Birth trauma is such a scary term. It conjures up such a difficult image of physical difficulties during birth and for some women, that is exactly what it is but trauma has many meanings, and in this case it’s about how women feel as well as the physical consequences of birth.
There is no definitive definition of birth trauma because all women are different. According to the Birth Trauma Association, about 20,000 women per year experience birth trauma in the UK. This can include everything from not being listened to or told what was happening through to a difficult birth leading to medical intervention in some way. It’s not about what happened, it’s how it’s left you feeling that matters.
For some women, this can get pushed down and avoided for weeks, months or even years. It can rumble away under the surface, waiting for a chance to make itself heard. These times often occur through triggers; either something that someone says or something on TV or you’ll be looking through some photos or through a drawer and find something that takes you back to what happened.
What often happens next is that you push it back down again because it’s not a good time to deal with it or listen to the message that’s trying to get through so down it goes again until the next trigger.
Mums often continue on this cycle until they know that it’s time to deal with it. The big question from this I suppose is when is the right time, and the simple answer is when you feel it’s time. There is no right time as in x days, weeks, months or even years after the birth. Some women want to deal with it straight away, others take much longer and that’s ok because it’s right for them.
Ignoring what’s happened doesn’t make it go away. For some mums, the feelings become less raw and they find that they’re able to leave them in the past, for others, they continue because they want to be heard. There is no right or wrong in this, nothing that you should have done or could have done differently. I’ve spoken to mums who, on the face of it, should have felt more traumatised than they were but for whatever reason, they seemed to cope with it somehow and others who were traumatised by what, on the face of it, was a ‘textbook delivery’ but there was an aspect of it that stays with them and they’re unable to move on because of it.
All these stories are valuable. They all have meaning to the story owner and they all deserve to be heard. It’s wrong to try to ‘pigeon-hole’ a definition of what birth trauma really is because in my opinion (and this is merely my own opinion), it really is what a mother thinks it is. It can, in simple terms, be described as anything that causes a mother to feel traumatised by something relating to the birth of her baby.
If this sounds familiar, don’t ignore it. Acknowledging how you feel is the first step to releasing those difficult associations with the birth of your baby and releasing is the first step to feeling free to enjoy where you are now.
Talk to someone about how you feel. They just need to be someone that you feel comfortable talking to whether they’re your Mum or Sister, a good friend, a Health Care Professional or someone like me who is experienced in working with mums in this way. Don’t ignore it and never feel it’s too late to deal with, if it’s still resurfacing then no matter how long it’s been, it deserves to be heard.