'I was broken': Mum's harrowing birth story reveals the lasting impact of birth trauma

Picture: Getty Images
Picture: Getty Images 

For Sarah, the joyous birth she had imagined for herself quickly turned into the most distressing experience of her life.

The mum-of-one from Tasmania was left completely shattered following the birth of her baby girl. 

"I had a profound experience a few days after having her," she tells Essential Baby. "My husband was holding me and I broke down like never before. I was overwhelmed, I felt that 'I am broken, she's broken'." 

Sarah thought the chance to bond with her baby had been stripped from her, and recalls feeling 'isolated and bereft' after enduring a difficult delivery and multiple health complications. 

"The birth I dreamed of my entire life was stolen from me," she said, holding back tears. "It was the worst experience. I was completely in regret, thinking 'what have I done? I'll never get better, I'll never love her'."

The difficult delivery resulted in Sarah experiencing a dural puncture in her spinal column following an epidural complication, as well as an episiotomy, a second-degree tear and a forceps delivery.

Instead of spending her first few days in a newborn bubble with her daughter, Sarah was left bedridden, attached to a catheter and still unable to walk following the epidural. She also grappled with breastfeeding on top of receiving a blood patch to repair the dural and an iron infusion.

While she recovered from the physical trauma, Sarah still felt completely overwhelmed. The new mum said hospital notes showed the midwives had described her as 'bonding well', however Sarah says this was definitely not the case. 

"They wrote that I was 'mothercrafting well'. I wouldn't have been able to pick my baby out from line-up I was so tired. It took me a month or so to bond."

Having given birth in regional Tasmania hospital, which had only weeks earlier reopened following a COVID-19 outbreak, meant that only her husband was allowed to visit her.  

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When she was allowed to go home three days later, Sarah says that is when the trauma hit her 'like a ton of bricks', as the physical recovery left her struggling to bond with her daughter. 

After requesting the hospital notes on the birth, Sarah had a debrief with one of her midwives and with the support of local maternal health services and the Australian Birth Trauma Association (ABTA), who recently launched Peer2Peer Meets, a peer led, trauma informed six week program for new mums, is working to process the experience. 

To the mother who feels broken beyond repair. You’re not, girl. You’re a fighter. You’re amazing. You ARE what your kids...

Posted by Australasian Birth Trauma Association on  Thursday, 12 November 2020

The new mum says that time had been a great healer and to mark Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week (November 11-17) wants to share her story in the hopes it may help the one in three Australian women who identify their birth as traumatic. 

"It does get easier, if I could talk to myself six-months ago, when I believed I would never recover or feel normal again, that's what I'd say."

"It will get better and you will heal, there is a new normal and it will be better than you could have imagined it would be."

She also urges new mums to forgive themselves, saying while she initially re-lived the experience in 'every quiet moment', she had now come to accept it. 

"I definitely blamed myself a lot, I should have tried harder, should have taken this option,"she said. "I think you need to forgive yourself and accept that it happened the way it did."

"No matter how much you beat yourself up and reflect on it, you can't really change how it happened - but you can change how you feel about it."

If you or someone you know needs support around birth trauma please go to birthtrauma.org.au and check out their Peer2Peer Support program