"Ask me for strength and I will lend not only my hand, but also my heart."
~ Unknown

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ripped Out: How Birth Trauma Affects Babies

Ripped out
Held tightly in my warm embryonic bubble,

I reminisce on the days when I floated freely

In this my mother’s womb, nourished by her life force,
This is the first home I have known.

As I stretch and long for freedom
Beyond the comforts of the womb,
I feel the walls compress around me
And I know the time is coming soon.

For many months I have grown stronger.
First helpless in this rhythmic sea,
Secured by this line to my belly;
Providing life, food and safety for me.

Now the ocean has closed around me,
And I’m hugged tightly, wrapped with warmth all around.
I reach up and imagine life beyond,
My mother’s voice is a precious sound.

She coos to me that soon we will meet,
And I will gaze into her love filled eyes.
I dream of her as another squeeze comes,
And I feel her heart rate rise.

As we continue, these surges together,
My mother comforts and we both know;
Our instincts will tell us what to do
This path we must travel before we say hello.

As mother prepares for my welcome,
Her strength falters as time marches on.
I hear voices and strange commotion;
A loud beeping that goes on and on.

The journey now becomes fraught with danger,
As I feel mother cry and give into fear.
With each surge I struggle to climb upward;
I don’t feel my mother so near.

As I fight on my way to the outside,
I struggle with fear and with pain.
My mother’s flesh numbs all around me;
I long to scream out her name.

My birth has killed my sweet mother, I fear.
These waves that pushed me closer to our meeting,
Now crash over and threaten to drown me;
My heart is scarcely beating.

Pain fills every joint in my body,
Loud noises crash all around and above.
I wonder shall I go on fighting,
If I have lost the sweet mother I love?

As the womb that was once my warm safe home,
Pummels and pushes me onward to life;
I long for the quiet and stillness before
This womb was in turmoil and strife.

All at once my previously safe cocoon,
Is breached by a sharp sundering assassin’s knife.
I scream as I’m dragged into glaring lights.
Has my mother forfeit, for me, her life?

My cord that gives life is severed,
And the cold rushes in. Oh it burns!
These new lungs expand as I fight for air.
The room all around me it turns.

I learn of fear and pain this day of my birth.
I am welcomed, bombarded, my eyes and my ears.
My mouth and nose are attacked by tubes that suck,
Eyes are blinded with goo that stops my tears.

“I am falling!” I scream. As I’m moved through this cool air;
Measured, poked and prodded, I cry.
But each cry falls on ears that are deaf
Maniacal smiles on their faces speak of joy and of pride.

My captors lay me down at last,
And with cloth bind me tight;
My legs and arms are unable to move,
They pass me around until I lose my fight.

In the arms of a large stranger I hear,
The deep sound that I have heard often before;
When safe in my bubble surrounded by warmth,
This man who I know loves my mother.

I stare around searching for her,
But alas she is nowhere in sight.
This man, who I’ll call Dad, laughs aloud;
And rocks me and smiles with delight.

When all is quiet and all is calm,
I learn that my mother’s not dead.
As I’m placed in her arms, she kisses me soft;
Her voice is as weak as a thread.

My mother cries as she holds me close,
I try to help; this body I cannot control.
Her body is broken, her spirit crushed,
By this place where birth is a toil.

I was born this way, torn from my mother;
The nature of life it has changed.
Where once I sought freedom and adventure,
Now only fear and anxiety remain.

I wrote this poem because through my study and research in my journey on the road to becoming a doula and in the future, a midwife, I have read and heard a lot about how the birth affects the newborn and wanted to write something from that perspective. Where the speaker, this earthbound newborn, talks of feeling pain and fear this is where I imagine that the mother has given in to the pain of labor and accepted medications which block her natural endorphins which would normally flow to the fetus, so that this new life feels all the pain and trauma associated with being squeezed through a birth canal. When the fetus feels the mothers flesh numb around him and fears that his mother has died, this is where I imagine that the mother has received an epidural and the drug numbs the connection between the mother to her fetus so that this little one experiences the withdrawal of his mother’s presence. As the fetus in my poem struggles to be born, the pounding of contractions along with the withdrawal of his mother’s presence soon overwhelms him and his heart rate begins to slow and an emergency c-section is performed. I tried to portray the feelings this infant might have being ripped from his mother, forced to breathe right away by the severing of the umbilical cord, and forced to endure the hospital protocol while being completely separated from his mother. I cannot remember my own birth so I can only speculate and look at the example of my own children. I could feel such a difference between the personality of my child who was born by cesarean before labor began and my natural homebirth baby. My oldest was afraid of everything and still panics at being away from me. My youngest has no fears and everything is an adventure that he can’t wait to experience. I hope this poem is read as it was intended and helps people to also think of the experience of the baby as choices are made regarding birth. Below are some of the resources that I read that helped to change my perspective in seeing birth through the newest person’s eyes.
Chamberlain, D. (1998). The mind of the newborn baby. North Atlantic Books; 3rd Ed. ISBN- 10: 155643264X
Harper, B. (1994). Gentle birth choices. Healing Arts Press, ISBN-10: 0892814802
Leboyer, F. (1975). Birth without violence. Healing Arts Press, ISBN 0-89281-983-9
Odent, M. (2006). Prelabor intrauterine Life; The future of suicides. Retrieved Sept 10, 2011 from: http://www.wombecology.com/suicide.html
Verny, T. and Kelly J. (1982). The secret life of the unborn child: how you can prepare your baby for a happy, healthy life. Dell, ISBN-10: 0440505658


  1. Wow I love your closing line about fear and anxiety replacing freedom and adventure. It reminds of the post recently about Where have all the happy babies gone.

  2. I was there for both of those births and I can attest that your little boy, ripped from you by cesarean,screamed for what seemed to me forever though it was probably only 10 or 15 minutes, bare,under the bright lights. When I begged them to let me just cuddle him and reassure him for a few minutes they said, "No he needs to scream. It helps clear his lungs". That poor boy at eight years old still has panic times and insecurities.
    On the other hand your last little water birth baby, even though he was breach and had a every long labor came out without a peep. His surprise and delight at the new world around him was evident as he happily surveyed the dim lit room in wide-eyed curiosity. Truly he is the happiest, most contented little boy I have ever known.
    The biggest difference though was in you. For the first you took weeks of healing and had such difficulty bonding (Of course that babe wouldn't sleep anywhere but right beside you and wouldn't even let you out of his sight for a couple years).
    After the water-home birth you were exhilarated and climbing hills with us the next day. It has given you new self confidence and drive to help others experience success in this most important birthing adventure.


We would love to know what you think! Comments are subject to review prior to publishing.