How You Birth Might Not Matter,
But How You Feel About It Does
Whether you have a csection, vaginal birth, home birth, or in hospital. It could have been a hands off birth or you had lots of intervention. How your baby was born might not matter as much as how you felt during and after their birth.
Birth Can Be Scary
Some people use the fact that birth can go very wrong to prove that it should not be traumatic. As though being traumatised by the event means the mother didn’t fully understand the potential risks…. That makes absolutely no sense!
As a parent isn’t the prospect of losing your child one of the most frightening things you could face? Or the thought of your child losing their mother.
Trauma can also occur from perceived risk. Things may not have been as dire as they seemed at the time. It could have been that a mother wasn’t feeling safe. Maybe the health care providers weren’t respecting her. Maybe she was told that the risk to her baby was much more than it was.
A mother can go through a “normal” birth on paper and still have experienced trauma.
Trauma Doesn’t Mean You Don’t Love Your Baby
These people imply that because a mother is traumatised by her child’s birth that she must care more about her own experience. That she doesn’t care as much about her child’s welfare.
Somehow “Be grateful that your child didn’t die” is supposed to be comforting.
They seem to believe that a baby surviving their birth should be enough to heal all wounds. If it doesn’t you must not have your priorities right.
It makes me deeply sad to say that the day my son was born was one of the worst days of my life. And if me saying that makes you angry, then imagine how I must have felt to have lived it.
The day your child is born is supposed to be joyous. Painful, difficult, exhausting, maybe even a little scary at times. But once that baby arrives it’s supposed to be the best day of your life. It’s the day you get to meet your child for the first time.
Love Doesn’t Fix Trauma
Immediately after my son was born I agonised with feeling selfish. And thinking that I wasn’t a good mother. I thought I should just be able to swallow down my pain and the hideous memories of his birth. That I should be able to just love my son enough to be okay with how he was born.
But that’s not how it works. Love doesn’t change what happened. It took a long time, and a lot of a sessions with a perinatal psychologist, to get to a place where the memory of his birth doesn’t follow me around.
So when people tell mothers who are hurting that “All that matters is a healthy baby” I will still step in, because I want those mothers to know they are not alone. That there is support. And that they matter as well.
Your experience of birth matters.
Even if the birth wasn’t traumatic. Even if we’re talking about feelings of being disappointed, guilt, regret, being let down – either by your body, or the care you were given.
How you feel doesn’t make you any less grateful for your child. Or mean you love them less. Or that you need to change your priorities. While focusing on the positives, and enjoying your new baby might be helpful for some people, you can’t always control how you feel.
If your thoughts and feelings about how your child was born are getting on top of you. Or you feel you need to talk to someone, there’s help out there:
Birthtalk.org provide support specifically for trauma and disappointment around birth. (They also have a book called “How to Heal a Bad Birth”)
PANDA offer telephone counselling and referrals for perinatal depression and anxiety (which can go hand in hand with birth trauma.)
Also, even if you don’t feel like you need to – or are ready to – seek professional help, just know that you’re not alone and that it’s not your fault.
*Originally published April 2016