Stop Saying “At Least Mom and Baby are Healthy”

Stop Saying “At Least Mom and Baby are Healthy”

As much as we are, and should be, grateful when a mother and child deemed healthy after delivery that is not all that matters.

                -1 in 7 women experience Post Partum Depression.

               -24-34% of women describe their births as traumatic.

               – Approximately 1/3 of those women will suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

 

The physical health of the mother and baby is not all that matters. So please.. PLEASE.. stop implying that.

 

an emotional time with a new babyBirth is one of the greatest life events that a women will experience. A study done by Penny Simkin over 20 years showed that even as time passes most women vividly remember the details of their birth and emotions surrounding it. Women hold their birthing days up with varying degrees of importance, but for all it is an experience hard to forget.

That is why if a woman has a negative, or even traumatic birth, it can have profound impacts on the woman physically and emotionally.

The physical effects of trauma on the women are most often immediately apparent. A woman who had a cesarean, surgery complications, severe tearing, or other damage will face the imminent road of physical recovery. This can last weeks or months, and some women unfortunately face the physical repercussions of birth trauma for years to come.

post partum depression feels aloneWhat should be a time of excitement is dampened with pain and anxiety over this unexpected physical issue. The physical effects of birth trauma can contribute to the emotional effects of a negative birth experience.

The emotional effects that a woman may experience after a negative birth experience or birth trauma can also range in severity and duration. Some women may feel initial disappointment that their birth did not go as planned, but then accept it and move on. Others feel a deep sense of failure and shame that their body did not “perform” as they thought it would or should have. Others felt violated by how they were treated at their birth.

 

Women who experience any form of traumatic birth are more likely to have postpartum stress and therefore more at risk for Postpartum Depression (PPD) or other mood disorders.

Unfortunately Megan's first family picture was not how she had envisioned. it.

Unfortunately Megan’s first family picture was not how she had envisioned it.

My friend Megan had a traumatic emergency cesarean. In some of her last moments of consciousness before the general anesthetic set in she witnessed chaos, panic, and literately blood spraying everywhere. She awoke hours after her child was born. She struggled with PTSD and PPD and those feelings magnified when she became pregnant again 3 months postpartum. Her second pregnancy was filled with painful flashbacks to her trauma. Thankfully she had a support system, and her faith, to help her sort through her pain and anxiety. She took control of her next birth. For Megan that meant scheduling a planned c-section. It was a very healing experience that she can joyfully say was her dream birth.

“From the traumatic birth with Lexi, to the horrible nights of PTSD flashbacks of her birth as soon as I found out I was pregnant with Kyla 3 months later… God carried me big time! Having an OB who recognized the PTSD was so essential to my emotional health during the second pregnancy.” -Megan

A moment of joy and healing at the birth of her youngest, Kyla.

A moment of joy and healing at the birth of her youngest, Kyla.

Even if the next pregnancy after a traumatic birth is not months, but years later, those past scars can be brought to the surface.

A woman’s fears and anxiety can have physical effects on her labor. The anxiety may slow her labor. Getting to the point in her labor where the past trauma happened can be a huge mental roadblock to many women. That added stress hormonally inhibits the natural flow of labor. That is why it is so important that a birthing woman’s past trauma be addressed before labor.

Many people unsympathetically brush off a negative birth experience with sayings like, “Well at least everyone is healthy” or “Next time will be different”. Discrediting a woman’s birth experience by saying such things is not healthy or helpful. Women need to be met where they are at in their pain, heard, and then walked beside as they sort out their pain.feeling alone with ppd

So when a friend, or family member experiences a birth that did not go as planned, pause. Do not remind them to count their blessings. Please do not utter anything that begins with”at least”. Do not shift the focus from where she is at emotionally.  She needs to be heard. She needs to be supported right where she is at. Keep an eye and ear out for signs of PPD and PTSD in the weeks and months ahead.

No matter if it is 2 days, 2 months, or 2 years after the birth, be a safe place for her to share what she is feeling and experiencing.

