Today, our very own Susanne tells us about the birth of her third child and how while it may not have healed her after her traumatic second birth, she’s coming to terms with who that trauma has made her.
I started blogging about my son’s birth at a time when I felt powerless to do anything else. All the talking, all the crying, all the nightmares, all the stupid damn doctor’s appointments… they all amounted to nothing. There was nothing that anyone could do until I released this hellish beast from inside of me. I needed to get it out and since I couldn’t talk about it without feeling as though my entire world was tumbling down around me, writing was the only option. Writing was- is- my saviour, my place of confidence. I’ve always written it so much better than I can say it.
Not everyone has understood me, or my trauma, or my reasons for feeling so very utterly devastated at what happened when my son was born. For many, it was surely enough that I had a healthy baby boy. For some, it was enough to tell me that they had had an emergency c-section and hadn’t been traumatised by it- so why was I claiming to be? From a few, I found understanding and acceptance.
Despite the black hole that I had been thrust into, I knew that I would survive. I knew I would one day be able to sort my feelings and emotions into the little boxes they needed to go into and most days, they are all there and tucked in nicely. Some days though, they do explode into my life like rotten, putrid little nasties. Some days they make me feel as though I am right back there in that damn dark place, with memories seeming like reality again. Some days.
I will admit now that getting pregnant again was the last thing on my mind but when it happened, I went into survival mode. Oh, there were days where the dark clouds blurred my vision a little; there were tears, anxiety and feelings of utter panic at what I was going through. That’s normal though, right? I was pregnant. I had come so close to losing two of my precious children already, and now I was going ahead and having another. I had only once choice, and one that I had never had before. I had to take control.
Taking control was key to my survival third time around. Lack of control is one of the most commonly complained of aspects of traumatic births. That feeling of helplessness when an internal examination is performed without your consent or without sufficient warning or explanation. That moment when your cervix is being held open by cold hands and six pair of eyes are staring at you and telling you to man up! Push this baby out or face the consequences. That moment when the monitor falls silent and you know. You know he has gone; that precious baby you hadn’t even met yet… gone. That’s loss of control.
Isobel was born in February this year. The day after Valentine’s day. There was a little heart drawn on the whiteboard in the operating theater, next to my name. As they prepped me, I stared at that heart. It was the only thing I could look at it; the only thing that was real. Because I’d been here before now. But it was different.
When she cried, I cried. I released all of those bad feelings and memories and watched them float up towards the sky, fluttering gently like butterflies. I thought that they would pop! like bubbles, as they started to float back down towards me. I thought they had, for a long time. But you know what? What happened to me almost three years ago, happened. There is no reversing that. Those little bubbles took their time, but they landed right back on top of me eventually.
Isobel’s birth was as perfect as a birth can be, in my world. But it did not change what had happened to me. It did not cure me. It did not change who I am now. It cannot. But it can help to ease some of the pain in my heart. It helps me to see that childbirth does not need to be harrowing and despairing and utterly devastating.
A few hours after she was born and I was left alone to hold her and to breathe in her sweet smell, I cried again. They weren’t tears of relief this time. They were tears for my son. For the fact that two years prior to that moment, I should’ve been sitting there holding him in this way too. I should’ve felt an overwhelming feeling of happiness at having him in my arms too. I cried because I hadn’t felt that way. I cried for my son and that lost hour, when he was alone and I was unaware of his existence. And that- THAT is the reason why I am who I am today.