Tag Archives: birth trauma

A shoulder to cry on

Some time after the toddler was born, I made a promise to him- and to myself- that I would do everything I could with the time I had left to make it all up to him. I needed to let him know that I was deeply, deeply sorry for letting him down when he needed me most. I needed him to know that I was sorry for not being strong enough, for missing that first hour of his life, and for failing to be the mum he needed when he needed it most. He was just a baby. He was barely four months old. He didn’t understand what I was saying and in a way, neither did I. I don’t think I had even begun to accept what had happened during his birth by that point. I certainly wasn’t feeling like a mother to him; I just knew that I was supposed to be feeling it.

Making that promise seemed like the best thing to do and I admit that even today, it weighs heavily on my mind. If  I’m tired, or he’s having a tantrum and my face won’t form a smile… guilt hits me like a bullet then. What about the promise?

When I made that promise I was grieving. Not for a person, but for something… something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.Perhaps I was grieving for that amazing birth I was supposed to have, especially after the first one had gone so wrong? Perhaps I was grieving for that little boy in the delivery room, who’s heart beat fell silent and died in my dreams? Perhaps I was grieving for… for me?

I am not the same person I was before my son was born. In many ways I am a better person. It’s taken me two long years to realise that. In many ways I know so much more about life and love and motherhood. In many ways I can now be that mother I thought I was before he was born. Perhaps I can now stop grieving for that person I was back then and embrace the new me?

These are all things I have been thinking since I left the meeting yesterday. It was the first Manchester Birth Trauma Association meeting and despite being involved in its set-up, I hadn’t actually thought much about how it might affect me. I’d bought a box of tissues, knowing that it could be emotional to talk to people who understand, or even just to talk to people. Caroline bought individual packets of tissues so that we could go home and cry too.

I didn’t cry. But I did think about that promise. I think I’m keeping it. I think I can keep it.

 

I’m glad to have a shoulder to cry on.

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Who do you blame for your birth trauma?

This is a question I have asked myself many times and each time I tend to get a different answer, depending on my mood. At first, and on many other occasions since, I blamed the hospital. I must stress here that ‘the hospital’ is not the staff (not all of them anyway) but more the red tape, rules and lack of funds leading to bad decisions and busy midwives. Naturally, I moved on to blaming myself- if I had stamped my foot harder I would’ve got my elective section when it mattered and the whole trauma would not have occurred. But that only leads me back to blaming the hospital because they should’ve  been in a position to offer counselling/ serious thought to the vulnerable pregnant woman.

The more I look at it, the more I am forced to just accept it. Yes, lots of things went wrong, mistakes were made and hearts were broken. I can’t change that. I never made a complaint, believing- wrongly, I am told- that if I was to be awarded compensation, that would only make the problem worse for a hospital that is already struggling to provide adequate care. But then I am told that my complaint could help others… could stop the same thing happening again. Whether it would or not, I think its too late.

I never wanted monetary compensation. I would’ve swapped all the money in the world for some understanding. For an apology. For someone to tell me they cared about what happened. For someone to explain, truthfully, what went wrong. For someone to take away the nightmares and the anxiety and that cold, hard ball of fear that rested in my stomach day in and day out. That would’ve been priceless.

So who do I blame? When I was interviewed by the BBC I stated that I blame the hospital for what happened but what I really meant what I blame the system. The NHS, I suppose. I’m entitled to quality care and I just didn’t get it. Not because anyone was particularly negligent, more because they just couldn’t give it to me.

They were forced to deny me an elective section because they cost a lot of money. They were forced to leave me alone for hours because there was nobody available to help me- it was a Sunday and they didn’t have enough staff on duty. They were forced to send me home with a broken body and no pain relief because budgets would not allow them to do otherwise. Never mind I was in agony…

I never really blamed the midwives- in fact, my interview was part of a Royal College of Midwive’s appeal for more midwives in the NHS. There is a severe shortage and it is affecting people like me, families like mine.

But mistakes were made. For which no apology has been given. For which, no apology has been sought.

