My name is Corinne and in 2014 I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl in extremely traumatic circumstances. It is only now that I am really feeling the full weight of my traumatic birth and that is what caused me to go out and seek support. I Googled birth trauma and found the ABTA website. Reading through the material on the website I realised that I am not alone and there is support available. I also realised that there is a lot of information about birth trauma both physical and psychological and that made me angry. Why is it that we are not informed in the prenatal period about birth injuries and birth trauma, why are we not informed that instrumental births carry a high risk of permanent injury? Why are women who experience birth trauma not given information about the help available, why are we not offered the services of physiotherapists and psychologists to help us heal? Knowledge is power and by not giving us this knowledge we are being disempowered in our births and our lives thereafter.
My traumatic birth story is still really raw but I feel it is important to tell it to highlight the inadequacy in pre and postnatal care and hopefully improve it in the future. It is a long story but the short of it is that it was a 29-hour labour that started of natural. I went into spontaneous labour at home was admitted to hospital when my contractions were 5 mins apart and getting hard to manage at home. I was admitted to hospital and laboured in the bath with gas until it wasn’t working for me. I then had some morphine which I loved, I could feel my contractions and was managing beautifully. After four or five hours it was wearing off so I asked for more. I was examined at shift changeover and I had only dilated and extra cm so it was decided my labour was not progressing and I was given an epidural and synthetic oxytocin. This was fine but then the midwife moved me and the epidural was pulled out.
This is where my world came crashing down. I was being loaded with synthetic oxytocin, with no pain relief and no break in between contractions. It took hours to get the anaesthetist back in to place the epidural back in. I this time I truly felt I was going to die, I was in excruciating pain that I wasn’t meant to feel and on top of that I had an asthma attack. When the anaesthetist finally arrived I was ready to push but had to stay completely still through the nonstop contractions so they could get the epidural back in. It was instant relief and I was told I could push but every time I pushed my baby’s heart rate dropped, so it was decided she was in distress and I was prepped for theatre.
I was given a form to sign even though I couldn’t see or hold a pen because I had been in immense pain for so long. My partner read it, and I wrote a squiggle I still have no idea what I signed. I ended up in theatre and my baby was delivered with an episiotomy and forceps delivery. I had no idea then that I was injured. 9 weeks postnatal I felt a bulging sensation in my vagina and went to see my GP, she examined me and found that I had a rectocele and weak pelvic floor muscles so she referred my to a women’s physiotherapist. When she examined me and I had almost no muscle tone on my right side she told me that the deep pelvic floor muscles might be bruised from the forceps.
She gave me exercises to do strengthen them but they had little effect six weeks later she told me that I almost certainly have a levator ani avulsion on my right side most likely caused by the forceps. It took 9 months of daily exercises to get some strength back on my right side. In that time further damage was done as the other muscles took up the slack resulting in dysfunctional muscled that cause chronic back pain. Every night I have to take pain medication because of chronic back and pelvic pain. I am working with physiotherapists and exercise physiologists and an osteopath to strengthen my muscles and get everything working functionally again. I am hoping it will resolve the pain.
This birth was so traumatic in so many ways but the thing I find most traumatic is the fact that important information was withheld from me, I feel like all of this was done to me instead of with me. I feel like a victim because I gave my power away to those I thought knew better than me. I wish I would have listened to and trusted my body, nobody knows my body better than me. If I had of known how high the risk of long term physical injury is with a forceps delivery I would have pushed for a caesarean section. If I had of known that an epidural and synthetic oxytocin often leads to an instrumental delivery I would have pushed for another round of morphine and some more time. I wish I had of known about pelvic health and injuries so I knew what to look out for. I wish we were all afforded a pelvic health check in the postnatal period. I really hope sharing my story highlights the inadequacies in the care and information we receive in pre and postnatal care and during childbirth and I really hope that it helps to change this.
We deserve more. We deserve to be empowered in this experience instead of becoming victims to an inadequate system.
Thank you for letting me share my story. My story matters and so does yours. Let us no longer be silenced.