I'm meeting more and more mummas recently who are contacting me with unsettling and shameful feelings of anger, grief, frustration, powerlessness, being ignored, guilt & anxiety around their birth experience. To be clear most of my mummas are not placing any blame here, they just want to be heard and have their emotions validated and acknowledged that this is real for them. Because this is real! Although real it maybe, it does have an unsavoury stigma attached to it and with more and more births having ever increasing medical interventions, its no wonder we are hearing from larger numbers of women. I too am one of those women.
I struggled with my own birth trauma with my first child and this then carried over into my birth of my second. No one every spoke to me about my 1st birthing experience, the trauma I felt and the effect it had on me as a mother and a woman. That left me with feelings of shame, anger, loss, guilt and feeling emotionally invisible in my own experience. So to help support my fellow sisters (and myself), I'm spending more and more time at the moment taking online classes, researching and wide reading on Birth Trauma Support & Recovery.
In the past 2yrs I have worked with easily over 1000 new families and I wish there was a way I could have collected to the data on the numbers of the precious mummas who confined in me their traumatic birth stories. There are and were many, too many.
Heres a common scenario:
So the mumma is now home, the focus by friends and family is on the new baby (even via a virtual platform) and no one really brings up the birth experience (only the funny stories maybe), for a variety of reasons, so mumma doesn't see it appropriate to bring it up and therefore keeps it hidden. Quite rightly everyone is focusing on the fact that a healthy baby and mother are here and that's the main thing. Right?
While during my visits with families, here are some the many comments I hear from mummas, with often tears rolling down their face -
- "but I love me baby and I'm so grateful that he is healthy. So I shouldn't be upset about his birth, so many other mothers are not that lucky and had more serious complications. Why am I being selfish?" OR
- "I really feel like the choice to birth the way I wanted to and felt I could achieve was taken from me and my baby. I feel guilty that I couldn't bring him into the world without the help of others. That's what real mothers are meant to do right?"
- "After hours of active labour and pushing, to then have a C-Section, be numbed by epidural and then be handed a baby, it feels like I missed something precious in the middle. It almost feels like there's just something missing in the connection between me and my baby because of that. It breaks my heart."
**permissions from mothers was given to share anonymously**
While you may well have a "healthy baby" at the end of your birth experience, you are are still entitled to have those traumatic feelings about YOUR and your baby's experience in birth. Those feelings need to be heard and validated. You also need a safe place to "feel those feelings" and have a platform to debrief and unpack your birth experience and not feel guilty about that.
I saw this Birth Trauma Tree the other day and loved the way it acknowledges some of the root causes of birth trauma and then explains how they manifest in our daily lives. How they can effect the connection and bond with your baby and the other important loved ones in your life. Mark off how many "roots causes" you can relate too. I was surprised at my number.
Now take sometime to absorb this picture and allow yourself to acknowledge and validate your unique trauma in birth and reach out to someone to support you debrief and unpack that experience in a safe, gentle and nurturing way.