The Secret That Many Moms Are Keeping

nurturing a broken heart article pic

“There is a secret in our culture, And it’s not that childbirth is painful, It’s that women are strong,”  ~ Laurie Stavoe Harm

While this is a great and true statement, there is a bigger secret that many women are hiding under their love for their new babies : birth trauma. While this can refer to a physical injury sustained during birth, I’m talking about the psychological wounds a woman can experience after a difficult birth experience. A healthy baby and healthy mama are the optimal outcome of birth, right? I think we all agree, YES! Even if she looks great on the outside, a mom who hasn’t healed psychologically after a traumatic birth experience is not a mentally healthy mom.

The feelings and symptoms after a traumatic birth are so wide, varying and personal, but I think a common theme is violation. It happens all too frequently that women feel forced into decisions they aren’t totally informed of, comfortable with or completely understand (yes, there are “informed consent” forms that are signed but that’s a formality and realistically, many of those are signed with a shaky hand out of fear).

Birth is a natural bodily function. Many people forget this fact and sadly, our culture has ‘brainwashed’ women into believing that they are passive passengers in the journey of childbirth (of course I’m speaking generally- fortunately this isn’t every woman’s experience!). At a time when they should be most encouraged, made to feel like a goddess, celebrated, respected and shown nothing but pure love, far too many women are left in the aftermath of a traumatic experience on the very day she is born as a mother. She is a new woman – amazing, strong and life-giving – ready to face the world. Holding her new baby in her arms and a smile (or not, depending on her acting skills) on the outside, with a broken heart, fractured spirit and shattered self-confidence on the inside. This is the result of traumatic birth.

Women are shamed into keeping silent about birth trauma. Made to believe that because their baby is healthy, they should just be grateful and keep quiet about such negativity. “Oh, your birth didn’t go as planned? You should have expected that. You have a healthy baby – that’s all that matters!”

Actually no, that’s not all that matters.

When a woman gives birth, she is forever transformed and a new creature herself. This is true whether her baby was born vaginally or via cesarean…no matter her age, skin color, where she lives in the world…midwife or doctor…naturally or with drugs. Why did our society lose sight of the importance of the mental health of new mothers? Where is the future of the world if it’s not in our children and the woman who birth and raise them?

I believe that while statistics can give us an idea of the reported amount of women who’ve experienced birth trauma, they’re not accurate because this is a silent epidemic. So many of us are totally ashamed to even admit to these feelings, let alone discuss them with anyone. Not talking about a traumatic birth makes a rich breeding ground for postpartum depression…and sometimes even leading down the dark path to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It wasn’t until my oldest son Jack’s 4th birthday that I was able to really acknowledge and validate the birth trauma I experienced. My plans for birthing peacefully at a birth center were derailed by some decisions I would have made differently, knowing what I know now. As a direct result of the pitocin drip that had me confined to a hospital bed, I had a 4th degree episiotomy. The experience, especially the fluorescent lights, was everything I didn’t want. My body was fine, I could handle a little soreness and stiches. But mentally (and I didn’t realize or acknowledge these feelings much at the time) I was beat up. Three years and two weeks later, I experienced the pure, gentle birth of my son Wyatt at home. I learned what birth could and should be.

I don’t rejoice in the experience of Jack’s birth the way I do Wyatt’s…and that’s ok. Of course I love him more than anything – I feel the same about both of my children – but the way he was born made me feel violated, out of control, powerless and disappointed. I even have issues with the pictures – I don’t want to see photos of myself in a hospital bed with machines nearby. This is not how I want to think of his birth. Time has healed the wounds enough that I remember the powerful feelings of pushing him out more than the pain of my lack of control. My broken self-confidence has been built back up over time as I continue to grow and evolve as a mother.

I did a little research about Ms. Harm’s quote with which I opened this article. She wasn’t talking about natural birth when she wrote that – she was referring to the fact that women have much to gain in sharing their birth stories with each other. That makes her statement even more fitting to this topic, its about sharing our secrets, our stories, our innermost feelings – raw and honest, as unattractive as they may be. That’s what makes women strong, we are able to go through some crazy-difficult things in life but come out on the other side transformed and whole, often better, more authentic versions of our previous selves.

