Birth trauma is when post traumatic stress occurs following childbirth. Sadly, it is often overlooked that some women suffer from intense psychological distress for a complex variety of reasons as a consequence of childbirth. Here, Danielle Mammon bravely shares her raw personal experience of birth trauma.
As the one year mark approaches, I’m finding myself right back in the thick of the deep emotional wounds my son’s birth has left me with. Not many know anything about my struggles, and those closest to me don’t even know the depths of which it goes. It’s something that’s not talked about enough. Birth trauma. I discovered recently what happened to me had a name. Imagine that. To give it a name made the depths of my depression almost seem validated. To know there are thousands of women just like me. Struggling just like I am.
We are the elite group of homebirth cesarean mothers. You see, I wanted Oliver to enter this world in our home. The home we loved and found comfort in. I wanted it to be all natural, to be calm, serene, peaceful, and for him to be surrounded by love the moment he arrived. I wanted my husband, Wade, to catch him, and get immediate skin to skin and leave his cord attached until it was ready to be cut. Every single night I deeply meditated and brought myself to a place of calm comfort to prepare myself for the contractions. I envisioned his birth, and it was so beautiful. It was the birth my perfect son deserved to have, and it was my job as his mother to give that to him.
I still remember the exact moment I knew that was being taken away from me. You see, at 42 weeks I became hypertensive. For his safety I was forced to be induced. The night before going to the hospital, I had a candlelit bath and had a talk with my son. I apologized to him for failing him, and that I was so sorry for what was going to happen to him. The next day drugs were pumped into my body that violently made my belly contract and forced him into my pelvis… but he wasn’t ready to be born yet. He wasn’t in the right position yet. The force of the contractions made him get wrapped in the cord. It went around his neck twice.. but still the contractions kept forcing him down. His heartbeat started to get more weak. He was fighting the contractions to keep the cord from choking him, but they kept giving me more and more and more. I knew something was wrong when they told me after 16 hours of forced contractions I hadn’t dilated even a fraction of a centimeter. I watched him kick and push on the monitor on my belly and try to get it off of him until he finally just gave up. He was stressed. He was so tired. I was tired. I knew what was coming. I had read enough books about natural birth vs hospital birth to know that intervention after intervention means the chances for a forced c-section are huge… and that’s exactly what happened.
I can still feel the ice cold air of the operating room, and smell the disinfectant. The way I felt so very small as the nurses prepped me and talked amongst themselves like the tears rolling down my face didn’t matter. I still remember the cold tone of the anesthesiologist as he talked about me to everyone in the room as if I was a cadaver and not a human being. I remember the pain of the needle going into my back and the shakes starting almost immediately. The shaking was causing my neck and jaw to tense so much I couldn’t really even talk. I was just in pain. I remember wiggling my toes over and over waiting to see when I couldn’t move them anymore until I was yelled at by the anesthesiologist for “fighting the anesthesia.”. I was so afraid of feeling everything. I just wanted my husband. I was forced to say goodbye to him in the hall because for some stupid reason he could be present while my insides were out on the table, but not while a needle was going into my spine.
I remember seeing the door open and then he was finally there with me. I wanted him to tell them to stop, that I changed my mind. I never wanted this for my son. The huge amount of pressure that they put on my chest to force him out of the incision completely took my breath away. His first moments of life were spent being pushed and pulled on, instead of calm and loving like they should have been. They never held him up for me to see him. Instead all I could see was a drape. I remember his first cry. His cry for me. Only he was across the room from me being man handled by the nurses instead of in my arms. I couldn’t see him. Five long minutes passed before he was finally in my arms… Only i couldn’t even look at him.
They put a hat on his head and put him on my chest. My shaking was so intense that instead of enjoying that moment it was spent with him crying because he kept slipping down uncomfortably. I just wanted them to take him. I couldn’t even hold my own son. Almost 2 hours went by before the shakes went away enough and I was finally able to hold him.
He never really stopped screaming after that… colic set in almost immediately. The first 4 months were a blur of no sleep, extreme pain, and constant tears from us both. Everyone tells me, “but you have a healthy baby, that’s what matters most.” when I mention how difficult my birth was to them… but that’s not fair to say. That would be like telling a solider who is suffering from PTSD that he’s alive so he should be happy. Or telling someone who lost a loved one that they have plenty of other loved ones so they shouldn’t be upset. Trauma is trauma, no matter how big or small it may seem to any outsider it’s huge to the person going through it. I’m not myself anymore. I have an ugly scar and a flap on my belly that’ll never go away. A constant reminder that my body failed my son. I cry a lot… but no one notices. I get angry and lose my patience at the drop of a hat. I am always so very tired. Emotionally and physically. I suffer from insomnia and postpartum depression.. both of which are still very much present even 11 months later. I failed my son, and I’ll never forgive my body for that.
Danielle is a 32 year old mother who lives in Florida with her husband, their little boy Oliver, 3 boxer dogs and two cats. They have recently moved to a 12 acre farm and Danielle is excited to extend the furry side of their family and is keen to welcome in some cows, horses and goats. Danielle gave birth to Oliver on Halloween 2016, and despite always wanting a large family they are unsure due to the trauma of his birth and infancy, although she says if are were to have more children she will do everything she can to have her home birth.