How do the numbers stack up? Are mom & baby really doing fine? Traditionally, informally, 98% of births are uncomplicated. According to Dr Benjamin Van Voohrees, a pediatric internist at University of Chicago, current research shows the number to be quite different. 30% of birthing experiences fit the criteria for some form of trauma. Wow. 30% is a big number.
So, birth trauma. What is that, exactly? The Birth Trauma Association has a well-written list of characteristics, possible events. They basically describe a type of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is a normal reaction to a complicated, scary, or perceived threat of death or injury during delivery. For more information about PTSD, visit The US National Library of Medicine's website.
Does this mean that every mother experiencing a difficult labor has birth trauma, needs Cognitive Therapy, medication and is in desperate need of assistance? Dr Van Voohrees goes on to point out that although 30% of deliveries meet the criteria for trauma, only 9% of those go on to develop PTSD, or birth trauma. The reason for that is: we are all unique and we each bring different backgrounds to the table with us. Some of us have already experienced trauma prior to childbirth and that tips the scale, perhaps, in favor of developing PTSD should our birth experience be especially complicated. Some of us can simply handle more than others. Some come with incredibly strong support networks of family and friends, others don't have that luxury. The list goes on.
So why this topic? Isn't it a bit odd and off-kilter?
If 98% of labor events are uncomplicated - I'm one of the 2%. Consider this thought from Dr Van Voohrees: “When you’re in the other 2 percent, you have very few people to turn to and share the experience. When you have a baby, you’re opting into an experience that is normative. When you find it’s totally different from what you were told it would be, it’s traumatic.”
I struggle with how to share my birth experience, in the proper channels with the proper audience at the proper moment. I'm getting there, though. Slowly. I believe there is an audience. One that has shared experiences similar to mine; suffered in silence and with unnecessary guilt. Someday, we will find each other - this audience and me - and together, we will build bridges. We will find healing waters. Together we will help one another. We will do more than just survive.
"Long gone is the feeling that I am the only person who survived a normal life cycle event damaged and ruined. Now I have something else: community." ~Mrs Brodesser-Akner