I don’t believe that all births that unfolded differently than the parents had hoped and expected are traumatic. The danger is when these painful feelings are there and left unacknowledged. I think a great way to check in with a mom you suspect might be dealing with postpartum trauma is to say “hey, I know your birth experience was (difficult, painful, not ideal, hard, scary, traumatic, whatever word you choose), it’s ok to feel let down. If you want to talk, I’m here.” Even better, give her the phone number of a friend who’s gone through a difficult birth experience. Empathy goes a long way.

To be honest, I’ve had some “writers block” with finishing this article – it’s a pretty difficult and unpleasant topic. But finally my inspiration came to me on a sunny September morning, in the form of a recorded cassette tape made by my maternal Gram. She and I had fun over the years making cassette recordings of ourselves talking, reading and singing over the years of my early childhood. It was hugely devastating to me when she passed away 6 years ago.

When I pressed play on the tape labeled “#1,” Gram’s sweet voice filled my ears, tears sprang to my eyes and I felt a pang in the spot she’s imprinted forever on my heart. I heard a baby crying in the background, me. While Gram narrates the details of my birth – time, place, weight, length, the upset baby continues wailing and my thoughts are instantly (and I believe I said aloud to my 4-year-old) “Someone, give that baby a boob!”

Finally the baby is calm and quiet, as a bottle has been prepared and my mom is feeding me. It was so bizarre to hear myself as a newborn. It strangely put me in touch with my experience of the trauma of my own birth  – I wasn’t born in the peaceful way my homebirth baby was. My mom’s pregnancy was difficult and uncomfortable, and resulted in pre eclampsia, toxemia and a cesarean. Clearly, she experienced a traumatic birth. No one discussed any feelings she may have had after such a stressful experience. She didn’t have a doula or know she had choices in the way she birthed. There was no one there encouraging her to breastfeed and wear her baby. My Gram gave birth in the 50s, the time of “twilight birth” and a dad-free delivery room – to me, the epitome of birth trauma.

It is only when we recognize and acknowledge our feelings of pain, disappointment, sadness, violation, lack of control and any other emotion that is stirred to the surface that we are able to recover and have closure. Unfortunately, a lot of women are afraid to give birth again after a traumatic previous birth. I love the #breakthesilence photo project by Improvingbirth.org, which has created a forum for women (and their partners) to speak out about their experiences. I wholeheartedly agree with them that speaking up is the first step to changing things. Find someone – in real life, over the phone, even on an internet forum – with whom you feel comfortable and tell them about the experience, how you felt, how you feel now. It is SO therapeutic and validating to acknowledge these feelings. If you’re not ready to talk about it, write down some words that come to mind. In the same way you nurture and care for your sweet baby, do the same for yourself. You deserve it!

This article first appeared in Holistic Parenting magazine, Issue 7 (Jan/Feb 2015)


21 thoughts on “The Secret That Many Moms Are Keeping”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story! After seven years have past, I have now been able to share my traumatic birth experience with another mom. Your words have touched my heart, thank you!!!

  2. Thanks for sharing this! I also had a traumatic first birth that got healed by working with a doula to prepare for my second, a home birth. Never imagine it would be so different: I healed so much faster and painlessly from the tear than from the episiotomy, I felt bliss and blessed rather than postpartum depression… I rested for 40 days like the grannies in my country used to… And recover my shape fast as well… But again, like most of us, I have been silent too about my first experience. Thanks!

  3. I can not control my tears when I read this article … my trauma changed me in so many ways that for years the thought of getting pregnant again was a nightmare …

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. I also had a traumatic birth with my fourth child. It was so bad that like you, I had to have my husband hide the shirt he was wearing when I gave birth because looking at that shirt brought back so much pain. I felt so out of control. I always had a little postpartum depression with each of my children, but when my fourth was born I had PTSD. I never talked about it to my extended family, they don’t know what I went through. I just felt ashamed.

