5 things I wish I’d known about birth trauma and cerebral palsy
15 years later, I still shudder when I remember how quickly my waters were broken. I remember the wires that restricted my movement and how the gas made me vomit. But it’s the last 15 minutes of my seven hour labour that will stay with me forever.
My baby was stuck. His heart rate was dropping. I was told to push as hard and fast as I could. So I did. My beautiful first born son, Cody, arrived into this world with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. It was twenty-five long, and terrifying, minutes before he took his first unassisted breath.
I had a textbook pregnancy. My husband and I walked into labour with the naivety and excitement of first time parents. We left battered, bruised and utterly traumatised. Little did we know the road that lay ahead of us.
At 12 months of age, Cody was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Did I do something to cause my birth trauma? No I didn’t. And neither did you. It’s ok to feel helpless. It’s ok to feel that life isn’t fair.
These are things I wish I had known about Birth trauma and cerebral palsy:
- It’s not your fault
I had a relatively easy 41 weeks of pregnancy. But after what happened in the birth suite, I tortured myself for years with the what ifs. Did I do something to cause my birth trauma? No I didn’t. And neither did you. It’s ok to feel helpless. It’s ok to feel that life isn’t fair. When it comes to birth trauma and cerebral palsy, it really isn’t. I felt like this for so many years. Thanks to education and surrounding myself with professional support, I’ve realised that it wasn’t my fault. Nothing I did caused my birth trauma and there was nothing I could have done to change it.
- Every day is a gift
Three hours after he was born, Cody was rushed to RPA hospital where he spent the next two weeks in the ICU. I didn’t get to see him until he was 10 hours old. With all the medication, he puffed up like a balloon. Alongside all of the preemie babies in the ICU, my full-term baby looked like a giant.
There was no space for me in the hostel so I spent the next two weeks in a tiny room in the ICU. It had a bed and a wash basin. From 6am to 9pm, I was at Cody’s side. One of the nurses told me that one of the best things I could do was stick to a regular pumping schedule, so I expressed every four hours.
At this dark time, I learned that every day is a gift. Some days, all you can do is put one foot in front of the other. Ask the nurses, midwives and doctors all the questions to help you prepare for the stages ahead. But don’t look too far ahead or your emotions will run wild.
The news we didn’t want to hear:
- Doctors speak in worst case scenarios
Within 24 hours of Cody’s birth we were called into a Doctor’s office. They told us that he had sustained a brain injury due to the lack of oxygen. My heart crumbled into pieces when they told us that the likelihood of him ever being able to eat, walk, talk or sleep properly was very slim. They told us that the hours, days and years ahead would be filled with many challenges.
This wasn’t the introduction to motherhood I was expecting.
While Cody has his challenges, he can eat, walk, talk and sleep properly. A worst case scenario wasn’t and isn’t going to hold him back.
The doctors give you the worst case scenario because it can take up to 12 months for developmental delays to be picked up and a diagnosis given. As parents, we deserve to be spoken to gently but reassuringly through the process.
The unexpected silver-linings:
- You will meet living angels
Unless you’ve been through it, it’s impossible to describe the emotions you feel watching your baby in the NICU. There are days when you just want it all to stop. The NICU nurses are the ones that help to pick you up on those days. They are true blessings and angels who really do help you to keep going.
Beyond the NICU, your child’s therapists are your next best friends. You’ll see them weekly, fortnightly or monthly, some for a short period of time and others for many years.
When Cody was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, we were told that he would need therapy for the rest of his life. We didn’t miss a single opportunity to give him the best possible chance in life.
- It’s all worth it
Every sleepless night. Every appointment. Every car trip. Every worst case scenario the doctors throw at you. It’s all worth it for that little person. Their future may not be the one you had in mind. But together you can write a new future. Even when it feels like too much for you to bear, it will be worth it.
If you have been affected by birth trauma please seek support from Australasian Birth Trauma Assoc.
Lisa Price is a Women’s Health Specialist Personal Trainer who owns a fitness business called Body Reset Fitness located in the Hills District, Sydney, NSW. Lisa started her business to raise the level of care to Mums in her community to provide holistic care and support they need during their motherhood journeys.