Birth trauma is a real, common, and scary road too many women face alone. So if you are the one walking that path, please reach out to a loved one or caregiver. Take advantage of online resources and in person support groups. You don’t have to do it alone.

find support after birth traumaThere is healing and recovery ahead. This weight you feel will not last forever. Look forward with hope to the journey ahead.

 

Resources

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/frequently-asked-questions-on-postpartum-depression-related-illnesses

http://www.solaceformothers.org/what_birth_trauma.html

http://www.solaceformothers.org/index.html

http://pattch.org/resource-guide/traumatic-births-and-ptsd-definition-and-statistics/

 

bellingham wa doulaAbout the author: Molly Seimears is a birth doula in Bellingham, WA. She lives in Whatcom County and is passionate about birth and serving families in her community.

16 Comments

  1. Through my work of supporting families through prenatal loss, I have learned the words, “At least” are seldom followed by something that is helpful to a grieving parent or anyone experiencing trauma or loss. A loss can also be that of a job, a relationship, a home, hopes and dreams, diginity. etc. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. I actually think it’s important to consider the dad too. I had a traumatic birth (and pregnancy) and suffered with flashbacks in the first few weeks. By a month though, I felt I’d moved on and accepted the situation. My husband however suffered for much longer (the memories faded for me, which helped). So often the emphasis is on the mum, and the experience for the dad (or other support) is only spoken about in hushed tones.

    • birthadvantage@yahoo.com

      So true Emma. Partners need support through this type of grief too. They are often forgotten when a couple experiences a miscarriage as well. The little amount of support for men is heartbreaking.

  3. Thank your for this article (and for all your articles). I can’t find how to keep in touch with you, so I write here. I’m an italian blogger and an activiste mother in preserving human right in childbirth. I love your blog! I would also ask your authorisation to translate this article in italian (obviously quoting the original author and source and sending you the link). Could it be possible?
    Thank you so much.

    Warmly

    Marika Novaresio

  4. Thank you for this article! Any suggestions for key words to use instead of “at least”. Maybe I’m listening or I am hear for you?

    • birthadvantage@yahoo.com

      Thanks for asking, Everyone is different but just letting them know you hear what they are saying is key. For instance, “That is so hard, I hate that you have to go through this” or “Its ok to feel/hurt/cry over this. I am here for you.” If you ever need to talk, I will be hear to listen” or “How can I support you through this?”

  5. It’s hard when people say “it’s worth it though isn’t it?” after a major traumatic birth with alot of post birth life threatening complications. They are unwittingly asking you to compare the trauma and pain with this perfect little baby and say that you would wittingly go through it all again for the same result. These are just not two things that you can compare as no one would choose such a major trauma. Just thinking about those few words take me right back to how I felt those few days after the birth of my daughter almost three years ago. I was lucky as my partner let me talk about it and ask lots of questions as he had a different perspective and I saw a psychologist.

    • birthadvantage@yahoo.com

      Sara, thank you so much for sharing. I agree that many seem to feel that just because a baby is involved we can brush off what ever may have happened to have it. I have known women who chose to have only one child because of their birth trauma. If that choice is right for them, then they should not be made to feel guilty or judged for their valid concerns. I know that those comments are made in hopes of being encouraging, so thank you for sharing your experience to shed light on how it can affect a someone who hears it.

  6. I get FURIOUS when people bad mouth c-sections! Our daughter had meconium aspiration with HR deaccelerations with no rebounds and I had failure to progress. She spent 7 days in NICU. With our son, I had pre-eclampsia and went on into HELLP Syndrome. The only way to cure that is to deliver the baby. He was born 7 weeks premature and spent 19 days in NICU. Since I wasn’t in labor and my blood pressure at the time of delivery was 220/189, inducing me was not an option!!! I’m grateful for m c-sections since they allowed both our children and myself to survive! Do some doctors jump the gun and go directly to a c-section? Sure. But to those of us in which a c-section was the only option, it just grinds my gears when they’re bad mouthed. Just because I didn’t have a vaginal birth doesn’t mean I was any less a mother. Those who haven’t been in our shoes have no right to criticize a procedure that ultimately saved my and our children’s lives!

