Birth trauma. It’s a dirty phrase. To some women it’s empowering, freeing, validating, it relieves some of the guilt surrounding their birth experience and opens the discussion.
To other women it’s like spitting venom. You say birth trauma they hear “weren’t open to the unpredictable mature of birth.”
Or you’re expectations were too high. Or you were too prepared. Or you weren’t realistic. Or at least you have a healthy baby.
I mean just read Dr Maimy’s Horror Story Homebirth blog with all them dead baybeez aren’t ya glad that’s not you?
The top 10 Birth Trauma myths
1. Birth trauma is just being disappointed that something didn’t go ‘quite right.’
Women aren’t traumatized if the wrong Enya CD is playing while she labors or if the birth pool is missing an inch of water. Birth trauma isn’t about hippy mums being disappointed. Birth trauma is about really bad shit going down during labour and delivery. One is traumatized when they believe either themselves or their baby are in danger of death or serious injury. Still believe trauma is a farce?
2. Birth trauma only happens if you’ve had your expectations too high.
Doctors are busy/stressed/just doing their job/know best blah blah blah. This gives them permission to cut episiotomies while women scream “no don’t cut me” or to perform internals while women scream “get your hand out of me”? It might sound like I’m being dramatic but every hospital I’ve been to gives you a pamphlet stating your rights as a patient, one of those rights is to refuse treatment. I’d say screaming no is refusing, so why is that right to refuse treatment removed when you’re in labour? Are my expectations too high if I expect my basic rights to be respected? I also believe in a first world country women shouldn’t be experiencing permanent birth injury. Prolapsed bladders, uterus, anal fissures needing surgical repair… This is happening in Australian hospitals!
3. Birth trauma only happens to mothers wanting natural birth.
No. I have a good friend who labored for many many hours begging for an epidural, and was told time and time again to suck it up and get over it it’s just childbirth from several different midwives. She then birthed a large baby who got stuck in the birth canal and the OB manually moved her. The whole thing lasted 40 hours and she developed kidney issues afterwards for an untreated UTI. She wanted a hospital birth and trusted her doctors and staff. And was very disspointed as a result.
4. Birth trauma only happens if you end up with a Caesar you didn’t want.
Vaginal births can be equally as traumatic. Some vaginal births are so traumatic that women go on to have elective Caesars for subsequent births as a result.
5. The trauma ends in the delivery room.
Not always. It can follow you up to the antenatal ward or go with your baby to NICU, or both.
6. Those who talk about birth trauma really just hate doctors and midwives.
Not always true. I loved the OB present at my first birth, the midwives who cared for us were lovely, kind and compassionate. There were several midwives who cared for me on bed rest who were great value. The OB who delivered him was wonderful, he really knew his stuff, and the anethesist was kind and accommodating. This isn’t about demonizing anyone, it’s about giving voice to our pain, our trauma and it’s about saying “I’m not okay with how this all went down.”
7. Doctors are just doing their job.
And some doctors are doing poorly at it. Take your car to a mechanic and he screws it up, the basic service is done but he’s tracked footprints on the bonnet, there are cigeratte butts in the glove box and his dirty smelly mechanic smell all over the backseat… But he did his job and the car still runs. So why recommend piss poor OBs and under performing hospitals?
8. Birth trauma happens when you micro manage birth and your plan is too detailed?
I believe it’s essential to have a plan, it’s important to research and have expectations. This isn’t about the wrong CD or wrong oils being burnt. See true natural birth is primal and instinctive, and while it’s important to be open to change or the unexpected in birth, the unnecessary can wait. Routine OBs may need to be on the dot for say a patient on the general ward, but a woman in labour needs space and freedom to move. Strapping a laboring woman down for say a half hour for fetal monitoring can be like torture.
9. Doctors know best.
Really? Always? I have a friend who was screaming during second stage of labour “he’s stuck” over and over. No one listened. He was born with a broken colar bone. Let’s face it they’re not gods, they’re just people who went to school a little longer. They make mistakes. They forget to read charts before they walk into patients rooms (cheers resident who came into my room while my baby was in NICU and shrieked “where’s your baby!”) Australian hospitals are understaffed, doctors work long hours. I get it. You make mistakes. However doctors go home probably never think about it again. Women are reminded of that day over and over. Everytime they’re carrying their newborn and someone asks about the birth, everytime they look at newborn photos and then every single year on the date.
10. Talking about birth trauma is offensive to women with still horns and premature babies.
Not at all. I think it’s important to pick your audience carefully. I wouldn’t tell my birth story to a woman who had just lost a baby, I would tell our NICU story to a mum of a prem so she could see you can get out of there and breastfeed. I am offended for the women who are told to shut up and suck it up because there are women and babies like us who have it ‘worse.’. What is traumatic to one may not be to another. It’s all relative.
Birth trauma is not an invention of the Natural Childbirth Community. It’s not about making anyone the ‘bad guy.’
It’s about standing up, saying that our experience was shit and demanding better care for all women. Not just homebirthers.
All women deserve top quality obstetric care. And in a system where women are left with permanart birth injuries like catheters and vaginal prolapse, it’s obvious that the system needs to have a good hard look at itself.
It’s not about blame or shame. It’s about highlighting what’s not working. Because we can see the beautiful babies, but if no one speaks up about what’s going wrong then it will never be fixed.