My Easiest Birth Was My Most Traumatic | Sloane's Birth Story
Updated: Jun 17
My easiest birth was my most traumatic.
I would like to open, by acknowledging that birth trauma is an individual experience that looks different for everyone who experiences it. While hemorrhage, loss, violence, resuscitation are all valid reasons for someone to experience birth trauma. Trauma can also occur in the absence of significant medical complication. Some overlooked factors that contribute to birth trauma include:
Unmet Expectations: Sometimes, and I would argue more often than not, birth does not go as planned. When a birthing experience does not align with the expectations and desires of the individual giving birth, it can lead to feelings of loss, disappointment, or a sense of failure. These are all valid ways to feel and may contribute to trauma.
Loss of control: Feeling a lack of control during the birthing process can be distressing. This could be due to healthcare providers making decisions without involving the birthing person, or not respecting their preferences and autonomy.
Lack of emotional support: Emotional support during labor and delivery is very important. If the birthing person feels unsupported, dismissed or ignored, or emotionally neglected during the process, it can contributing factor in their experience of birth trauma.
Communication breakdown: Poor communication between healthcare providers and the birthing person can lead to misunderstandings, anxiety, and feelings of being unheard or being not fully informed, potentially resulting in birth trauma.
Disempowerment: Feeling disempowered or not being able to actively participate in decision-making processes related to one's birth can contribute to birth trauma. This may occur when the birthing person's opinions, desires, or concerns are disregarded.
Lack of informed consent: When medical interventions or procedures are performed without the birthing person's full understanding, consent, or without adequate information, it can lead to feelings of violation, betrayal, and trauma.
Perceived or experienced mistreatment: Instances of mistreatment, such as disrespectful or abusive behavior from healthcare providers, can have a significant impact on the birthing person's emotional well-being and contribute to birth trauma.
Previous trauma history: Individuals with a history of trauma, such as sexual abuse or past traumatic birth experiences, may be more susceptible to experiencing birth trauma, even in the absence of medical complications.
If you have had a traumatic birth that was otherwise healthy and uneventful:
I believe in you and your experience. Your feelings are valid
The birth of my second child was practically effortless (I like to joke that she fell out of me but it was a little more work than that) and my labor with her was also more manageable and much shorter than my first. Even so, the experience was very traumatic. It took me a long time to process afterwards and I know it took my husband an even longer time to fully understand why I felt the way I did. So here it is-- a long story.
The birth of my second child, in October of 2014, coincided with a move. We had purchased our house from my husband’s granny in August of that year and had spent the time before our move ripping out pea green shag carpets, refinishing the hardwood we happily discovered underneath, and painting-- every wall, the ceiling, shutters, doors, and trim. I spent my entire 8th month of pregnancy teetering on a stepstool, paint roller in hand.
My 20-year-old brother-in-law, a high school dropout, had been living with granny for a few years prior to us purchasing the house. He was not fulfilling a caretaker role, but you could call him Granny’s companion. We had been reassured that he did not “come with the house”, but it took a long time for him to transition into another living arrangement (he lived with us throughout the first year of home ownership and the first year of my daughter, Sloane’s, life).
On the night I went into labor with Sloane (ten days after her due date), we had just finished our last moving trip. We had stopped for pizza on the way home when I noticed my first contractions. They picked up steadily the rest of the ride. When we got to our house, my brother-in-law was entertaining several friends in his room with a case of beer, a handle of vodka, electronica, and cigarettes on the front lawn.
We were weary and had a station wagon filled with the dregs of our move-- boxes of books, toys, cooking utensils, and a toddler asleep in the car seat who needed to be carried into bed. My husband and I unloaded and made many trips up and down the attic stairs between contractions-- he carried the books and I carried the fluff. By the time we had stowed all the boxes and bags, he was exhausted and I was in active labor. It was probably around 9pm.
