*Warning* This post may contain triggers.
What is a Traumatic Birth Experience?
It depends on the woman. Every women will have her own definition of what birth trauma is and every woman heals at her own pace. Here’s a short list of what can be classified as a traumatic birth experience.
- Your birth didn’t go as planned.
- A Cesarean.
- Baby was born sleeping.
- Baby had shoulder dystocia.
- You almost lost your life during childbirth.
- An episiotomy was given when it wasn’t wanted or needed.
- You gave birth to a preemie.
- You were mistreated by your care providers.
- A long birth.
- A very fast birth.
- Recalling events of past sexual abuse
- Unable to bond with your baby for whatever reason…the list can go on.
If you’ve read and followed me for a while then you know about the birth of my first daughter. That was traumatic for me and everyone in the room….including the midwife. It’s important to remember that it’s not just the mom who’s affected by a traumatic birth experience. The birth support partner can also be affected. Birth matters! Mom and baby do the dance of labor and birth together. The babies who are born under these circumstances have their own story of what the birth experience was like, but they can’t use words to tell us. Birth is a very personal and spiritual journey. I don’t know what a woman looks forward to most, her wedding day, or the birth day of her baby.
Things You Should Never Ever Say To A Woman Who Has Had A Traumatic Birth.
- at least your baby is here – that’s what matters most
- it’s been weeks/months – it’s time to move on – pull yourself together
- birth never goes as planned – you shouldn’t be so upset that yours didn’t turn out the way you planned.
- it’s better to be cut than tear naturally – your OB did you a favor
- you don’t get a medal for giving birth anyway
- I never had any depression after my babies were born. I loved them all right away
- maybe you should see someone. but don’t take medication. That stuff is dangerous to you and your baby.
- just pray for things to get better
- Postpartum Depression/PTSD isn’t real
- Do not brag about how wonderful and perfect your birth was
When a woman experiences birth trauma she may isolate herself because she thinks no one else will understand. Some women seem to have it all together in public and fall apart in private. She may feel embarrassed. She may feel that her body betrayed her and it’s broken. She will most likely go through some form of depression…she will need time to grieve and heal. A mother may have trouble bonding with her baby, and if the baby suffered any trauma it could make breastfeeding difficult. She may feel badly that she can’t or doesn’t want to breastfeed, or maybe baby is having trouble latching. She may have little to no support at home. She might feel that she let her baby down, or blame the baby for the traumatic experience. She could feel unworthy or unable to be a mother to her child.
How Can you Be Supportive?
- Listen. Listen. Listen. If she wants to talk about it. Please listen w/out judgement
- offer to cook a meal or two
- watch the baby while she naps or showers
- if she has older kids – offer to watch them while she naps with the baby
- grab a group of friends and clean the house for her
- Be on the lookout for signs & symptoms of postpartum depression and post traumatic stress disorder.
If you’re a mother who had a traumatic birth… I know what it’s like to feel like your body is broken, or to feel that you made the wrong decision – I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to watch your friends bond with their babies so easily and wonder why you can’t do the same. You go through the motions day after day, minute by minute, and you may wonder when this fog will lift. you may feel so angry and wonder why me? You’re probably not eating and sleeping well. And I’m sure it’s taking everything you have to make it through the day. Maybe this is your first child, maybe you’re a single mom, maybe your husband works long hours, maybe your maternity leave is way too short. You’re reading this wondering if you really have what it takes to be the mother your baby needs. You wonder if and when you’re going to come out on the other side.
You do have what it takes to be the mother your baby needs. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
If you’re reading this, you’re being proactive. You have courage and you will come out on the other side.
Ways To Mother The Mother aka Take Care of Yourself
- Do something you enjoy every single day
- Eat as healthy as possible.
- Exercise. Go for a walk and take the baby with you. Talk about the things you see and hear
- Indulge in some chocolate
- Find a support group in your area
- Talk with you OB/Midwife about your concerns. Ask for a copy of your records
- Be gentle with yourself
- Read these links at Solace For Mothers. Enjoy Birth: Seven Tips to Heal After A Traumatic Birth. This one from Midwifery Today on Healing the Trauma.
Do you have any tips to share on how to give support after traumatic birth experiences? Please share them in the comments!