My Birth Trauma Story by Jennie Harrison
There have been several articles published recently by midwives on the pressure that they are facing and what it means to the health of Mums and their Little Ones.
There is a huge staff shortage with no budget for more midwives and there is also a fear of litigation, which creates a system focused on reducing costs rather than the best outcome for Mum and her baby. Lots of women give birth with absolutely no complications and a straightforward, healthy birth is possible for most women. However for some this system will impact on both them and their baby as this defensive practice can lead to intervention after intervention and result in a traumatic birth.
When a birth becomes prolonged or more complicated, the stress on both Mum and Little One is increased and can affect sleep and anxiety levels. As a Mum you don’t have time to process this experience as you are thrust into the most amazingly exhausting time of your life, so the fear, guilt, sadness, anxiety get tucked away only to come back and haunt us later. Little Ones are the same, they can’t process what they’ve just been through and this can cause anxiety and sleep issues, again for years to come.
I experienced a traumatic birth with my little boy, so I understand how it feels. I had a textbook pregnancy and felt very calm about the birth. I had planned a water birth with gentle music, dimmed lights and very few people there. Due to a cascade of intervention in hospital we ended up with an emergency forceps delivery in theatre, bright lights and 12 people. My stay in hospital was not a good experience and I was happy to get home. Although I was elated and being a mum came very naturally to me, I couldn’t ignore the underlying anxiety, flash backs and panic attacks that I experienced. I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), although according to my doctor I was just an anxious Mum that needed to get out without my baby. I was lucky that I had trained as a Reiki Practitioner prior to becoming pregnant, as it was these treatments that eased my anxiety and helped my Little One sleep.
I didn’t return to my full time job as I couldn’t leave my little boy and couldn’t have coped with the corporate world. I made the decision to help other mums who had experienced birth trauma and set up my own company. I have since worked with lots of Mums and Little Ones who have experienced a traumatic birth, although this is not the reason they come to me. The majority of Mums I work with approach me because their Little One is not sleeping. Whether they are babies or 6 years old, they are still affected by their birth, still struggle to sleep and normally have some sort of anxiety as well. I help both Mum and Little One to move on from the birth, to feel safe again and to sleep!
“The Mind of Your Newborn Baby” is a fascinating book by Dr David Chamberlain, a psychologist who uses hypnotherapy to resolve trauma. He has found that many adults are still affected by the birth trauma that they experienced and when under hypnosis can recount the whole event. I had read this book so had some understanding about how babies form memories about their birth, however I still felt shocked when 3 months ago my little boy started talking to me about his birth. He is nearly 3 and was able to tell me how scary it was as well as act out the process of being born. He said he was scared for me and I was scared for him. I used Reiki Treatments, gentle conversation and lots of cuddles to help him move forward from this so that the nightmares have stopped, he is sleeping again and his anxiety has reduced.
Childbirth can have a huge impact in shaping you as a Mum and your baby as a person, but you don’t need to suffer in silence. The anxiety, fear and guilt do not have to stay tucked away and you can feel ‘normal’ again. I know, I’ve lived it and I’ve come through the other side of it.
As for the system that can create this type of experience, I have decided it is time to speak up, to raise awareness and push to change it so that fewer Mums and Little Ones suffer. If you would like to share your experience please take part in my Birth Trauma survey . The more voices we have, the bigger impact can be made. If you feel you need help to deal with your experience my website is www.isistherapy.co.uk
by Jennie Harrison