Birth trauma is never an easy thing to experience. For moms, it can mean anything from extreme physical discomfort from birth injuries, to unrelenting anxiety and depression. Birth trauma can stay with a parent for days, weeks, months, even years. It can cause long-term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It can hinder a parent’s ability to communicate effectively, to cope with everyday life, and to care for their children in the capacity they’d like. It can also seriously affect relationships. In fact, there are things you can only learn about your relationship after birth trauma; things that are both helpful and hindrances.
I’ve experienced two traumatic births. The first was with my daughter. The trauma started when I went into labor unexpectedly at just five months gestation. I remember my heartbeat was so fast the doctors couldn’t figure out if they were listening to mine or the baby’s. There was concern for my wellbeing, as well as for the baby’s, though unfortunately, after I gave birth, she didn't live for very long.
The second birth trauma happened when I had my son. We tried for a home birth, but it quickly went south and I had to be transferred to the hospital (which was, quite fortunately, across the street). Because my son was born sick, he was transferred to the Level III NICU across town, and my trauma spanned from my labor till two months later, when I finally brought him home. My relationship with my husband has never been the same since, in both good and bad ways. These are some of the things I learned from these experiences in relation to my partner.
What Your Partner’s Breaking Point Is
You and your partner will be struggling after birth trauma, but now is when you’ll really see how far they’ll go before completely breaking down. It’s certainly never a pretty sight, and you’ll wish you could help them (but it’s not always possible). However, you’ll also see how they react to this breaking point. (Do they withdraw? Do they get angry or violent? Do they simply cry all the time?).
In the end, for better or worse, it may make you reevaluate certain things about your relationship.
How Long You Can Stand Each Other When You’re Both Beyond Your Breaking Point
Even when your partner reaches their breaking point, you may not have reached yours. Or, perhaps it’s vice versa. You can’t stand anything anymore, but your partner is working hard to placate you in every way possible. Either way, once you’re both feeling beyond repair, you’ll quickly see how much more of one another you can stand.
It’s OK to take a step (or two or three) back, but you’ll definitely be faced with complicated decisions as a result.
How Emotionally Supportive You Are Of One Another
If your relationship is to last, it’s vital that you are able to help one another out through this difficult time. Arguing, placing blame, judging one another: those things will hurt your relationship and break it down. You’re going to learn how well you both do with being emotionally supportive, and if only one of you is doing the work, there’s probably bad news on the horizon.
How Much Empathy You Both Have
Aside from being supportive, it’s also important that you try to empathize with one another. This will, in effect, allow you to be better at supporting your partner. Try to see their pain from their point of view. If you don’t, your partner will soon be able to tell, and it might spell trouble down the line.
What Each Other's Coping Skills Are
After a traumatic birth experience, you and your partner will seek new ways to cope with the pain, fear, and general anxiety. Some folks might turn to drinking or smoking. Others will become reclusive. Some might retreat into books, video games, writing, knitting, cooking, taking long drives, or whatever else soothes them. You’ll find out how your partner coping mechanisms, and if they take a turn into unhealthy habits, you’ll have to figure out where you draw the line for your relationship.
How Receptive You Both Are To Receiving Mental Health Help After Trauma
Odds are, when you experience birth trauma you’ll benefit from some form of mental health help. This can come in the form of a therapist, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. It all depends on your experience and symptoms.
However, you might find that your partner isn’t as receptive to the idea. This can cause problems when you’re trying to improve your situation and they aren’t. Do your best to focus on healing yourself in the hopes that they will also see how much tending to your mental health can help.
How Long You Can Both Go Without Sex
Chances are you will not be feeling up to sex right after giving birth. In fact, you should be waiting at least six weeks (or longer) before you even attempt any funny business. When you add birth trauma to the mix, it can cause your mind to essentially shut down all sexual impulses. You’ll soon find out just how long you can both make it, as a couple, without getting laid. This can make or break some relationships.
Which In-Laws Are Really There For The Both Of You
To heal from birth trauma, you’ll often need to reach out to friends and family. Essentially, you should reach out to your family while your partner reaches out to theirs. As a result, you'll find out which in-laws have your best interest at heart (the ones who volunteer to cook, clean, watch the baby, etc.) and which ones don’t (the ones who judge you for not getting over it sooner, for example).
How Positive And/Or Optimistic Either Of You Can Be
It’s not always easy to look on the bright side after birth trauma. Depending on the severity of the trauma, feelings of guilt and grief can remain for a very long time. Still, it’s important to strive toward normalcy, and trying to remain positive or have a more optimistic outlook can help not only you, but your relationship as well.