Rebirth After Birth Trauma: My Story
This post could be upsetting to someone who is currently pregnant. If you decide to read this and you are pregnant, please remember that many of the birth injuries mentioned are rare. You can also help prevent some of these injuries by preparing your body and your mind for an unmedicated birth as the use of forceps and vacuum extractions are reduced when unmedicated. Also, pushing in an upright or squatting position can help prevent the need for these interventions.
Birth trauma comes in many forms and can occur during vaginal deliveries and cesarean deliveries. Trauma can be caused by:
an irregular shaped pelvis
pushing in a supine (on the back) position
a very long or very fast labor
very large fetal head
sometimes there are unknown reasons
Trauma can range from mild to severe and can include:
Bruising and Forceps Marks – Sometimes a baby will have bruising on the face or head simply from passing though the birth canal, and from associated contact with the mother’s pelvic bones and tissues. If forceps are used during delivery, they may leave temporary marks or bruises on the baby’s head. Vacuum extraction can also cause bruising to the head, and may cause a scalp laceration. In extreme cases, forceps use can cause depressed skull fractures, which may require surgical elevation.
Subconjunctival Hemorrhage – This common birth injury results in bright red band around the iris of one or both of the baby’s eyes. This does not cause damage to the eyes, and usually disappears completely within a week to ten days.
Caput Succedaneum – This is a severe swelling of the baby’s scalp, and is more likely to occur as a result of vacuum extraction. The swelling will ordinarily disappear within a few days.
Facial Paralysis – Pressure on the baby’s face during labor or birth, or the use of forceps during childbirth, may cause injury to a baby’s facial nerves. If a nerve is merely bruised, the paralysis will ordinarily clear up within a few weeks. With more severe nerve damage, it may be necessary to surgically repair the damaged facial nerves.
More severe injuries include Brachial Palsy Injuries, broken bones and brain damage. These are all very rare. Fetal birth injury accounts for less than 2% of fetal death.
When a newborn has birth trauma it often times causes breastfeeding and bonding problems. I learned this first hand in the birth of my own son. He was in a mentum (face first) presentation and I labored for 52 hours before having a c section. I discuss both mentum presentations and my birth story in separate posts if you would like to read them.
Because of my sons positioning, his face took the force of 52 hours of contractions. His birth by cesarean was violent. His face was so wedged into my pelvis that he could not move forward and the doctors could not pull him back out. The OB tried to pull his head out my pelvis with six failed vacuum extraction attempts. It eventually took three different people pulling on his little body at once to get him out. He was swollen to the point that he could not open his eyes, had bruising and abrasions all over his face, a hematoma, and what we initially thought was a broken nose. Luckily and thankfully his nose wasn’t broken and he had no long term damage. Today he still had a little bit of a ‘birth mark’ where some of the bruising was (he is 16 months old) and I personally think it was from his birth trauma.
Once he was born he had deep suctioning because we had thick black meconium and of course he was poked and prodded and force fed formula until he puked. He had also had the cord around his neck twice and because of the way his neck was hyperextended with his face first positioning it was very tight. He remembered it and my husband said that when he was in the nursery while I was being put back together, he kept reaching for his neck.
This was a very rough start for my little guy and for the first two days he was very very sleepy. We had to undress him to make him wake up to eat. He had so many drugs in his system. After that two days, the crying began and he cried so much. I think he was shell shocked. I was shell shocked myself so I totally understood how he felt but I just didn’t really know how to make him feel better. He had complete breast refusal and even though we had no separation, we were not bonding. My body was also in a state of shock and hardly producing any colostrum to make him interested. I didn’t get milk until six days postpartum. By day three after he was born and of not being able to express any colostrum or having any luck getting the baby to quit screaming at the breast long enough to try to latch, we began finger feeding him formula. I refused to give him a bottle because I knew my milk would eventually come in and I didn’t want for him to have nipple confusion. In the mean time, I pumped as frequently as I could with the hospital grade pump.
My milk came in six days postpartum, the day we left the hospital. Because of how difficult our birth was, we stayed twice as long as most other c section birth stay at the Army hospital in Seoul. I guess I just needed to be home and able to relax a little bit but once it came it in I had a big full supply. For the three days that we had been finger feeding the baby I had continued to try to latch him at the breast and he continued to scream. Once we were home and I had my own milk to give him I decided to take a day off from latching him because quite frankly, I was a wreck about it. I felt that at least I could give him my own milk and not formula and for then that would be ok. The next day, my husband borrowed two breastfeeding videos from the nurse that taught the breastfeeding class at the hospital. At that time there was no lactation consultant, so I was own my own in fixing this breast refusal problem.
About halfway through the video, which by the way was Australian and I have no idea what it was called now, a woman with inverted nipples started telling her breastfeeding story. She talked about how difficult it had been and how her baby had been OP (face up) and that she pushed for over two hours and he came out screaming and wouldn’t latch. He developed breast rejection because of her inverted nipples but she didn’t give up. She said that she and her husband decided to perform a ‘rebirth’ and recreate the birth experience that they wanted for their baby. I was fascinated and willing to try anything so when I told my husband that we were doing it that night.
The idea of rebirth is to recreate the birthing experience for the baby so that he can be born in a gentle and peaceful way. We had a garden tub and filled it with warm water and lit candles and warmed the bathroom up. I got in and my husband passed the baby to me. He was seven days old at this time. As soon as he was naked he was screaming but I put him in the warm water and held him close and he calmed down a little, just to a cry rather than a scream. After a few minutes I put him in the water, floating him around with only his face out of the water. He fought it a little at first but after a few minutes he completely gave in. His entire body went limp. We were completely amazed at this point. We had successfully recreated the womb and he remembered it! This was the most relaxed this baby had been since he was born.
In following the idea of infant rebirth, I slowing began to lift him out of the water. The idea is that the change in temperature and the removal of water from his environment will trigger the hormonal response that is similar to that of what a baby experiences in a peaceful vaginal delivery. I took him completely out and put him to my chest, just as I would have wanted had our birth gone the way we wanted. He didn’t cry or fight it, he just went limp against me. I let him lay quietly for a bit then decided it was time to try latching on again. I used the nipple shield because I wanted it to be as easy as possible for him. I had tried it before but he screamed at the breast regardless. Not this time, he latched right on. He latched and nursed for almost an hour. I was in awe and shock and disbelief.
We continued using the nipple shield until he was six months old. I tried to get him to nurse without it for months but he refused. I didn’t care, he was breastfeeding and I had a great supply. I knew we would eventually get rid of it and we did when he was six months old. As of 16 months old he is still nursing. Our bonding really began that day. I know that you can bond with your baby if you do not breastfeed but we had so much anxiety between the two of us that we needed that moment to begin healing from our traumatic birth.
I would recommend rebirth to anyone who has birth trauma. As soon as you get home from the hospital, get in the water. Get skin to skin. Recreate what you wanted for you and for your baby. Even if the baby didn’t have a birth trauma or injury of any kind, but you did, do it. If your milk is taking a while to come in, do it. It will help your body to relax and produce the hormones necessary for milk production. I truly believe in this process and it’s healing powers and hope that more moms can learn about the benefits of rebirth after birth trauma.