Am I right or wrong? Am I now in a position to seek out that apology, or explanation? Next week myself and another birth trauma survivor are hosting the Birth Trauma Association’s first support group in Manchester. Caroline’s story was printed in the Manchester Evening News yesterday and today Deanna Delamotta has written a piece about it. It’s interesting that she chose to comment on the fact that Caroline has never sought compensation for what happened.

For so many women who have been through a traumatic birth (and its estimated that around 7,000 women in the UK feel traumatised by birth each year) it is hardly ever about the money. It is always about being listened to. Somebody accepting that mistakes were made and things need to be done differently again. It’s about hospitals improving their care for other women.

So who do I blame? I blame the hospital for the things they did wrong. I blame myself for not standing firm and insisting on the birth I wanted. I blame the consultant for not recognising I needed support when I asked for a c-section. I blame the hospital for changing the surgery dates and not explaining why. I blame the midwives for not listening to me, or taking me seriously. I blame the hospital for cutting budgets which meant I was discharged too early and with no pain relief after labouring and enduring a horrific c-section.  Mostly, I blame fate. Childbirth is such a tricky thing you see. Nobody can predict what will happen. And what will be, will be.

 

 

 

* If you are local to Manchester and would like to come along to the Birth Trauma Association’s support group, our first meeting is taking place next week, Wed 25th April at 3.30-5 pm. Location: Pannone Solicitors Manchester 123 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2BU


Is anybody listening?

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It was like screaming into an abyss. It was like breathing deep into my lungs and clawing up the loudest, longest, most primal scream known to man. It was like doing all that, with the volume on mute. They couldn’t hear me. They weren’t listening to me.

I read something recently which pointed out the fact that women felt 100% more empowered during childbirth if they felt they were being listened to. If someone had  spent the time to sit down and listen. Not just nod and say uh-huh, uh-huh…

Listen to me. Hear me when I say I am scared. Do something when my wishes are being ignored or my body is being violated. Help me.

I listened. I heard them when they said childbirth was unpredictable, that nobody knew this would happen. I listened and I accept this. But I was still screaming in silence.

I wonder if anybody actually sat down afterwards to discuss what had happened? Did they listen to each other? Did they read back their notes and wonder if there was anything they could’ve done differently? Did they wish they had been somewhere else? In a room with a lady who knew what she was doing and a baby who wasn’t struggling and a team who were listening? Did they wish they had been on a different shift? One that didn’t have a lifeless body and a screaming void filled with fear?

Is anybody listening?


A healing birth?

I planned it in so much more detail than my first. Perhaps that was where I went wrong back then? Perhaps my ignorant self-belief that I could do it was where Mother Nature decided to deal me a different hand? I still believe that if I hadn’t been induced, if I’d had more faith in myself, if I’d been better educated, if I’d been more positive… maybe I would’ve had that waterbirth first time around and maybe the next birth would’ve been different too.

The toddler’s taught me nothing if he hasn’t taught me how pointless it is to look back with ‘what if’s’. These days I’m more of a believer in ‘what will be, will be’ and that everything happens for a reason. Perhaps my son’s birth and all the rubbish that came with it was actually the beginning of something much more wonderful for me?

Would I have planned the baby’s arrival so well if the birth trauma had not happened? No. I know that.

So, I planned. As much as you can plan for a life changing event. And my daughter was born safely. I cried. But they were happy tears. They sprang to my eyes when I heard her cry, the sign of her life, the start of something new. I cried again later, in secret. I cried for my son. I cried because I was feeling something so familiar, so powerful and so poignant by its absence last time.

I was happy.

I was holding my baby daughter and looking at her face and I mean really looking. I was thinking about how I’d been in a hospital bed two years previously with the weight of a baby in my arms meaning nothing and looking at a scrunched up face feeling nothing and I was thinking how that wasn’t his fault and perhaps it wasn’t even my fault either? I was thinking how unfair it was for him and how much I wanted to hug him and to say sorry and to turn back the clock to feel like that then too.

But like I said, you can’t spend your life thinking ‘what if’ and you certainly can’t turn the clock back.

The baby’s calm birth has made me realise. I think it was a healing birth.

I think that every time I see my children interact, I’ve done something special. I’ve done something right. I’m even starting to think that it wasn’t me who did much wrong to begin with.

