Experiencing birth matters. It can affect every part of our being as women; physically, emotionally and spiritually. Birth was never meant to be just a means to an end. Birth in and of itself is transformative. So if birth is so life changing and you didn’t get a positive experience like you were hoping what do you do with that? Where do you go from here?
I have been there. I was hoping and expecting a positive experience but it didn’t happen. I could have handled it in one of two ways:
Felt distraught, and followed through with the plan that one doctor had suggested.
Ask questions, find second opinions, find a community and get to work on healing.
I chose number 2 and I’m so thankful I did!
I truly believe what the Bible says in Romans 8:28
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
You can go through the greatest of disappointments but in the end it can still be used for good and for His glory. If you believe in Jesus, there is hope when you feel like there is none. There is healing.
If you’ve had a disappointing birth experience then you’ve been through a hard time… your expectations weren’t met… you’re disappointed. I promise you mama, there is joy on the other side! You will be stronger for this experience and you may be able to help other women who have been through what you have been through. So I want to walk you through some steps on our way to healing. These are EIGHT steps that I took to help me heal after a disappointing birth experience.
Grieve- I cried. This may sound silly and like a step you can skip but don’t! Sit with your emotions and let it out, just cry. If there are other emotions you feel like you need to address then express them in a way that feels right to you. There is something powerful in expressing emotions and letting them go. If you skip this step these emotions can be stored in your body and make you ill and may also come up in next births making it more difficult. Find a safe place to express your emotions and let it go! Candace Pert, PhD did a lot of ground breaking research into how the body stores emotion:
“A feeling sparked in our mind or body will translate as a peptide being released somewhere. [Organs, tissues, skin, muscle and endocrine glands], they all have peptide receptors on them and can access and store emotional information. This means the emotional memory is stored in many places in the body, not just (or even primarily) in the brain. You can access emotional memory anywhere in the peptide/receptor network, in any number of ways. I think unexpressed emotions are literally lodged in the body. The real true emotions that need to be expressed are in the body, trying to move up and be expressed and thereby integrated, made whole, and healed.” - Candace Pert, PhD
Ask questions- Asking questions is critical to understand why your birth happened the way it did. It takes being still and reflecting on what happened. Some questions to help walk you through the reflections are: Why do you think your birth didn’t go the way you wanted it to? What could have been different? What is the one thing you’re most upset about? How did that make you feel in the moment? Is what happened because of your body or something else? What evidence do you have to support that? Use a pen and a paper to write out the answer. Sometimes writing out your whole birth story can reveal things you didn’t think about or remember.
Get your records- Call the hospital and ask for your records. If you’ve had a fairly traumatic experience this may be particularly hard to read. Many women I have talked to have cried. Reading through these can give you some insight to what happened and when. Some feel clarity about the situation when reading it. If this is going to be too hard for you then skip to the next step and take it with you!
Go to counseling- Whenever there is unmet expectations you can experience hurt. Birth trauma usually happens when expectations aren’t met plus the emotional wellbeing of the woman is overlooked. Another thing women can experience is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from things that happened in the delivery room. Some signs of PTSD are:
Intrusive thoughts, reliving what happened
Flashbacks or nightmares
Avoidance of places or people that remind you of what happened
Exaggerated startle response, easily agitated
Anxiety and panic attacks
There are many different treatments and ways to address PTSD. Check into EDMR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) You can heal!
**I am not a licenced therapist. Getting a proper diagnosis and walking through the trauma with a trained profession is helpful for your healing journey!
Find your tribe- The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself. Your head can fill up with lies. You can start believing you aren’t enough, your body has failed you, there is no where to go from here… that is not the truth sister! Surround yourself with a community that will tell you the truth and will love you where you’re at. There are many women who won’t feel the way that you feel. They may not understand. You might hear things like, “Well, at least you have a healthy baby.” Again… that is NOT helpful. If these are the types of people you have around you make sure you are actively seeking a community of women who will listen. When you find that tribe of women who have been there and have an idea of what you’re going through you will feel so supported!
Make a plan- Everyone’s journey to healing is different. It’s personal. Only you know the way out. What do you need to heal? This may take some meditation, time and counseling but make a plan. What do you see as the steps to moving forward? A huge part of my healing journey was planning my next birth. I spent 27 months searching inside, finding peace with what happened so I could move forward and I made a plan.
Help someone- There is something special that happens when you look outside of yourself and you search to help someone else. It makes what happened to you not seem so bad. There are so many little things that you can do to. You can pay for someone’s coffee in the drive through line behind you, write a letter to someone to encourage them, leave $5 on a shelf in the grocery store with a note! These little things will give you a reprieve of feeling the emotions inside. It’s a chance to step outside of yourself for a moment and experience the positive feelings that come from helping someone else.
Write a letter- This letter can be to yourself, to your doctor, to the hospital… if there is something that went wrong with the birth you have every right to write a letter and let them know your thoughts. Taking your thoughts and feelings and putting it on paper will help organize your thoughts. In fact, even if you never send it to anyone, you will still find some release from getting your thoughts out and putting it on paper!
This is by no means a comprehensive list on everything to do to get over your birth disappointment/trauma but it is a place to start. Again, your journey is different than mine. I wish I could walk with you and help you on your way. I wish I could tell you that everything is going to be alright and that you are worth fighting for healing! You are an amazing mom and birth doesn’t define you as a woman but it does matter. So fight mama… fight to release the trauma you have and fight to change the future for other women so they don’t have to go through what you did.
If you would like to talk I am here! Shoot me a message and we can schedule a free 30 minute consult. I’ll be a listening ear.
If you’re pregnant after a traumatic birth or you want to PREVENT having a traumatic birth check out my free course- 5 Things Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Know.
As always friend,
I am rooting for you and I want to remind you that you are strong, you are powerful and you are worth advocating for a positive birth experience!