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August 24, 2008

GUERILLA MOTHERING: Mama’s baby drama doesn’t have to cause trauma

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in new mothers. Evidently, traumatic hospital births with a lot of medical interventions are leaving moms severely emotionally scarred. Imagine that! Someone comes into your hospital room, you’re already half-naked, scared, and in pain, and tells you that the baby you’ve carried and dreamed of for so long might die if they don’t do a certain procedure right away-and even then, no guarantees you’re going home with your little one. Yeah, I’d call that a little traumatic.

I’ve not written much about it in this column, but I am one fortunate woman when it comes to birth experience. My first child was one of your stock “high intervention” births, with most of the trimmings. Thank God for Dr. Kegel and his famous pelvic floor exercises, or my son would have been delivered by C-section, I’m quite sure.

As it happened, he was born out of my numbed-to-the-point-of-paralysis body after a long night of drugs, having my water broken, and lying around practically tied to a hospital bed, as nervous as though a firing squad was waiting for me on the other side of labor. The very moment he was born, I held my arms out for him, desperate to hold him — but the Dr. took him away immediately to be examined on the other side of the room. I still tear up, just thinking about it, seven years and two additional births later. Is that a sign of trauma? I don’t know.

Of all the people to espouse opinions on birth trauma, it’s funny that I don’t feel more confident to speak on this one. In my mid-20s, I was diagnosed with PTSD, myself, following a series of incidents that were outside my control. I received treatment and eventually found healing after years of work and devotion. It was a long time before I forgot I’d ever had PTSD, but eventually that day came, and I realized I’d made it through the woods. Thank God.

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