Is there such a thing as a healing birth? Seven weeks ago I would’ve screamed YES from the rooftops. Today, I’m biding my time, hedging my bets and waiting a while. I think there is such a thing as a healing birth, but I think it takes time. I think I will let you know.


Is that really who I am?

Last night I had a real ‘is that really who I am?’ moment. Today I’ve apologised for being that mum. I never wanted to be that mum. I never knew I was that mum. I hope I’m not that mum again.

Sometimes we look in the mirror and the reflection can shock us; mostly we look in the mirror and see what we want to see instead.

I suppose this is all as clear as mud to you all. I’m not sure I can explain to be honest. I’m not sure I even want to either. I never said I wanted to admit to who that mum really is. I think I’ll try though.

Yesterday I saw something which I found deeply, deeply upsetting. It was a photo of a lady’s precious baby who had passed away following a traumatic birth. I hadn’t expected to see this photo, it was in the ‘wrong place’. I hadn’t wanted to see this photo- it was enough to know that this horrific tragedy had happened. It was enough to offer my thoughts and my condolences. But was it really enough?

Do I really have any right to be so upset? Why did I make this all about me? Why, instead of this poor baby’s face, did I see my own son? Why, when he was upstairs, asleep, breathing, dreaming, living? Why did I feel so surprised to realise I was fighting back the urge to be sick and tears were rolling down my cheeks? Why did I look down at my sleeping newborn, wrapped closely to my chest… why did I think thank goodness that isn’t my baby?


I’m ashamed of myself. I didn’t want to see that picture. I wasn’t prepared to see that picture. That picture is all one mum has left of her son. Is that really who I am? A mum who can’t bear to think of another mum’ s sadness? When I started this blog and met so many other mums who had been through horrific circumstances, I felt that maybe I could offer friendship and support to other women. Tomorrow, I am meeting with a terrific lady to help set up and run a support group in our area, on behalf of the Birth Trauma Association. I really hope that I can indeed offer that friendship and support after all.

Am I really that mum? Maybe. Maybe I’m just like you; maybe it hurts to witness such deep suffering in another human being. Maybe I’m just human.


Letter of my life

No. I won’t sing it. But I am going to post about it. I’m on the final countdown and it feels kind of strange.

In the last week or so, we have re-decorated, sorted prams, assembled beds and bought going home outfits for the baby. I haven’t yet packed my bag, but I guess there is still time, right? One thing I have been thinking about but haven’t actually done though, is to write a letter that has been on my mind.

The final countdown letter. The one that’s addressed to every single person in my life who means anything to me. The one that betrays some of my darkest feelings at this time right now. The one I can never ever write because the words just won’t appear. They’re inside me but they have to stay there. It’s a letter full of reasons, apologies, thanks and regrets. It’s a letter of my life.

I want to write to those people, who know who they are. I want them to read the letter of my life, should they need to. I won’t be there, in person, but my words will. Those words that can’t be written. I feel 

scared

anxious

excited

sorry

hopeful

confused

I feel like I need to explain to someone, everyone. I feel like there has to be something, in-case.

 

How to write the letter of my life? How to feel like it isn’t even needed? 

Please excuse this very small wobble. It’s been a very long, arduous journey so far and it might just be taking its toll. 


Another consultant appointment

Another day, another consultant appointment. Once again, the fact that we opted for a hospital which is not on our doorstep made for a stressful journey, but I predict that the poor driver of the overturned lorry near the Trafford Centre had a much worse day than me overall. 

Despite a 40 minute journey taking two hours, the hospital kindly re-instated my appointment and we finally got to see the consultant at 4.15, just 2.5 hours late! But it was worth it.

He won’t be performing my op but he has given me some answers as to how and where they will cut. I can’t discuss the natural c-section until the pre-op clinic in two week’s time. Oh, and he has told me to ask for him personally if they try to release me without pain relief. 

So all in all, good news. Baby still small but now head down. 

And me? I’m a little overwhelmed. Having to give swabs today for MRSA was unexpected and I left feeling a little bit like pregnancy and childbirth has no room for dignity at all. An over-reaction perhaps, but indicative of how over this pregnancy I now am. I want my baby in my arms and my children by my sides. That is all.


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