Friday, April 13, 2012

Had a traumatic birth and facing a second? This might help.


Recently I posted about my having to face up to the fact I will be giving birth again so soon after my first. Which was really, terribly traumatic. I asked if there were others who had been in the same situation who went on to have if not a lovely birth, than at least an easier one! I was overwhelmed and inundated with such an array of stories and techniques, I wanted to share them here with you all. Because for everyone who sent or submitted a tip, there was someone else saying: "Help. I'm in the same boat and I'm terrified!"

Thank you times a million to everyone who took the time to offer advice, help, positive stories and good wishes. They are all SO appreciated.

I also worry I must have been terribly frustrating, because a lot of the advice was stuff I'd already done the first time... and was awesome until it wasn't! I had wonderful care in a private hospital, fantastic, warm, midwives who valued my wishes and input, I had trust in my body and the process of birth, I'd been doing yoga for years, I wasn't scared, I learned acupressure and calm visualisation techniques, had acupuncture, planned an active labour and nice waterbirth and went into the whole sideshow like a warrior woman - I could DO this! I was ready, willing, and positive I could make it the best experience I could.

As flexible as I was with what was to come, I just could not know how it would all spiral out of control and I definitely couldn't know how brutal a vaccuum delivery could be. Nor how common. Nor that if you've had one, you're at a higher risk of post-natal depression (which I didn't get, thankfully, but so many do), and that it is the trigger for SO much trauma. Including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. For all the hours of reading and research prior to labour, I either didn't absorb this information, or it just wasn't in the things I read.

However, it is time to work through the residual issues and focus on the task at hand - bringing a new bundle into the world with a renewed sense of positivity and strength, and a minimum of freaking out that it has to come through somewhere that ain't done healing yet. Yeouch.

I'm happy to report that just about everyone who offered advice said that their second birth was a world away from their first. Faster, somewhat easier, and needing far less intervention. And some even enjoyed it! Here are the tips that they shared:

 Birth Skills by Juju Sundin and Sarah Murdoch. (Working Women Australia)
 A Modern Womans Guide to a Natural and Empowering Birth (Fun_Sophie)
Guide to Childbirth by Ina May (Madeline at The Things We Do), (Staying Sarah)
Birth Journeys (Madeline at The Things We Do)
Find a sympathetic ear & talk, talk TALK. Hire a doula/mw if you think it will help (Shae from Freerange in Suburbia)

Don't stress about the unknown. Take your time to make the right choice for you. (Danielle at Hello Owl)

What helped me was being as well informed as I could be (and not just about how I wanted the birth to go, but about hospital procedures, my OBs preferences and what I might do if things went wrong), realizing I could say no or negotiate, and making peace and accepting that I would make the best decisions I could at the time (Kate at Picklebums).

Seek out a therapist who specifically deals with birth trauma. There are several techniques which can be helpful depending on how you're coping and what the issues are. My therapist uses a technique called 'tapping' and also EMDR, both of which have been proven to be very beneficial to people who have suffered trauma and PTSD as a result. You should be able to find someone local to you here.Your GP can refer you so that it's covered by Medicare as part of your mental health plan which covers you for 10 visits I think (Nicola Judd).

Calm Birth techniques (Anna at Green Tea n Toast) (Rhi at Hummingbird's Song)

If you're going to have an epidural, have one straight away! Plus a shower with shower gel that smells so pretty it takes your mind off the pain (Absolute Amy)
The best advice my OB told me was to trust my body. And he also said that well informed women rarely make bad decisions. So ask a gazillion questions (Maria at Mum's Word)
I think the big difference was the trust I had in myself and my body. Depending what hospital you are going to, you could see if they have a mental health maternity nurse. The RBWH has a marvellous one who really helped me with my anxiety. It's worth a look into and discussing your concerns with them.
I highly recommend a water birth as it helps soften all your bits and it hurt a lot less for me. Talk to as many midwifes as you can but if you can form a relationship with one or a handful of midwifes you know will be at the birth that could hopefully help too. With my first I had never met any of the midwifes who were at the birth so didn't know whether to trust them or not whereas with my second I had three midwifes the whole time who were all present at some point of the birth. It definitely helped me as I trusted them which lessened my anxiety.
Another thing we did was attend birth classes. We hadn't attended them with my first, we literally had no idea about birth or babies, went into everything blind with lufflump. We learned so much about birth, but most importantly about the processes the hospital takes during every situation. This was important to us as I gave birth at different hospitals and we wanted as much education as possible about everything. (Ames at Accidental Wonderland) - she said her second birth was "amazing"!

