After an incredibly traumatic birth with my son, my world fell apart.
I’d been a HypnoBirthing Practitioner for many years by that point and felt totally ready for a beautiful birth. I’d done amazing preparation. I’d learnt how to relax deeply. I’d cleared my fears. And truth be told, I was really really looking forward to welcoming my special little person into this world in a gentle home water birth.
Well…the Universe had other ideas for me!
What I couldn’t have even begun to have planned for though, was what was going on around me that I didn’t have any control over.
Let me explain…my husband (now ex) and I had spent many of our years together building our businesses. I was supporting women with deep emotional tools for motherhood and he was setting up a healthy fast food restaurant. It had taken 5 long years for him to secure a restaurant site but he had finally been able to raise the hundreds of thousands of pounds needed and opened in October 2008. Yes, that’s right, just a few short weeks after Lehman Brothers crashed and the recession hit.
I went into labour on the 22nd February 2009. My mum had arrived the day before and I’d kept thinking that my baby would be early so this felt incredible! I breathed through contractions through the night but by early morning they had subsided. This was no big deal. I knew that my body was just preparing for what was to come.
But then my husband realised that the restaurant wasn’t making enough money. Things grew pretty dire pretty fast and within a few days it was clear we were going to lose everything. And I mean everything!
So my body stayed in this weird pattern of labour for almost 3 weeks!
Yes, you read that right. I experienced 3 weeks of what is called prodromal labour. There were times when I was having contractions 3-4 minutes apart for 7-8 hours at a time but come morning, it would all disappear.
I started to feel increasingly impatient as well as exhausted. Yes, I could’ve just gone in and been induced but I didn’t want that. I wanted my baby to come in his own time and as long as neither of us were distressed then my midwife was happy for us to wait.
It was a mess. One big giant hideous mess!
I eventually gave birth by C-Section on the 12th March after 27 hours of full blown labour where I’d thrown up on every single contraction.
When I’d finally been transferred into hospital I’d been left in my amniotic fluid and, unbeknownst to me at that point, had developed bed sores.
(Max and I when I could actually sit down!)
So I now had had major surgery but couldn’t actually sit down because of the sores on my bottom. When the hospital realised what had happened they sent for the Tissue Specialist but she sent a message back saying that ‘if she couldn’t put her whole hand into my bed sores then she wasn’t interested in seeing me’!
So the nurses decided to cover them with gauze and told me to get on with it. Except every time I went to the bathroom and pulled my knickers down, the gauze would come off and bring all the scabs with it. Needless to say, the bedsores got infected.
This then triggered Rheumatoid Arthritis. Within 2 weeks of giving birth. I could hardly sit. I had no milk and I was in increasing amounts of pain in various joints which the Doctor told me would just pass.
Well…it didn’t. Six months later I was finally referred to a rheumatologist who confirmed the diagnosis and then gave me a steroid shot and sent me an appointment for 18 months later!!
I could barely walk. I couldn’t sleep for the pain and I had dropped my darling baby Max twice!
As a therapist specialising in helping women clear and transform their own traumatic experiences through motherhood, it was very difficult to admit that now I was the one in need of help!
I hit rock bottom and was struggling to get out of bed every day. Not only had I endured the birth, the RA, and losing our house and all our money but our marriage had also started falling apart.
I felt heartbroken and exhausted. It was all just too much to deal with.
If I’m honest, it has taken me years to process everything that happened. And there are times that I’m still not sure I’m all the way there. But what I do know for sure is that this experience has helped me support mums at a much deeper level.
When we returned to South Africa to get more support from my family I started working in a culture with a 75% C-Section rate. I don’t think I would have even begun to be able to support those women if I’d had a ‘perfect birth’.
But then even though my health was improving and I was able to move forward in so many other ways, every year around Max’s birthday I would be in bits.
That is, until his 5th birthday when, sick of feeling shitty about my birth, I sat on my sofa and told myself my entire birth story in graphic detail whilst using EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) tapping. Now I'd used amazing healing techniques for myself and clients over the years and but I’d never used that technique in that particular way before but, for 2 hours, I wept and tapped and tapped and wept.
It was only the following year when Max’s birthday rolled around that I suddenly realised that I felt fine. I mean totally fine! WTF! What had happened? I then remembered my epic tapping session.
So I decided to try it with some of my client’s and oh boy! It was AMAZING!! There's something very very powerful about feeling heard and clearing the memory out of the nervous system at the same time.
In most traditional therapies you don’t re-tell your birth story as it is thought that this will re-traumatise the mum. And in HypnoBirthing we actively encourage mums not to listen to awful birth stories.
But I think we’ve forgotten something fundamental in this. Women need to talk. It’s a big part of how we process and work through our experiences. We need to actually say the words out loud and allow them to process.
I also understand that for hugely emotionally charged experiences like this, that this needs to be done in a safe, sacred space where you can feel fully heard and supported and are guided by someone who can deal with whatever surfaces.
Healing a terrible birth can be life-changing for any woman but especially those of you who were well prepared like I was. In fact, some of the HypnoBirthing mums I’ve helped since then have been the most traumatised because of the deep level of shame they felt around ‘failing’.
Don’t forget that a bad birth can be an enormous trigger for both postnatal depression (PND) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). So many mums don’t even know that just by clearing out their birth experience they can literally TRANSFORM their physical and emotional health and really start enjoying their experience of motherhood.
So now I’m able to look back on my birth quite fondly and even laugh about it! It’s so traumatic it’s actually comedic!
But every time I work with a mum to help her clear her own bad birth I’m grateful. Grateful that I know exactly what to do to help her clear the trauma and move on and this feels like the most amazing gift!
So ladies, please please don’t wait 5 years like I did! Help yourself today to get the support you need so you can heal your heart and your body and be the most amazing mum to your precious little people.
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