I called the birth center and spoke to the midwife on call who told me to call her again when I “couldn’t take it anymore”. I told my husband to get some sleep and that I would wake him when we needed to head out. I hid in the only bathroom of our tiny house-- not far enough away from the party sounds of cracking beer and loud laughter coming from my brother-in-law's room. I am assuming they pissed in the gutter outside.
I called my sister who held space for me on the phone while I moaned through contractions-- drowning out the sounds of strangers with my birth song. Her midnight drive from the college town of Morgantown, West Virginia to Wilmington, Delaware took 5 hours that night. She missed Sloane’s birth by 10 minutes.
I had been trying to check myself while squatting on the toilet with one foot propped up on the tub and my fingers reaching as far as they would go inside, but I had no idea what I was feeling around for or how dilated I was. It was my sister who heard a change in my vocalization and suggested I call the midwife again. I woke my husband and he fumbled to pull on his pants and went to install the infant seat for the baby that was coming (we had taken it out to fit more boxes from our move). I brushed and braided my hair. And then the baby dropped. WE NEED TO GO NOW. He scooped my older daughter, Lenore, up from her bed- fluffy blue blanket and all, like a cherub in her cotton candy cloud-- and went to funnel a gallon of gas into the tank with the lawn mower jerrycan. My fist pounded on the roof of the car.
The drive through the inner city was a surreal blur. I remember it like a scene from a zombie film. Many people were out, staggering in the middle of the street. Someone approached my passenger side window while we were stopped at a red light. My husband kept on driving. I could not sit because her head was there, so I knelt, facing the backseat, clutching the headrest, and watched as my angel-faced toddler woke up disoriented in the sodium light of a city (mostly) asleep.
We arrived with a midwife waiting outside an open door. I walked into the vestibule and leaned against the wall for a contraction. The midwife asked me to lie down on the bed so I could be checked, my husband placed Lenore in her blanket beside me. Another contraction... The water was running for the bath... I needed to pee. I got up and went to the bathroom before I could be checked. My husband scooped up Lenore. Bloody Show! I was so excited I hollered to everyone through the cracked door “I have the blood show!” I stood up and had another contraction, leaning heavily on the sink. Then I rushed to the edge of the bed, pulled my nightgown off over my head and squatted. Sloane burst into the world fist-first with a gush of water.
We had been there a total of 6 minutes and the birth tub was only filled an inch. I was in shock. The midwife kindly and gently repeated “you can pick up your baby now” three times before it registered that I had just given birth. I looked down to see her for the first time and shakily pulled her up to my chest. I remember standing up and wavering. I can still feel the sensation of her wet cord dangling between my thighs. I was holding my baby in my arms, but she was still connected to me-- tethered to something inside me that hadn’t come out yet!
Shortly after Sloane’s birth, my sister arrived, surprised to hear newborn cries as she parked her car. My parents, who my husband had called as we were leaving the house, were there within the hour as well, bringing delicious homemade perogies with them. After my meal, I fell asleep. My sister and parent’s left, taking Lenore with them. I was woken up by the nurse a few hours later and told it was time for me to leave.
When we got home, one of my brother-in-law's friends was puking in my kitchen sink. I nursed my newborn baby as he nursed his hangover. This friend of my brother-in-law stayed all day. He even watched a movie with us on the couch.
For a long time after Sloane’s birth, I was angry with my husband for not protecting the space in which I was laboring and the home I was bringing my new baby into so soon after delivery. I felt desecrated. The sanctity of my home and the intimate processes of my body were violated by outsiders who had no respect for our family and my husband was complicit in his inaction.
Deep breathe in... Deep breathe out... I can still feel echoes of that anger... you know?
Eventually, I did forgive my husband, and my brother-in-law. I even forgave the kid who puked in my sink. But the trauma is still there. I cried writing this.*
*I wrote this birth story in 2019. At the time, I was preparing for the birth of my third child and making a plan to create a sacred, intentional birthing space-- both at home, and at The Birth Center. I was still processing the trauma and my emotions were raw.
Enjoy reading birth stories?
You can read about my first birth HERE.