Yesterday I met my new health visitor and without meaning to, we ended up talking about the toddler’s birth at length. It was the first time I had spoken to a medical professional about what happened without crying, or feeling sick. Afterwards, I even felt a little bit liberated, which made a lovely change from the cold, sinking feeling that usually follows such conversations.
I think I had my eyes opened a little bit.
It wasn’t just the birth that made it all so traumatic. Talking things through, and comparing the toddler’s early days to the baby’s early days, the differences are stark. In the hospital, I allowed myself a tiny moment of sadness as I looked at my tiny daughter and realised how happy I was to have her. The sadness came with the realisation that I didn’t feel like that last time. And that’s not his fault.
After the traumatic birth of my son, he and I spent a long time crying. I was crying for the anxiety, the horrific reality of what had happened and for the one everlasting moment when I was put to sleep thinking he had died. He was crying… for what?
Surely a birth is just as traumatic for a baby as for a mother? There are no real studies to prove this theory, just lots of documents from well-meaning doctors who are in it to ‘cure’ women like me of their guilt and their trauma. Of course they will say that our babies are traumatised by their deliveries, we are their customers. But my health visitor raised some really good points yesterday.
I was given general anaesthetic as the medics working to save my son and I felt they had no choice. When I came round, I felt lethargic, confused, itchy and sore. What did my 7lb son feel? Is that why he cried so much? And his crying led to my crying, to my feelings of cold detachment, which led to his distress as I couldn’t hold him and didn’t hold him like I should have.
I was discharged from hospital looking like a car crash victim, not a new mum. I was bruised from my chest down to my knees- big, dark purple bruises, angry and raging at what had happened. My neck and throat were stiff and sore from the breathing tube and my c-section scar quickly became infected. It was agony to walk, agony to talk and agony to think. I was discharged one and half days after my son was born WITH NO PAIN RELIEF. This, along with my son’s crying and my own horrific flashbacks, memories and anxieties, contributed to the trauma.
Weeks on and my son had been diagnosed with reflux. He slept little more than forty minutes at a time day and night, and when he was awake he screamed in pain. By four months I had been told to give up breastfeeding, the one source of mother-son bonding we actually had. This, along with my son’s crying and the sleep deprivation and the pain and the memories and the flashbacks and the horrific reality of it all, contributed to the trauma.
It wasn’t just the birth.