  4. My sadness is not about my child’s actual birth. It is about the way my husband behaved. I planned to have a water birth at home, but I was two weeks late and my midwife knew but did not tell me that the ultrasound showed my baby was LARGE. I spent the day in the hospital with my midwife and husband there. Late at night the midwife asked the obstetrician on call to have a look. I was barely dilated, plus my hips are narrow. She took one look and said in doctor speak “Big baby, small opening. Not happening.” So I had a C-section. Here is the sad part. They lifted my baby into my husband’s arms while I was being stitched. Nobody thought to show her to me. My husband held her and looked into her eyes for a long time. Long enough for me to be stitched up, wheeled into the next room, and wait. I was drugged and I just watched and waited. My husband had forgotten my existence. Finally the midwife said quietly, “I think your wife might like to see the baby.” He held her up to me. Then the midwife suggested we see if the baby would nurse. Finally I got to hold her. She edged up from my stomach and latched right on. That was pure joy. The next sad part was this: my husband, a workaholic, left me home alone for two days. No shared baby bliss. Then we stayed in a motel near my breastfeeding consultant so she was only 15 minutes away. She taught me how to get my daughter latched on and helped me through lactation issues. On the way home, my husband said let’s visit his parents. So we stopped at their home. Then they worked together to convince me that it would be nice for me to rest there for a couple days and let my mother-in-law help with the baby. Two days turned into two weeks. Every day my in-laws had guests all day every day, so I stayed in the bedroom. I’m an introvert. Every evening when my husband came home, he sat in the living room with his parents for an hour or two before even coming into the bedroom. When he came into the room, he picked up our daughter and looked at her and barely spoke to me. We had been together for 4 close, romantic, passionate, loving years before this. Although he did become less attentive in the fourth year. But this. This was like night and day. Also, while I was giving birth in the hospital, my husband sold my car to his friend. When my mother-in-law wanted to give me her old car for free, he said no, the insurance was too much. (Not true. He had the money.) Then we moved to the suburbs. Very isolating. A huge hassle to go anywhere. I was lonely and heartbroken inside, for the first year after my baby was born, on one hand. On the other hand, I enjoyed a blissful, peaceful life with my baby. Attachment parenting, sleep sharing, home full time, nursed until she self-weaned at age 4. It was, and is absolute joy. It was very strange to have a relationship emotionally and psychologically end but to live in the same house, but I got over him. Also, in the beginning he was totally shocked and furious that I did not simply raise our baby the way he (based on his mother’s advice) thought I should. I read and research. I don’t base my parenting on tradition and what women do and advise based on what their mothers learned from their mothers who learned from their mothers who learned from their mothers………back to when women lived in caves and wiped their babies’ butts with grass. I don’t know if I am the only one who has experienced this. If there are other women who have gone through this, I hope you will write about this. Especially for the women who are going through it now. For me, it was a decade ago and I am so over my husband and all men by now. Children are so much more fun and joy. It would have been nice to not completely be alone with it at the time.

    1. Have you very directly told your husband these things? Usually silence equates to agreement with men. I thought the same things with my husband. But I also had postpartum depression. You react the strongest to the person who you think will love you regardless, in my case my husband. I would strongly recommend you finding a counselor. The counselor can work with you for you to find your voice/opinions and family sessions for opening communication. I was really surprised how my husband interpreted my depression. He might not know how to “fix things” and thinks space is what you need.

      1. Bubblebrite21,

        Of course I communicated all of this to him, calmly, clearly, after about a year. He dismissed it, made excuses, trivialized it as though I just imagined things.

        I did not have postpartum depression. I had a husband who disconnected from me the minute the baby was born. I have heard that some husbands do this. I know I am not the only woman to go through this. I would love to connect with other women who have gone through this.

