Two years ago today I was in ( very ) slow labour with our second daughter. I had already been in hospital for 3 days and I was more than a bit emotional, exhausted and anxious.
The following day at 8.30pm Chloe arrived. Perfect in every way. Considering all of the problems that we encountered during the pregnancy it actually felt like a bit of a miracle that she had arrived, not too early ( in fact ..late! ) and healthy.
Unfortunately the birth was incredibly traumatic. I can’t go over it again and you can read a little about it here but it was a dark period of time in my life, of course when Chloe arrived I was overwhelmed with joy that she was ok. She fed immediately, we bonded straight away and she was of course worth every bit of the torture I felt I had endured.
The difference between our first daughters birth and Chloe’s birth was that after Izzy arrived although birth had been difficult and long I knew I could do it again. After Chloe arrived I knew it would be impossible to ever do it again.
I assumed these feelings would pass and that the memories of the birth would fade along with my afterpains – why does nobody warn you of how bad the afterpains are after your second?!?
They didn’t. In fact they got worse. I was weepy all the time…I blamed my milk coming in, the baby blues and eventually the tiredness of having a baby and a toddler. The nightmares from the birth I put down to my unsettled sleep pattern as I woke to feed Chloe throughout the night. The flashbacks and black thoughts were masked by the happiness and love I felt for our beautiful girls. Life should have been perfect.
I started to get counselling as I knew I needed it.
As weeks turned into months I knew that time should be fading my memories and stopping the way I felt but instead I just began to feel lower and lower until when Chloe got to just over 1 year old. I lost my appetite ( most unlike me) I was incredibly depressed and suddenly it was New Years Eve and I felt distraught. I had told myself in the lead up to Christmas that a new year would bring a fresh start but instead I knew I needed to do something more.
As Chloe was now old enough I knew I could stop breastfeeding although I had wanted to continue much longer and I took medication to help myself. I tried several medicines as my body kept reacting violently to them until eventually my body let me keep one in my system. I also started therapy called EMDR which trains your brain to put traumatic thoughts into the depths of your memory so they are still there but not always on your mind.
It helped. The flashbacks lessened, the sleep paralysis started to become less frequent and my mood began to life. Not every day but at least some of them.
But I still don’t know if it will ever go. I can’t watch labour scenes in films or TV without getting upset. My sister in law had a baby 4 months ago and I was anxious every time she mentioned labour. While she was in labour I felt overwhelmed, checking in with my parents constantly to find how she was. This happened again a few days ago when one of my closest friends was giving birth. I messaged her all day long ( how it must have annoyed her ).
I hope one day this will be less of an issue for me.
Two years on I do feel like I’m getting there. The light is visible at the end of the tunnel. Chloe is two tomorrow and a wonderfully happy and utterly hilarious little girl. Along with her sister, Andrew and my parents and family my days are brightened and I’m supported and loved.
It’s really important to know how difficult birth trauma can be and to support friends and family through it. Encourage them to get counselling and medication if needed. If you are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress following birth I can tell you it may not vanish but it really does get better.