By Haylee Hackenberg
“At least you have a healthy baby, that’s all that matters”.
The first time I heard those words, they came from the mouth of a midwife as I shifted uncomfortably in an armchair, my caesarean wound still raw, while she squeezed colostrum from my breast to feed my “healthy” baby who was in special care beside me.
The words felt like I’d been slapped in the face. I felt so many things about my birth. Sadness, anger, and failure, all wrapped up in exhaustion but I just nodded and smiled and mumbled something about being “so blessed”. And I did feel blessed. I am grateful every single day for my two healthy babies. But as I sat there, in a state of numbness that would later be diagnosed as PTSD, I felt like screaming, “Don’t I matter too?”
Sadly, that wouldn’t be the last time I heard those words, and after a failed attempt at a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) with the birth of my second child, I was destined to hear them again, and again, and again.
Birth trauma is very real.
It leaves women stripped, scared and often unable to carry on the very real task of mothering. For me, birth trauma is panic attacks, hyper-vigilance, and a heavy feeling of grief.
Birth trauma also carries with it a strong feeling that I maybe shouldn’t be talking about it. That it’s somehow taboo to show anything but extreme gratitude for the births that I have experienced.
Birth can be a phenomenal, empowering experience for women, but for others, it can feel overwhelmingly as if your body has failed you, as if you failed your baby, and your family, maybe even your future children.
The reason my births were traumatic is a story for another day but, in reality, it actually doesn’t matter. What makes a birth traumatic, is your own experience of it. Sometimes the reasons behind a traumatic birth are obvious; loss, assault, complications, and other times it can be a little sneakier; cascades of intervention, insensitive hospital staff, and a general feeling of fear and being out of control. No matter the reason a mother feels she has had a traumatic birth, support is imperative to her healing process.
We need to help mothers find their voices
In a world obsessed with being #grateful and #blessed with every moment of our lives, it takes a lot of courage to speak up, and say, “You know what? I’m actually not OK with how that went”.
See next page for the rest…