Monday, April 5, 2010

What Trauma Looks Like

Warning: this post will be triggering for birth trauma survivors



When watching this video, I was reminded of the pictures taken of me holding my babies for the first time after their births. They are starkly different. I've pondered over the differences before and now that I've seen this video, I feel like posting the photos to illustrate to others what trauma looks like.

After a traumatic birth, described as birth rape:





























The joy at meeting my baby comes through (and a sense of my victory over the system's efforts to control me), but look at that far away stare showing the disconnect between me and my baby. And do you see the timidity and the reservation with which I'm holding my baby boy? And how the smile doesn't make it to my eyes?

When my son looks at pictures from his birth, this is what he is going to see. I hope he never questions because of these pictures, "Why is my mama sad? Did she want me? Does she love me? Is she mad at me because of how I was born?"








And then compare, to this:









From this, and another example from a friend's blog, I see that birth experience matters. Not to the mom's hedonistic desire for self-satisfaction, but to the baby that the mother greets. I feel my babies deserve to be greeted by a mother who feels victorious, respected, capable and empowered; not one who has been victimized, disrespected, dehumanized and demeaned.

8 comments:

Rixa said...

The video isn't showing up for me...

Rixa said...

Ah, now it's working.

VNess said...

Wow. The difference is just so striking.

Seeing the video, and the pictures made me think of how sad I've felt that there are so few (3, to be exact) pictures of Tess and me in that immediate post-birth period. Two are of our first breast-feed, which I asked my husband to take, and one I took myself. There are more pictures of Tess by herself, some of which are still hard to look at, but it hurt me deeply that no one was thinking to record this occasion of me becoming a mother.

Except this post now has me thinking that in some ways, it may be good not to have a visual record...

Vanessa (deepblue from Solace)

stacey buhagiar said...

THANK-YOU FOR THIS VIDEO! IT REMINDED ME OF MY SONS BIRTH. I WAS TEN DAYS OVERDUE SO THE DOCTOR ORDERED FOR ME TO BE INDUCED, WHILE THEY WERE APPLYING THE GELS TO PREP THE INDUCTION, MY SON'S HEART RATE DECREASED DRAMATICALLY. HIS HEART RATE WAS SO SLOW THERE WERE SECONDS BETWEEN EACH BEAT. THANKFULLY HE RECOVERED AND THE NEXT DAY THEY BROKE MY WATERS. UNPLEASANT!!! AFTER TENS HOURS OF LABOUR I FELT READY TO PUSH BUT I WAS TOLD NOT TO OR I COULD HARM MY BABY, THEY SAID I WAS TRYING TO SOON I BEGGED THEM TO CHECK AND AFTER A WHILE THEY CHECKED AND REALIZED I WAS RIGHT. AFTER TWO HOURS OF PUSHING THEY TOLD ME THEY WOULD TRY THE VACCUM, AFTER THE VACCUM BROKE! HE HAD A HUGE LUMP ON HIS HEAD, FROM IT WHICH HE STILL HAS NOW ONLY SLIGHTLY SMALLER. THEN THEY SAID CESARIAN. BECAUSE THEY HAD TRIED WITH THE VACCUM AND FAILED MY SON WAS LODGED INSIDE OF ME, THE WHOLE BED WAS SHAKING AND THE DOCTOR WAS GRUNTING WITH THE EFFORT OF TRYING TO GET HIM OUT. FINALLY MY SON WAS FREE. THE FIRST LOOK AT MY SON ALL I SEEN WAS A BUNDLE OF BLANKETS IN MY PARTNERS ARMS. I DIDNT GET TO HOLD HIM FOR ABOUT AN HOUR AFTERWARDS. I ENDED UP WITH A STAPH INFECTION FROM THE OPERATING ROOM, AND BECAUSE OF THE ANTIBIOTICS FOR THE INFECTION MY BREASTMILK DIDN'T COME THROUGH. SOME OF THE HOSPITAL STAFF ACCUSED ME OF STARVING MY CHILD EVEN THOUGH HE WAS FEEDING FOR FOUR HOURS AT A TIME. MY SON WAS IN PAIN FROM THE ANTIBIOTICS GIVING HIM WIND. AFTER TEN DAYS IN THE HOSPITAL I LEFT WITHOUT EVER FEELING A PROPER CONNECTION WITH MY CHILD, I FELT LIKE A FAILIURE AS A MOTHER AND A WOMAN. IT IS SOMETHING I WILL NEVER FORGET AND I WILL TELL MY SON EVERY DETAIL WHEN HE IS OLD ENOUGH TO UNDERSTAND. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BRINGING THIS TO EVERYONES ATTENTION. BLESS YOU.
STACEY AND JUNIOR!

