by Jenna, The Minimalist Doula
Jenna has asked that her birth story is not anonymised. She would like to share the experience of her first birth, and her very healing second birth.
You can read more about Jenna at http://www.odula.co.uk/
So, in honour of Birth Trauma Awareness Week 2017, I thought I would share what I have learnt from having a traumatic first birth with my son. I wasn't a doula six years ago and I truly thought having a relaxed, go with the flow attitude was a good thing to do. It wasn't. I didn't know enough. When my waters broke early ahead of my due date, it led to a long and difficult induction with a cascade of intervention. Ending in my sweet little boy being pulled from me with forceps which left me emotionally and physically broken. Sadly, I also didn't get any support postnatally and my trauma followed me into motherhood. My son 2011 Looking back I think if I had sought help, I probably would have been diagnosed with postnatal anxiety and possibly even PTSD. I was overwhelmed, anxious and struggling. It was so hard but for some reason I suffered in silence apart from the odd meltdown to the hubby when I couldn't take it anymore. It's not like I faked it either, I didn't look 'together', I embraced my vulnerability. I went out without make up, I forgot to eat, I was permanently exhausted, in a constant state of high alert but I just thought, keep going, it's normal.
And I did get through it but WOW, was it tough.
Absolutely not what I thought first time mothering would be like. I did have some very honest friends but their stories barely scraped the tip of the emotional iceberg with my overwhelm in mothering my son. He was the best thing to ever happen to me and I was absolutely petrified. I think your first birth delivers you into motherhood...it is literally the gateway to your mother self. I can pretty much spot the mothers who have had a hard time and those that had a positive experience. One feels empowered, the other feels bereft, vulnerable, unsure...they're also grieving for the birth they wished for. There is an upside (apart from my son obviously). It led me to becoming a doula. I hoped I could support women at this life changing time so they could have a better experience than me, so they could feel empowered into motherhood. This helped me to go on my own long and explorative journey where I got to debrief my first birth with many different amazing women and I also got to see it in different ways from different perspectives.
Even now writing this I feel more removed from it than I ever have. Time really is a great healer, if you seek help. Before my second pregnancy, I needed help. I knew I couldn't experience that level of anxiety again. I went to the GP, explained I didn't want drugs and luckily, without question, he referred me for some CBT sessions. In just four magical sessions, my symptoms came way down and I got signed off. Two weeks later I found out I was pregnant. I took everything I learned from my first birth into my second.
I read, I reflected, I attended births as a doula, I hired a doula and I realised IT WAS ALL MY CHOICE. EVERYTHING.
I also realised my feelings, my instinct, should not be underestimated. I WAS EMPOWERED. I put the work in. I went there. To those difficult hard to reach places of vulnerability, shame, guilt, anger, sadness, grief and I processed and unpicked them, let them be and then did my best to let them go. It wasn't easy but it was very necessary to move on and into my next birth. I believe our emotions are so tied up in our physical selves. I look back now and I think I was resisting motherhood in a way. The huge change, the huge responsibility and my body resisted it too. So I literally got dragged into motherhood. Not the best place to start. But I got a second chance and I grabbed it with both hands and all my heart.
My daughter was born into her Dad's hands at home on a sunny afternoon. My labour was gentle and then my body took over and roared me into motherhood for a second time. The power I felt that day is indescribable. It was a force bigger than me. It was love in it's purest form. Love for myself, for my babies, for my family and for our future. My daughter 2014 I LOVED maternity leave second time around despite now having two hearts to hold. It took a lot of work but I got there. It still takes work, but work I am willing to do, every, single, day. PLEASE if any of this resonates with you, seek help, talk to someone, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. So much doula love