    • birthadvantage@yahoo.com

      First of, I am so sorry you had to go through that. That sounds so scary to have to navigate. I totally agree with your frustrations! I am so thankful we have this safe, and lifesaving procedure available to us. Many areas in the world do not have such luxury. For so many women a c-section IS the right choice both physically and emotionally. Some people find healing in VBAC, while others find it having a planned caesarean, that is the beauty of it. No one has the right to tell a woman that her birth was not real or valuable. Birth is birth no matter how it happens.

  7. Thank you for sharing. At first I am really afraid of getting birth normal or C-section. Women are born to tolerate pain. That’s why many women are very brave to have many babies. i have a friend when she had her first born, she said she don’t want to have 2nd baby coz it really hurts, I laughed because she has 3 babies now.

    • birthadvantage@yahoo.com

      Yes emuas it is amazing what our bodies can do! It is just amazing that we forget the sensation after! Once we meet our babies more feel it was worth whatever came their way.

  8. Hi Molly,

    I’m really glad I came across your write up. I had an emergency cesarean few weeks ago and the thoughts about it still haunt me. Reading through your article made me feel better after so many days.

    I’d sincerely followed every piece of advice given by the physician in anticipation of a normal vaginal delivery of a healthy baby. Never imagined that my first birthing experience would be so traumatic.
    I was so depressed and stressed after the surgery and it was hard time bonding with my baby.

    I can relate to every single word you have written. I was silently suffering as all I heard from family and friends was, “Be happy that the baby is here”.

    I stopped talking about it or expressing my feelings or emotions in front of them, as they were just brushed aside.

    After a few days, I started reading articles on the Internet to find out what could have possibly caused the fetal distress, for which the c-section was necessary.

    The doctor artificially ruptured my membranes when I’d dilated around 3cm. She thought it was necessary since I was dilating slowly. She sounded very disappointed that I was dilating slowly. The procedure was performed without informing me about the probable risks.

    I thought this was an unnecessary intervention since there were no complications. Fetal heart rate was very good and my contractions were periodical. I was actively walking through the hospital corridors before the AROM procedure.

    I’d no idea that this was probably the worst decision. Neither the doctor nor the nurse had the common sense to monitor fetal heart beat after this. I had pretty painful contractions after the rupture and couldn’t walk much.

    It was 4 hours later that they started to monitor the fetal heart rate and I was rushed for the surgery due to fetal distress.

    I was emotionally shattered when I underwent the surgery. The whole experience has left me with a feeling that I failed. I will never think of conceiving again as the process is so traumatic to go through again.

    If given an opportunity to go back in time, I would have chosen to birth at home, with the assistance of a doula and without any medical interventions. I still feel I could have birthed normally if not for the intervention and the stress around.
    The cesarean surgery has left me scarred both physically and emotionally.

    • birthadvantage@yahoo.com

      New mom,
      I am so sorry you had such a traumatic experience. My best goes out to you as your body and heart are still healing. Know that what happened is by no means your fault, your choices did not cause this. Please do not put that unnecessary guilt on your self. You and your doctor did what they thought was best, and unfortunately, even with the best decisions these things still happen. Birth is so variable that their is no blanket answer to know what is necessary and what what is not. I urge you not suffer silently as you process your birth. These things you are feeling are so normal. It is ok to be open about your feelings when family members try and push the silver lining of the situation. Even though a new baby is time of great joy, trauma is trauma. Reach out to your provider or someone who has gone through something similar. There is an anonymous phone line that you can call and talk to mothers who have experienced this type of trauma. They would be able to help you process what happened, and what you are going through. The number is 1-888-404-PPMD. Feel free to email me if you would would like some more resources and support as you navigate this.

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