Trigger Warning: This birth story contains details of instrumental vaginal birth, episiotomy, pudendal nerve damage and PTSD. If you are triggered by these topics you may wish to skip this blog or read it once you have support available. If you are seeking support for your birth trauma, you may wish to contact our Peer Support Service.
First pregnancy, no issues, 39w+ 6.
Waters break at 10pm. Admitted to hospital. No contractions.
Induced at 10am with an epidural due to high blood pressure. Intermittent right hip pain all day, to the point the anaesthetist comes and repositions the epidural and provides a PCA for pain. Still not assistance – its not contractions, its like a skeletal pain raw in my right hip. 9:30pm comes. By this stage I have been awake for 40.5 hours and no idea how I am going to do this anymore.
I start to push.
I push until 11:30pm.
There are 2 vacuum attempts.
There are 5 forceps (instrumental delivery) attempts.
There is an episiotomy.
There is a 6th forceps (instrumental delivery) attempt and there is a baby.
The baby has its eyes fused closed due to the trauma to its head and face from the forceps. It takes a moment to breathe but then it cries. I have a son. Only then do I feel the pain. It is overwhelming. The baby is out. I don’t get it. Isn’t the pain meant to be over?
I can’t focus. I can’t look at the baby. My husband has the baby. I am overwhelmed with the pain. Is my right hip dislocated or fractured or both? Why do I feel like I have nerves that have been severed in all directions?
I want to black out and this all to be over. And why is no one panicking? Surely that wasn’t a normal birth. Are they are going to send surgeons and doctors and nurses soon to explain to me what has happened and why my body feels this way? They don’t.
They dose me up on all the pain relief I can have, and it does nothing. I am in agony. I am traumatised. I don’t sleep. I see blood all over the foot of my bed. I close my eyes and I have flashbacks.
The trauma of my body being invaded and assaulted. The absolute pain in my right side.
My son is beautiful. He is perfect. He feeds and he sleeps. I am so lucky. He must know Mummy is incredibly unwell. I love him with all my heart. None of this is his fault. But what has just happened and what has gone spectacularly wrong.
I don’t walk for 8 days. I physically cannot walk. I am so incredibly traumatised I see social workers, psychologist, psychiatrists. I have scans, I have MRI’s, I have CT’s and xrays. I see specialist after specialist. I can’t stand, I can’t sit. I can’t walk properly. I vomit from pain. I cry from pain. I am so traumatised I am diagnosed with PTSD. Somewhere in there I care for a newborn. My husband and parents and parents in law fill in the gaps in between.
I see lawyers. I speak to doctors. No one can tell me what is wrong with me. They belittle me. They tell me it was “just a hard birth.” They tell me it will “just take time to get over it.” They are wrong. After advocating for myself and finding my way through the medical system I am diagnosed with a range of problems. Bilateral levator avulsion – what is that – ok so I now, at 29, have no pelvic floor attachment on either side. That explains a range of symptoms but not the pain. I have probably subluxed my SIJ. Again, this will heal. No explanation for the pain.
Finally after seeking out specialists in other states of Australia I am diagnosed with pudendal neuralgia. A hideous, overwhelming painful condition you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. A lifetime of medication, therapy, drugs, rehabilitation, pain management, mental health support, exercise physiology, diet, nerve blocks and other things I’ve never heard of await me.
And all I did was give birth, in a private hospital, with a private obstetrician, in a capital city, in a first
My son is 7.5. It has taken me this long to put this story in writing. I was approached about the ABTA before its creation. I wanted to help but mentally and physically I couldn’t. I didn’t have the strength. Now I do. I am in a good place physically and mentally. I want to help and I want people to know they are not alone. I have learnt a lot about myself, the health system and the need to advocate for yourself and others.
You are not alone in this.
You may like to read my other story – Birth After Trauma – Caesarean for High-Risk Pregnanct (Twins)
If you would like to connect with a mum who has experienced birth trauma, please contact our Peer2Peer Support service to connect with one of our Peer Mentors.