Monday, October 7, 2013

Post-Traumatic Growth after Childbirth Trauma

It has now been more than three years since my daughter was born - and while my recollections of her birth remain highly negative (I suspect they always will be) and at times intrusive and disruptive (thank-you post-natal PTSD) a lot has happened in the time since, that has been and has the potential to be tremendously positive. I am currently at a place where I am more focussed on how to move forward in a positive and meaningful way - rather than being mired in the past. I believe, as a result of the efforts I have made to understand and heal from the experience - I have been fortunate to benefit from what is known as Post-Traumatic Growth.

In the immediate aftermath of the birth - I was over whelmed and distressed. I believed, that I did not matter - that I had no right to decide what to do with my body, that I was not even entitled to feel badly about the birth because I had a healthy baby and there were countless women who would happily trade places with my circumstances. My beliefs about who I was and what my rights were, and how the health care system worked were completely rended asunder. My trust both in the system, and in my own doctors was decimated. I did not feel I could share my thoughts and feelings, with even my husband - for fear of being labeled ungrateful for all that I did have, for fear of being labeled or thought of as a "bad mother". I quickly learned that few would understand and that many would hear my complaints as trivial whining. My initial response was to just try harder at being a "good mother" - after all, I had been told that I was "good at birth" - so why not repress the fact I hated it, that it felt like such a violation, an extreme cruelty. I dove into a mother's group - and tried to see the benefits of natural birth - the thing that most of the women there had aspired to. I suffered silently, often breaking down in the shower or in other fleeting moments that I had to myself and put on a brave and stoic face.

The thing I've learned about trauma, is that repressing it and suffering silently does not work - or at least it wasn't working for me. It bred cynicism. It bred anger. It bred flashbacks. It bred distraction. It bred shame. It bred isolation. It bred depression and anxiety. It bred resentment. It bred helplessness, and hopelessness. When I returned to work - I was marginally functional, and the ample amounts of time in front of a computer looking at health statistics did me very few favours. I needed to do something, so that at the very least, I would not lose my job.

That was when the real work of trying to address and heal from the experience began. I could not continue doing what I was doing (repressing the experience and trying to accept what had happened) - it was making me angry, and cyncial, and negative. If I did not do something that worked - I would risk losing my job, losing my husband, losing everything that mattered in my life - including myself. I owed it to my family and to myself to at least try to not let what happened to me - consume every last part of who I once was.

It was then that I started to really blog. I needed to get what I was thinking, out of my head. I needed to really think about things, I needed to process them.

I also needed to know what really happened (I still do) - and to do what I could to prevent the same thing from happening to others.

I wasn't really expecting everything that has happened as a result of blogging. I wasn't expecting the blog to even be read all that much (we are now at nearly 70,000 hits). I wasn't expecting to change minds on the issue. I wasn't expecting to help other women. I wasn't expecting to meet other women who were as passionate and concerned about the issues facing childbearing women as I was. I wasn't expecting to learn as much as I have learned. I wasn't expecting to create a facebook community of likeminded women "Cesarean by Choice Awareness Network" or be instrumental in the creation of a legal action fund that is focussed on protecting the rights of childbearing women to informed consent and timely access to care (the Maternity Legal Action Fund). Yet - that is exactly what has happened.

Looking ahead, my goals are clear: keep going, keep growing - there is still much work to do.

1 comment:

  1. You are in inspiration! :) Lauren