Even though one in three women in the U.S. experience some form of birth trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it is a topic that is rarely discussed openly. Whenever a mom tries to talk about her traumautic birth experiences, she is often scolded and told "a healthy baby is all that matters."
Photographer and doula Lindsay Askins was tired of seeing moms treated so harshly. She recently teamed up with Cristen Pascucci, the founder of Birth Monopoly, for the Exposing the Silence project, which sheds new light on this important issue.
"I came up with this project, to give women a platform to speak out about their birth experiences," Askins told A Plus. "It's a topic that is all too common yet very silent in our culture."
Askins and Pascucci drove from San Francisco to New York City during May and June to interview and photograph moms who experienced birth trauma.
"Women are experiencing both physical and emotional damage from being treated with disrespect and as if they have no rights in their health care around birth," Pascucci told A Plus."It is our hope that as more and more people giving birth find their own voices about the trauma they've experienced, they will begin to demand respectful, evidence-based care, and we will see birth become safer in this country."
Here are 11 photos of brave moms who are coming forward on the issue of birth trauma:
"My birth experience could have been far less traumatic if the hospital staff would have listened to me and trusted that I know when something is not right with my body. I told the nurse repeatedly in the hours after my son was born that something was not right. The nurse dismissively said, "oh, it's just the Pitocin", shrugging my concern off as if I was just an oversensitive patient. At the very least they could have provided me with after care with actual "care" about what happened to me. I honestly don't think the nurses in the recovery room knew the experience I had been through. Once I was in recovery, I felt like a piece of meat on a conveyor belt shuffled from one room to another until I was out of the door and out of their hair." - Staci, San Diego CA
"I thought they knew what was best for me...but they didn't. Babies matter, but so do mothers; and so does the 'birth' of the mother. It's not just about surviving and 'being happy that the baby is healthy and alive'. How a baby enters this world determines the path the mother will take, the life she will live, the relationship she will have with her children. They birthed my child for me while I was so sedated I was barely conscious. I missed my daughter's first hours of life because I was too out of it to even keep my eyes open. They robbed me of what could have been the most precious time of my life and left me both mentally and physically scarred, reliving the pain every time I closed my eyes or had a moment to think for several months after. Some moments I still cannot think about without bursting in tears! My physical scars still remind me every so often of the OB's need for 'convenience'. Unnecessary interventions are like a stack of dominoes...they will all inevitably fall down." - Zuzana, Yuma AZ
"My thoughts speak from my heart for all Momma's and their babies. They are deep and hard to summarize however, my intention is to forgive the man, Dr. David Binder and his Associates of Mellinium Obstretric Group, and all of those involved in the birth of my beautiful strong daughter Emma Danielle. I was trying to stand up to listen to my body to aid me in a pharmacological free birthing experience and now "I'm standing up to expose the silence because my body told me to do so. Stand with me." - Gina, Philadelphia PA
"I was lying alone in the operating room without my husband. My arms flapped, hummingbird quick. I wanted to hug myself. They threatened to tie me down, so I kept my body in a crucifix. I cried. I vomited. I pleaded with the anesthesiologist to please wipe my mouth. He pretended not to see. Then, it was hours before I held my baby." - Heather, San Francisco CA
"I left the hospital with a beautiful baby but at what cost? It felt like they cut my body in half and robbed me of all my hopes and dreams of that experience. For the first four months post-partum, I could not talk about her birth without bursting into tears." - Nicole, Denver CO
"The system needs to change... after that experience my entire doula path changed. My entire life changed. I can no longer stand by and watch women be humiliated, disrespected, and violated." - Jami, Wheeling WV
"For a long time after his birth I always referred to his birthday as ,"the day he was born," rather than, "when I gave birth to him." I know for some people this isn't that big of a difference, but for me, the language difference is was major. I just didn't feel that I birthed him, I didn't even hear his first cry, and I certainly didn't get him out on my own. " - Pamela, Boulder CO
Even when their births don't go exactly according to plan, the women I work with as a doula and Childbirth Educator are consistently happier about their birth experiences when they feel respected and supported by their birth team. Those of us who surround women in birth should remember that birth doesn't happen in a vacuum. The way we treat and respect women in pregnancy, birth, and early motherhood affects both mothers and their families in the long term. Trauma around birth overwhelmingly stems from how women are treated, not how the birth actually goes. Perhaps if we stopped thinking of maternity care as merely a "women's issue" and more as a foundation for healthy families, we might treat pregnancy and birth care with the gravity it demands." - Emily, New York City
"I was, like, the eighth person to hold my baby. That was the most traumatic part for me. What the heck just happened and why did everyone else get to hold her before me? I had to watch this young nurse washing her with my husband... I was just lying there. Watching."- Meredith, Harrisburg PA
"He actively pushed my leg to the side and stuck the thing in me. That was the most traumatizing thing - I had just said 'no' and he did it anyway. He said, 'just stay still!' I was crying and I really didn't want it. I was about to change my mind and she pushed me down.I just cried into the pillow. I felt so defeated and I felt like I knew what was coming and I had no control over something that was supposed to be all about me. And It's almost like we're not allowed to talk about it. Because you didn't die and your baby didn't die, you should just be happy. As if I should think, 'thank goodness for that doctor who was able to perform the [unnecessary] C section.' That's like if someone pushes you down the stairs and then catches you....are you still happy they caught you?" - Samantha, New Jersey
"Had I known while pregnant with my own children the realities versus myths about the life changing journey that not only I was walking, but one my husband and my son were also walking, and had Dr. Tatiana Andrews valued me as a woman, capable and willing in making healthy choices for myself and my child versus scaring me and forcing me down a path my body and baby were not ready for, my family would have had a different introduction to the world! That was taken from me and it didn't have to be! It is vital that all women hear AND believe, with every fiber of their being, that they are beautifully designed to bring their child into the world safely, with complete strength and power that they already posses."- Renee, New York NY
(H/T: Huffington Post)