Birth memories – Dealing with the demons when a birth doesn’t go to plan 12



Did you have the perfect birth?  If you asked 100 mother’s this question, I bet most of them would say they didn’t.  But what is the perfect birth?  For each person, it differs.  If you had asked me before my boys were born I would have said “one where the mum and baby are both healthy” as I am sure lots of first time mums to be would.

Birth memories

Mini – 24/06/06

However, even though I had two perfectly healthy babies, I never have the perfect birth or what I perceived to be the perfect birth.  I never really felt I gave birth to either of my children.  Maxi was born by a crash section, which was traumatic, unexpected and still gives me nightmares 12 years later.  Mini was born by an emergency section at 37 weeks after a pregnancy which made me feel pretty mentally unstable and at one point saw the hospital and midwives insisting I saw a physiatrist and me signing myself out of the hospital against their wishes only to be taken back by my husband 2 hours later!

Birth memories

Maxi 16/03/2005

For the longest time, I felt less of a woman for having failed to have natural and calm births.  I never felt empowered by the birth experiences I had and I tried to push that to the back of my mind by reminding myself that I was lucky to have two happy outcomes and tried to stay focused on that.

And you know what, for years that worked.  I was so busy wrapped up in trying to be the best mum I could be that I didn’t give myself the chance to think about it.   In reality, I had built a protective shell around that part of my life.  I avoided talking about births, I avoided watching programs such as One Born Every Minute and I didn’t put myself in any situation where births were discussed and I thought it was working.  However, these things tend to creep up on you when you least expect them to.

Maxi 16/03/2005

It turns out that now is that time.  All the unresolved feelings I have from the boys’ births have come to the surface and they were haunting me day and night.  Yes, I know that sounds so blooming self-centred and well, makes me seem so self-involved.  But I am not.  At least I don’t thinkI am.  Usually, I am a positive person, who has a hand on her demons.

Mini – 24/06/06

But rather than deal with my birth memories, I have locked them away and tried to throw away the key in the hope that they did not see the light of day and that hasn’t proven healthy.   You see the thing was I didn’t think my births were traumatic enough to warrant this feeling.  It wasn’t as though I was left with physical issues just the disappointment of things not going to plan.

Mini – 24/06/06

Dealing with Birth Trauma

So I decided to acknowledge the feelings and that has really made a big difference. I have allowed myself to be disappointed. I have allowed myself to be angry and I have accepted that I can not change what happened.

Talk about it.  Giving myself the permission to discuss my feelings and why I felt that way was what a big healer.  I talked to my husband and to friends and rather than dismiss me as being daft wanting to talk about it all these years later they listened.

I accepted that guilt is the strongest emotion and you know what, it is OK to feel guilty, but I didn’t do anything wrong and shit happens!

I was worried that these feelings would dominate my every thought if I let them out, but rather than do that acknowledging them diminished them.

Knowing that it is all relative has really helped.  Just because I didn’t have lasting physical issues doesn’t diminish the fact that I didn’t have the birth I expected. Also, the manner in which I gave birth hasn’t affected the way I raise my children or how good a mum I am.

Ask for help – there is no shame in asking for support, even years after the birth.  There are some fabulous places to get help including Your GP, The Birth Trauma Association and Mind.

Dealing with a traumatic birth.  How to cope when your birth doesn't go to plan. Sometimes it can take years for feelings to come to the surface

Did your birth or births go to plan?  Do you feel cheated or robbed of the birth you expected or wished you had? 

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12 thoughts on “Birth memories – Dealing with the demons when a birth doesn’t go to plan

  • Stacey MacNaught

    I think this is a really brave post, Jen.

    Similarly for me, I had two pretty awful pregnancies (horrific vomiting to full term, gestational hypertension, general fun and games). I had a crash section with my first son and a planned section with my second son. I say “planned.” I was told it would need to be a section, but I knew in advance it would be that way and it would be early and I could therefore get my head around it and it was much calmer.

    C section recoveries are horrific! 🙁

    I had such hopes for what my birth experiences might be like that after the first in particular I did feel a bit robbed. Less so the second time around fortunately for me.

    Not a self involved feeling at all, Jen. Brave post and I’m sure lots of women can relate to you.

