The Milk Memoirs

One part chronicle, one part resource of all things breastfeeding and family life…with a good dose of fun,crafts & mommy realness

Its OK to Grieve your Birth Experience…

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Why the “All that matters” syndrome should really just go suck it.

All too often, when the birth didn’t go quite as the mother had hoped for, well-meaning folk are always so quick to produce the, “all that matters is that it’s a healthy baby” . Or the “you know, the end result is all that matters, not the delivery. ” Or even the “that’s not important, darling. All that matters is that you and baby are fine”…All that matters… *cue silent head shake*…Now, I have absolutely no doubt that these well-meaning friends and family are truly just trying to offer that poor mother a bridge over her troubled waters. Except, all that the “bridge” is really doing is belittling her actual feelings, and adding an extra layer of shame. Shame that she really doesn’t need.

And yet, day in and day out, you’ll find countless mothers who have been left with that great disappointment that haunt them, are now also then strapped down with the weight of that guilt being handed down by others. Consequently, due to this, they are then silenced into burying any negative emotions about their birth experience – and left in silent turmoil by themselves. I mean, how dare she be sad when she was just blessed with a healthy child in her arms, right?! That’s the basic message that is being given to these moms. Balls, is what I say.

I know, or at least, Im sure that it’s supposed to be a sort of well-intended means of short circuiting that mother’s sadness, for her to then focus on what is “really important”. But, please excuse me while I try to suppress my frustration at that line of oversimplified, narrow-minded, and poorly-informed line of thought. Because, here’s the thing: that mother’s birth experience is “really important”. So very important! It is a vital part of her metamorphosis into motherhood, and whatever way it goes down that day- good or bad- will have a lasting effect on every fibre of her being. Conscious or subconscious.

So, to that mother, I’d like you to know:
Your heartbreak is real. Your pain is real. Very real.

Whether it happened because it was that you were bullied into a c-sect, or because for the sake of baby and/or you, it was absolutely necessary, or that it didn’t go as you had hoped for – it doesn’t matter – it can be a traumatic experience all the same. If you balled your eyes, and voiced your disappointment by wailing through it all, hysteric sobbing, or if you stoically navigated your way through it all in silence- it doesn’t matter – what you felt was real. And it DOES matter.
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I have been fortunate in that I have had birth experiences that I had hoped for (here and here): In my birth space, I felt safe and secure, respected, surrounded in love, unrushed, peaceful, gently cradled by people who believed in my body, understood birth and its sacredness. However, I had to fight for that. And I had to fight hard. It’s sad that often that’s what it takes these days to be “allowed” to give your body half a chance at vaginal birth. But I can only imagine…In fact, no… I cannot even imagine the emotions I would have had, had I let that doctor bully me into fitting into his C-sect schedule.

And yet, I’ve seen it over and over again – in friends, acquaintances, even moms I just met in the clinic or in the queue who oddly end up sharing their birth experiences with me, along with their anger and frustration in how it all went down. Frustration with the doctors, with the process, and frustration with themselves. Rage with how it was all handled, rage with themselves, or rage for the “how did I allow it” guilt.

Don’t be mistaken, this is not about that natural vs c-sect debate at all, this is about a mother having suffered a form of trauma. So to the momma who may have felt like you were steered down a certain path through the use of fear tactics, don’t be mistaken, Momma, something traumatic did happen – you were robbed of your power.

To the moms who found themselves in a situation, where you were made to feel as if all the decisions rushed, without your full consent or proper consideration, I hear you. Honestly, it’s really not even a question of c-sect or natural, it’s about feeling empowered in the choices around your birth. Not being stripped of it.
Sometimes, you get subtly bullied down a path you didn’t even realise you were on. And sometimes things just don’t happen the way you had hoped for, where situations beyond your control necessitate a change in plan or expectation. Either way, the lasting effects of that birth experience often haunts mothers for the longest time thereafter. For months, days years -longer than they would even let on.

Bringing a child into this world is not a daily occurrence – there’s only so few times you’ll have the honour of doing it in this lifetime. And each birth is so unique and sacred, that you will never get a chance to relive it. Like, ever again. You will simply never get it back. Its permanent. So there should be no surprise then in the gravity of impact that the birth experience will have on a mother. Her perception of that birth is what counts!

