Yesterday my brother's partner gave birth to their daughter in their own home, and my brother texted me from his bed lying next to his sleeping daughter. I should have been able to receive this news with pure joy, but I am finding it impossible to access that joy through the tears and anguish that I have been left with from my own births.
I cycled to school with my beautiful HWBA3C son, his long hair streaming behind him on this beautiful windy morning, but my view of this was hazy as the tears streamed down my face, not the tears of joy for the new baby that has arrived in our family, but my tears of sorrow, my own self pity; self pity that I truly resent.
It is nearly 21 years ago that my daughter, my first baby, was born; what should have been a purely joyous event, but has been permanently marred by the inept and over medical mess that is our maternity service. My two eldest son's births were hideous, when they could have been beautiful. Even my triumph of a HWBA3C, over 11 years ago, a really good birth, certainly in comparison to most births, was not what it should have been because of the impact of medicine on birth. I want to scream out for what should have been.
This morning I have been brought back to wanting to go and see every person that was involved with causing me this trauma; the midwife that would not support the home birth I wanted with my daughter all those years ago; those that lied to me and told me I could not have a homebirth after a section; that I would have a better chance of a VBAC if I was induced when I went more than 10 days past 40 weeks; and the stream of people who physically interfered with me in the name of medicine. I want these people and others to know the impact of what they do to women during pregnancy and birth, these effects last a lifetime, they are not something that I will get over, this is something that will continue to come back to haunt me.
I am left to think what a mess I would be now if I had not given birth to my third son, my fourth baby, if I had been conned into further totally unnecessary surgery. I struggle to contemplate how I would have coped with never having given birth, never having pushed a baby from my body, the way I should have done all four times.
There is a lot of talk about treating birth trauma, but that only helps you to live with that trauma, for it not to dominate your life; it does not take it away. The wrongs that have been done to me can't be put right. Yes, helping those who have suffered birth trauma is crucial, so that people like me can put their lives back together, perhaps not the way that they should have been, but in a way that they are happy with most of the time. However, the only way to fully address birth trauma is to stop it happening in the first place.
Postscript: I am lucky that I have learned how to defuse these emotions when they hit me. I know that writing about what I felt was therapeutic and I am privileged to have the support of many other women who understand what I have been through; sadly many of them understand because they have experienced the same trauma. I am also fortunate to have family that have taken the time to understand, which has not been easy for them either. I was able to access support and pour out my emotions, this allowed me to pull myself out of this emotional pit within hours, something that I know I could not have done alone.
Debbie's account of her three caesareans and her HWBA3C, Perseverance Pays, was published in the AIMS Journal, Vol 8, No 1, Spring 1996.
First published in AIMS Journal, Vol 19, No 1, 2007.