        My husband thinks counsellors are quacks and he does not want to waste the money. He dotes on our daughter and is a sweet, gentle, loving father. Every time he looks at her his face lights up with a warm smile. I can’t take her away from him. I can’t uproot her. Since he is not the aggressive, arguing kind of husband and never yells and I manage to avoid arguing with him in front of our daughter (actually, I don’t bother arguing with him anyway), the pros of staying together for now outnumber the cons. When she is older I will leave him. For now, I am actually happy that he is a workaholic who is never home, and I focus on glass half full, and all the things I have to feel gratitude for. I see my life sort of as being a single mother with a benefactor who is never around and with whom I don’t even need to have sex. This allows me freedom to stay home with my daughter instead of worrying about work and bills.

  5. I wish I had a person like you in my life. I think my sons birth has just destroyed me. I want to be happy and feel all the things I dreamed of as a mom and I feel nothing positive. It seems so sad to me to say that I am many times sad that I survived to be so miserable. I cant sort my emotions and it is destroying my personal and professional life. I have lost all my drive, desire and patience. I used to enjoy seeing clients, I am a holistic nutritionist and since the day I had him I just can’t deal with it. When I finally came back to my store/center I was so distraught and I begged my husband no to make me go back-I still feel that almost 2 years later except the feeling has spread into my relationship too. I have no tolerance for anything mentally-every time a client comes in I am angry and then sad. I have also been unable to social go out-I keep trying but I never make it out my front door. The stress of leaving my office or my house to do anything with other people has been so overwhelming. It took months just to be able to come to work without crying. I know my hormones are all messed up still but I have no money to deal with it. In the time I was out pre and post birth my business went to pot on multiple levels and I have done all I can with no money to bring it back-my family tells me how good I am at what I do and we are at the point that I have to see clients to stay open-I owe thousands of dollars that will have to be paid regardless of my business being open but I just can’t do it. I keep telling them I am just not ready to do it. I don’t have the compassion, caring or patience to deal with other peoples problems. It used to make me happy but now I feel stressed and overwhelmed. Today I tried to see a client and I just couldn’t, I called her and cancelled her. My business partner is going crazy and I have been sitting here crying at my computer for 4 hours just thinking about starting to practice again. I have never been a quitter but all I think about now is quitting everything. I take something for depression (herbal) but my mind tells me NO DONT DO IT, WALK OUT. My confidence is nothing. Not only did not my birth plan not go well my son was sick and I now know it was from a medicine I took while pregnant. Just making that choice went against everything in me and now that I have learned it caused all his problems I feel even worse. My husband says he is thankful because without the drug I likely would have miscarried but it just isn’t giving me peace. Nothing gives me peace. I know I need help but without money I can’t get what I need and without getting past this I cant make money. Our family has decided to take part in a lawsuit for the drug which for seems to be making it worse. I thought ‘yeah that’s a good idea, we can get some money to help pay for all the damage that has been done’. This sounds so logical however, every questions, every call makes me feel worse. I can’t seem to find positive and every one keeps trying to make me feel better and it’s just making it worse. Seeing other people is just so difficult. My husband says I have lost all my self confidence and I agree, I have moments when I feel happy but they are so fleeting. I can’t describe how overwhelmed I feel and it’s the same feelings I had sitting in the Ronald McDonald house wondering and watching as some dreams lived and some died. Everyone says-‘be happy you have a healthy little boy. He is so beautiful and you are a great mom’! I feel so unappreciative. I should be so happy that we both survived and grab life by the nuts and say ‘yes i can do anything!’ but i just don’t feel that and never have. I feel just about anything but that. Thanks for reading and for sharing so I don’t feel alone.

  6. Thank you for writing about this very important topic! I’ll be sharing it on my page. I’m doing absolutely life changing work with these mothers helping them find deep healing, peace and resolution after traumatic birth experiences. A topic very near and dear to my heart.

  7. Sara–I’m so sorry you went through such pain and blatant lack of sensitivity for your being. I think we all go through times when people especially loved ones can disappoint us. It is especially hurtful when that loved one is suppose to be your partner. I hope you are all in a better space. <3

    1. Kimberly,

      Thank you so much. Yes, my daughter and I have a peaceful, lovely life together. I wrote more details above.

