This story is from Julie who wanted to share her story about her experience of having birth trauma and PTSD, how it impacted her mental wellbeing, how therapy has helped her overcome PTSD and how she now helps others.
Please be aware that some stories may trigger difficult memories and emotions so remember your own self care as everyone will be at different stages of healing.
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There is what feels like an angry bunch of people shouting at me. At least 12 in the room. I can feel their fear.
“Push Julie Push” they say. I can’t push.
You have given me a ‘trial’ epidural and all it did was give me more pain in my abdominal area and no sensation at all in my legs.
“You put it in the wrong place” my body cries.
The junior doctor fumbles to get the drip into my hand. She can’t do it. I can’t believe it. Someone else takes over. I am on my back. I can’t move. I am shackled. My body senses inescapable threat. I am beyond tired.
I sense my husband’s fear too … and his anger.
“This is a big baby and he is getting distressed” they say. “Push Julie Push” they say. I still can’t push.
The fear is thick in the room. I can’t stomach the gas and air. It makes me sick. There is so much pain.
I am cut. It is a big cut. At least I can’t feel that. Yet.
They try ventouse.
They try forceps.
They still can’t get him out.
He is stuck. His shoulder is stuck. I am stuck. We are stuck.
Someone tells my husband that because our son has crowned a caesarean isn’t possible. This is a hospital known to prefer caesareans… we were told before we came. But for us there is no other way.
Life or death.
We have been here for hours.
My body is losing so much blood.
I am suddenly not here. I am watching it all happen. I am in and out of consciousness. Out of body.
It is just before 7pm. I am shaken back in my body and a voice tells me to pump my legs. I haven’t been able to move them before. I start to try and pump. It is difficult as I am still shackled. Slowly I override the numbness. Something more powerful takes over. More powerful than me. The consultant peers around from between my legs and says they will try one last time with the forceps. I sense my son’s life force and somehow I push. I scream. He wants life. He wants to be born. I howl in agony.
“Push Julie Push” they say. I push. I push to live. I push to let go. To give him life.
One last push and by some miracle he is born but he doesn’t cry. Baby’s are supposed to cry when they are born. Why doesn’t he cry? His Apgar score is low they say He is blue. I look to my husband. He is angry. Scared. Traumatised. I barely notice the flurry of activity to try to resuscitate him. I am in and out of body. In and out of consciousness. I am losing so much blood. I narrowly miss a blood transfusion.
Then they clear his passages and he splutters and cries. He lives! He has shoulder dystocia. His Apgar score improves. He is taken to the Special Baby Care Unit. All the people go. Except someone who stitches me up. There is little compassion. I feel like an inconvenience. It is painful and undignified. I am released from the shackles. But the feeling of imprisonment is only just starting.
I am trapped in the trauma. I dissociate. I am frozen.
We live and yet my life is frozen right there.
Just concern over us suing the anaesthetist and the hospital.
Stuck in this soulless place. With a body I can’t feel. So I can’t breastfeed for what seems like forever. I don’t cry. I forget.
It takes my body 17 years to fully thaw. To renegotiate. That is another story.
A PTSD never diagnosed – in my husband and in me. And what about our son?
Each moment since I renegotiated this trauma I celebrate his life, my life but for so long I was stuck. Living half a life. It took another medical trauma to retraumatise me and then my body led the way back to me. To remembering.
If we don’t heal and integrate trauma by the time we get to menopause we unravel. If, that is, we have managed to reach menopause at all.
We have to go deep. Then deeper still. Our body holds it all. It is etched on our primal brain. We need to raise awareness of Birth trauma and undiagnosed PTSD. The personal and social cost is huge. We need to offer women and their partners a safe and sacred space to share and for our bodies to release, heal and dissolve the trauma.
For my part, for my story is now my calling, I am practising trauma release, deep awake meditation and co-creating a circle of support with others who have lived experience of birth trauma/near miss/assisted deliveries and undiagnosed PTSD. I am deeply grateful to you for all the work you do and join together with you to raise awareness and to be the change.