Birth trauma is something that’s at the forefront of my mind a large percentage of the time. If someone had asked me about birth trauma 4 years ago, I wouldn’t have known what they meant. I possibly would have thought that it related to the death of a baby during labour. I thought the circumstances had to be that extreme for a lady and her family to have suffered from birth trauma.
I’ve been working with pregnant women in various ways for 11 years now and yes I’ve seen women who have suffered from birth trauma but it was obviously something I needed to experience personally so that I could fully grasp the implications, and start my journey to becoming an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) Practitioner.
I am a mum of 7 and I have had different birth experiences with each of my children. I’ve had vaginal births and caesarean sections. I have suffered birth trauma once and whilst I can look back now and see what a learning journey it took me on, at the time I wanted to die.
I struggled to conceive my 6th child, well I didn’t struggle to conceive her but I struggled to hang onto the pregnancy. My daughters conception was preceded by 2 miscarriages so by the time I was pregnant with my daughter I was elated and somewhat fearful. The pregnancy was perceived to be high risk. I had essential hypertension, was a grand multip, had had 2 previous caesarean sections and I was overweight. An obstetricians nightmare!
I decided quite early on in my pregnancy that I would be having a VBA2C (vaginal birth after 2 caesareans). The obstetrician didn’t agree so we parted company. Towards the middle of my pregnancy I decided that I would have a homebirth, however it was clear that the NHS would not be happy to support this so I decided to hire an Independent Midwife. I ended up hiring a midwife that wasn’t my first choice but because of the area I live in, she was my only choice.
My pregnancy progressed as it should. I had a 40 week deadline as I’d developed gestational diabetes in the third trimester. It was really a case of increased insulin resistance! It was controlled with diet and metformin. I was apprehensive about this 40 week deadline as my previous babies hadn’t been born until 42 weeks so my midwife suggested I visit a homeopath. I did and the result was that I chose the 13 th of Febraury 2009 as the date I would birth my daughter. I would be 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant on that date and it was to be Friday the 13th, perfect day to have a baby.
The 12th of February arrived and I was summoned to the hospital by my new consultant who was getting tetchy. He offered me ARM (Artificial rupture of membranes), I politely declined but agreed that I’d come back and take him up on his offer the following Monday. Before leaving the hospital I had my first contraction. I knew my daughter was on her way.
It had started snowing and I drove home slowly, with my IM following behind in her car. When we got to my home I suggested my midwife go home and get organised as I was sure I’d be calling her out in a few hours. I didn’t tell anyone at home that my daughter was beginning her journey and it was so exciting and special. I had hired a heated birth pool and I kept rubbing the sides of it, knowing that my daughter would be born in it later that night. I’ll never forget the smell of that pool, never.
My contractions started hotting up in the evening after my other children had gone to bed. I bounced on my birthing ball and eventually let my husband, brother and friends know that I was in labour. There was much excitement and I had 2 men fussing about what they should be doing!
At 9pm my hind waters broke. I didn’t realise that it was my hind waters so I phoned my IM and asked her to return. She lived an hour away and it was snowing heavily at this stage. My IM suggested I lie on my bed on my left hand side until she reached me as I’d previously birthed very quickly once my waters had gone. Off I went to my bedroom where I put on my hypnobirthing music and floated away to another world. Hours passed, my contractions becoming more intense.
My IM arrived and was noisy and turned all the lights on. She insisted on giving me a vaginal examination to assess progress. I was 3 cm, no big deal for me. I had previously gone from 2cm to delivering baby in less than an hour. My blood pressure was up and down as is normal in labour. My IM was getting tetchy.
The second IM arrived and was wonderful, hushed voice, lights off, soothing and reassuring. I continued contracting in the peace and quiet of my bedroom. The first IM (the one I’d hired) came to my bedroom at 2am, insisted on another VE, said I was still 3cm, not progressing. She checked my blood pressure, it was elevated. She suggested a transfer to hospital. I was very tired and had a most awful headache so I consented. I had no fear about going to the hospital as I’d made plans with my consultant. I knew that if it was blood pressure that brought me to the hospital, I would have an epidural and continue labouring. The second IM suggested I go in the pool as it would lower my blood pressure, the first IM said I wasn’t allowed as I wasn’t dilated enough.
The ambulance arrived and I was contracting strongly every 2 to 3 minutes. The ambulance technician spent the hours journey telling me not to push! We reached the hospital and I was shown to a room. I was now under NHS care but my IM was present as my advocate. The NHS midwife examined me and declared me to be 5cm. The registrar spoke to my consultant on the phone and offered me an epidural. My IM asked for us to have a few moments alone at this stage. Once the NHS staff left the room she declared that I was not 5cm at all but still only 3. She told me that my daughters head was still high and that must mean there was scar tissue stopping her head from descending. She told me a whole heap of stuff and finished it off by saying that I must know myself that something was wrong, after all I’d never been in labour this long before. She suggested a repeat caesarean and I consented thinking that she knew best.
