Each woman’s story and experience is different when it comes to the birth of a child. When discussing with other mothers, some grimace, look away and shake their heads and say “Never again!” Others speak romantically about it and refer to it as a spiritual and enlightening experience, others find it very difficult to speak at all and refuse to discuss the experience.
As I write this, I am very aware that I have stopped myself from thinking back to the day William Idris, my son was born – simply because it hurts too much. The complete opposite to my experience when my daughter Gwen was born, six years earlier. Even though Gwen’s birth was laboriously long and extremely painful; the memory of her birth is one I return to time and time again. The experience of giving birth naturally, feeling her coming out of me and holding her to skin to skin for those glorious first minutes .
This did not happen with William.
Four days after my due date and after two sweeps, I woke up in the middle of the night feeling uncomfortable and questioning whether my waters had broken. The midwife assured me the following morning that I wasn’t in early labour. By tea time that day, contractions had started and although I was worried about what was ahead of me, my body seemed to react well the second time around and I seemed to be managing the pain well.
I spent early labour at home bouncing on the ball and using the TENS machine. By 1am I knew it was time to go to hospital and indeed by the time I arrived there, I could barely walk and Duncan (my partner) and I, were extremely pleased to see a hospital porter running toward us to help with a wheel chair to take us to the maternity ward.
Although I was in excruciating pain, the next few hours passed in a cloud of gas and air, a fairly calm environment and the midwifes’ words of encouragement. As William’s head crowned, I will never forget the words of the midwife: “You’re doing great Elen and at this rate you will be home by 7.30 am” This gave me the focus and determination that I needed to work hard and push and in no time at all William was out of the womb and on my chest.
I immediately felt the same overwhelming surge of love and emotion as I did when Gwen was born, but this time, something was not right. William did not move, he didn’t cry and he was an unusual blue colour and I realised that he wasn’t breathing at all. The next few minutes passed in a horrendous haze of hysteria, before I could say anything he was torn out of my arms, depriving me of those precious moments that should be full of joy for any mother.
It is very difficult for me to describe the next few minutes but I remember the alarm going off, and the wave of doctors that came in to work on him. I remember looking at my partner and pleading with him to tell me William was going to be alright, but I knew from his facial expressions that he couldn’t reassure me. The waiting was unbearable but we took comfort in the fact that shortly afterwards he was taken to the special care Unit.
It’s funny isn’t it how in those hours before the baby is born, we try so hard to keep all the plates from falling, but for us all the plates came crashing down to the floor after the birth. And if that wasn’t enough, things went from bad to worse when the midwife tried her best to remove my placenta. Despite the doctor’s attempt and after a great deal of pulling and tugging, it was stated that I was to have emergency surgery immediately.
William’s birth was not a perfect birth, in fact it was terrifying and one I consider to be a traumatic. Traumatic experiences are different for everyone and it is very difficult to define, but I believe that trauma is an experience that shudders you to the core and horrifies you every time you try and relive the experience. Writing this blog is a cathartic experience for me and has helped a great deal in my process of healing. I know people are reluctant to talk openly about their birth stories and experiences, but being open and sharing stories can help others who are struggling also. The process is personal and unique for every woman; but I know I am very grateful to staff at the Wrexham Maelor Hospital that morning, and today I am lucky to be William Idris’ mother who is now 15 months old.
I leave you with words of Danielle Bernock taken from her book “Emerging with Wings: A True Story of Lies, pain and Love that Heals”
“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally, heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams, healing can begin.”
By Elen Mai Nefydd.