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It’s important to know that birth trauma can take many forms (nature of delivery, physically traumatic births, psychologically bullied, etc.), but essentially boils down to a mother feeling cheated out of certain hopes or expectations with regards to the birth of her child, and feeling emotionally scarred by it. In fact, did you know that there are several studies that link the increase in post-natal depression with that of a mother’s dissatisfaction of her birth experience? Which may often lead into Post Traumatic stress Disorder. (See here and here and here ). Coupled with that, their general ability to better adapt to their new life as a mother is also directly impacted upon by their level of satisfaction with their birth experience.(It’s also good to note that yes, Post Natal Depression is a chemical/hormonal matter, and what is key is that various factors may have a negative impact on a mother’s natural hormonal cocktail at birth, like pharmaceutical drugs (pain relief), as well as any trauma experienced during child birth. The chain reaction is immense, but that is another post in itself.)

Often, as reported by many such a mother, many of their friends and family could not comprehend the depths of their grief. And that all those well-meaning “all that matters” comments just made them feel that because they were trying to express any of their pain, they were actually just being unappreciative of their healthy child. And this just couldn’t be further from the truth!

So, to these mothers, let me say it to you now…it’s okay to grieve.
Your heartbreak is real. That pain is real. And more than that, your pain is justified. Let me say that again, Your pain is justified. You have every right to grieve, without guilt. Shedding tears for your experience does not make you a bad mother. Does not make you ungrateful. Does not make you love your child any less. And certainly does not make you any less of a mother. And if I could, I would hug you right through this screen, right now.

Birth trauma is real and it certainly needs real support, not the diminutizing or dismissive comments that are often so easily flung at you – no matter how much they are coated in ignorance and good intentions.

You need to know that its ok to grieve your birth experience…You need to know that you deserve to be treated with respect and the appropriate care, so as to allow yourself to work through the experience… In fact, it’s very key that you do grieve. Everyone knows that when mothers are happier and healthier, so is everyone else…So, for the sake of yourself, your baby’s well-being, and the general harmony of your home, recognize the realness of your emotions and acknowledge them. Allow yourself to cry, to be angry, to go through the range of emotions that often accompany trauma. And then purge yourself of the guilt, rage, grief, and fear. Release it, so that you can move on from it to fulfill and embrace your mothering fully, without being weighed down.

Because the thing is, all that matters is all of it…just everything. Motherhood is such a complex and all-encompassing affair, and starts right from the time that little life sparks inside of you…Perhaps, some would argue, even before that – by merely making the choice to become one. There are so many different facets to it, all of which make up the whole. You, your baby, your emotional stability, all of it matters.

So take care of yourself, mommas! X

If you feel you need help in this regard, or suspect you may have Post Natal Depression, the Post Natal Depression Support Association website has all their contact details.
Or perhaps you’re interested in Hypnotherapy to help you address your grief or trauma, then contact Kim Young, a Professional Hypnosis Practitioner, from Beautifully Born on 073 085 6645

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Author: mommabeartrax

Mother of two (and counting),a very happy wifey, blogger, lover of life and laughter, a clumsy swimmer, loyal friend, Im funnier in my head than I actually am, I get inexplicably excited about good food, baking & crafts. Although, I think baking and crafts are just trying to fill a void that my Kenpo and gym-rat days used to fill. Lastly, according to the rest of the world, I fix your printer.

19 thoughts on “Its OK to Grieve your Birth Experience…

  1. Love this post hun!! It really does matter if you get the birth you wanted or not. My first that ended in c-section still has me feeling disappointed and if I compare it to Violets wonderful home birth now then i feel even more guilty cause how must I explain to my first born that her birth was a c-section compared to her sisters fabulous home birth. Ag mommy guily sucks. But I am forever grateful I got to take back my power and birth naturally, its really done me and my body endless good.

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    • Thank you Melissa!Yeah, that mommy guilt thing is quite a trip, hey! But I am super happy for you and the way you reclaimed your power. I hope more women will be inspired to take back their bodies and their child’s births. X

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  2. It’s been 2 years since my youngest’s birth and I still feel like crying about the way it went. Thank you for this post. More people need to stop saying “all that matters….”. I’m still working through my grief and I always wish there was a way I could get a do over lol

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    • Thank you for sharing Kim. It is such a big deal and nothing to be played down on. I am so sorry that you had to go through an ordeal that still troubles you and hope that you will soon be able to find your way tonthe other side of yoir grief. X

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  3. Oh yes – all that matters! I cried when the gynae recommended a C-section with my first after being in 10hours labour. And with my second, I visited at least 5 different gynaes none of which would give me a VBAC. When thinking about baby number three now (God willing), I am determined to find somebody prepared to give me a natural labour. 5years on and I still feel like I failed 😦

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  4. Thanks for your endless support and advice in VBAC Trax!!!!

    I’m so glad I finally did my research and made contact with Midwives to obtain the facts regarding VBAC. There’s a wealth of information and we as Mothers MUST fight for our rights to birth our children in the manner in which we prefer. We have a choice and a voice! We must learn from our past experiences and stand for what we believe in.