  8. Hi Sara and Melisa~ I wanted to respond to each of you. I had a traumatic experience with my super sweet/organic home birth with doula, midwives, husband and friend –birth was fine/great/all went well, a small tear due to my daughter’s hand being up against her face as she came out. It was what happened afterward that was so terrifying, and why I would never do a home birth again (sorry to those who are orthodox about it). My daughter had swallowed a lot of liquid on her way out, and her lungs were displaced (couldn’t get a deep breath) and so needed a lot of patting/steaming/coaxing/oxygen/ this went on for about 20-25 minutes and she still wasn’t breathing deeply or crying, and I was so overwhelmed with terror that she wouldn’t live. It may have been obvious to the midwives that she was “OK just struggling a bit” but to me it wasn’t clear at all and if we’d been in a hospital, they would have stuck a tube down her throat and sucked the liquid out right away and she’d have cried and breathed normally. I know that sounds horrible –and felt horrible when they ended up doing that very thing to her –we had to go to the hospital anyway, which was about a 7 minute drive, the worst 7 minutes of my life. Her lungs resolved on their own by the time we got there but the fear and dread and despair I went through were awful. (they did suck the liquid out of her tummy as I mentioned and she had a full cry then). I can’t watch the birth video “afterward” time because it is so scary and stressful. I did get some amazing bodywork done which helped me release my body’s attachment to the trauma immensely (Network chiropractic). To your story, Sara, my husband (then boyfriend) was actually kind of a Jekyll and Hyde during our first few months. He was a hero when it came to helping around the house, cooking my meals, attending to me and the baby and making sure we were taken care of etc the first 6-8 weeks. But then he was also hostile, irritable, verbally critical, short-tempered, and most days a seething ball of resentment. He lost his dad when our daughter was 3 months old, which was a huge loss to go through at this stressful time. I had NEVER experienced him to be such an asshole in my life before!! I understand grief works in weird ways on people but it was really unprecedented. And he hurt the closest person to him, me, and I was super dependent on him to be there for me. It was a bad situation. I had to find other people to rely on emotionally since he was so volatile. I felt very very lonely, while at the same time like you said, being so in love and high on life with this brand new gorgeous baby I got to be mama to. Very unsettling. Things did get better and he’s learning better ways to cope but man that first 6 months was a serious roller coaster and I felt SO sad and neglected and depressed. I think many men are pretty ill equipped emotionally when it comes to big life stresses. To lose a parent AND have a new (first) baby within 3 months is too much for anyone to handle well. Melisa, I don’t have the same exact experience as you but your consistent negative feelings and despair DO remind me of when I was newly off of sugar and flour (I can’t tolerate them -I used to be over 200 lbs), and my hormones were whacked and I started having mild panic attacks and agoraphobia. I felt like a raw nerve all the time and couldn’t deal with basic shit – basic interactions with people esp. I went to an integrative medicine doctor and the best thing she advised was to take 5htp (over the counter) – it’s a serotonin balancer. (I did a “spit test” which has a lab in Eugene OR where they measure the serotonin in your system). Mine was a 72, and normal baseline was supposed to be 200! I stopped taking it when I got pregnant bc there was no testing done to tell me if it would harm the baby, and I’m still nursing so I still don’t take it. But it was like NIGHT and DAY when I took one capsule (50 mg!) My fear/anxiety lessened almost right away and my intense paralysis went away and I felt normal for the first time in a really long time. My anxiety still plagues me now, esp since I haven’t been able to take it for so long, and the breastfeeding hormones really affect me too. Plus I don’t exercise (when??) and I often don’t get the sleep I need. So my hormones are screwed up too. My old doc wrote a book called the Hormone Cure, Dr. Sara Gottfried. I HIGHLY recommend checking it out and maybe asking a friend to help you get started with some form of therapeutic help. Look into local (cheap) therapists/interns. There is help out there, and it sounds like you just need some support to get yourself back on track. You can’t afford NOT to at this point – it sounds like you’re heading toward even more breakdowns otherwise. I have a chronic mental tape loop about not being able to afford anything either so I really really get where you are at. However sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and trust that staying where you are isn’t working. I hope I am not being too preachy. I wish you abundant thinking (and myself too) because I am seriously haggard right now myself and I need to give myself a break too. Hang in there. Take care and thank you for posting all that you shared. Alice

