'My birth was so traumatic, I discharged myself from hospital against medical advice.'

It was my very first day of maternity leave. I stood up from dinner to put my plate in the sink, and I felt a gush. But instead of broken waters it was bright red blood… and it didn't stop coming.

Before I knew it, I was naked and bleeding on a table under bright white lights in a sterile room. Nobody I knew was around but there were people everywhere working around me. No one acknowledged me. I was terrified. What was happening? Was I going to be okay? Was my baby going to be okay? I was spiralling. Meanwhile, the anaesthetists were too engrossed in small talk about their golf game on the weekend to provide me with any information or comfort. It honestly felt like their weekend hobby was more important than my life at that point.

Just a few minutes before I had become a mum for the very first time, and I felt like I didn't matter at all. I don't want any other mother to feel that way.

My baby had to be taken to the Special Care Nursery, and I told my partner to go with him. I didn't know how he was, and I hoped he didn't feel as alone or discarded as I did. I had had a placental abruption, emergency c-section and a severe postpartum haemorrhage losing two litres of blood. The trifecta no one wants, especially a first-time mum.

Watch: The horoscopes as new mums. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

As the nurse asked me questions in recovery, I felt like I had to "be myself" and act like everything was fine after having this huge life-changing experience where things were anything but normal.

Hours passed before I finally got into the maternity ward. I finally got to hold my baby, and I didn't let him go all night. I was in shock and didn't sleep a wink. 

The next morning the doctor came in and said everything went well. Was she serious? Did "well" mean alive? Because while a healthy baby is important, so is a healthy mum and a healthy experience. She asked if I had any questions, but still reeling from the shock and sheer exhaustion, I said not right now but I was sure they would come. She walked away and that brief conversation constituted a birth debrief on the discharge paperwork. Wild. 

As a first-time mum, I didn't know what was normal or not. I thought I had taken all the classes. I thought I had prepared, but in hindsight, I knew nothing. What should have been this magical time of becoming a mother was more like a horror show. I fainted in the shower due to the blood loss, popped stitches that were never checked despite my asking, waited days for an iron transfusion and had to navigate everyone's opinions and unwanted advice about breastfeeding, sleep and everything in between.

No one ever asked about me.

I felt so traumatised and disrespected, that I discharged us on Christmas Eve against medical advice. I cried hysterically all the way home from the hospital because I finally felt safe enough to let go and be me again.

My milk took a week to come in due to the stress and my son never put on enough weight for the midwives to be happy. I blamed myself. I thought my body was failing me. I thought I couldn't get anything right, and I spiralled into an overwhelming pit of postpartum anxiety. All my effort was poured into my baby and from the very beginning I was made to believe that I didn't matter, and that idea flowed into motherhood.


I was always looking for external validation from midwives, doctors and nurses because I thought they knew best, but now I know no one knows my baby or me better than myself. 

At my son's first birthday, I looked around at all the cards and gifts and thought, "I deserve this too! I've sacrificed so much. Why aren't the Mums celebrated?"

I decided to do something about it and Motherhood Milestones was born. I created a range of magnetic greeting cards that don't shy away from the challenges of modern motherhood.

Cards cover topics like pregnancy loss, IVF, postpartum, breastfeeding, loneliness in motherhood, the challenges of letting go as your child grows and of course a birthday card for the Mum on her child's birthday.

Emily's cards to give to mums. Image: Supplied.


I hope that every card sparks a conversation and change because I'm here to disrupt the motherhood narrative. I created a mainstream and simple way for people to celebrate, recognise and commiserate about hidden moments of motherhood that we don't speak about enough but need to, to normalise them. 

I don't think we can underestimate the ripple effect we can have collectively and the impact of one action, especially showing kindness and compassion towards mothers and creating a safe space for conversation and connection.

We as mums already feel like we are failing at something every day. Motherhood, work, relationships. Society tells us to enjoy every minute, but that sets us up to fail. Not every second of motherhood is enjoyable, nor is every minute of work or a relationship. Sharing stories and validating a mother's experience lets her know it's okay to feel how she feels, even if it's negative.

Emily with her son. Image: Supplied.


I want mothers to be held as much as their babies. I want them to know they matter too, and I want society to do better to support mums, instead of expecting them to just do it all because they chose to have babies. Motherhood is hard. Let's be real. 

Feature image: Supplied.

If this story raises any issues for you, the Australasian Birth Trauma Association offers free support to parents going through a trauma journey. You can find them here. COPE (the Centre of Perinatal Excellence) provides support for the emotional challenges of becoming a parent. You can contact them here. 

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