Do not discount a woman’s feelings regarding the births of her babies.

When a woman has a baby and the birth didn’t go the way she had hoped, it is incredibly silencing and hurtful to tell her the following 3 things:
1. “Oh but the baby is OK and that’s the main thing.”-
NOT TRUE.
By saying this you are indirectly telling her that her needs are insignificant.That the baby’s health is the top and foremost priority. That a healthy baby somehow erases any trauma, disappointment or hurt that the woman experienced in giving birth. Giving birth whether it is vaginally or via surgery isn’t always a magic life-changing day just for the fact alone that the child was born. This doesn’t happen by default, much to the misunderstanding of others. It definitely can be this way for some women, but there is so much pressure for a woman who has had a baby to hold up this false pre tense that everything was just fantastic when actually it wasn’t. It was shit, for whatever reason. And yes the woman can go on to learn from that experience and she will likely evolve next time she is pregnant – but the health of a baby is NOT the main thing, it is part of the equation.

2. “It’s just one day.”-
EXCEPT IT ISN’T.
Every woman remembers the day she gives birth and how it makes her feel. She may remember what she wore, what she ate, what the weather was like, who was around. She will draw on this experience for the rest of her life. It will either empower her, or make her feel weak and filled with regret for what could or should have been. Giving birth is a sacred rite of passage even to women who may not be in the frame of mind to realise this yet. So it isn’t just one day. The day you become a mother whether it be for the first time, second time or even the fourth time – you become a new mother, again. And each birth is unique of itself and different. Each birth brings new lessons learned and challenges either overcome, or not. It might be one day to YOU, but to the mother – it is not just one day.

3.”But look at the positives.”-
JUST NO.
Part of the healing cycle is to grieve. And in order to grieve one must look at the negatives and feel them, wholly. Once a woman has been able to grieve the loss of a birth she had planned for, dwelled and moped – ont then can she pick herself up off the floor and begin to heal, and move on. This process is different for every woman and can take years for some. And that’s OK. Because you cannot put a time limit on grief. And overcoming birth trauma is the same.

So what CAN you say to a woman who has had a difficult birth?
Well, how about any of the following:

“I’m here for you.”
“Take your time. ”
“Be gentle with yourself.”

When a you visit a woman who has recently given birth you are visiting a woman who is fragile, and highly emotional. What you say to her on your visit can either build her up or break her down. So buy her some chocolate. Bake her some muffins. Do some laundry for her, bring her a meal. Be gentle and tender with her.

It’s not fucking rocket science.

 

2 Comments

  1. My first birth was a disappointing experience. I didn’t feel I had any right to complain. “You’ve got a perfectly healthy baby.” Was the response to any negative feelings I had on the issue.
    I found the others easier to deal with because I had less expectations on myself and the hospital staff.

  2. YES!!!! I have been trying to write a post about this for the last 3 years but I’ve never been able to find exactly the right words. You have done it brilliantly! Both of my birth experiences were quite different and had good and bad aspects (as almost anyone’s birth does), but thankfully I was surrounded by women who have a lot of experience with birth and new Mums (I have a lot of midwife and doula friends) and I was able to talk about my experiences and how they made me feel without having those feelings dismissed in the ways you’ve listed above.

    I think there is sadly a lack of emphasis on emotional support for women following the birth of their children. There is a lot of support for helping new Mums cope with the challenges and demands of a new baby, but not so much for helping women process and deal with the emotional impact of giving birth, no matter how good or traumatic the experience was.

    When I had my second baby we used the services of a doula and it is one of the very best decisions we ever made. We spent a lot of time discussing how I felt about the birth of my first child which really helped me with processing the fears I had for the impending second birth, and about a month after my second daughter was born we had a really good de-briefing session which allowed me to work through the feelings bought up by that experience. I recommend hiring a doula to every pregnant woman I meet now.

    I think, along with a home visit from a midwife in the first few weeks after a baby’s birth, women should also have a trained birth counsellor or doula to visit to de-brief the experience. Women don’t just like to talk about their birth experience for the sake of it, or to scare other women, they talk about it because talking and sharing the experience is the way we process the event and the emotions. Giving all women the chance to talk to someone who is trained to listen in the weeks after giving birth would go a long way to helping mothers emotionally, no matter the type of birth they had, and would make a big difference to how they cope in those early stages of being a Mum to a new baby.

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