    I’m current 29 weeks and although I understand the risks involved in having a VBAC, I am determined to undergo a VBA2C! I’m Not being foolish to put my baby or my own life at stake, I merely weigh up my options and made an informed decision to deliver my 3rd vaginally.

    Trax I truly admire you and the women who stand up for their believes!

    Stay Blessed

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    • Its always and only my pleasure Fazwaylah. Its alot to with empowering women to get them self clued up to make informed and empowered decisions. Birthing, i believe, is doing always what best serves baby. Even If that means it all ends in csect, but the way that mother is cared for, treated, “handled”, is made to feel informed and in command of the situation, is treated with respect and not steered with guilt and fear…THAT is just as key for stated of mind for the mother.

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  5. Great post! I had home birth planned, pool was all set up at home and ready but my first had different ideas. So did my second. I had 2 caesarians not at all by choice. At least I wasn’t bullied into it but life had other plans for me. I was going to birth naturally, with no drugs but instead I had every drug under the sun to try help with my contractions. When my daughter was born I could hardly stay awake to see her after 36 hours of labour. And yes, I have 2 beautiful girls who are healthy and happy but 8 years later I still carry feelings of failure, guilt and shame that I didn’t/couldn’t birth naturally.

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    • Oh I am so terribly sorry Bianca that you had to go through that. My heart literally had pangs as I read about the 36 hr delay to see your child.
      And I can understand your pain, but please know, its definitely not you or your body that has failed. I firmly believe it is society that has failed YOU and the countless mothers out there who are left riddled with failure and guilt over it, purely because of a false notion that they (society) has coloured the situation with. And,more than that, society has not provided the appropriate care and responses to mothers such as, sensitivities yourself. Thank you for sharing here and sincerely hope you will be able to work through and release your grief and guilt. Ps. NuturZone contacted me to be listed as a viable resource for moms for this very topic. Im still researching them before I put it up, but you’re welcome to check them out yourself. X

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    • Gosh, forgive all those horrid grammar and spelling mistakes in my reply.

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  6. This was so me 6 years ago… and nobody understood my pain. Then 2 years ago I was blessed with a VBAC, and it was wonderful and then I knew more about what I missed out on, what I felt I was robbed from. I still wish to the day that I had with my son what I got to have with my daughter.

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    • Ah debraaukett, thats sweet redemption!! Thank you very much for sharing. The difference that empowered choices make, are huge and Im so happy for you that you found yours. Births truly are so sacred, so unique and they will stay with us to our dying day. …I hope though that the heartbreak becomes less as you work through it.x

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  7. What an amazing post. Thanx for the honesty. We moms need this. xxx Keep up the lovely blog.

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  8. Wow,im in total awe …there is a NAME for my experience…better even : more moms had the same feelings than me…thanx so much for sharing!!!ive always had this urge to share my story,hoping i could one day make it a little less traumatic for the next mom going through similiar feelings after birth.I Had the perfect pregnancy,the most supportive gynea (i even wrote him a letter the night before my 38weeks checkup)to compliment him on the HUGE role he played in me feeling confident about giving birth soon!!little did i know that in less than 7hours aftr writing that letter did EVERYTHING change…i was preparing for natural birth with the understanding that, if needed a c-sec could be performed…so many moms prepped me to NOT have a birth plan cause it could go “wrong”…i thought i was open to anything….well….i was obviouly not prepared enough (now realising this mindset was part of my guilt feelings )…anyway i went into labour at 38 weeks and delivered within an hour (without drugs).. and without my dr….and the more people (hosp staff and friends )applouded me on my “brave act”the more i kept saying…”this wasnt my choice..”.why do i feel so disappointed? ??i struggled for months to come to grips with HOW it happened. ..going over the process in my head over and over and over…writing the whole experience….talking to anyone and everyone about every detail of the procedure..especially my total feeling of being sooo “stupid”…how did i not know i was in labour???why did i allow the dr on duty to talk to me in such a condicending manner….why am i struggling so much to get over this wonderful experience…..Anyway..ive taken up wayyy too much space,please feel free to shorten my story or not share..i already feel so much “lighter”reading all the shared stories.Take care!!

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  9. Pingback: My first birth experience – Working Mom SA

    • Dont have Wise words yet? I think those are pretty wise words indeed!!:) I read your story half cringing, half in disbelief – I am so terribly sorry you had to endure all of that. That was just nuts!
      Fantastic how you managed to take back control later on though…
      Lastly I am so humbled that my words reached out to you. Sending you all the love. X

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