Five years ago medical intervention probably saved her, and my, life. But... The doctor who scathingly told the concerned midwife to tell me to "just keep pushing" humiliated me - those words haunted me as proof that I was a failure.
A different doctor examined me mid-contraction and argued with the midwife about whether the baby was back-to-back (she was, and she never turned). Months later the sight of that doctor's grimace, the pain, fear, loss of control and the inhuman wail that rose from deep within me kept returning in suffocating waves - the crystalline clarity, colours sharpened, left me shaking my head trying to rid myself of them, gasping for breath in between sobs...
I felt like these moments were proof that I must have done something wrong, that my body failed me, that I was inadequate as a woman. My failure to "get over it" was not a sign that I was traumatised, it was further evidence of my weakness.
Hyper-vigilance never allowed me to relax, shame was ever-present, I was intensely resentful and couldn't let go of the feelings of injustice. I knew something wasn't right but my experience of seeking help pushed me away too.
Now, with the benefit of almost five years distance, and a healing second birth, I can see that I did nothing wrong, it was merely a meeting of circumstance.
The anger and shame are gone, I've reached acceptance. But it's also tinged with sadness. Alongside the tiredness and bewilderment of new motherhood, there should have been moments of joy. I had them with my son, I now know what it feels like, and it exists in sharp contrast to how I felt after my daughter's birth.
But also sadness because I know it is likely there are women today judging themselves as harshly as I did, who need to know there is help out there, who need to hear that their feelings are valid, that a healthy baby is not "the main thing".