parents

The after-birth trauma that nobody is talking about.

NB: This is not the author.

by SUSAN TAYLOR

I recently became a mother for the second time, and can honestly say that welcoming my newest son into the world has been one of the most exciting and joyous moments of my life – as you would imagine. It’s up there with my first son’s birth and marrying my husband.

But as wise glam rockers Poison once warbled, every rose has its thorn… and so it was also the worst time of my entire life.

“How did it all go?” an old girlfriend asked me the day after ‘the event’.

Now, I’m not one to hold back, especially with close friends.

This isn’t Fight Club.

You can bet your sweet derriere that I’m going to talk about childbirth, and not let my newly blissed out mummy hormones get in the way.

“You know in war movies where people get their limbs blown off and stuff, and they lie there asking their comrades to kill them?” I said.

“Ah, yeah,” my yet-to-experience childbirth friend replied anxiously.

“Well, the birth was the closest I’ve ever come to feeling exactly like that.”

Silence.

Sounds terribly dramatic doesn’t it? Well, it bloody well was! In actual fact, traumatic would be more apt that simply dramatic.

Susan Taylor

With my first son I was induced and quickly went into labour with the aid of an epidural, but unfortunately he was stuck and I ended up having an emergency caesarean. I was quite disappointed about this, so when round two came knocking I was ready and wanted to give a ‘normal’ birth a red hot go. I was pumped!

It was about an hour after I had my, hmmm, I guess we shall call it an ‘epidural’, that I cursed myself for not having taken the ‘easy’ route with an elective caesar. F

or some godforsaken reason my epidural did not work this time, meaning I paid over a thousand dollars for pain relief that was about the same as a couple of headache tablets. Money aside though, why exactly had I decided to put myself in the firing line of such agony?

My husband and lot of family and friends had all expected me to go under the knife once more. So what exactly had I been trying to prove?

I guess I wanted to experience the ‘real deal’, and having had an epidural once before I knew it would stave off the majority of pain and allow me to joyfully experience the entry of my child into the world without him feeling or hearing his mother in terrifying distress.

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Yeah…. notsomuch.

I’ve always been someone who has had a relatively high pain threshold.

I’m not a pill popper, I usually just soldier on regardless of the ailment, even when I feel like death warmed up.

This birth however was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Me, tough? I don’t think so.

Thinking about it now conjures up feelings of what I can only imagine being run over by a truck over and over again in a non-stop fashion must feel like, or perhaps a tsunami wave continually crashing down on me giving zero time to gasp for breath.

This is Kourtney Kardashian giving birth. A good illustration of my facial expression most of the time.

Being that out of control of my own body and what was happening to it was the scariest thing I have ever endured.

Not being able to communicate was truly terrifying. Inside my mind I was screaming relentlessly, but I was silent to everyone else in the room.

The only thing I could do was hold tight to my husband’s thumbs and not let them loose for a second, even when he was begging for a water break.

The worst was when the anaesthetist popped up again like Peter Pan, rubbed my arm and told me that my epidural was going to take effect soon.

All I could manage to do was slowly turn my head and stare like a crazed, dying animal at his fingers that I was mentally trying to break bone by bone.

I kept thinking, how is this happening to me, is this the end? I just wanted the pain to stop and it to be over, any way possible. I wasn’t even thinking about my unborn baby or my other child, just the searing, non-stop, blinding pain that was wreaking havoc on my body.

Okay, so everyone knows childbirth is no picnic, but why on earth doesn’t our society really acknowledge just how undignified, painful and emotional it really is? I don’t want to hear about how women’s maternal hormones kick in and let them forget the horror – I am never forgetting that! Would you forget the time you thought you were going to die? Not likely!

Obviously for some extremely lucky ladies their babies fly out Superman style – maybe the baby is in the perfect position and really small, they have gigantic childbearing hips or perhaps they’re calmer than Ghandi – but for the vast majority, it’s HARDCORE.

The real kick in the teeth though is that for most of us we’re also not allowed time (for one reason or another) after such a traumatic event to rest and let ourselves emotionally and physically heal properly. In my case I had haemorrhoids so bad even my doctor didn’t want to look at them.

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Seriously, they gave a new meaning to the phrase ‘roid rage.’ I couldn’t stand or sit up properly for weeks. But who cares when you’ve got a toddler to run around after, a gorgeous newborn trying to tear off your nipples with his super suction lips, and you’re on almost zero sleep?

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No wonder I cried when I had to leave the hospital. May as well have sold the bed, shoved a hot poker up my behind and cut my boobs with razor blades for all the difference it would have made.

Now before you tell me to stop moaning, according to a study done by Griffith University in QLD, 30% of Australian women consider their birthing experience traumatic and around 6% actually develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

But it’s likely the real figures are even higher than this as a lot of women are too afraid or ashamed to admit how they really feel.

So it’s a fact there are a lot of other mothers out there who experience a much less than desirable childbirth. While mine didn’t require medical attention, it was an experience of unbelievably difficult proportions.

Now, in some cultures new mothers are confined to their beds after the birth where they just rest and nurse their babies for anywhere up to six weeks, letting others chip in with the cooking and cleaning. Sounds amazing, but just not realistic for most of us (unless you’re royalty).

I know it could be worse, though. I could live in a remote village somewhere and be expected to pop out my baby before breakfast and be back catching fish by the afternoon. Or even worse still, not to have been blessed with having children at all. However, next time (if I’m lucky enough for a third round!), I’m going to try and be a bit easier on myself and perhaps even save up beforehand so I can have some hired help at home for the first few weeks (if I need it).

So until the Australian Government grants all new mums a personal assistant/maid/nurse/cook for a month after childbirth, just remember what that new mother might have been through when you storm the hospital with balloons before she’s even relocated her downstairs bits.

Five more minutes please!

If you believe you have suffered from birth trauma head to www.birthtalk.org for information and support here.

When she’s not feeding her baby, toddler, husband or cat, Susan is a freelance writer and copywriter.

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