A Healing Birth Can Still Hurt

It’s a secret no one will tell you. My dear friend, and fellow blogger, Chloe, wrote about this recently. For those of us who have had traumatic births, we sometimes place a lot of hope on a subsequent birth, it becomes a lifeline out of the pit of that trauma. So what happens when that lifeline snaps? What happens when you don’t get the amazing birth you were planning? What happens when, like me, you get a birth that is far removed from the one you wanted but one that was not traumatic, in which you were completely respected and had your contingency plans followed to the letter?

My recent birth genuinely was healing and empowering. It was a positive experience, by and large. I was incredibly well supported, I was respected and listened to. I had all of my wishes listened to and accommodated where at all possible. I came out of it feeling elated that I had done something so rare and thrilled that people were talking about it. It might make a very real and positive difference for other women. My relationship with the Munchkin has improved massively. I can say with absolute sincerity, finally, that I gave birth to him. For years I could not say that, he was surgically removed from me, my caesarean wasn’t the same as giving birth. Now I feel differently and because the Bean’s birth followed such a similar pattern to the Munchkin’s, I can also speculate now that no amount of support would have resulted in a vaginal birth with him either. For years I was carrying this heavy weight around my neck: what if we had just done x, y or z? Well this time we did do x, y and z and it still didn’t result in a normal birth.

But there is a dark side to that realisation. For the first few weeks after the Bean’s birth I felt lighter. I felt relieved. But as time passed I realised the consequence… if nothing I could have done would have made any difference then why did my births both end in caesareans? If it was nothing to do with the support that I had, nothing to do with my antenatal preparation, nothing to do with the external conditions of my labour, then what is wrong with me? Because that is where my mind wanders, towards a reason. I’m not the sort of person who can just accept that “these things just happen”. Maybe once they do, but twice? Twice the same thing happened to me and my babies. To me that means something. To me that means that there is some sort of problem with me.

That’s a dark place to be. No matter how much those around me bent over backwards to make my birth as positive as it could be, no matter how close my bonds are with my children, I am still left aching emotionally. I am grieving for the birth I did not get. Again.

I know there will be people who think, and indeed, say, that I should shut up and be grateful that my babies are alive. I’ve heard it before, I’ve been told that I have “lost sight of what is really important” and to them I say: I matter. My mental health matters. My scarred uterus matters. My obstetric future matters. I don’t intend on having any more children, two has long been my theoretical limit, so right now I’m trying to come to terms with the idea that I will never, ever have a vaginal birth of any kind, never mind the beautiful home birth of my dreams.

There are three little words that I have read dozens of times in VBAC birth stories, three little words that carry such depth of feeling that I don’t think many people could fail to be moved by them and I expected to be uttering them myself: “I did it”. I will never say those words and that hurts.

So to all those wonderful, Very Brave And Courageous women out there who didn’t get their VBAC, or whose births have not taken them on the journey that they expected or wanted: I love you, I am crying with you and it is OK to cry, to grieve.

12 thoughts on “A Healing Birth Can Still Hurt

  1. Linzy Lyne says:

    Oh my dear lovely Holly. Never say never.
    You may feel differently in time and willing to try again. Who knows?
    For now, enjoy your lovely boys because this time is precious.
    love always,

  2. Rachel says:

    Thank you so much for voicing this. I have recently had my 3rd baby – intended to be my wonderful HWBA2C which turned into my 3rd EMCS because of my inability to deliver a badly positioned baby despite all the support and ante-natal planning and care (1st 2 sections for other complications) I felt initially elated, like you my voice was heard, my wishes listened to and supported yet after a few days at home the feeling that something is wrong with me that I can’t birth my babies hit me hard. I stil plan to try for a HWBA3C as we’ve always planned 4 kids but I can’t help worry that I am incapable of birth.

    You are indeed Very Brave and Courageous, thank you for sharing and letting me cry with you xxx

  3. chloebayfield says:

    Holly, thank you for writing this. I want to know why too. To the point where I just had a completely ridiculous idea. I was thinking they could investigate after I die and see if they can work it out? Then at least somebody would know why? Much love, hugs and tears xxx

  4. Kathryn K says:

    While there is delight, there is also an opening of old wounds. Such a lot of grieving – two births and the end of childbearing. Take care of yourself while you heal. Big hugs. x