  • Ness

    When I was pregnant with both of my children everytime I went to the midwife they would ask if I had written my birth plan. I never did write one as I always knew that child birth never goes to plan!

  • Polly Davies

    Really brave post, there’s definitely no shame in asking for help if things don’t go to plan. I never made a birth plan, but I’m lucky and had four really amazing births

  • Nikki Thomas

    I had four c-sections. The first one was a shock but it was all controlled as I was overdue and my son was breech. In some ways the others were easier being c-sections (if easy is the right word) because I knew that they would happen that way and we were able to plan and organise the other children. I do feel sad that I wasn’t able to give birth naturally though, so I can imagine how you must feel. Even a planned section is quite traumatic and I was awake and aware of what was going on. It is so important to talk about these things though and I hope that you can finally move on.

  • Anne

    Well done for facing up to your demons. I have five children, and believe me it’s really rare that a birth goes to plan. My first was the most traumatic with an emergency section under a general anaesthetic and i suffered both physically and mentally for years because of it. The next three were ‘normal’ births with no real issues, apart from one being really quick (5 hours from first labour pang to birth!) one with a stopping heart beat which almost ended up in another emergency section and one meconium baby that was born not breathing (but not for long) The last one was the most surreal as he was an elected section due to being breech. As you can tell, I like talking about the births, it helps a little.

  • Susan Mann

    None of my births were straightforward and enjoyable in the slightest. All were very traumatic and I felt out of control. Even my third which was a planned section, saw me vomiting all the way through. I always suffered afterwards and never felt empowered. I can relate to this, but do you know what, we have beautiful children, who are healthy and happy and that makes this that little bit better. Hugs xx

  • Mary Louise

    I am so glad you wrote about your birth trauma Jen, I hope one day it will get easier for you. I hated my birth and it was hideous to the extent that i am too worried to have another child.
    Thank you so much for providing the contact numbers, I think t is a step I need to take also xx

    • Jen Walshaw Post author

      Oh Mary, that makes me so sad, but I do understand about it stopping you having another child. Mini was wanted, but very unexpected. After Maxi’s hideous birth I swore I would NEVER do it again. It was seeing a trailer for one born that really set me on this road to recovery. I realised that I had to do something and for the first time ever I watched it last week all the way through. I didn’t cry or get upset or wish I had a different birth. Shame it took me 12 years to actually decide to deal with it.

  • JuggleMum, Nadine Hill

    Hi Jen, what a cathartic post this must have been to write. I am so glad that you have typed the words you needed to type and started to deal with these traumatic experiences. I truly believe that the right time comes when it is the right time, and now you are clearly in a place where you are safe enough with enough support around you (from your husband and children) to deal with the pain around the births. It isn’t a shame that it took 12 years to deal with this – 12 years was what you needed to process and allow yourself to arrive at this place where you can deal. It isn’t self absorbed to think or talk like this, it’s what a protective mama bear does for herself to show her cubs that self preservation is as valid a skill as kindness and education. We need to be heard – these stories need to be told. There is nothing to be ashamed of here – secrecy only serves to keep us trapped and stuck. By writing this post you are freeing yourself and by writing this post you are helping to free others from similar emotions. Well done mama. Sending love xxx

  • Kate Williams

    Mine didn’t go according to plan (planned hippy birth, actually got big blood loss and husband being told I might die) but I was really careful that I did deal with it emotionally as a friend of mine got PTSD after a crappy birth experience. A friend of mine lost a newborn just before I had my son as well so I was very conscious of how bad things could be – I’d always rather that I had to deal with the **** than my kids did – that’s not to say I don’t appreciate how hard a rubbish birth experience is though, it’s tough x x

  • Kara

    Mine were all different but 5 out of 6 went to plan, Sebby was an emergency section and I was terrified but happy that he was here safely

  • Lyndsay

    Thanks for sharing your stories, this was a really interesting read.
    My birth was way more traumatic than I expected, I’d done a hypnobirthing class and thought I’d be having this waterbirth with tealights around me – it was nothing like that! Sometimes I get flashbacks, so it’s good to know I’m not the only one suffering and there are ways of coping.

    Lyndsay

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