For the love: One mom’s journey from birth trauma to pregnancy

September 12, 2022 Providence Women's Health Team


In this article:

  • As many as 45% of birthing parents say they have experienced a traumatic birth.

  • Haley Bufkin knew she needed to work through her birth trauma before she was ready to begin growing her family again.

  • Covenant Health’s Bennett Henderson, M.D., made sure Haley got the support and care she needed.

  • Today, Haley and her family have happily welcomed their newest addition home.

Haley Bufkin and her husband, Trey, always wanted to have three kids. But, after the traumatic birth of their first daughter, Hattie, they weren’t sure what the future held. That’s because, at only 23 weeks pregnant, Haley’s water broke. That began a nearly three-year journey to deciding if, and when, they would grow their family.

“It took me a while to even think about having another child after Hattie’s birth,” Haley shares. “My obstetrician, Dr. Bennett Henderson, really helped me get to the point where I was able to say, ‘Yes, I’m ready.’

“Dr. Henderson was by my side throughout my pregnancy, delivery and recovery with Hattie. She is truly incredible,” adds Haley.

Haley knew she needed to first process her birth experience with Hattie – something Dr. Henderson supported and encouraged every step of the way.

Hattie’s story

Most first-time parents anxiously (and eagerly) await their little bundle of joy. They dream about setting up the nursery, what names they love and just enjoy the excitement that comes with pregnancy.

But as Haley knows firsthand, that’s not always the case. Instead of planning outfits for her maternity shoot or decorating baby’s room, she was on hospital bedrest at Covenant Hospital’s antepartum unit (the floor where specially trained doctors and nurses take care of high-risk pregnant women). This was also Haley’s second pregnancy. Her first pregnancy was ectopic, which means the fertilized egg implanted outside the uterus. That pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.

“Being stuck in the hospital is very much a mental game,” explains Haley. “Instead of all those moments you look forward to in a pregnancy, I was preparing to have a preemie. Instead of having a baby shower, I was touring the NICU. Instead of finding a pediatrician, I was meeting with the neonatologists who would care for my daughter.”

The goal for Haley and her care team was for her to stay pregnant until 34 weeks. But things didn’t go according to plan. Hattie Bufkin was born at just 27 weeks, weighing only 2 pounds and 4 ounces. Hattie spent 10 weeks in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at Covenant Children’s Hospital. And while the experience was scary (to say the least), Haley is grateful for the care and support she and Hattie received during that time.

“Covenant is the place to be,” she states clearly. “I never felt like just a number or a patient. Being there felt more like being part of a family or community. I’m even still friends with many of the nurses I had while on bedrest and in labor, and Hattie’s nurses and care team.”

Today, Hattie is a healthy, happy and bright three-year-old. And, even more exciting she has recently been made a big sister. It’s a happy ending that took time and hard work.

Healing leads to hope

Birth trauma can be unfamiliar term for many people. Some think it’s a term that describes an injury to the baby during delivery. (That’s one meaning.) Others may think that as long as the baby is “healthy” there’s nothing to worry about. That’s not the case – at all.

In fact, as many as 45% of birthing parents believe they have experienced a traumatic birth. A traumatic birth can be a sudden, unplanned emergency delivery. It can mean the baby was in distress before delivery. Or the mother nearly lost her own life. It can also apply to situations like Haley’s.

While birth trauma can go unnoticed by loved ones and untreated by medical professionals, Haley counts her blessings (once again) that she had Dr. Henderson in her corner.

“The day after Hattie was born, Dr. Henderson came to me and talked about everything I was experiencing. She told me I was dealing with postpartum hormones and the stress and anxiety of having a baby in the NICU, in addition to what I already went through. We agreed anti-depressants would help with my anxiety and she connected me with an experienced therapist at Covenant who could help me work through this trauma,” Haley shares.

As Haley worked through her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and soaked up every moment with her healthy daughter once they returned home, she began to talk to Dr. Henderson about what it would be like to have another baby.

“I knew before even deciding to become pregnant again that I would be a high-risk pregnancy. Dr. Henderson patiently answered all my questions and referred me to a maternal-fetal medicine physician for pre-conception counseling. There, I was able to get even more insight and reassurance that I would likely have a healthy pregnancy,” says Haley.

Growing the Bufkin family

Once Haley was ready to get pregnant again, she and her husband Trey found they needed Dr. Henderson’s help once again.

“It took a while to become pregnant,” shares Haley. “Finally, after two rounds of medicated cycles with letrozole, I finally got that positive pregnancy test.”

Haley was closely monitored throughout this pregnancy. Not only did she have a history of pre-term birth, but she also had a classical incision from her cesarean delivery with Hattie. (A classical incision is an incision that runs vertically instead of horizontally.) This type of incision leads to an increase of a uterine rupture.

Because of that risk, Haley was scheduled for a cesarean delivery at 36 weeks. After an uneventful pregnancy and smooth delivery, Haley, Trey and Hattie welcomed baby boy Brex to the family.


















“I feel like I got the pregnancy and birth I deserved,” Haley says. “It has been a journey and I couldn’t be more thankful for Dr. Henderson and the entire team at Covenant. They are truly like a family. I know Dr. Henderson is always going to be in my corner. I don’t think I would have had more children if it hadn’t been for her.”

Read more about Haley’s story (and life with Hattie and Brex) on Instagram. Follow her at @haleybukin.


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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.


About the Author

The Providence Women's Health team is committed to providing useful and actionable insights, tips and advice to ensure women of all types can live their healthiest lives.

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