After My Traumatic Birth, I’m Scared To Give Birth Again

traumatic birthI’ve been very vocal on Mommyish about my struggles with pregnancy loss. I have vowed to be more like one of those women who have never experienced a loss and move through their pregnancies “blissfully unaware that Mother Nature was a total bitch who could take it all away at any moment.”

And I’m trying – I really am.

But lately there is an endless loop of scenes playing through my head, over and over again – the string of events that took place the day that my son was born.  Although I seem to be conquering my fear of miscarrying, I keep obsessing over the day I gave birth.

I was 41 weeks pregnant and at my weekly check-up.  I was planning on giving birth naturally and was getting prenatal care at the only free standing birthing center in Brooklyn. We were joking about how easy my pregnancy had been and my midwife was congratulating me on keeping my weight down.  At the end of the appointment she reached for the baby monitor so we could listen to my son’s heartbeat.  I saw her face drop.

You have to get to the hospital right now.

What?  What do you mean I have to go to the hospital right now?  I’m not delivering at a hospital!  I’m delivering here –naturally – at the birthing center.  And I’m not even in labor!

She explained that his heart rate had dropped – dramatically – and I needed to get to a hospital so they could monitor it better.

We get to the hospital and they hook me up to a fetal heart monitor.  His heart rate seems to be doing fine.  After about two hours of monitoring, the nurse reaches down to disconnect me from the machine and let me go home.  Right as she is doing so, his heart rate drops again.  They admit me.

Now there is talk of induction and of the need to get a better read of his heart rate.  Apparently the best way to do this is by sticking a fetal heart rate monitor on his head, via my un-medicated vagina.  Ouch.  They get the monitor on his head and after a few minutes — another drop.  This one is very drastic and his heartbeat almost slows to a stop.

Honey, the baby has to come out now, okay?  We are taking you into surgery now, okay?

 Okay.

There was one thought that kept rolling through my head while all of this was going on.  Bad things happen to people.  I thought this as they were rolling me into surgery.  I thought this again as I struggled to remain still when they were sticking a needle in my spine.  Bad things happen to people, I thought as they hefted my immovable body onto the operating table, and one more time when they finally let my husband into the room.

Then I heard my child cry and I finally realized that bad things weren’t happening to me.  Not that day.  But it didn’t change the fact that I was terrified and really emotionally scarred by the whole experience.

It seems now that I am not terrified of carrying a baby – but of birthing one.

I’m nine weeks pregnant and I honestly couldn’t tell you what kind of fruit my child resembles.  I haven’t been on a baby board even once.  I am breaking the general rule of not telling anyone you are pregnant until the 12-week mark.  I’m determined not to obsess this time around.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that when I think about the impending birth I break into a cold sweat and want to cry.  What I didn’t realize the first time around was that I was one of those “blissfully ignorant” pregnant women – I had yet to experience any birth trauma.

Yes, women have been giving birth since the beginning of time.  There are no doubt hoards of them doing it by themselves in a field somewhere as I write this.  That doesn’t make childbirth any less of a huge, scary deal if you have been through one that didn’t go as planned.  But just as I am choosing not to obsess over the possibility of a miscarriage, I refuse to let myself go down this rabbit hole of fear any longer.

At the end of the day I have to remember I’m one of the lucky ones that can look at my beautiful healthy 2-year-old and think, great things happen to people.  After three years of infertility I can say, we had a baby, and after completely writing off the possibility that my son would have a sibling –holy crap I’m pregnant.

Maybe I need to start giving Mother Nature the benefit of the doubt – or at least stop calling her a bitch all the time.

(photo:Karen Grigoryan/ Shutterstock)

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    • caped but disguising it

      no, she is a bitch. it’s true. my first birth experience sucked too, and scared the crap out of me. but, i made it and so did #1. for #2, i had the exact same team as with #1 and i fully trusted them. it’ll be okay. at least you’re not in some hut out in the desert with no medicine or sanitary conditions. you’ll be fine. in fact, you’ll be like an old pro for #2.

      • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom

        Thanks! I keep telling myself the same thing :)

    • jen

      You’re not alone. My first birth had some scary moments and so did the second one but our experience made us stronger, more relaxed and more prepared for the second one. We have two healthy little ones now. We felt more in control even though many of the same things happened the second time. Best wishes for your pregnancy and birth.

      • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom

        Thanks – I’m trying to approach it with the same, positive attitude.

