Living Through Traumatic Birth: Loss, Grief, and Recovery

 

This article is part of the Traumatic Birth Prevention & Resource Guide by PATTCh. Access the complete guide to learn more about traumatic birth and find resources for women and families.

An interview with doula, mother, and board member of PATTCh, Katie Rohs

How has traumatic birth impacted your life?

An easier question to answer might be “how hasn’t traumatic birth impacted my life?”  The loss of my twins, Tess and Sam, in May 2004 continues to touch me now, eight years later.  I identify as a mother of four, but when asked the question “How many kids do you have?” I answer “two”; people generally don’t want to hear the story of two babies that died, and frankly, I don’t always want to share it.  The loss eight years ago really shut down all of my creative and spiritual sides. Before getting pregnant, I was on a bit of a spiritual journey, learning and exploring different beliefs and religions. I was raised in a quasi-Christian household (believers in Jesus, but not really church-goers), but the mainstream Christian church’s beliefs on things I held deeply – woman’s choice and marriage equality, among others – were turning me off.  I believed in something bigger than myself, and that “things happened for a reason.” After losing the twins, the journey I was on ended abruptly. I no longer believed in any higher power that would take my beloved babies from me. The whole “things happened for a reason?” What “reason” could possibly be good enough to take my babies back? I came across one quote of a religious nature that brought me comfort: “The Buddhists say miscarried and still-born babies have already learned all the life lessons they needed to in past lives, and now they only have to touch on this earth long enough to be wanted and loved before the get to go to Nirvana.” I have no idea if that is an actual true statement of Buddhists, but it felt authentic to me.

How do you see it having transformed you?

I think the biggest transformation is just a loss of innocence. I was well beyond the “danger zone” of miscarriage (if it can really be called “miscarriage” when you can feel the babies moving and know their genders), and felt like I was just riding it out until viability, and then as long as I could keep the twins inside. No longer can I have that plain, blissful joy of the two pink lines appearing, and waiting for each pregnancy milestone.  No, now pregnancy is fraught with stress and worry particularly leading up to 17w 5d (when I lost the twins). The two pink lines is merely the start of the journey.  I still, eight years later, have some “symptoms” that pop up in very stressful situations. I get very numb and have a hard time focusing and making decisions. After losing the twins, I couldn’t even decide if I should take a shower on any given day. It’s (obviously) easier now, but when things are stressful – particularly involving my children – the paralysis takes over.

Protecting options, knowledge and choice have become so desperately important to me since losing Tess & Sam. Every step of the way I felt like I had choices and a voice in my care. I had the choice of how Tess & Sam passed, I chose when it happened. When I was pregnant the 2nd time, I had choices in how to take precautions to prevent a 2nd miscarriage, I was given all the information I needed prior to becoming pregnant and knew what “the plan” would be. I hold these choices so deep, and so dear to me that this is the most important part of my doula practice; making sure women and families feel heard, understood, and that they have a choice.

 

What advice would you give pregnant women regarding giving birth confidently?

Empower yourself with your own knowledge, and choose a care provider that you trust deeply.  Listen to your intuition – you know yourself, your baby, and your body better than any test ever will.  Don’t be afraid to seek out different care if your needs aren’t being met.

 

Katie Rohs is a Birth Doula from Seattle, WA specializing in birth after a loss, multiples and children with disabilities.  Katie has been trained in disability advocacy by the ARC of King County, is a Parent Trainer through the Finding Your Voice program of the Washington State Education Ombudsman, and has founded several parent support groups for parents of children with disabilities.  Having suffered a late-pregnancy loss of twins and being the mother of a child with multiple disabilities, Katie uses these experiences to help empower others to advocate for themselves and their children during their birth and in years beyond.  Katie also works as Penny Simkin’s administrative assistant, and is Secretary of the Board of PATTCh.  Katie is the proud mother of seven year old twins Hank & Lily, and wife of forty-something singleton Todd. Katie studied Sociology at the University of Washington, and bleeds purple and gold.  Despite being a rabid UW Husky fan, she does not discriminate against Cougars. Learn more at www.birthtastic.com.



PATTCh is a not-for-profit, multidisciplinary organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of traumatic childbirth. Our mission is to develop cross-disciplinary relationships, research, and programs that:

  • prevent PTSD following childbirth through education, interdisciplinary collaboration, and multidisciplinary research;
  • educate perinatal care providers and paraprofessionals in the prevention and treatment of birth and reproduction related trauma;
  • encourage the development of culturally appropriate therapeutic approaches to post-traumatic stress symptoms following childbirth;
  • promote healthy birth practices for all women and families;
  • promote evidence-based research regarding PTSD secondary to childbirth;
  • increase global awareness of the prevalence, risk factors, and effects of PTSD secondary to childbirth; and
  • support collaboration and understanding among all stake-holders, including: researchers, policy makers, medical and mental health care providers, educators, community members, volunteers, women, and families.


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  1. Thank you for sharing your amazing story of resilience and power.

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