Mental Health Monday: Dealing with previous birth trauma during pregnancy

I am sitting with my midwife and letting the tears roll down my cheeks as I explain how I HAVE to be in control, even of things go wrong I NEED the information and the facts, natter how frightening they sound. I need a plan in place for everything so I know that what is happening to me is MY choice, and I consent.

Mental Health Monday: Dealing with previous birth trauma during pregnancy

I spent a long time denying that my first birth was traumatic and after that I spent a while playing it down, yes it was traumatic but it wasn’t THAT traumatic. How could I be traumatised? What right did I have? I’m healthy (ish) and my son is healthy (ish) and we made it through the whole thing relatively unscathed.

Turns out, I was wrong. Very wrong. And I didn’t really let that trauma in, I didn’t accept it or start deal with it until I was already pregnant again, three and a half years on.

So, for context, let’s look at what went wrong…

My labour was 18 hours, culminating in an episitomy and forceps delivery with a spinal anaesthetic that took around 5 attempts to insert between heavy contractions. I had been pushing for 2 hours solidly with no progress and had been given pethedine which was making me lose consciousness between contractions and wake up in extreme pain and confusion, scared out of my wits. My baby was in distress, registering a heat rate of 58bpm and I had been told that I wasn’t trying hard enough – I couldn’t communicate that I could feel that my baby was stuck. I believe my baby was stuck because I was told that I must be ready to push by now, so I started pushing before my body told me to.

Now, there are worse births, but this was not okay. I was not okay. This whole ordeal was followed by a harrowing week in hospital as my son fought jaundice and I was readmitted because of infection caused by retained placenta.

What’s going on this time then?

I wrote about taking control of my second pregnancy very early on, but as my due date approaches my head is now focused on the impending birth.

In thinking about how things went last time I began to recognise that the root of my trauma was the very stark and sudden loss of control, when things were taken out of my hands it was terrifying.

I am tackling the issue by filling my head with information because knowledge is power. I’m learning more about how my body works, what it does and why. I am researching pain relief options and what the side effects are and whether they can slow down labour or pass through the placenta to the baby.

I am sitting with my midwife and letting the tears roll down my cheeks as I explain how I HAVE to be in control, even of things go wrong I NEED the information and the facts, no matter how frightening they sound. I need a plan in place for everything so I know that what is happening to me is MY choice, and I consent. I am very determined not to have any medical intervention this time but I know that sometimes things are beyond our control, so it is important to me to have a comprehensive plan in place for a variety of outcomes. I am going to meet with the midwives at the hospital midwife led unit to write up a formal plan that can be communicated with the team ahead of time so they don’t accidentally repeat the mistakes from last time.

Honestly, I am not even scared anymore. I still get emotional about last time but all that does is fuel my determination to have a better outcome this time. I’ve found the process so far to be very therapeutic and I feel like I have made steps to recover. Keep an eye out in the next few weeks for my birth story!

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Why I’m harvesting colostrum at 35 weeks

I haven’t told all that many people that I am antenatally expressing my colostrum (first milk) into tiny little syringes but I am and I am actually pretty proud of myself at the moment (even though my running total is 1.5ml at the time of writing).

I haven’t told all that many people that I am antenatally expressing my colostrum (first milk) into tiny little syringes but I am and I am actually pretty proud of myself at the moment (even though my running total is 1.5ml at the time of writing).

So why am I doing it?

Tongue tie

Primarily, I decided to do this because I have a tongue tie, my son has a tongue tie and so do several members of my immediate family who have subsequently had issues breastfeeding. There is very real risk that this baby will have a tongue tie as well and having a supply of milk that she doesn’t need to work so hard for could buy us some time to get it sorted.

When I was pregnant with my son four years ago I had no idea that I could save this stuff and that it could be even remotely useful. As it happens, the reason babies can survive on so little before your normal milk comes in after a couple of days is because colostrum is high in sugar, fat and calories. It really is amazing stuff and I want my baby to have it even of it can’t come direct from the source right away.

Allergies

At 2 days old, between phototherapy lights for jaundice and having my boobs manhandled by several midwives a day because I wasn’t “feeding right” I was coerced into feeding my son a bottle of cows milk formula because “his blood sugar must be low and he’s too exhausted to feed” even though frequently falling asleep at the breast before finishing a feed is a tongue tie symptom that should have been spotted by these experienced professionals. He promptly threw up pretty much the entire feed and we were back to square one. Now, I have no real evidence to back up this theory but part of me believes that if I hadn’t been guilt tripped into giving that bottle of formula my son might not have developed an allergy to milk. Tiny little babies aren’t designed to break down such complex proteins. If there is even the smallest chance that I can avoid this baby going through what my son still suffers I will take it.