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    • msenesac

      I’m sorry you had such a bad experience- that sounds awful! I had super high blood pressure and after mandatory bed rest and it not getting better, they admitted me. I was as large as a beached whale with all of the fluids I was holding! My son ended up being delivered via c-section 5 weeks early (after I was in the hospital for a week) and was released before I was (I ended up having to have a blood transfusion and a cardiologist had to be brought in because my blood pressure still wouldn’t go down). While my husband, newborn, and I were stuck at the hospital for an additional week, one of my dogs had a seizure at home and we had to frantically coordinate dog/cat sitting day after day. It’s not nearly as traumatic as your situation but definitely a far cry from the natural birth I was hoping for. We will try getting pregnant again early next year and I am DREADING it.

    • CK

      I’m sorry to say this, and I certainly don’t want to diminish what you went through, but I don’t think I would call that a traumatic birth. There are many places in the world where your story would not have had a happy ending, for you, the baby, or both. There are certainly worse complications than having to have an emergency c-section, and I know because I had to have one. My c-section, however, was prefaced with 30 hours of induced labor, and a heart rate drop for my baby, too. And no, this is not where I say, “my birth was traumatic”. I really don’t feel that mine was, either. After all was said and done, it wasn’t traumatic, it was a happy coincidence that I got pregnant in the 21st century and had access to excellent health care so that my baby, and myself made it through in one piece. A traumatic birth would have been one where my baby, or myself didn’t make it, or I had a horrifying infection from less than clean tools, or I had to sustain labor for 30 hours more hours with no options whatsoever. You see trauma? I see healthy a baby and mother.

      • Taargus

        While I understand what you’re saying and realize you’re not trying to diminish someone else’s experiences, I don’t think it’s up to you to decide. If it was a traumatic birth for her, then it was traumatic. It’s all relative, know what I mean?

      • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom

        Sorry, but if you and your baby didn’t make it, it would be “catastrophic” not “traumatic.” Trauma is something that causes emotional shock or distress. I think that going through a childbirth where you think your child might not make it, counts.

      • http://www.facebook.com/courtney.wooten Courtney Lynn

        Just because you don’t feel that yours was, doesn’t mean she can’t.

      • kirsten

        I sort of understand both sides here… if it’s experienced as traumatic, it is traumatic. However, at the risk of further scaring you, problems with birth are incredibly common. Few women have their ideal pregnancy, birth, and baby… yet modern medicine can do amazing things! These problems can usually be easily dealt with and fixed. I don’t say this to diminish anyone’s experience, but to share the mantra that helped me. I almost lost my baby, but I gambled on a risky surgery that proved successful. My case was incredibly rare so I can just about guarantee you will NOT have to go through that. My point is: anxiety is totally ok and justifiable when you’re pregnant, but thinking about medical advances and all the things our doctors can heal and fix may help you relax. I know at first I felt like the only woman in the world that couldn’t complete a healthy pregnancy, but it helped to think about how many others share similar experiences and have positive outcomes.

      • http://www.facebook.com/saralarane.savel Sara Larane Savel

        CK,

        I don’t think it is fair to this person to invalidate her feelings of fear that she experienced with the first birth, and what she is feeling about the upcoming second birth. Just because you didn’t experience traumatic emotions with *your* birth experience, doesn’t mean this mother’s experience wasn’t terrifying to *HER.*

        The experience of trauma doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with a positive outcome. Think about soldiers: even when a mission is successful, they can and do develop PTSD if events were traumatic.

        I think you are confusing two different things: Fear is an emotion. Understanding that everything turned out for the best is a reasoned response. Knowing that you ended up with a healthy baby AND that you have been traumatized by the birth experience can happen at the same time, and this is a kind of wisdom. I think this mother is expressing this very clearly.

        It is a wonderful thing that she had modern obstetrics to save her child. Yes, losing the baby would be traumatic. Yes, she is very lucky to live in a society where we have educated medical professionals, and not in the bush where the village midwife lacks the ability, resources,and skill to perform an emergency C section. But none of this changes that fact that it can be terrifying for a woman to go through a difficult birth experience.

        Nor does having a difficult and traumatic birth experience mean that the medical interventions were wrong, or bad, or unnecessary either. This mother put her child’s needs above her fears, and above her desires for a natural birth. She should be applauded for that.

      • Mrs. W

        CK – who made you the birth trauma adjudicator?
        The outcome (physically healthy mom and baby) sometimes has very little to do with whether or not a birth was traumatic and your comments do little to help her cope with what happened which is objectively traumatic (the life of her child was perceived to be at risk and the circumstance felt completely out of her control), add to it a lot of unknowns or misbeliefs about cesareans and you’ve got a traumatic birth experience. Just because you didn’t find your experience traumatic, does not mean that hers was not.

