DD Kathryn Hassell blogs for Birth Trauma Aaweness Week about her own struggle with birth trauma.
14 years ago I gave birth to my first baby, aged 21, married and mortgaged and ever so grown up. Sadly I wasn’t as grown up as I expected and I was almost playing house.
I wanted a baby. It would be amazing and beautiful and I’d be a good mum. Armed with a very big textbook on pregnancy which didn’t include any emotional or practical information, I blindly went through pregnancy afraid of everything and uneducated. I did as I was told and felt like a young mum who knew nothing. I was looked after by teams of much older midwives who instead of mothering me treated me like a silly young person, shocked when they found out I was married. They had a huge bias towards me.
Sadly I became unwell with pre-eclampisa and was required to jump on the conveyor belt of induction. The list of failings and things that happened which I did not consent to could fill this blog post alone. It was a long and painful experience.
But what I want to talk about for birth trauma awareness week isn’t the horror of the story itself its about how it has changed my life and how I have found some positives from it.
When we share birth stories it’s the peeling onion effect; we remove a little hurt each time. I’ve had 14 years of that so please, if you’re reading this and have experienced birth trauma recently and don’t feel the same don’t worry we all walk the path differently.
I had PND and PTSD. I was medicated , did debrief, had flashbacks, night sweats and horrible dreams, I cried, I didn’t look after myself and I didn’t bond with my baby. I was broken and useless and was told just as much from the health professionals I met.
I had a healthy baby though so I should just be ‘thankful’ for that. His birthday was a very hard time and gave me panic attacks and flashbacks again. I still hold some issues with smells and lights that trigger sadness within me.
The recovery was long and I don’t think I will ever fully “get over” it. I have gone on to have 2 more babies, and found being in control, educating myself and questioning things gave me a power and a purpose. These births made me realise I wasn’t broken – I was strong.
There is power in being listened to and having your own plan. It’s not the type of birth that makes the trauma, its how we feel about it.
Recovering gave me a confidence and a passion to help others feel educated and in control of their journey. To be able to empathise with the hurt when new mums cry and explain how things were done to them or their birth plans were not listen to. I can provide real care and help others either heal or not have these traumas in the first place.
I’m passionate about birth rights: women and birthing people being at the centre of the care. We are not a tick box, or a policy – we are individuals and as such, care should given to meet your needs.
Focusing on being enough – not the perfect parent is a way I’ve tried to remove some mum guilt. I cannot change the past but I can grow from it and allow my experiences to help others.
Being a birth worker has allowed me to follow this journey and provide families with love and personalised care.
My top tips for recovery are to practice self care, rewind therapy, talking and debriefing, relaxations and positive affirmations, time ( give yourself time).
Visit my website to read my birth story or find out more about my doula services mama magic.