How I Healed From My Traumatic Birth Experience

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There was a time when I would look at anything medical-related or someone would ask me about my daughter’s birth and I would want to burst into tears.

If you’ve gone through something similar or are feeling it right now, my heart goes out to you. I know how hard it can be to process your birth experience.

I’m sharing my story with the hopes that it can help my fellow moms out there find some peace with their story too.

If you’re not yet ready to read someone else’s birth story, you can skip ahead to the part where I talk about how I processed my experience — I get it, I do.

My 48-hour birth experience

I was lucky when I was pregnant. I had very few symptoms and I literally felt like a superwoman most of the time.

I was also a self-proclaimed eternal optimist before I had my daughter. I just knew that everything would be okay and I believed in how resourceful I could be.

All of this led to me romanticizing my potential birth. I had this sunny vision of a beautiful birth.

I wanted to give birth with as few medical interventions as possible. I still planned for a hospital birth but I wanted to do it without an epidural. I prepared myself as best as possible using the hypnobirthing method.

I didn’t realize it at the time but I set my expectations high that everything would go well. I had faith and trust that the universe would see me through.

How it actually went

I was a few days past my due date and I was starting to get antsy. In Canada where I gave birth, the medical industry has a policy that if you get close to 14 days overdue, they will move to induce you or deliver by c-section. I did not want that.

In hindsight, I could’ve just sat tight and trusted my baby would come in a couple more days. Instead, I tried to take matters into my own hands. My midwife recommended that I take a homemade ‘cocktail’ to stimulate contractions.

Five hours later, my contractions definitely started. I called my doula as the intensity started to pick up. I thought to myself — this is it, my baby is coming soon.

Twelve hours later, my midwife showed up and checked my cervix, it had barely opened. She told me to go to sleep — Ha! As if that was possible with my contractions picking up.

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The rest of the time was mostly a blur. My contractions would speed up and then slow down. It felt like a rollercoaster.

At 24 hours after the contractions started, I knew I needed more help. My doula needed to sleep and my partner was spent. I ended up going to my mother’s home in the evening so she and my sister could support me.

I have a vivid memory of sitting in the bathtub at around 33 hours of labor. I sat with my partner and said, “I just can’t do it anymore. I need something, anything to help me through the pain. I have to get the epidural.” We called the midwife who met us at the hospital.

Everything sped up from there. The intensity and pain were so incredible that I thank my lucky stars that I received the epidural when I did.

I could finally rest, 36 hours into labor. I actually took a little nap. The next several hours were spent monitoring my baby’s heartbeat and waiting for my cervix to dilate. It felt like it was taking longer than it should.

Then… something happened. Everything started beeping. All these machines kept going off and five nurses rushed into my room. I started freaking out and asked what was happening. They said they lost the baby’s heartbeat on the monitor and had to find it.

It was a commotion of several medical professionals talking about what to do without talking to me. I still have tears in my eyes when I take myself back to this moment and how scary it was.

My doula came right to my ear and explained it to me. She said that the medical team wanted to attach a clip to my baby’s head that will give a more accurate heartbeat reading. They were going to do it whether or not I said anything and my doula told me that it’s always my choice and I can tell them no if I want to. I was so scared that I told them to do it.

Everything started to feel surreal at that point. The medical team wanted to speed up the process and recommended more drugs to increase the contractions. We tried that and my baby’s heartbeat started dropping. I’ve never felt so scared. We eased off the drugs and her heartbeat stabilized again.

It was clear that my baby was not okay and I felt like we kept playing games with her poor little heart. The doctor came in to discuss options with me. We could either keep waiting for my cervix to finally dilate, although it may come with more complications, or we could move to an ‘emergency c-section’.

In my entire birth plan, I never thought I would have a c-section. It just wasn’t an option that I ever allowed myself to think about. I wanted to deliver my baby, not a surgeon. Yet I couldn’t deny that it felt risky to continue to try to deliver vaginally.

I remember sitting with my partner and this feeling of dread over the choice I would have to make. Throughout my pregnancy, I would often talk to my baby internally. We would have little conversations — who knows if that was real or imagined. So I asked my baby, “What should we do?” And she replied, “Mama, I’m tired. Get me out of here.”

My heart literally broke. I burst into tears and I knew. I just knew I needed to say yes to doing the c-section.

Everything sped up again. Doctors and nurses zoomed around making preparations. They told me how lucky I was that one of the best c-section surgeons just started his shift and I would be ready to go to the operating room within the next 45 minutes. It all happened so fast.

The next thing I knew, I was wheeled away from my partner, doula, mother, and sister. I was completely alone in an operating room with only medical professionals for company. They were talking about what they had for lunch that day and mundane things. They basically ignored me other than the necessities of what had to be explained.