    1. Alice,

      I’m sorry you went through that also. It sounds like it was worse for you in some ways, with your husband being hostile, etc. It is such a shock when they go from being wonderful to being vile, cold-hearted jerks, right at the time you need them the most. I think women should not count on getting emotional support from their husbands, but should instead make sure they have a network of women in place before they give birth.

      I deeply sympathize with you about your daughter’s problems with liquid in her lungs. Such terror instead of the magic that should have been. I’m really happy my midwife had me spend the day in the hospital instead of stay at home. I spoke with a mother of a 2-year old a few months after my daughter was born. She had a traumatic experience with her home birth. Her baby was 12 pounds. It was a very difficult birth. Instead of taking this woman to a hospital and getting her a C-section, the midwife struggled on and in the process of getting the baby out, the baby’s arm was broken. Also, the woman’s vagina was completely torn up and she was unable to have sex without pain. I love the idea of home birth and I wonder if there is a way to have the best of both worlds in a safe way: home birth if there are no complications, with a hospital close by in case it is needed. Like midwife-run birthing houses. Pretty houses, like bed and breakfasts, with water birth facilities. They could be set up close to hospitals. And then midwives should be trained to be like my midwife was – at the first sign or possibility of complications, move everyone to the hospital. Your midwife could have whisked you and your daughter to the hospital immediately. That other mother’s midwife could have whisked her to the hospital and her baby’s arm would not have been broken and her vagina would not have been ruined. The “orthodox” mentality should be replaced with a “safe and healthy” mentality.

      Good luck with everything! Sara

    2. Alice,

      I’m sorry you went through that also. It sounds like it was worse for you in some ways, with your husband being hostile, etc. It is such a shock when they go from being wonderful to being vile, cold-hearted jerks, right at the time you need them the most. I think women should not count on getting emotional support from their husbands, but should instead make sure they have a network of women in place before they give birth.

      I deeply sympathize with you about your daughter’s problems with liquid in her lungs. Such terror instead of the magic that should have been. I’m really happy my midwife had me spend the day in the hospital instead of stay at home. I spoke with a mother of a 2-year old a few months after my daughter was born. She had a traumatic experience with her home birth. Her baby was 12 pounds. It was a very difficult birth. Instead of taking this woman to a hospital and getting her a C-section, the midwife struggled on and in the process of getting the baby out, the baby’s arm was broken. Also, the woman’s vagina was completely torn up and she was unable to have sex without pain. I love the idea of home birth and I wonder if there is a way to have the best of both worlds in a safe way: home birth if there are no complications, with a hospital close by in case it is needed. Like midwife-run birthing houses. Pretty houses, like bed and breakfasts, with water birth facilities. They could be set up close to hospitals. And then midwives should be trained to be like my midwife was – at the first sign or possibility of complications, move everyone to the hospital. Your midwife could have whisked you and your daughter to the hospital immediately. That other mother’s midwife could have whisked her to the hospital and her baby’s arm would not have been broken and her vagina would not have been ruined. The “orthodox” mentality should be replaced with a “safe and healthy” mentality.

      Good luck with everything! Sara

  9. Thank you so much for this article. I had my trams tic birth in 2013 when I was just 21. The birth left me with a hysterectomy and I was in ICU for two weeks and therefore unable to even meet my newborn son till he was 10 days old. My son went home without me, had his first doctors appointment without me and had to learn to drink from a bottle without. I know those things couldn’t be helped but my mind will be forever scarred by those events. Thank you for encouraging women to seek help and make them feel like their thoughts matter. To often as mothers our feelings get pushed aside. Again thank you!