    • KatieBug683

      Wow, that’s really horrifying and scary. I haven’t had kids yet, but I can only imagine what that must be like. I am terrified of something bad happening to me when I do get pregnant, too. Thank goodness that you were full-term and they were able to get him out and he was alright. Even still, I can see why that would be traumatizing because of the panic and millions of thoughts that probably went through your mind. Good luck to you. :)

    • Rae

      I was the blissfully naive pregnant woman with my first and second children. Up until 36 weeks with baby #2. Then a similar (but actually much worse) thing happened. His heart stopped and he died. I had to deliver my perfect baby boy but never see him alive. Heartbreaking… traumatic… catastrophic. BUT two months later I got pregnant with baby #3. That pregnancy was ROUGH. All-in-all it was a good one, no complications, etc, but the anxiety? That was the kicker. Through the whole pregnancy all I could think was ‘bad things happen to good people’ and ‘there is no reason to think anything bad will happen, but there is no reason to think it won’t either’. It is so hard to get out of those mindsets. Ten months after my son was stillborn I welcomed my daughter into the world alive and screaming. You’d think that would help right some of the wrong with the universe right? Nope, two and a half years later I found myself pregnant again. This last pregnancy was even rougher, full of complications and anxiety, and those mindsets came back full force. BUT three weeks ago I welcomed my third son into the world. It helps ease some of the traumatic memories but nothing will erase the heartache of my second birth. Nothing will replace my second son. In 10 days we would be celebrating his 4th birthday. How I wish he were here for it…

      • katydid0605

        rae, this made me so sad. Ive had three pregnancies and three kids and i cant imagine what you have been through. congrats on your newest baby ::internet hugs::

      • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom

        That is heartbreaking. You are a very strong woman :)

      • Becky05

        I am so sorry for your loss.

    • http://www.facebook.com/courtney.wooten Courtney Lynn

      My son’s birth was scary, too. I still get angry about it 5 months later. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=517569942 Amanda Ferguson Collins

      My daughter’s birth was traumatic–I had complete placenta previa, and I had a fairly bad bleed at 32 weeks so they decided she was safer out than in and did an emergency c-section which went very smoothly. The 6 weeks of the NICU was hell, and I think I just wasn’t ready to give birth yet, so it felt like a 4th pregnancy loss (I had had 3 m/c before this). I know far worse birth stories than mine, but I absolutely was traumatized, and I had to grieve. Have you thought about reaching for support from ICAN? There’s a chapter near me, and they often deal with birth trauma. I wish you the best of luck with this delivery.

    • C.J.

      Having had problems with giving birth to my first I was also scared for my second. When I was actually having the second it didn’t seem as scary because I had already went through childbirth once. I scared myself for my whole pregnancy and ended up not even thinking about how scared I was while I was having her even though I had most of the same problems. My friend was terrified to give birth to her third child because of how traumatizing her second was. She just had her fourth and was not scared at all about delivering. Every one of her births were different so she figured she would just take it as it came. I think it is normal to be scared after having a traumatizing birth. It sounds like you had good care from your midwife and the hospital last time. Maybe your midwife can help you with your fear. You aren’t the first to have this fear, she might be able to help. I wish you an easy pregnancy and delivery.

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    • Jenna

      I wish I could give you a hug right now! I had a terrible and traumatic birth with our first and spent the entire 39 weeks of my second pregnancy in constant fear that it would happen again only to have it be smooth and easy (by which I mean completely normal… which is smooth and easy in my mind). So there’s hope for this birth being completely different, hang in there. :)

    • Amanda the crafty

      i was showing. i had her name picked. we were on vacation and i started to hemorrhage. i almost died. doc told my husband to be prepared to say goodbye. i lived. Margaret however didn’t. i went on to have a healthy child. but the fear was huge. for both my pregnancies i basically listened for a heart beat the entire time!!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/saralarane.savel Sara Larane Savel

        I am so sorry for your loss.

    • Staceyjw

      The second one will be better, it usually is. An ECRS is so much easier, and not scary like an emergency CS. all but one friend that went this route had a great experience. A VBAC may also go well, if you are a good candidate it may even be easier. I say find a very good OB this time around, and choose a good hospital. (no more birth centers, VBAC is no longer low risk)
      You can do it!
      (I had a CS then a VBAC and can say #2 was so much better)

    • Fez

      Maria, I follow you on FB, but I don’t dare write anything about my new pregnancy on FB for fear that someone will find out due to wonky notifications.