I started crying before I went in for the caesarean and didn’t stop crying for months. The following day when my head was clear I was able to rationally think about the events of the previous night. My IM had manipulated me into consenting to a caesarean section despite knowing how much I wanted to give birth vaginally. I blamed myself of course, if I had been stronger, if I had ignored her, if I had trusted my instincts and not hired her in the first place. I felt like a complete failure, I can’t tell you the amount of times I apologised to my new baby daughter.
I discharged myself 24 hours after my daughter was born, I went home to the scene of my failed homebirth, to the smell of the pool, the sight of it, my bedroom the way I’d left it. I wanted to die, I’ve never known emotional pain like it before. I cried all day and night, family and friends trying to console me, telling me I at least had a healthy baby. That was no comfort to me, in fact it made it worse because it drew attention to the fact that I’d let her down in the most basic way possible. My IM completely abandoned me, she visited twice, both times telling me ridiculous lies. She could see I was distressed, this she documented and yet she left me to it. It was all the proof I needed of her own feelings of guilt about how she’d manipulated me and let me down.
Time moved on, there were official investigations, court appearances. I thought it would help ease the pain, it didn’t. I then in my demented state decided that having another baby would “fix” everything. My husband wasn’t sure but I couldn’t see any other way to heal this awful pain. I fell pregnant easily. It was a twin pregnancy to begin with but then one died. OK, maybe this pregnancy wasn’t such a good idea, the pain is increasing.
My son managed to stay with me, we reached the second trimester and I felt positive that my plan would work. I hired a wonderful IM and a doula, I wasn’t taking any chances this time. I would now be having a homebirth following 3 caesarean sections. The pregnancy was lovely, easier than previous ones. I felt a close connection to my unborn son. I booked my heated birth pool once again. At the routine 20 week scan I learnt that I had a low lying placenta. No problem I thought, that will move right out of the way. As the pregnancy progressed I became extremely fearful that I wouldn’t have my longed for homebirth. I was becoming distressed and all I could see was a replay of my daughters birth. I needed help. I tried talking therapy. That made it worse, I didn’t want to talk about it. I tried hypnosis, again it didn’t help. I was getting desperate, I was now 29 weeks pregnant. I had read about EFT and thought it sounded like a good idea.
I made an appointment to see a practitioner locally. When I arrived at her home I felt stupid, like this was such a ridiculous idea and of course it wouldn’t work, after all, nothing else had. I sat down and was asked about the feeling I wanted to be rid of. I started with fear, the practitioner did the tapping, I said the words. I soon got over my initial feeling of stupidity. It was such a release, the tapping, the words, it brought the next feeling and the next feeling to the forefront. We whizzed through them, working the feelings until they barely existed. The memories were there but they had been freed from the feelings. It was amazing, I could remember my daughters birth without crying. I at last could begin to forgive myself and the midwife involved.
I continued with the EFT sessions for a few weeks because my current pregnancy had started to get complicated and I was now faced with having to have a caesarean section due to a complete placenta praevia. I had a lot of fear about the operation itself and I had to address the feelings that brought up. At this point I had to accept that my original plan was extremely flawed and rather than heal the previous experience, I was now risking another little life. I think I can safely say that EFT saved my sanity and it enabled me to make the best choices possible for my unborn son.
I had my son at 35 weeks, I developed eclampsia and he was born as a matter of urgency. It wasn’t the healing homebirth that I’d envisaged but the journey that we made together was healing. I learnt so much and know that I needed both of those birth experiences to enable me to truly understand birth trauma and it’s subsequent healing.
I learnt so much that I have since gone on to train as a NLP and EFT practitioner. I felt that I needed to give something back to the many women that I meet. Most of my doula clients are women who have suffered birth trauma. I wanted to be able to help them and their families. I chose NLP because I liked the fact that it’s non content based therapy. Of course that doesn’t work for everyone, some people like talking therapy but others have reached the stage I had. They don’t want to keep talking about their pain, they want the pain to be gone. NLP works so quickly, the feelings that have overwhelmed us for so long can be gone in minutes. We will always have memories but now they are free of pain.
As a practitioner I love that I have options to give my clients. Having options means that we are always in control and we are effectively choosing how we move on from the things in our lives that have caused us difficulty in some way. For me there is no better reward than seeing a client leave me with a spring in their step and a smile on their face, it’s such a contrast to how they entered my home.
I would like to see NLP and EFT offered routinely by the NHS to pregnant and birthing women. The difference it could make has the potential to impact positively on the lives of the next generation.
Kate McCarthy-Harris is a mum of 7 living in rural Lincolnshire, working as a birth doula, antenatal teacher, placenta specialist and NLP Practitioner. Passionate about pregnancy, childbirth and informed choices.
If you would like to learn more about EFT or NLP, or healing from birth trauma, get in touch with Kate, you contact her via her website Primitive Birth