I was angry… I’m about to meet my baby and you’re talking about what you ate today?!

Then the most horrible part of my entire birth experience happened. They stretched my arms out into a T and gave me a stronger dose of the epidural. My arms started shaking uncontrollably. I felt cold and numb.

My partner finally arrived to be there with me and asked the team when it would be starting. The surgeon laughed and said, “Oh we’ve already begun, you’ll be meeting your baby in a few minutes.”

All I remember is shock. I was shocked at how casual they were being. I was shocked at how carelessly they treated me. I was shocked at how no one really looked at me as a human being who was about to have her world turned upside-down.

And in that feeling of shock, the surgeon delivered my baby, held her up to insanely bright operating lights, and then the nurses placed her on my chest. I couldn’t even really put my arms around her, they were still shaking so much. And too soon, they took her away to measure and weigh her.

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Me? I had hoped that my very first sight with my baby would be a beautiful life-changing moment that I felt the depth of love between us. Instead, I felt numb inside. Shocked to the core by a sterile and heartless medical experience.

How I healed from my experience

My first few days and months postpartum were difficult emotionally. I felt disconnected from myself and my baby. The bond that I hoped would be instant, just wasn’t there. Instead, I felt thrown into the never-ending loop of tasks for a newborn: feed, burp, change, rock, clean, feed, burp, change, rock, clean.

It didn’t help that my breastfeeding journey was extremely difficult and painful too. Everything felt hard in those early days.

So how did I come back from all of it? It’s now three years later and I can finally say that I’m mostly healed from my experience.

These are the three most important things that helped me.

1. Being Patient and Kind with Myself

Admittedly, those first few months of caring for a newborn were so busy, that I had to park the emotions of my traumatic experience. It was just too raw and too new to do anything about it.

Instead, I kept repeating to be patient and kind with myself. I wanted to heal but I trusted that I would know when I was ready and how I would go about it. I chose to care for my tender heart in any way I could and gave myself permission to just focus on surviving the extreme demands of being a first-time mom. The healing would come later.

2. Finding Support

At four months postpartum, I reached out to my spiritual healer Dar Jmayoff. I worked with her a lot during my pregnancy and she felt like a safe harbor to come back to. She helped me slowly peel back the wound although I knew I still wasn’t fully ready to address my birth.

When my daughter was close to one-and-a-half years old, I finally felt like I could open up about the birth. It was time to properly process it.

I found a beautiful motherhood coach named Jessie Harrold. She specifically helped me using a ‘birth story healing process’. We used something called a labyrinth where I traversed my birth experience, all in the spirit of getting to the place where I felt at peace with it.

I was able to pinpoint that the reason my birth experience felt so emotional was that I felt this deep sense of shame. I blamed myself that I couldn’t do it and had to resort to a c-section. Seeing this pattern unveiled helped me to unravel it and realize that it simply wasn’t true. A belly birth is still a birth.

It was remarkable how different I felt after my session with Jessie. I can’t even explain how or why it worked, just that it did.

If you’re struggling with healing your birth experience, I highly recommend seeking support to process it. There are beautiful coaches and therapists out there like Jessie who can help.

3. Finding peace

My session with Jessie helped peel back the layers and time did the rest. It’s now three years later and I can finally say that I feel mostly at peace with my birth story. It no longer feels traumatic, it was just the circumstances that led me to my beautiful daughter.

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The proof in the pudding for me is how I felt writing my birth experience above. Before I would have sobbed through writing it, or perhaps not even been able to. Today, I honor my story and know it will always be a unique part of me.

How you can support other new moms

The more experienced that we become as moms, the more distant those early struggles feel. It’s becoming harder and harder for me to remember what that fourth trimester was really like and how I felt like I was drowning at times.

When I look back on those days, I actually did want to talk about my birth experience. I wanted to share the heartbreak that I felt and be seen and heard by my loved ones. I don’t think they even knew to ask me though and it didn’t feel right to dump it on them either.

So, if you know a new mom who may have had a difficult birth, you can ask them. Let them know that you are there to listen, if and when they are ready to share about how their birth went. Tell them that you want to help be there for them, even if it’s as simple as being a listening ear.

I do hope that if you are still healing from your birth experience that you find a way to share with someone. Look for the support that exists out there. If you’re having trouble connecting with someone, I can be there to support you too or help you find someone who can.

You deserve to feel at peace with one of the biggest moments in your life.

Megan Llorente writes about motherhood, relationships, and entrepreneurship. She also offers coaching support for women going through a multitude of life journeys as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC). Learn more at yourmoderncoach.com.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.