Before G was born in 2012, my expectations of how things ‘should’ look were, with hindsight, a little unrealistic. I had bought into the cultural glow of the lazy hazy baby days, and was excited to welcome a brand new small person into the world with my brand new big mummy heart.
But the reality was a bit different. The birth was a barbaric forceps wrenching (she was nearly 10lbs and lying back-to-back) which left us both with physical and emotional scars. The postnatal care was patchy at best, and for weeks I felt completely disoriented and very alone. I couldn’t bond with her, couldn’t feed her, didn’t know how to love her, and didn’t really want to hold her.
The first year passed in a fog of tears and self-judgement. I didn’t ask for help and couldn’t find the words to explain how I was feeling. I know now that depression and anxiety were throbbing away under the surface, I just wasn’t able to recognise or admit it at the time.
As time passed I started to recognise a pattern of blame and shame and resentment that I was feeling towards her. Every time she got sick, or struggled with a milestone, or simply grazed her knee, I reacted with the weight and intensity of all the unexpressed fear and anger around the birth, as it kept rearing its ugly head again and again.
We got pregnant again in 2015 and I was determined to have a more positive birth the second time. We hired a wonderful doula and by now had a lot of support and experience to draw on. Our second daughter arrived in the beautiful calm way that we had planned and wished for, and this served to deeply heal the trauma of our first horrible experience.
However, time passed again and I was not only still running the same blame pattern from the first few years, but this time also comparing my two babies in line with their births. I had subconsciously labelled them: G was the complicated, difficult, painful, dramatic one, and C was the calm, easy, happy-go-lucky one. It terrified me the impact this pattern could have on their individual wellbeing and sense of self, and on all of our family relationships. It made me feel and sound like a completely despicable human and the worst kind of parent, but I had to say these things out loud to acknowledge what was going on and make the choice to change it. The way the birth turned out was not my fault, but the trauma had stuck and it was triggering me to make crappy choices as a mum. I knew that we all deserved better, so I reached out for help, and found Alex Heath working locally to support mums through Traumatic Birth Recovery.
Since working with Alex to lift the trauma surrounding my first birth and early postnatal period, the change in me, our family dynamic, and my relationship with each of my girls has been astounding. I went from “I want to love you, but I can’t, because you make everything so bloody difficult” to “you are loved, and we’re a team of imperfect humans who will always strive to support each other with due care and compassion”. It’s still a messy rollercoaster sometimes, but that’s no longer because of how it all started. I knew that comparison would be toxic. I knew I was still carrying the weight of G’s birth around with me, and I knew that I had the chance to lift the trauma to clear the way for a more balanced way to love my family.
So I want you to know that it’s possible. Not only have I tackled my own trauma, but I've now trained in this quick, simple and highly effective technique so that I can help many more mothers address their own. Alex has also trained hundreds of other birth and perinatal professionals across the UK so that they too can support parents in lifting the effects of perinatal trauma. If you have experienced any kind of upset or trauma along your journey to (or through) motherhood, and you feel like it might be having a negative impact on your everyday life, even if it’s just subtle, know that it’s possible to free yourself from the pain. A traumatic experience doesn’t have to define you, or your parenting. Whether it happened ten days ago, or ten years, and whether it was the birth itself or some aspect of the pre-or-post-natal care you received, help is here.