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Post Traumatic Birth Disorder

First, I feel like you need to know how normal I am. I mean… I do make my own laundry detergent, but I drink a lot of Dr. Pepper. My kids eat fruit and vegetables and meat and Cheetos. I’m a girl who’s all about some essential oils and organic produce, but if your arm is broken you need to get yourself to the ER. Got a cold? TAKE SOME NYQUIL for crying out loud. I believe fed and loved babies are the best kind of babies, however you go about achieving that. I am a college graduate who is married to a college graduate and well versed in how all the systems of the body works. So – I’m normal, right? I feel like you need to know all this so that when you read this next sentence your first thought won’t be, “oh… she’s not the brightest crayon in the box…”

So, my second kid was born at home. On accident. Just sit with that for a minute, will ya? Think the thoughts. Trust me – I’ve heard them all.  Everything from, “oh, you were planning a home birth, right?”…. to “uhhhhm, are you allowed to do that? Isn’t that illegal?”

…to which I answered, “no, yes and no”. 

So, how does one go about accidentally birthing their second baby at home? I mean, I had done this once before (18 months before to be exact). It wasn’t like I didn’t know the signs and symptoms. 

It was a typical Saturday evening at our house. We’d ventured out to a local dive for dinner with some friends and were planning on finishing a couple of small DIY projects the following day. My latest OB appointment had delivered (no pun intended) the dreaded, “no progress” diagnosis and being of the hope-burns-eternal variety, I was optimistic things would take a turn soon. And they did! Later that evening the early stages of labor began, so I fired up Netflix and settled in. Two hours later, I decided that maybe I should wake up the ‘ol Baby Daddy, because misery likes company amiright? I figured the least he could do was be my gopher as I sat in a hot bath, but this is where it gets hazy. I remember asking him to call my parents to come over (quickly) so we could go to the hospital. I remember telling him to call our midwife and doula and tell them to get the epidural on standby STAT. Then I remember asking him to call 9-1-1. Something in me felt like that was a reasonable request, but he reminded me in that moment “last time you were a little irrational, too.” 

A few minutes later, my parents arrive and my mom comes in to help me get out of the bath and appropriately dressed (because, you know, appropriate dress matters at this point). I insist that I really don’t need pants, because baby is coming now. There is a little back and forth between us, mainly along the lines of I-just-did-this-not-that-long-ago-I-think-I-know-what’s-about-to-happen. And then my mom delivers my son while telling my husband, “you better call 9-1-1 like she asked…” Despite the unexpectedness of it all, it was very peaceful. Almost all my “must haves” for birthing a baby had happened and everyone was healthy.

The only picture I’d let my husband send out to friends & family (taken at the hospital) because I was embarrassed that I’d accidentally given birth in my bathtub…

So, great story huh? Normal girl has healthy baby boy delivered by her mother in girl’s bathtub. All’s well ends well, right? Except it didn’t. While I am not a doctor and these opinions are all my own, I believe we need to talk about what I like to call post traumatic birth disorder

Whether you had a planned c-section, last minute induction or you actually planned a home birth – there is a 100% chance things didn’t go exactly according to your plan. I’m not talking about your mom’s or partner’s or sister’s plan, but yours. Either the moment you wanted captured on camera didn’t happen or wasn’t documented or you didn’t get skin-to-skin time or your {insert relative} was acting less than ideal. It happens. Even if you didn’t have a plan… you had an idea of how things were going to be. You had expectations. Whether they were just rolling around in your head or you had a typed up timeline of events – there was a “this is what it’s going to look/feel/sound like…” If we’re honest, that happens with all the mile markers in our life, but I digress.

For me, I felt (and a few times was treated) like a freak show. We received a medical transport to the hospital after the birth because while I don’t think birth is a medical event, I do like to have professionals involved in certain things. I mean, I don’t let my mailman do my monthly cut-and-color, do I? RIGHT. So, off to the hospital we went because I really preferred my midwife deliver the placenta, check the plumbing and make sure things were still… you know… intact. I swear every Labor and Delivery nurse in a three county radius came in to proclaim, “I just don’t know how you survived!” and then turn to see this miraculous thing called … a baby born in a bathtub.

See, everyone is so busy gushing about this precious new baby and how happy you are (or should be…) and asking a million questions, that I feel like very few people leave space for a new mom to express disappointments about her birth experience. To mourn what could or should have been. Because, let me tell you while I was so happy to have a new baby – I wasn’t happy about the fact that 4 firemen saw me completely naked. I wasn’t tickled about the fact that I was treated as an ignorant mom because, “how could you not know you were in labor?” – said every L&D nurse. I spent more time explaining that, yes, I had given birth before… yes, I was a college graduate… yes, it is legal…. no, it doesn’t hurt worse at home…. 

…and while postpartum care in America is steadily increasing in quality and scope, no one was there to help me process that I had unmet expectations and a little bit of a traumatic birth experience. Gosh, even as I re-read that last sentence I see myself still downplaying things and shrugging it off. But I won’t re-type and edit. I’ll leave it because girls, if you’ve had even a little bit or a lot bit of disappointment or drama during birth – can I encourage you to reach out and process that? 

Studies link traumatic birth experiences with PTSD. To be clear – we’re not talking about postpartum depression. We’re talking about a birth experience you were not prepared to cope with. I’d say accidentally having a baby in your bathtub covers that, no? 

To add to that, this baby born in the bathtub suffered from ankyloglossia (tongue tie) We struggled for a decent period of time before realizing this and then I spent a ridiculous amount of time blaming myself for a genetic condition, because, you know… he was born in a bathtub. Ridiculous. So, girls – I plead with you. Reach out and process what you need to. Some great resources are here, here and here

 

“Birth trauma is in the eye of the beholder.”

– Cheryl Beck 

Nursing Research January/February 2004

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2 Responses to Post Traumatic Birth Disorder

  1. Jessica Bullock September 1, 2017 at 11:15 am #

    Oh, THANK YOU for covering this often overlooked part of unexpected births. We don’t leave space for a mother’s emotional experience of her birth and we absolutely must. Great work!

  2. Kelsey Runge September 1, 2017 at 3:25 pm #

    Beth!
    I had NO IDEA! You, my friend are my hero and a rockstar! Thank you for speaking out on this topic, and yes, I agree. Everyone checks on the baby, which is appreciated, but what about the Mama!?!
    Love your style and can’t wait to read more!!

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