Trigger Warning: This birth story contains details of PTSD, caesarean and an allergic reaction during birth. 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.
I’m Marianne, and this is my birth story.
It’s Thursday, October 27th, 2016 at 10.24am I hear the words from my Obstetrician ‘here she comes’ and our darling girl is born on her due date via elective C-Section.
The next 7minutes after she’s born are quick. They cut the cord, set of observations & I have the moment every pregnant mother has been waiting months for, feeling their babe on their chest.
But I feel different, I’m itchy. I’m told I’m ok. I can’t stop scratching my breasts + I want her off me. I’m trying to rip the gown off to scratch. I’m told I’m fine and my hands are pulled away. I’m throwing up, I feel faint. I’m told ‘you’re ok’. I feel my throat + tongue go itchy and I look around the room where everyone is focused on everything else happening around me, except me.
I turn to my anaesthetist and he’s sitting far back behind me, on his laptop, whistling. I announce to the room that my throat feels like it is closing up and my tongue is thick. The next words paralyse me for months following. ‘Her blood pressure is 50/20 and she’s going into anaphylaxis’. A mask is put on my face and as I look up at the lights I’m told ‘I’m putting you to sleep now sweetheart’ where my thoughts leave me of ‘I never get to be a Mum and I never get to see my daughter again. I’m dying, I’m dead’.
48hrs of nothing. I’m intubated and in an induced coma to allow the swelling from the severe anaphylaxis to subside. My milk is pumped + dumped as it is contaminated from all the drugs flowing through me.
I’m woken on Saturday morning the 29th of October to a tube being pulled out of my throat in a strange room. Where am I? What just happened? Pete and our baby girl are next to me. ‘It’s Saturday’ Pete quickly tells me. ‘Saturday? But we had our baby on Thursday’ I ask.
I get taken to our room on the ward and am told by a nurse ‘Congratulations, it’s time to be a Mum now’.
Congratulations? Congratulations, but I almost died …? There’s a huge misalignment in my mind of where I had just come from and the words congratulations.
I’m alive, but I’m broken. It takes me days to want to hold our unnamed baby. I don’t know her. Who is she? What’s her routine? When does she eat? How do I change a nappy? All I know is she almost killed me bringing her earthside, and with her first breath, it becomes apparent that I have now become irrelevant, or so it feels.
After 5 days we finally name our daughter Audrey. After 9 tender days, we are released from the hospital and I’m handed a brochure for the Raphael Centre and it is recommended I call them. I didn’t want to leave the hospital. I feel safe here. If something happens to me I’m somewhere where they can save me.
And the waves start. I panic. I’m left alone not knowing what to do with Audrey and every day I feel my body is cheating me, testing me. Tricking me. I don’t feel safe. I’m convinced I’m going to die. What follows is months & months of trauma. Getting stuck in a loop and reliving Audrey’s birth, every damn day. The lights. The mask. The words ‘anaphylaxis’ and ‘it’s Saturday’. It’s all on repeat.
I’m terrified of being left alone. I’m sure I’m going to die and Pete is going to come home from work and find me on the floor and I would have dropped Audrey. The whole situation is a train wreck. My body is now mimicking anaphylaxis and we have countless trips to the local Emergency Department where I feel my throat is closing over and I can’t breathe. I’m convinced my body is the enemy & I don’t trust it. But every time I get discharged from ED they find nothing wrong with me. What’s happening? Why can’t they find something wrong with me?
I get out of bed and my feet are aching, I can hardly walk. The trauma is crippling me. Grief. This part probably sounds strange, I didn’t lose anything did I? But I did. I lost those first two days with Audrey. I mean, the days were there with her and I in it – but we are on different pages of the book. She was turning pages each day and I was frozen, unable to move and start forming our bond.
I start hitting rock bottom mid 2017. I’m a wreck.
I visit my GP and I’m given a referral for the Raphael Centre for counseling. My councilor is incredible, we talk through my story over the next few months and she listens. She’s soft. She teaches me breathing techniques, how to feel grounded, how to work through panic attacks. But every session is triggering as we delve further into Audrey’s birth.
I head back to my GP, crying, wailing to her how fucked up I feel and broken. I’m so broken. I’m diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and panic attacks. She hands me a script for valium and antidepressants.
Medication is my mellow yellow. Birth trauma, what birth trauma!? It blocks my brain and I mentally can’t go to that part of my story anymore. It’s like the pathway in my brain has built a giant brick wall and I can no longer cross into that territory. It’s a welcomed relief after living beside myself every day for the last 7months thinking I was going to die every day. But with the medication comes brain fog, headaches, trigger finger, nausea and the inability to think about anything much at all.
After about 4 months, I finally felt calm, relaxed and I was able to find some composure after a break from the PTSD loops. The medication gave my brain the break it needed and with counseling, meditation, breathing techniques, walking and really working hard on a positive mindset, I successfully wean off the medication over a month period in November 2017.
EMDR was the turning point of my healing. It allowed me to create space from my birth story. I can still recall the events, but no longer in a way that it’s happening to me over and over again daily. My story now sits alongside me, not at the forefront of every move I make.
ABTA has helped me immensely- finding supportive quotes, words from other mums that are relatable. Knowing I’m not alone in my thoughts.