You need to be able to trust your obstetrician and discuss your feelings with him/her so you go into it confident with your decisions. It also helps to be in tune with your body esp the pelvic floor and understand what you want / need your body to do and help it do its job. But at the end of the day , it all comes down to size of the baby relevant to your pelvic outlet and the position your baby is in as to how the delivery will go which comes back to an open and trusting relationship with your doctor You need to be able to trust your obstetrician and discuss your feelings with him/her so you go into it confident with your decisions. It also helps to be in tune with your body esp the pelvic floor and understand what you want / need your body to do and help it do its job. But at the end of the day , it all comes down to size of the baby relevant to your pelvic outlet and the position your baby is in as to how the delivery will go which comes back to an open and trusting relationship with your doctor (Fiona at Pelvic Floor Exercise).

Lots more education about how I needed to be "in my head", and a properly supportive midwifery team (Veronica at Sleepless Nights)

I think it helps if you approach each birth as an entirely unique experience, with a healthy sense of optimism :) (Jade at Jade Musing)

Knowing your caregivers helps a lot! And hypnobirthing. (Kate at Kate Says Stuff)

Just think positive. Ask the birthing angels for help (I know that sounds wanky ...) But it works! (Bronnie from Maid in Australia)

Perineal massage! (Sara from 'Tis the Life and Shae from Freerange in Suburbia)

Prenatal yoga … best thing i did. 3 day labour/emergency c-section with first, vbac with 2nd, tho still tough. breathing helped (Tracey)

 My only advice is, don't have two at once!!!!!!!!! (Sharnee at Suck My Lolly)

The mantras I created from reading Birth Skills (Amy from The Misadventurous Maker)

 Second time always easier! Just have to trust your wonderful body! (Elisa from With Grace and Eve)

Birth Without Fear
Face of Birth movie
Lotus Calmbirth
Here we go again - I'm freaking out about my second childbirth
Making peace with birth (Jodi at Che and Fidel)
The Truth About Traumatic Birth

Success stories
VBAC - Alyce at Blossom Heart Blog
Madeline at The Things We Do
Natalie at Mummy Smiles
Anna at Green Tea n Toast
Sarah at Staying Sarah
Various beautiful birth stories at Gregarious Peach
Emmy at The Truth About Traumatic Birth
Women's stories at Birthtalk

And there's always an elective caesarean to consider.

Phew! A lot to take in, huh? At least it was for me, the online community is so generous and supportive, the advice was coming in thick and fast. And in the very wise words of Claire, beware too many birth stories! Take and absorb what feels right for you. Oh and if you sent me advice and I've not listed it here, please let me know.

And if you have anything to add, please leave a comment or email me at mamavegetable @ and I will include it in the list.

I hope it will end up being a post of great help to me and others in my position. Thank you all so much for sharing xx


  1. Wow. Sounds like you got so much amazing advice! I'll be chatting to the baby gods about giving you a much better experience second time around xox

  2. Thanks for sharing all your info- I'll look into all of it! Ive thought of elective cesar but its a massive decsion and god knows what the out of pocket $$$ will be! I saw you in the Sunny Coast Daily Last week! great story, Im a born and bred Maroochydore gal too! take care x

  3. It all depends on so so much, and no one can gaurentee you an outcome, but we can try to help and send lots of thoughts and luck your way.
    I do agree that your body seems to know what it's doing, and thus respond better the second time around. However, I was induced the first time, so going into a spontaneous labour the second time it should have! I would say avoid being induced (not sure if you were with Abby), remember that your due date is only an estimate. Also try drinking the rasberry leaf tea if your health care provider says they may feel it will help you. I didn't like it, but I found sculling a glass after letting it cool to luke warm was the easiest way, and then it was done. It never made me feel sick afterwards.
    Because of your tearing I would also reccommend the perinial massage, and ask your health care provider if they would reccommend anything that may help you to not tear again, or at least not as severely. I would also let them know about your experience and tell them straight up that any assistance with delivery (i.e. vaccuum, forceps etc.) is to be avoided unless really needed. If you have the right midwife they will listen and work with you.

    I am going to be sending you so so much luck and good vibes.

  4. I love Kate Pickle's tip because that is exactly what got me through my one and only quite traumatic birth.

    I was one of those people who dreamed of a drug-free, intervention free birth. But sadly I ended up having everything there was to have bar a caesar. Strangely though, I don't look back on that very, very rough birth and feel traumatised emotionally ... and I think that was because I was so well informed about everything that could happen before the day. So every time a new intervention/necessity was presented to me during the birth, I felt that I was making an informed decision about the next thing to do in conjunction with my midwife and OB. I never felt bullied or that things spiralled out of my control before I had time to deal with them :)

  5. I really did. Such a lovely community. And thanks :)

  6. ooh hello! Yes it would be expensive, not to mention the recovery!

