Almost half of women describe their childbirth(s) as traumatic, but few moms reach out for help. Most new moms (myself included) don’t think we deserve or need any sort of intervention. Giving birth is one of the most transformative processes a woman will go through during her life and you are not alone if it scarred you in some way.
I know the definition generally states that a person must experience something during the labor process that involves actual or threatened serious injury/death, but birth trauma is more than just near death experiences during labor and delivery. Birth trauma, in my opinion and in the opinion of many others in the maternal medical field, can encompass anything traumatic within the perinatal period (from conception to a year after birth). What you label as trauma might not be what someone else calls trauma, but hear this:
All birth trauma is valid.
The purpose of this article is to show you aren’t alone in your struggles through motherhood. Below you’ll find stories of women that experienced some sort of trauma in the process of becoming Mom.
These stories have been slightly altered in order to keep them anonymous.
“My firstborn got ‘stuck’ for eight minutes, head in and half out. There was palpable panic in the delivery room with a nurse on top of me pushing hard on the top of my abdomen. The doctor was pulling from his end. Baby was born blue, and quiet with an APGAR score of 2. He had shoulder dystocia but his one minute APGAR was 6…I totally had PTSD because when it was time to deliver my next child and they said it was time to push, all I could remember was how difficult it was to push out #1. I literally had a panic attack (my pediatrician and friend were next door having their own baby and we later laughed about my literal screaming ‘I can’t do this!’).”
“I was not immediately flooded with love for my kids the moment they escaped the womb, and with my second I didn’t really even like him for the whole first year. I felt like the worst possible mother, but I learned this is actually really common. All the stuff you hear about that immediate rush of emotion may be true more often than not, but it is actually super damaging to those of us on the ‘not’ side.”
“[Husband] traveled a lot for work. He was rarely home the first year of [baby’s] life. I was alone, had no support system, and this was my first child. I thought everything I was experiencing was ‘normal.’ The lack of sleeping due to anxiety, the lack of a will to get out of bed, the lack of desire to feed myself. Come to find out I was dealing with pretty severe PPD/PPA.”
“I almost died having [baby number two], to the extent that they had a crash cart waiting for me outside the door when I delivered [my last baby]…I also had zero connection to [baby] when I was pregnant. Like. Could have been pregnant with a honey baked ham and felt the same.”
“…Being told you’re pregnant on April Fool’s day is the icing on the cake. Then you can’t forget about the cherry on top, and in my case it was being told you’re pregnant on April Fool’s day — at 34 weeks. I didn’t know what to think or how to feel. I had just finally gotten out of an abusive relationship and now I was finding out I was going to have his child. I could just start to finally breathe again and this felt like I was taking 10 steps back…I didn’t know how I was going to finish school, raise a newborn on my own, and still deal with the healing from leaving a toxic relationship all at once. I felt scared and alone and doubted the strength I had so many times.”
“…They hooked me up to monitors at the hospital and my doctor told me she would check on me in an hour. Not 5 minutes later she told me it was time and I needed to have an emergency C-section. I must have looked nervous because I was put on oxygen and rushed away to the OR. They were in such a hurry to save [the baby] they started before I was completely numb. They took him away for testing. His blood sugar was 3. The nurse told me she has never seen it so low and the patient be living. He had to be transferred to the children’s hospital 45 minutes away. I got to see him through an incubator for about a minute before they took him…I finally got to spend time with my son when he was 3 days old during our 2 week NICU stay. I missed a bunch of firsts for him (bottle, diaper change, bath, etc.). I still cry when I see moms bonding with their baby on tv knowing I missed those moments and won’t get them back.”
“When I informed my husband of our third pregnancy, he immediately fell to the floor and started sobbing. They were not happy tears. I was so stunned by his reaction that I didn’t know what to do. Unfortunately I miscarried 5 days later, which also upset him because I think he had finally come around. I guiltily am glad that if I had to endure one miscarriage out of my four pregnancies, it was that one because I would never have felt I could tell that child how their dad reacted to the discovery of their existence.”
“We waited about an hour for a labor/delivery room. Finally got in and I was starting to have pretty intense contractions. At this point, I guess my parents and my in-laws got there and were out in the waiting room being super pushy to get in my room! I kept telling the nurse who was asking if they could come in to tell them no. I wanted it to just be [my husband] and me. They kept pushing until I guess I said yes? But I just remember being in the bed hooked to several monitors by that point and bleeding as they checked me and looking over to see my father-in-law like right there. It was so uncomfortable.”
“Once I thought I had processed everything from [first baby], we had our second child weeks before the world shut down due to COVID-19. The isolation, unknowing, and dealing with a toddler and a newborn while the world was on fire was so mentally, emotionally, and spiritually damaging. I honestly don’t remember much of [second baby’s] first year of life. I was literally just trying to keep everyone alive. I’m terrified to get pregnant again. So scared that I avoid sex with my husband most of the time, even though we have birth control measures. I don’t want to go through anything I’ve gone through again.”
“[The nurses] kept telling me she could have all this brain damage and organ failure and I wasn’t allowed to breastfeed [the baby]. But then they’d give [the baby] pacifiers dipped in sugar water! And when I could finally feed [the baby], I made it VERY clear I didn’t want formula and would schedule my nursing sessions and I swear I’d come down and they had fed [the baby] formula 10 minutes before I got there instead of just calling me!”
“I had preeclampsia with my son and was induced early. My blood pressure rose pretty high while in labor, and they had me on magnesium to offset the blood pressure and prevent a seizure. But at one point, I started shaking uncontrollably and got really scared. I asked the nurse if something was wrong and why I was shaking so badly. My teeth were chattering, my arms and legs couldn’t stop twitching. It felt awful. She said it was normal. Later on, I learned that was actually probably a really dangerous sign and no one told me.”
“My [baby] stayed in the NICU for a few days after birth. Originally [the baby] was admitted for a certain medical issue but they kept telling us [the baby] was in there for breathing issues. After we had signed some discharge papers and were getting ready to be discharged, a hospital worker came to us and told us there was a lapse in communication about my [baby’s] issues and hospital policy states that we had to stay a minimum of five days. We were literally sitting there waiting to be discharged! We ended up having a very heated meeting with hospital executives and NICU doctors about why we weren’t informed of the ‘real’ reason [the baby] was having to stay. To this day we still have no answer as to why [the baby] was originally admitted to the NICU. No elaboration, tests, or answers. Everything got lumped under ‘breathing issues’ which resulted in the policy stay.”
“A week after we got home from the hospital, I’d barely slept. My [baby] was constantly crying. I was nursing round the clock. We went to the first pediatrician visit, and this man I’d never met looked at my [baby’s] weight loss (almost a pound) and demanded I nurse in front of him. I tried. Then he told me, ‘You have no milk.’ He repeated it several times, and to my sleep-deprived, battered brain, it came out as, ‘You’re a failure. You’re killing your baby.’ He sent us to the hospital, and we stayed there a week trying to help my [baby].”
“Between all the trauma of my delivery and my [baby’s] hospitalization, I developed really bad PPD/A. One night when I was desperately trying to get my baby to sleep, I was about to set [the baby] down when my exhausted brain got triggered by his cries. I shook [baby], just barely and not very hard. It was enough to stop me in my tracks. I set [baby] safely in [the] crib and then went to the walk-in closet in the room and sat down. Curled in the fetal position, I sobbed alongside my [baby], unable to cope with all the overwhelm of being a first time mother. Shortly after that, I got in with a psychiatrist for medication and a therapist for help talking through the trauma.”