After being diagnosed with PTSD and the dissociative affects it can have, I can recall many episodes when I was a young child. The most profound PTSD moment that I can remember was preterm labor and labor itself.
When I went into preterm labor I was taken to the hospital. Too much happened too fast. I was immediately given an injection of a medication without its affects explained to me. Too many nurses doing too many different things to me put me in the most panicked state I have ever recalled. My husband had to do paperwork, they said, and I was there alone. I was not in fear for my child. I was in fear for myself. I was terrified. I don’t use that word lightly. The Doctor told me he had to check if my cervix was dilated before I even had a moments notice his hand was in my body. I shut down. I don’t remember anything after that. It is as if I was knocked out completely. The next thing I remember I was in a room and they told me I would be in the hospital until my labor was completely stopped. I remember the medication they were giving me, tributaline. I remember them giving me a sleeping pill and I fake took it. When the nurse turned her back I emptied the entire contents of the pill out under the bed in time for her to see me take an empty capsule. There was no way I was going to sleep. I needed to know what what happening from that point on. I think that was the starting point of my inability to sleep, especially my inability to sleep away from the safety of my own bed.
Knowing now, what I know now about PTSD and trauma, I would have done things differently. I would have said, ” STOP!” I would have said “SLOW DOWN” I would have said “WAIT.” But I was paralyzed with fear. Even with my words they would have told me it was imperative to stop the labor. I know this. But 10 seconds would have not been too much to ask for. I needed 10 seconds. I would also never have allowed my husband to leave my side. I needed to not be there alone. I needed a safety figure, a presence, with me. Just having him there would have helped me immensely.
We cannot control preterm labor but we can still have a voice for our body and our wishes and we deserve respect.
After this I was determined to have my baby as planned with a midwife as a home style birth. The birth plan was gone over and over and over with the midwife. She knew my wishes. She knew my fears. She was very calming and nurturing. When I finally went into labor my midwife was with me, my water had broken, and she stayed by my side for 30 hours. My husband was there too. She rubbed my back, played soothing sounds, made me red raspberry leaf tea. It was going as planned, until it wasn’t. My water had been broken too long for them to allow me to have a birth outside of the hospital. My cervix was not dilating. I had to go to the hospital. The midwife said she would not leave my side and she did not during the birth. Her presence kept me very grounded. My husband also kept me very grounded. But this was not what I wanted. I had not planned for this. If you have been through sexual trauma you have to make plan A, B, C and D. I only had plan A. I had no, what if I go to the hospital. What if I need a C-section. What if it cannot be a controlled, dark room, soothing music, birthing center! It was not
Bright lights were shining on me. I had one leg being held by the midwife, one leg by someone else, my husband was with me, and that same doctor that checked me when I was in preterm labor came in. I did NOT want him there. He immediately told me that if I did not have this baby now I would have a c-section. Then the nurses funneled in. My mother in law was one of them. It was her job to be there. She was working neonatal that night. But it was not my plan to have her there. I didn’t want ANYONE THERE. I wanted my husband and the midwife like I had planned. My mother in law brought her nurse friends in and they all lined up staring at my vagina and waiting. I remember seeing my daughters face for the first time. I remember her coming out of my body and being layed on my chest. Then she was taken, my husband went with her like I asked him to. I was all alone with the doctor. Other people were in the room but it was just him and me. I remember asking in a far away voice what he was doing. He said sewing me up. And I had my second most profound PTSD moment. One that makes me so sad. One that tears me up inside. I threw up. It was joked about that I threw up a lung because they have no idea what I threw up. It was like a softball. I then got a fever which happens. My mother in law chose not to write that part down on the chart because she didnt want my baby to have to get antibiotics. My baby was handed to me. And I just lay there. I wasn’t there at all. I was finally holding my baby but I wasn’t there. I was screaming inside my head for someone to save me from all of this but the words never came out. Soon after my husband was sleeping. He had been up for days just like I had. But I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t sleep for a long time after that and I had been up for 36 hours. I couldn’t. I wasn’t in my own body. I couldn’t connect to myself or my baby. I was again terrified. I looked at my husband and thought, ” How is he sleeping. I have this baby and I don’t know what to do.” I was so scared. I have never ever felt more alone than I did at that moment.
Sexual assault victims need special birth plans. We deserve to feel safe. We deserve to feel taken care of. All the Doctor could have done was explain to me what he was doing. IF someone would have stayed with me and held my hand. If anyone would have asked if I was ok. If anyone would have really been present for me at that moment they would have seen I was far from ok. I felt like my tongue had been cut out of my mouth and I would not speak again for years. I was traumatized all over again.
Plan B would have been: If you go to the hospital what would make you feel the most safe. If you go to the hospital do you have someone you want to stay with you at all times. IF you go to the hospital can the doctor explain what he/she is doing as they are doing it so you know what to expect, no surprises. If you go to the hospital, who will take care of you.
There is a way to have a successful and non-traumatizing birth. I just had not planned for it in my own mind or physically. My needs were not met and I had a full blown PTSD dissociative episode that lasted for a long time. I remember it now like it was yesterday. This is a trauma that I will work on healing. I plan to do this with my therapist in steps by reliving that experience with exactly what I needed right there the entire time. Rewriting my memory with the wounded parts soothed.
Having a child made me feel very vulnerable and very helpless. It took me many months to become strong and have a voice when it came to her. Once my voice came in regards to her best interest, nothing could silence it. Because of that voice it was discovered that she was born with a birth defect and at 4 months old she had a partial nephrectomy (kidney removal basically). I never had a PTSD moment with her again. With her I became a strong mother bear. I have fought for her and stood by her and held her hand every step of the way since.
If you have been through rape or childhood abuse, please set up a plan with your doctor. Then come up with a back up plan. I don’t want anyone else to experience a traumatic birth experience. It is supposed to be beautiful! Becoming a mother was not as I had anticipated. Being a mother now is everything I hoped for and more.