  10. You know, I used to think women just needed to suck it up. Even after I had my first traumatic birth at 18 years of age. It was a typical hospital birth. I’d barely seen the doctor twice before hand. I’d even begged the nurse practitioner to attend my birth because she was the only one I had any familiarity with and I didn’t want a strange man up in my business. I was overdue and got scheduled for a pitocin induction because Thanksgiving was coming. It was awful. The doctor forced me to let him break my water after I’d been in labor all day. He wouldn’t even let me go to the bathroom first. Because of the pitocin I got the urge to push hours before my body was ready. That part was torture. Then when I was finally about to deliver, the nurses couldn’t get the doctor to get out of bed and to the hospital to catch. They had to call him several times before he finally arrived. He automatically did an episiotomy and my mom, who insisted on being in the room to watch the birth even though I didn’t want her there, got a front row seat for that. I still remember her flinching as she watched him cut me. I was exhausted and I just wanted to sleep. After the nurse cleaned up the baby, she asked me if I wanted to hold her. I was so tired and felt detached. I really didn’t want to but I knew I was supposed to say yes. After an awkward silence, I finally did take the baby. My husband (then boyfriend) was all emotional and crying and I just wanted to sleep and let someone else take care of the baby for me. I didn’t expect to feel that way.

    I birthed two more babies and thankfully, even though my next was a cesarean and the third was a difficult HBAC water birth, I didn’t feel so detached from my babies. After the third, I did feel a little abandoned during the long lonely nights of nursing but soon all was well.

    For my fourth birth, I was very prepared. I was excited about another home waterbirth. I had finally gotten my husband to practice relaxation with me. I had changed my diet to a very healthy one and I was exercising very regularly. I was in good shape. My labor started at night and I only had a few painful contractions that night and for the rest of my labor. The next morning I called my midwife and even though I told her she had plenty of time, she insisted on coming over to check on me. She found my son’s cord presenting and informed me I needed a cesarean. It didn’t sink in at all. I didn’t believe it honestly. To try to shorten an extremely long and unbelievable story, my son was stillborn in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. My midwife called three different hospitals and was told by nurses at two of them that they were in the middle of performing cesareans and it would be an hour before they’d be done. The only remaining local hospital told her to bring us in immediately but that hospital was up a mountain and both roads up to it were closed. We could not believe what was going on. My midwife didn’t want to hand us over to the ambulance crew because she was afraid they wouldn’t know what to do and she was right. They had a doppler but they said it didn’t work. They had no idea how to transport me and made me stand up, half dressed on the side of the road while they figured it out and they wouldn’t let my midwife come with us. They took a leisurely drive to the hospital with no lights or sirens. My water broke during the drive and the EMT who was training a newbie explained to the newbie about holding pressure off the cord sometimes being necessary but he didn’t bother with it himself. He just told us everything was fine because only about 60ccs of fluid came out. When we got to the hospital it was too late. Needless to say, that was a traumatic birth. I’m pretty darned sure I have PTSD. We were investigated by local authorities. The bitch detective was on a witch hunt and was hostile. She believed everything the nurses said and not a word my midwife said. She even brought one of the nurses in to “face her accusers” but my midwife was never given the same privilege. We were all separated and interrogated. I sat there in my hospital bed, holding my son’s lifeless body as she questioned me. She “threatened” to check phone records to see if my midwife had actually called the hospital three times. I told her to please do it so she could see the truth. Either she did and covered up for the nurse or she didn’t bother to check. Thankfully the case was given to someone else. So many people blamed my midwife and I know that they probably secretly blamed me too, just not to my face. There is so much more that happened. I requested records afterward and found that almost everyone involved lied to cover their asses. They made up a ton of shit about my midwife to try to make her look completely incompetent when only she and the doctor who eventually ended up catching my son had any clue what they were doing. The trainee in the ambulance even claimed that my water had broken the day before. Both EMTs claimed that my midwife had no equipment even though her (working!) doppler was hanging around her neck the whole time and my husband personally helped her lug her massive bags of equipment before hand. No one bothered to check or asked us. I could go on but I’m getting nauseous.

