Considering I have a blog that’s mostly centered around new parenting, it seems a bit weird that I haven’t written about the birth of my daughter. There’s a reason for that, I’m scared. When I was pregnant and even before, I remember reading the words birth trauma and rolling my eyes.
Like yeah, it hurts but PTSD over a birth? Get real, lady
That was a serious thought I had. If you’ve read any of my previous posts you’ll know that I subscribed to a LOT of dumbass ways of thinking before I became an all-knowing, ever-wise parent* and that just happened to be one of the things I thought.
I have flashbacks about the night Elliott was born. My heart races when I see operating theatres on tv, the blue and green scrubs, the hair nets. I still, even 6 months later am afraid of touching my scar for fear of my insides falling out. I was talking to my Nan yesterday and she was trying to persuade me to have another baby sooner rather than later so that Ellie will grow up with someone close to her age.
I just chuckled and said it wasn’t for us for a few years at least.
Surely you can’t be serious!? This one doesn’t even have a tooth yet!
I mentioned to her that last time was really scary for me and I wasn’t sure how I’d ever mentally prepare for that again. She did that Nan-esque thing of laughing off my concern and saying “well you’ll forget about the pain when the time comes”.
The conversation lead me to wonder if my memory will become foggy eventually and if I’ll recall the birth differently in a few years or even months from now.
Another reason I’ve not sat down and written what happened is that I have a kind of guilt surrounding Ellie’s prematurity. She was born at 32 weeks gestation and through our time spent at the NICU and the people that we met both online and in various groups, I began to consider 32 weeks as “fine”. As in, 32 weeks was on the older side of prematurity and compared to lots of bubs, Ellie was doing really well.
She was a “feeder and grower” in the NICU, she never experienced any health complications, was on oxygen for a very short amount of time and there was never a time, aside from the few days after her birth, that I was concerned for her health. I felt guilty that she was fine when there were and are so many babies that are sick or that don’t get to experience life at all. I felt for a long time (and to be honest yeah, I still hold this belief) that I wasn’t allowed to experience any grief over Ellie’s birth and her time in the hospital because it wasn’t as dire as others experiences.
When Ellie came home, we realised that 2 months early most definitely still qualifies as a preemie baby and everyone she met was genuinely concerned for her/ interested in her story.
She’s so little! Aren’t you worried about, you know….her development?
So I guess I have a right to my feelings surrounding her birth and first few weeks of life, I just thought I didn’t.
To get to Ellie’s actual birth we have to discuss a fear I didn’t know I had until I became pregnant. I remember being 16 weeks pregnant and absolutely terrified of giving birth. I didn’t want a C-section necessarily though I thought I’d rather die than experience a vaginal birth. I honestly hadn’t considered how my baby was going to exit my body when the time came until then. I sat sobbing at my first appointment at the midwife run clinic.
I can’t! I’ll die if I have to push her out! I’ll lose too much blood and she’ll get stuck and the cord will be wrapped around her neck and you’ll give me a dead baby.
Yeah, my thoughts were pretty catastrophic.
“We’ll deal with the logistics when it gets closer to the time” said my midwife, her eyes filled with understanding.
Like many a first time mum, I paid ridiculously close attention to any twinge or pain, convinced something was wrong with me. After experiencing Braxton Hicks for the first time, coupled with a feeling like my period was on the horizon, I promptly freaked the fuck out and headed to the Maternal and Fetal Assessment Unit (MFAU).
When it turned out nothing was wrong (duh) I found myself overwhelmed with ~feelings~.
I sat blubbering in a recliner chair, attempting to verbally swindle my way out of having to give birth. (As though there was an option to press an “eject” button and have my baby launched into the stratosphere only to somersault and return safely to my arms).
A midwife got in contact with the Registrar on shift to come and have a chat to me, I was preparing for a talking down, the same narrative of “your body is made for this, when the time comes, you’ll be able to give birth”.
“Tokophobia” the Dr said calmly.
There’s a word for it?
“It’s very common, and it is grounds for an elective c-section, even in a public hospital like this”.
I didn’t believe her. I thought I was being told what I wanted to hear to calm me down.
“I’ll make you an appointment for your next clinic visit to meet with the Obstetrician who can sign off on the section, considering your gestational diabetes on insulin, they may want to have you go to 37-38 weeks only”.
After 6 hours of panic attacking (whatever, I’m making it a verb) we left the hospital with a rough plan and I felt for the first time in weeks that I could breathe a little easier.
We went home and Googled tokophobia and found a plethora of results, questions on mummy forums, blog entries and of course, Wikipedia.
Why doesn’t anyone in real life talk about this?
I wondered aloud to Adam.
A few weeks after my MFAU freakout, I attended the appointment with the OB to be assessed as to whether I was suitable for an elective C-section. I felt clammy with anticipation, this was one of the first times in my life I had to really advocate for myself and my mental health and I was scared.
After what felt like a very awkward first date where I overshared and yes, cried… I had “approval”, a c-section it would be! I was still terrified but was no longer convinced that I would die in childbirth.
Although the weight has lifted, I still felt like a failure, I wasn’t a “real” woman was I? Why wasn’t I brave? What about vaginal births and all the good things it provides babies with? Was I selfish? The internet would have me think so. I read time and time again “if you’re too posh to push you don’t deserve a child!”
First off, I have been called lots of things but never “posh”. It’s not a case of thinking I’m better than anyone or that I shouldn’t have to go through the pain of labor, I didn’t think I’d be cheating the system by getting cut open.
I sat with my first round of “mummy guilt” for around 4 weeks, wondering if I’d made a mistake, if my prenatal yoga teacher was right and that my body possessed everything necessary to birth this baby.
In the end, I wasn’t given a choice. And that’s where I’ll leave until part 2.
*I don’t want to have to mention that this is sarcasm, but y’know how people are.