  5. Sarah Holmes says:

    Huge love to you for blogging about this… I so know how you feel, I have been through it too 🙂 1 realy big emergency c/s under g/a at 34 weeks cos of pre-eclampsia… ptsd…ten year gap… vbac preperation and trauma healing squeezed into term plus 12 days.. one delicious spontaneous rupture of membranes and labour felt and experienced for first time.. meconium so blue light to my nemesis (the big hospital) .. still found my birthing cave inside a bathroom in a lovely warm bath… being told to get out for more monitoring stalled my contractions.. cue emergency c/s number 2… healed more than words can say just for the fact i was awake and my baby was with me not in scbu… 16 months later pregnant again… prepared more than i could ever have prepared for my vba2c… even talked OH into us getting a Doula 😉 had my best friend as Doula too… 🙂 aha nature.. 16days post dates and no sign of anything progressing, not even room for a cheeky membrane rupture… cue elective caesarean … the way I see it is that my daughter didn’t want to be born any different to her brothers 🙂 I have been in that dark dark place you speak of beautiful lady and am here just to tell you, to let you know.. there is light beyond that darkness. It is my belief that some of us were given these journeys with caesarean birth, that we might reach out to all the women around the world who know that same journey and feel so alone and misunderstood… The healing doesn’t come from “I did it” for us… but it is there to be had and I hope and pray you will find your way. Much love and thankyou so much for writing this blog post 🙂 Sarah xxx

      • Sarah Holmes says:

        I attended a workshop nearly a year ago, prior to that I felt very isolated as I was the only woman I knew, that felt the way I did about having had the 3 caesareans. I had a couple of friends that have had as many caesarean’s but was always very jealous of their apparant coping and acceptance of their situations when all I could do was cry at how utterly rubbish my body is at birthing babies… Before that workshop I felt so very alone.. I wanted to scream out very loudly but who was going to listen… The workshop was called “working with women” and was for birthworkers, midwives and doula’s. That day changed my life forever. I met other women who knew exactley how I was feeling because they had felt like that way too for the same reasons. One of the Doula’s inparticular looked me right in the eye and promised me that my heart wouldn’t feel broken for ever more and that I would find the healing. I doubted her but she was so very right. Friendship? since that workshop I have found sisterhood with so many women, just like us, who planned and fought for our right to vbac, to have those hopes and dreams dashed… so unfair… but our words and gentle loving support for women who we know are going through the same in our communities… for our sisters… this is why we go through what we go through… so none of us ever have to feel lonely and silenced. An incredible book that has changed my perception hugely and that is called Different Doorway by Jane English http://www.eheart.com/cesarean/dd.html I haven’t been able to finish the book yet because it’s quite profound a read but wow… Reading it from the perception of a mother who grieves the lack of birth through her vagina and yet you realise that the children that were cut from your uterus have come earthside in a different way… they are unique and their lack of vaginal birth can possibly have the effect of giving them a profoundly different perception of the world… it is a fascinating read and really helped me loop my thinking around in a different way. You and Chloe have both verbalised so very eloquently recently, things that many many women find so very very hard to express… some women spend decades not ever being able to find the words to even begin to open “pandora’s box” … every time we write we share that light of healing hope… we are not on our own…birth trauma and caesarean birth is a huge taboo and each and everytime we who know it publish our words, we chip a bit off that taboo and make space for women to share their tears together instead of locked away in silence … much love xxxxx

  6. Lauren says:

    Hi, I know it’s been awhile since you posted this, but I wanted to say “thank you” for writing it. I’m one of the people I think you wrote it for. My first birth was thankfully a vaginally delivery, but after 36 hours of labor and my home birth turned into a hospital transfer and vacuum delivery. I was grateful to the OB at the hospital (that I had never met before) for allowing me to continue to push for another hour after pushing for 2 hours at home. I felt lucky that I avoided a c-section, and simultaneously devastated that my birth didn’t end up being at home and that I didn’t push my baby out on my own. (My daughter was asynclitic and that was the reason given for the difficulty.) My second labor was predicted to be much faster by my midwife and doula, both who are very experienced and supportive and wonderful. My second labor was much the asme as my first and my son ended up being persistently OP as well as asynclitic. His birth ended in a c-section. I was blind-sided because I was pretty sure that even if it was a difficult delivery, if I had delivered my daughter vaginally, that we had a good chance of a vaginal birth. He is now 7 months old. I’ve come a long way already in dealing with it, but it wasn’t pretty at first.

    The reason I’m commenting is that yesterday I visited a wonderful pelvic physical therapist who specializes in perinatal issues. I was pretty sure that (like you said) things may happen but to happen TWICE meant something must be wrong with me. Being a childbirth educator, home birth proponent, etc. made me incredulous that MY body is one of the tiny percentage of women whose bodies don’t work in birth. “MY body IS a lemon,” I thought to myself days after his birth when I saw a pin that a well-meaning midwife had given me to remind me that my body is not a lemon. This destroyed my sense of self. But, it also gave me something to figure out. So, after about 30 minutes with the physical therapist I now have a pretty good idea of what caused the trouble. One hip is rotated anteriorly, probably as a result of sports. It doesn’t cause pain and I never knew it was abmornally rotated. There are exercises I can do to change it. I don’t know that I will have more children or not. I hope to, but now’s not the time to decide. If I do, I hope that having this knowledge will help me, but I’m also scared to get my hopes up.

    I could write and write and write. I won’t, but I will say that your bravery and openness and love in writing this blog has helped me and I know countless other women. Thank you so much.


    • Holly says:

      Thank you Lauren. So much of what you say is very similar to my own feelings. Wishing you a speedy recovery and enlightening journey xx

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