  7. Thanks girl! I went into labour, but it stalled so much they ended up inducing me... the ONE thing I DID NOT want! And i'm probably the only person on earth who liked raspberry leaf tea haha xx

  8. Oh you sound like you got it wrapped up! I didn't mind the interventions, in fact I screamed in people's faces until they gave me an epidural after inducing my stalled labour haha. Where it all went horribly wrong was the vaccuum... oh. my. god. I'm going to have a massive sticker on my chart that says NO VENTOUSE, BITCHES!

  9. As a pre-natal yoga teacher I meet women in your situation every. single. day. My advice? You need to make peace with your first birth experience before you move on to your next. I wrote a post (with an interview from one of my students) here -
    Preparation for birth, faith in your body and a confident support person are key to a positive experience. I'm happy to answer any questions you have....just send me an email. May the rest of your pregnancy journey be safe and joyous x

  10. I went to 42 weeks, they had to give me three lots of the prostin gel to induce me, then they broke my waters. After going thru 16hours of the most intense labour you could ever imagine, they gave me an emergency c-sect. I didn't birth my baby, it was cut out of me. I CANNOT WAIT TO GIVE BIRTH - even after my experience, the thought of it though is very daunting and scary knowing my chances of having a natural birth are now dramatically reduced.

  11. Ha ha - all I can say is 'thank god for the epidural' - I sure as hell felt the after effects of episiotomy + vacuum extraction + 'oh shit we can't get the placenta out' + copious haemorrhaging ... but didn't feel any of it at the time. In fact the worst part of the whole experience was going into shock and shaking uncontrollably while trying to hold still while my OB did the episiotomy stitches!! 

    The funniest thing about the birth was that before the day, I was adamant that I didn't want to be induced. And in the end everything that happens when you get induced happened to me. Oh the absolute irony!

  12. MY EPIDURAL WORE OFF!  I will never forgive them, haha.

  13. Sar - accidental lentilApril 13, 2012 at 8:15 PM

    Good god. I read all the comments on your previous birth trauma post the other night and couldn't stop thinking about it. You are amazing. I was so terrified of birth (I've only done it once), but for me it actually went really, really well. It was so much better than I had dared to let myself expect. I also devoured stories of other women's births - good and bad - to arm myself with knowledge and understanding should anything go wrong. It sounds like you did everything right last time and this time you're doing everything right again with the added bonus of the knowledge that a ventouse is NOT COOL. Good luck. Can't wait to hear of your positive 2nd birth experience. 

  14. sar - accidental lentilApril 13, 2012 at 8:20 PM

    re: raspberry tea...i used to make it up each evening in the teapot, let it cool, put it in a glass container in the fridge then drink it with raspberry cordial during the was summer in alice springs and it was way too hot for hot herbal teas. plus...cordial! yum. 

  15. Fantastic post with lots of great advice.  I will be sure to re-visit when I have my second child. I thought my comment / advice was a bit lame, but I'm glad you didn't think so :)  Wishing you a beautiful pregnancy and a positive second birth experience. Amy xx

  16. Holy shit. Dude... this is the worst thing I've ever heard. I would be petrified of having another baby if I was you! I'm so glad you can see the positives, but wow... I hope somewhere, somehow, something in this post helps. Good god!

  17. Oh hello! I lurk your blog ALL the time, and I'm thrilled you've directed me to this post and offered help. While I'd ideally like to be able to birth through a completely healed exit, I'm obviously not going to so making peace with it, as you said, is now my top priority. Reading posts like yours and having such wonderful advice is going a long way to helping me achieve that xx

  18. Yes, my friend had a fabulous first birth! 5 hours, waterbirth, no tearing, healthy baby. I KNOW it can be done, I've just gotta get one for myself! thank you for your good wishes and happy story :)

  19. Thank you so much for these extra links, I will add them right away. You sound exactly like what I need :)

  20. Nope, thought it was great. I've heard worse! xx

  21. Oh!! Thanks for sharing my story!! You're gonna be great, Stacey :) Whatever you choose, you will have done so with wisdom and knowledge and a whole lot of consideration. And hey, the baby comes whatever you do and you get milky cuddles and that sweet newborn smell all over again!

  22. Hahaha sorry to mortify you! :D Thankfully I got a cool kid out of it all. Everything comes at a price so I figure awesome kid = pretty hefty price. but whenever someone says to me "Just trust your body, it's what the female body is designed to do" in reference to pregnancy/birth, I can't help but think that my body clearly did not get the memo! I think next time will be easier in that I'll know what's happening to my body and will know exactly what to ask for and how to handle it. Practice makes perfect!

  23. My kid is supremely cool so I think your logic is correct :)


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