      Congratulations on your pregnancy! I had a daughter in ’09, a miscarriage in April ’12, and am now 5 weeks pregnant and a nervous wreck. Some days I just feel so numb, like I’m still angry with my body for taking away my last pregnancy. I want to scream at her “don’t f-ck with me — if you’re going to take this away, just do it now!”. I really want to love mother nature and all that she does, but I’m finding it challenging.

      I believe I’ll be investing in a heart rate monitor to use whenever I want if this one makes it to the heartbeat stage. Good luck to you.

      • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom

        Congratulations! I hope you get through the nervous wreck stage, soon :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/saralarane.savel Sara Larane Savel

      Thank you for being brave enough to share your story and your fears. It sounds like you have a really good perspective about the birth: that it wasn’t the ideal, it was traumatic, but at the end of the day what matters most is not how he was born, but that he was born. I am so glad that your midwives did the right thing: as soon as they saw trouble, they got you to the hospital. And you did the right thing by agreeing to go and getting the C section that your baby needed to survive, even though that meant giving up your dream for a natural midwife assisted birth.

      It makes absolute sense that you are scared of giving birth again, even though everything turned out okay with your son. Even when we do the right thing in a difficult situation, our good decisions do not necessarily lessen the traumatic experience we went through. Bravery is not the absence of fear, it is doing what is necessary to survive or protect others while you are feeling scared. You were brave, but you were terrified too.

      I don’t know if you are comfortable with counseling, but perhaps talking with a therapist who specializes in PTSD might help you to process the birth experience and work through your fears about the upcoming birth.

      You are not alone, by the way. I had a traumatic third trimester, difficult labor, and an emergency C section followed by PPD. We love our babies dearly, but when pregnancy and birth get complicated, they can really mess with our minds! I begged my husband to get a vasectomy just a couple of days after my son was born!

      When I got pregnant again, I was both terrified and delighted in equal measure. Would this pregnancy go to hell like my first? What if something bad happened during the RCS? But, I was also planning the nursery as soon as we got the BFP. Unfortunately, I miscarried so I never had to face the fears head on like you are. One thing I found though was a book that deals with these issues specifically. It is called the “Pregnancy and Postpartum Anxiety Workbook.” I highly recommend it and wished I’d had a copy during my first pregnancy.

      Good luck and peace to you.

      • Justme

        I think a friend of mine gave me either that exact book or something very similar when I was struggling with PPD after the birth of my first child. It was extremely helpful. This same friend is now pregnant again after having PPD the first time around so I am very curious to see if there are any differences in the post-partum period. Does that make sense? I guess I have a similar fear as the author – I just can’t imagine putting myself, my husband or my now toddler daughter through the same hell I went through the first time around.

      • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom

        Thank you so much for the kind words and recommendation- I am definitely going to check it out.

    • koolchicken

      Good for you, I’m glad you were able to share with us. I had a similar experiance and I’ll never get pregnant again. I had a picture perfect pregnancy until during a routine visit with my midwife. She went to listen to his heart and instead of being slow it was through the roof. Long story short he was born via emergency c section within hours. I never got to recover, I was too busy gettin on a plane, living in a hotel, and sitting bolt upright in the NICU for 18 hours a day. I still have pain from the surgery six months out. They’ve tried to fix me, it didn’t work. My husband is an MD and tells me it’ll get better, but I know when he’s lying. I’m not like you, I’m not brave. I think if I get pregnant again combined with the problems I’m having it’ll kill me. My husband says it won’t, but I can’t take the risk. So again, thank you for this. There are plenty of stories about how evil doctors ruined everything and now some women are traumatized. But there’s nothing for the women who really would have lost their baby without a c section and while they don’t regret it, they do.

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    • june

      Im 13weeks and terrified something horribles gonna happen during or after the pregnancy theres so many things that cab happen even after the babys born idk whT id do if something happens it’s always on my mind

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    • jenna

      See you and I have a different approach. Instead of saying “bad things happen to people”. I would have been saying “my baby! Get my baby out now! I wouldn’t even cared about myself, I would be so happy that a hospital exists that saved my babies life and grateful. What i would be traumatized by is midwives. Ya she caught it but they can’t save your baby in an emergency. I’d rather have a baby somewhere the can handle emergencies. I just couldn’t live with myself using a midwife. Sorry midwives nothing personal, I love the idea of nurturing den mother but they can’t perform emergency surgery to save my baby.