My oldest daughter told me, "Mom you're brave." I asked her why she said that? Her response, "because you almost died after you had me and yet you went on to have more children." I honestly never really thought much about it. She's sixteen now and after the events of her birth I just kept right on going. Or so I thought I did. December 24th 2003 I delivered a beautiful six pound eight once baby girl. Soon my blood pressure would spike and I would have not one, but two seizures. I had Eclampsia and I was terrified.
But I survived, I lived. I was eighteen and hadn't really put much thought into what exactly had happened. Until I got pregnant again. She was a year old and the events played over and over in my mind. What if I have seizures again? What if I don't make it this time? And if I have a headache I would immediately panic and think my blood pressure was up and a seizure would soon follow. I ended up having a miscarriage and honestly I was relieved (as harsh as that may sound). I wouldn't go on to have another successful pregnancy for another seven years.
For many of us, when we get pregnant, we have in our minds how we want our pregnancies to go and what kind of deliveries we want to have. Everything is just perfect. For many of us everything does go well! The pregnancy and delivery, just as we planned, from beginning to end. But for some, things don't go so well. Things can change and fast. Sometimes the birth can be going just fine and then suddenly things get dangerous. Sometimes the anesthesia doesn't work (which I experienced with baby number three) Complications can also arise which make the process life threatening for both you and your baby.
This is a reality. These events can go on to affect how you bond with your baby, personal relationships can change, and we can become depressed and scared. So what happens if you do experience a traumatic event during birth? How can we move forward?
1. Don't Ignore Your Experience! I thought that I could just bounce back from the events that I went through. I wouldn't talk about it but inside I was truly afraid. Sixteen years later and I still think about it. Journaling was a huge way for me to process my feelings. Although I didn't do it right away, I eventually did start. This is a way to heal from trauma. You can also reach out to a support person or organization that can support you in healing from your experience. Whether online or in person, this is something else that can be positive for you and help with your healing.
2. Educate yourself on what happened. I didn't know about pregnancy complications such as Eclampsia. This experience is one that lead me to become certified in health coaching so I can help other moms. My provider didn't do much as far as helping me to understand what had happened to me and why. If you can, get access to your medical records and get someone to explain to you what happened. If you can't get help in that way, do your own research. Reading about what happened and even finding other people who have gone through what you did is very helpful. I wouldn't say I'm an expert in Eclampsia but I definitely understand it so much more than I did. Also, If you're thinking about having another baby you will be educated about the possible outcomes and not left in the dark.
3. Don't rush into another pregnancy! Many women may want to rush into another pregnancy because they may feel as though they were robbed of the pregnancy/birth experience that they had planned. Take your time, process what you went through, and heal as best as you can from the experience before moving on to another pregnancy. Becoming pregnant soon after a traumatizing birth experience could make things more complicated.
4. But don't swear off future pregnancies. I've been around women who have experienced a traumatic birth. Once they do, they make the hasty decision to never have children again. Sometimes this can lead to birth control that is permanent which later can lead to regret. Take some time, I repeat, give yourself time. The events you experience during a traumatic birth can make you feel as though you don't want anymore children. You may be angry or scared and making that decision is understandable, but before you decide take a time out.
5. Forgiveness! I felt guilty after my experience. I wondered what I had done so wrong. I had to have done something in order for something so horrible to happen. Right? Many women feel guilty after they go through an event such as traumatic birth. They question themselves and what they could have done something differently. It's important to remember that you did the best that you could with what you had or what you knew. Forgive yourself and take the steps that you need to healing.
No one can predict how birth is going to go. We can only prepare the best way we know how. If you do go through an experience that results in a traumatic birth, please know that you do not have to suffer afterwards. There are ways to heal from this. Did you or someone you know experience this? How did you handle things afterwards?
Until next time, sending you peace, love, and light.
Certified Health Coach (Pregnancy and Postpartum Support)