Time for a serious post. As we all know, this page is all about positivity, happiness and sticking two fingers up to the people who said I couldn’t do a lot of things after my stoma operation. Sometimes, though, it is necessary to revisit the reason why I have my stoma in the first place - which was as a result of my traumatic birth.
Yesterday was the very first International Birth Tear Summit, organised by the redoubtable Laura Fry from Life After 4th Degree Tears, and for which I recorded my story, and that was heard all over the world by attendees. The audience included doctors, physios, mothers, fathers, midwives, gynaecologists, obstetricians, colorectal specialists, and many more.
As a result of what I have heard and learnt today, I have decided to share my video with the world. There were many brave women bearing their most intimate stories, their emotional and at times heartbreaking stories, of the injuries they have suffered, and the despair they have felt. Much of it was familiar to me, and the stories of failures made in their care, their fears and vulnerabilities, were difficult to hear. In fact, I haven’t listened to all of them just yet as it’s too much for me to process.
My video, too, is deeply personal and graphic in parts. Why would I want to share this with the world, and how do I think it will help? As I watched the faces of the women telling their stories, the pain in their eyes, their voices at times a slight waver, but strong in their passion to tell the world exactly what it is like to suffer birth trauma, I felt lucky. I have “survivor guilt”, as I feel that I have somehow, unbelievably, managed to escape the fate of so many others. I feel lucky that I had my stoma early on. I feel lucky that I am happy. I feel lucky that I am in a position where I feel strong enough to shout out in public about the injuries that are continuing to happen in order to draw the reluctant eyes of the world on this group of incredible women, who are battling each day to live a normal life with abnormal injuries.
When you listen to my story I want you to remember that I feel lucky. Imagine, then, the stories I have heard, the women who have been left permanently disabled, emotionally and physically shattered, unable to work, unable to have sex, unable to bear more children, unable to pick up the pieces of who they were before. I ask you to think of all the women who you know who have given birth - not just your mother, grandmother, aunty, niece, or friend, but also the girl in the local shop, your work colleague, that woman you see on your daily commute, or in your gym. Many of those women will be hiding behind the shame they feel because of the birth injury they have suffered, battling incontinence, fear of uncontrollable bowel movements, pain as they walk. They will be afraid to speak up as they will either be too ashamed, or will, wrongly, believe that this is normal. Look at these women and LISTEN to them.
The summit also showed me the power of women when we unite together in support of one another, when the stronger ones use their voices to bang the drums on behalf of those who are too broken to do it for themselves. Society must care for these broken women. We must listen to them. We must care for them. We must do our best to understand that child birth can have real, lasting effects in women, and it is ok for them to share their pain. We owe it to the mothers in our society to provide a space for them to breathe and feel safe.
Watch my story. Think of all the thousands of women suffering deeply that I am speaking up on behalf of, that so many of us are speaking up on behalf of. I care for them all.
After all, it could have happened to you….or your mum...or your grandmother...maybe it did, and they suffered in shameful silence. A sad indictment on our judgemental, narrow minded and prudish world that this continues TODAY.
Help to beat the shame of injuries suffered during that most vulnerable of moments. These women are not failures, their bodies are not failures, it is we as a society who are failing them.
Listen to my story. Share the hell out of it. Support our mothers.