useful.
I was fortunate to have a healthy normal pregnancy and the course – especially our visit from Nicole (our wonderful hypnobirthing practitioner) helped to allay the fears I had of child birth based upon the overwhelmingly negative stories I had been hearing all my life.
One of the affirmations I had on my bedroom wall during pregnancy was ‘my body has known what to do throughout pregnancy – it knows what to do for birth’. My husband Mark and I enjoyed using the resources and Nicole’s advice to prepare for an active Hypnobirth and when the time drew nearer we were ready.
I often fell asleep listening to the hypnobirthing tracks and I believe the message ‘I accept whatever turn my birthing takes’ became absorbed into me. Mark and I did utilise many of the hypnobirthing techniques we had learnt during the first phase of my labour- affirmations, massage, acupressure, aromatherapy, breathing, we even watched a couple of episodes of Brooklyn 99 to get those endorphins flowing! These techniques alone with the addition of some gas about 8 or so hours in proved to work for a good 12-14 hours.
As circumstances required I had to be induced, and my labour ended after 24 hours with a c section and most importantly a beautiful baby boy Max ! Throughout the whole time my baby boy was never in distress, nor did my anxiety levels rise too high. Mark was an amazing advocate for me and I felt safe in the knowledge he was able to communicate our needs effectively with the medical team. We discussed the hypnobirthing c section birthing preferences with the Dr who was able to reassure us that most of those preferences would be met, it was a good tool to have as we were not prepared for the c section.
On Max’s first day we learnt that he had picked up an infection and he was placed on a course of antibiotics and transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit. It was a scary time for us, waiting for various test results to come back, but thankfully max responded well to treatment and the more serious infections were slowly ruled out with him eventually being discharged happy and healthy after 6 days.
During this period we used the BRAIN acronym for special circumstances in our discussions with medical staff, it was a handy tool to have when we were both running on little sleep and worried. So though our birthing journey had many turns, the only thing that truly matters is that we are both safe and well and looking forward to getting to know one another during this special time of life.
My annotated remarks...
Here’s the thing...mother and baby both being safe and well actually isn’t all that truly matters. Sure it’s right up there! But more accurately there are LOTS of things that truly matter when it comes to birth. Of crucial importance is also mums experience of birth and how she feels about it.
There are certain phrases commonly used in our society in relation to mothers and babies that perpetuate a problem of not validating and supporting mums during an incredibly vulnerable and transformative stage of life. I’m not saying that anyone who uses these common phrases is vexatious or uncaring (I’ve used one here in my own birth story and I’m certainly neither of those things). Neither is this man who’s words reached a far larger audience than mine when spoken to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex ! http://www.theperinatalspace.com/what-world-needs-know-about-its-introduction-baby-sussex-and-its-got-nothing-do-him-or-his-parents What I am saying is that it’s time to acknowledge the potential for good and bad that words have and change the narrative where necessary.
That’s what I’m trying to do by sharing my own birth story again, this time with a small but significant change. Yes I could have simply cut out this phrase and left it at that but I don’t want to remove any of the words that truly reflect how I was feeling at the time. My birth story is exactly that- mine and no one else’s. But it’s one I have shared (on the internet none the less!) and if I am going to share it I want to do so with consideration for others reading it.
I said earlier what also truly matters is mums experience of birth and her feelings about it. For me, my experience was positive and I still feel that way. That right there is crucial, it’s up to no one else but the individual to determine how they feel based on their perception of events. I’m in no doubt that the main contributor to my positive birth experience despite numerous complications was the support from my amazing husband along with knowledge we both shared about birth thanks to Hypnobirthing Australia in particular Nicole from https://www.mindbumpandbirth.com.au/
While I’m at it with all of this sharing I may as well finish off by adding another photo to the one I initially chose to accompany my birth story. One without me in it, just my perfect little cherub (taken approximately 3 weeks after birth!) That his father and I spent nearly an hour positioning him ‘just so’ for!
Here’s another-a bit rawer. It was taken on day five after birth, the day I was discharged from hospital and the day before Max was allowed to come home which meant a night apart, separated this time not just by a corridor I could gingerly shuffle down to see him but suburbs. Knowing he was well cared for by the wonderful special care nursery nurses that night was so important. It meant I was able to have a proper sleep in my own bed after only ever managing an hour or two a night since my waters broke in the middle of the night almost a week earlier! For me this was the toughest thing by far in relation to my birth. The sleep deprivation from being kept awake on a busy, noisy maternity ward with a curtain being all that separated me from a strangers crying newborn when my own son was in an adjacent wing of the hospital and not with me. I desperately needed that rest in order to be there for my son in the way he needed when we were finally able to come home.
When we got here, oh how everything changed for the better! Time slowed down, I no longer needed to feel so ‘switched on’ for countless meetings with paediatricians or having to soothe my son every time he needed his IV cannula reinserted (which was 3 times!) My husband and I were able to relax into our own little bubble with our son (as much as new parents can!) I was able to have my baby all to myself for the first time in the safety and sanctuary of our beautiful home, which meant we finally learnt to breastfeed and were able to ditch the formula he had been on in hospital for good. This picture captures:
Thanks for reading, and if you would like to feel validated, supported and positive throughout your transition to motherhood follow me www.theperinatalspace.com