Olya said...

thank you for the post, this really brings back a lot of memories. First birth was very traumatic for me, I was coached into pushing just because I was at 10 cm, but my body wasn't ready yet and I just needed some rest. The nurse kept telling me when and how to push for another 2 hours until my OB finally came in and said that if the baby wasn't out in an hour, I'd have a c/s. So Pitocin was administered, oxygen mask put on, and after 45 minutes of nightmarish pushing, my baby girl was born.

I got a deep 3rd degree tear which took almost an hour to repair, lost a lot of blood and didn't want to hold my daughter for a while because I was in so much pain (it's hard for me to even look at the photos of me holding my daughter for the first time, because you can see so much pain in my cringing face). My baby ended up spending almost 5 hours in the nursery because she 'needed' a warmer and nobody cared to suggest some skin-to-skin contact.

Our breastfeeding relationship never got established and after 3 months of trying to nurse and supplementing, we switched to formula completely.

Yes, birth trauma is real. Even now I remember how it felt to wake up in the recovery room because of dreaming of being stitched up and experiencing all the pain from it over and over again. The good news is that this kind of trauma can be healed, although never forgotten. I had 2 healing and empowering births later, one with a m/w at the hospital and one with a m/w at home :)

Anonymous said...

I have a video of right after Owen was born and some photos. They are similar to yours. In the video I see myself jump every time there is a noise in the room, and my eyes are focused firmly on what is going on in the room. I wasn't looking at my baby that much in the video and James even says something to me about him and I seem bothered that he is shifting my attention. It is really weird to watch. I hope to have better pictures this time.

-Jennifer Z.

andreanicoleangel said...

In my first birth, I suffered a 3rd degree tear, and they told me there was no painkiller they could use during the 45-60 minutes of stitching (which hurt way worse than the birth). My son's shoulder had gotten stuck, and they whisked him away and I didn't get to hold him until after the stitching.

Nursing didn't come easily, and bonding came slowly. The night we came home from the hospital, I was so overwhelmed with everything I felt needed done to care for baby and home and self and... I had a panic attack and thought I was going to die. It was only after we called a Priesthood holder to give me a blessing that I was able to relax out of it and into some sleep.

My second birth was an induction based on a bogus LMP date I made up because I really had no clue when I'd actually gotten pregnant. I'm pretty sure that nurse Yuh-hee gave me the ol' "Pit to Distress" even after I told her not to crank the thing up another notch. Those last 2 hours of contractions were so excruciating I had to hold perfectly still, and I couldn't have anyone touch me or speak... I wasn't going cross-eyed (because it would have hurt to cross my eyes) but my vision sort of greyed out because my brain was flooded with pain.

But when Lacey was out, I was so overjoyed that I hadn't torn again (well, actually, I needed like, 2 stitches), but I got to hold her right away, and this time I knew what it meant to be a mom, and we bonded right away.

I never realized that both of my births could be considered as containing traumatic experiences... maybe because I thought I'd handled things pretty well... wow, this has all really given me something to think about. I'm going to be seeing a new therapist on Monday... I think I know of some experiences I need to bring up.

Jenne said...

Andreanicoleangel, have you heard of Solace for Mothers? There is an online forum for mothers who have traumatic births where women can discuss and get support and understanding from each other. Many therapists do not recognize the potential for trauma from childbirth. I'm curious to hear how your meeting the therapist went. Did s/he understand?

Stacey, I'm so sorry for your experience. Its sad how common it is and how many women know your pain. I hope you know that you are welcome to connect with the mothers at Solace.

The link is http://mothers.solaceformothers.org