Being in tune with my body

Last time I didn’t know what my body was capable of so I didn’t trust it and I didnt work with it, I possibly even worked against it. I remember being told to just express a bit of milk by hand onto a spoon or something and I just didn’t really know how to handle my breasts effectively (sounds daft, right?) so I didn’t get anything out.

I did go on to pump breastmilk a little and learn how/when it was best to do that and what my breasts responded to and what they didn’t but it was slow progress with a lot of sore nipples and heartache. It was also nearly four years ago.

Being prepared like this, knowing what my body can do and understanding some of my limits is making me feel stronger as I head towards full term and much more confident that my body can take care of my baby.

Recovering from trauma

I haven’t talked too much about the trauma of my son’s birth and the weeks that followed it. They somehow manage to be both the best and worst weeks of my life and unfortunately a lot of the happiness is still shrouded by simmering anger. I have been working hard to turn that angry energy into positive progress throughout my pregnancy and expressing my colostrum is surprisingly therapeutic. All the knowledge and experience I gained from being let down over and over with my first child is being channelled directly into making more informed choices this time. Any bitterness I felt towards my boobs for letting me down (yes, that’s a thing and yes, I know it’s silly) is melting away now I can see how well they are already working for my unborn child.

If I am separated from my baby at birth

No one wants to think about some of the things that could go wrong during labour and childbirth or unexpected complications with mother or baby that result in separation at birth but sometimes it does happen. If I am unable to attend to my baby’s needs for whatever reason then I know she will have a little stock of my milk to get her through for a little while, packed full of my antibodies to protect her in this big scary world.

Gestational diabetes

Now, I don’t have gestational diabetes but it definitely deserves a mention here! If a mother has GD then there is a risk that her baby’s blood sugar could drop rapidly once they are born. Having expressed colostrum on hand means baby will be able to get the sugar they need quickly without the need for formula milk.

If you liked this you might enjoy…

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Stop Asking When I’m Having “Baby Number 2”

 

I am in my mid-twenties with a preschool-aged child and have been married to my husband for just over a year now – so it’s time I had another baby, right? *insert eye roll here*
At our wedding people were asking if I was already pregnant again (drinking champagne from the bottle soon stopped those questions). We were asked if we were going to have a super romantic honeymoon baby. A couple of months after the wedding people were checking in and asking if I was pregnant with said honeymoon baby. A year on, people are tapping their watches, commenting on the age gap and generally getting involved in our private business. 
 
Compare that to when my son was still very little and people were telling me that I absolutely shouldn’t have another baby. Some people even commented that THEY weren’t ready for me to have another baby (?!) but my answer has always been the same:
 
That is between me, my husband and my uterus. 
 
Thankfully, the word “uterus” seems to stop most people from making further comment for some reason.
 
I am not going to divulge whether or not we are trying for a baby because… well… That is between me, my husband and my uterus, but here are just some of the reasons why brash comments about a couple’s reproduction can be really inappropriate:
 
1. This is a big one with a trigger warning for infant loss – they have already conceived but have suffered one or more miscarriages. I would encourage everyone to be as open as they feel they can be about these losses but equally, if they don’t want to talk about it then it’s not okay to force their hand or make them lie or brush it off like nothing. If someone has suffered a loss like that the last thing they want to do is smile along and say “oh no babies for us just yet”. 
 
2. They are struggling with fertility and may well be considering other options like IVF, surrogacy or adoption. Unless this person has told you about their struggles and you are just checking in to see how things are going then this is a real stinger.
 
3. They don’t actually want to have (more) children. Yep – that’s right, humans can actually make the conscious decision not to reproduce and their reasons, if they choose to share them, are perfectly valid and you should respect them. From previous pregnancy/birth trauma to just not wanting to raise a family the phrase “you’ll change your mind” needs binning along with “when are you having a baby then?”
 
4. They already know they can’t have children for medical reasons. This can be broad, perhaps due to an injury or illness, complications with a previous child or medication that could make pregnancy risky to the mother and/or the child.
 
5. They’re already trying and if you just hold on a few months they will let you know when they are good and ready. They don’t want to talk to anyone about their sex life. “We’re trying for a baby” = “We’re having regular sex” and that level of sharing is just a little too much for some people. 

 
6. They want to wait until they are in a more stable financial situation or living in a nicer area and they don’t want to talk to you about sex and money and how they don’t like the town you raised your own kids in because that is an uncomfortable conversation waiting to happen. 
Now, I am actually going to hold my hands up here and say I have asked people about when they’re having babies in the past, and more than once I have been shocked and saddened to hear of their losses and struggles but now the shoe is not the other foot I can only apologise and change my attitude. 
 
Let me know what I’ve missed in the comments, I’m sure there are more than six reasons not to ask a person when they are having a baby!