    Believe it or not, I have actually had two babies since then. I know this sounds completely made up but my next baby’s cord prolapsed too. I can’t believe it myself most days. Thankfully, we were done with being good, compliant patients and we insisted my midwife transport with us. She saved my baby’s life. My water broke first this time but miraculously, my baby was fine because my midwife held pressure off my baby’s cord and insisted the ambulance take us straight to the hospital instead of dumping us off at the nearest urgent care like they wanted to. My midwife said my baby moved her head to the side, away from her cord every time I had a contraction. Sometimes I wonder if my son was able to tell her what to do. I would not have survived losing my baby girl too. I was weak after the c-section and had lost a lot of blood. The bumbling anesthesiologist bent a tube backwards in my throat trying to get it in while I was under general anesthesia and the only reason I know that is because my midwife saw what he did. No one from the hospital bothered to tell me why I had partially lost my voice. I didn’t care though. My baby was alive and completely well. She’s an absolute miracle in every way. She’s the most bubbly, sweet, amazing, feisty little girl today.

    My next birth ended up being a scheduled c-section. Going into it, I didn’t think I’d have any problem with that. I knew there was no way I could risk another cord prolapse, however rare they are, but obviously, I have a thing for rare. As the cesarean date loomed ahead, I started to feel panicked about it. I knew that I don’t recover well physically from them and I was dreading it. I lamented on facebook that I missed my midwife terribly and didn’t like having to go to a doctor. Some very well meaning loved ones told me that it was for the best. A doctor was better than a midwife they said. Well, not for me. Not emotionally, anyway. I consider my midwife family. Only a few people in my life understand the difference in care between a doctor and the care my amazing midwife provided. I guess I shouldn’t expect them to understand since they have no concept what a vast contrast there is between the two, but it’s still so frustrating. After the cesarean, I had a lot of body pain. More than with my first two c-sections. It’s been a couple of years and I still haven’t fully recovered. I fell into a depression and I let my husband know, asking for help. He couldn’t then and still can’t understand why. He asked why I wasn’t happy that our baby had arrived reasonably healthy. He just doesn’t get it. I know I’m much more irritable and sensitive these days, but he’s been a bit of a jerk at times. He doesn’t hear what I’m saying to him and it’s so utterly frustrating. I felt so abandoned in the hospital immediately after my baby arrived. I know my husband had to come home and look after the house and other children, but I needed him too. I was so exhausted, the baby had jaundice and was given a pacifier without my consent. She was taken to the nursery for a couple of hours one night because I couldn’t keep getting up and down from the bed after surgery. Because of the jaundice, the pediatrician on call prescribed formula. I had no back up. I was in the fight alone while recovering from surgery. My baby girl started spitting up the formula and has had reflux since then. At home, I dreaded the nights of extremely little sleep and no help, being soaked because the baby spit up large amounts after every feeding session. Those really rough nights are past but the memories stay.

    Thanks for this article. It was so helpful reading the comments too. It’s good to know there are actually others out there who get it.

    1. May,

      Midwives are 3 billion percent better, actually infinitely better, than having a doctor.! I have noticed that people are getting it more and more.

      You are so brave and strong to have gone through all that and keep having babies.

      I had to fight with the nurses in the hospital so that I could keep my baby sleeping in the bed beside me at ALL times. Also, the idiots actually wanted to give her a bottle with sugar water, for some insane reason. I was nursing. There is so much I could say about hospitals, doctors, and nurses, but it would not be polite. (understatement)

  11. Homeopathy is probably the only health care discipline that can help with this. Truly, the recovery can be so fast as to be seen as a miracle. But miracles happen all the time with holistic medicine and a holistic way of life.

  12. My first birth was a complete sham that took place in a NYC hospital with a bunch of incompetent “nurse midwives.” My second birth was a peaceful beautiful experience at home. Homebirth was so much better!

  13. Thank you for sharing. My traumatic birth experience was almost 27 years ago and it still hurts to think about. That was the only birth experience I had, I couldn’t bear the possibility of it happening again. I’m glad there is more information and support for young women, I hope to see more improvement within my lifetime.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *