PARENTING
09/23/2015 01:16 pm ET Updated Sep 28, 2015

Women Open Up About Negative Birth Experiences In Emotional Photo Series

"Most women are very hesitant to speak about what they've been through."

An emotional photo series is giving moms the opportunity to talk about their traumatic childbirth experiences and foster conversation about the issues too many moms face during childbirth.

Titled "Exposing The Silence," the series was created by Cristen Pascucci, who works for the advocacy organizations Improving Birth and Birth Monopoly, along with doula and photographer Lindsay Askins. The two women drove across the country with their own kids and met with moms who had experienced trauma in pregnancy and childbirth -- from difficult stories of emergency C-sections to miscarriages to claims of abuse by medical professionals.  

"Being a nurse myself, I trusted the doctor and her opinions on what needed done. Within an hour of my arrival at the hospita
Lindsay Askins/Spot of Serendipity
"Being a nurse myself, I trusted the doctor and her opinions on what needed done. Within an hour of my arrival at the hospital, she turned my calm and beautiful labor into a chaotic disaster because of her unnecessary interventions. She later boasted that she ruined my birth but at least my incision was pretty." -- Brittany, Wheeling, WV

Pascucci and Askins believe it's important to give moms a platform to openly discuss their traumatic birth-related experiences. "Most women are very hesitant to speak about what they've been through because it is met with dismissive comments or invalidation," Askins told The Huffington Post.

"'At least you have a healthy baby' or 'stop complaining' is often the common response, and the result is these mothers second-guess what they are truly feeling and fall into a place of isolation and depression," she continued, adding that this silent, inner turmoil can overwhelm parents and have long-lasting effects on their families. 

Pascucci and Askins hope "Exposing The Silence" raises awareness of trauma related to childbirth and emphasizes the importance of supporting these moms. Their immediate goal, however, is to empower women who have experienced this kind of trauma and help them feel less alone. "Most of these women feel silenced," Pascucci said. "There is strength and healing in speaking out."

  • 1
    “Basic listening skills and believing that I -- a woman -- knew my medical history and my body, would have saved me the
    Lindsay Askins/Spot of Serendipity
    “Basic listening skills and believing that I -- a woman -- knew my medical history and my body, would have saved me the trauma of an already extremely frightening surgical birth. Instead, a disrespectful and incompetent anesthesiologist sentenced me to a motherhood riddled with flashbacks and anxiety.” -- Mandy, Pittsburgh, PA
  • 2
    “After planning and educating myself for a natural birth for my entire pregnancy, at my 37-week appointment, my OB did
    Lindsay Askins/Spot of Serendipity
    “After planning and educating myself for a natural birth for my entire pregnancy, at my 37-week appointment, my OB did a vaginal exam. She roughly searched around for my cervix, and when she couldn't reach it, with her hand still inside me, she asked, "Has anyone said the 'C' word to you yet"? -- Jen, Denver, CO
  • 3
    "I'm sad such a monumental event in my life has become such a distant memory. I think I tried hard to put it behind me, to en
    Lindsay Askins/Spot of Serendipity
    "I'm sad such a monumental event in my life has become such a distant memory. I think I tried hard to put it behind me, to enjoy the present, and not seem saddened by an event I couldn't change because I didn't want to seem ungrateful." -- Brittany, Wheeling, WV
  • 4
    “I wasn't treated with respect by medical professionals and my decisions regarding my own healthcare were ignored and t
    Lindsay Askins/Spot of Serendipity
    “I wasn't treated with respect by medical professionals and my decisions regarding my own healthcare were ignored and trivialized. For a healthy mom with a healthy pregnancy, natural child birth should be encouraged ... not mocked and discouraged.” -- Angela, Richmond, VA
  • 5
    “I didn’t know what birth was about. I didn’t know I would regret having people there I didn’t trust.
    Lindsay Askins/Spot of Serendipity
    “I didn’t know what birth was about. I didn’t know I would regret having people there I didn’t trust. I didn’t know that I was allowed, as a woman, to be in control of myself. I needed my midwife to encourage me. I felt alone in that hospital. I felt weak. I felt like a failure. I still do. Even as I write this, almost two years later, I feel that I failed my daughter. I wanted to have her at home, where she could see me first and feel safe. The hospital felt safer but I was wrong.” -- Bri, San Diego, CA
  • 6
    "I didn't know I had options, I didn't know their routines or protocol or how things work in the NICU. I really started to fe
    Lindsay Askins/Spot of Serendipity
    "I didn't know I had options, I didn't know their routines or protocol or how things work in the NICU. I really started to feel 'off,' like I wasn't really her mother because I hadn't been allowed to be. I had walked into that birth center in labor, happier than I'd ever been. I hobbled out of a hospital and back to another, with a sense of defeat and emptiness instead of a healthy baby. I'd failed both of us, and we were both suffering because of it." -- Megan, Baltimore, MD
  • 7
    "When you're in such a vulnerable state and you have no control and no power, it can leave you just fine or it can leave you
    Lindsay Askins/Spot of Serendipity
    "When you're in such a vulnerable state and you have no control and no power, it can leave you just fine or it can leave you at the other end of the spectrum. I wish they could understand how every single word and action -- or inaction -- makes a difference. It’s someone’s body, baby, life, and it all needs to matter. You’ve left a scar on my family forever." -- Meghan, New Jersey
  • 8
    “You can be grateful and appreciative of having a healthy baby and still be completely traumatized by your birth experience.
    Lindsay Askins/Spot of Serendipity
    “You can be grateful and appreciative of having a healthy baby and still be completely traumatized by your birth experience. Being traumatized doesn't equal being ungrateful -- they are two entirely different things.” -- Kimberly, Columbus, OH
  • 9
    "I'm speaking out for so many plus-size women who have been mistreated during birth; from being pushed into making decisions
    Lindsay Askins/Spot of Serendipity
    "I'm speaking out for so many plus-size women who have been mistreated during birth; from being pushed into making decisions that aren't evidence based to being told our vaginas are too fat to birth our babies. Enough is enough! Shame is not an effective tool and we will not tolerate this bullying any longer." -- Jen, Denver, CO
  • 10
    "Waking up on life support in the ICU less than 12 hours after delivering my daughter was never something I expected. I was i
    Lindsay Askins/Spot of Serendipity
    "Waking up on life support in the ICU less than 12 hours after delivering my daughter was never something I expected. I was in and out of consciousness that night piecing together what had happened and trying to manage my pain. Women are often told the risks of a [vaginal birth after Cesarean], but I don’t believe I fully understood the risks of a repeat C-section. I simply didn’t realize this could happen to me. Coming to terms with the trauma of a massive postpartum hemorrhage and lifesaving emergency hysterectomy has been challenging, but I share my story because I want women to know they are not alone and that they don’t have to live in isolation. I am extremely grateful for my medical care team and I want those in the medical profession to know that an ounce of compassion goes a lot farther than anyone realizes." -- Marianne, Durham, NC
  • 11
    "Even when their births don't go exactly according to plan, the women I work with as a doula and Childbirth Educator are cons
    Lindsay Askins/Spot of Serendipity
    "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 they demand." -- Emily, New York, NY

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