Birth Trauma: “Open it up and spit it out”

I’m just back from the annual MAMA conference -a joyful two days spent with midwives, doulas, birth educators and other interested parties – a plethora of brilliant and informed speakers and much to think about.  However, there were also some challenges, particularly one as I was leaving the beautiful Assembly Rooms at the end of the first day.  Chatting with the cabbie who was driving me back to my hotel he asked what I was doing in Edinburgh and I explained about the conference.  He asked if it was mainly women attending, saying that if birth was done by men they would just “open up, spit it out, then be back at work a couple of days later”. To say I was shocked would be an understatement.  Various feelings and thoughts ran through my mind, the overwhelming one being “What an arsehole”. I contemplated getting out of the cab and refusing to pay. However, for some reason we were destined to spend more time together as there was a huge traffic jam on Princes Street.  

It then occurred to me to ask him about his experiences of birth.  He had already told me that he had two kids – a daughter from his first marriage, and a 7 year old son from his second.  He clearly loved his son very deeply, however it sounded like there were tensions with his wife.  He then went on to tell me the traumatic story of his son’s birth – how his wife had been in labour, had been in second stage and had been rushed to theatre for an emergency section as the baby was 12lbs (the second biggest baby ever born at the hospital at that time).  She had then spent 24 hours in intensive care, leaving him to care for the newborn.  I asked him what had happened after they had got home and he said the first thing his wife did was send him for a vasectomy.  She was so traumatised that she couldn’t take the risk of getting pregnant again.  One of the comments made by a speaker at the conference stuck with me and I told him that the memories of giving birth never fade.  He agreed that this was the case and I asked if she had ever had any help dealing with the trauma, saying that there were a couple of organisations who could offer her support.  The extraordinary thing was as we arrived at the hotel minutes later he asked me if I would mind giving him the details of those organisations – he got a pen and paper out and wrote them down, taking care to confirm the names.  As I listened to the indomitable Sheila Kitzinger talk the next morning about Birth and Sex (there’s another blog waiting to be posted!) I wondered whether there had been or would be a call to the brilliant Birth Crisis Network that she set up.  Or indeed to the Birth Trauma Association.  Let’s hope so.