Your feelings about your experiences in childbirth are your own. Whether it was good or bad, women should not be judged or shamed for feeling either satisfied or disappointed with the experience.
Let me paint this picture:
After experiencing an unsuccessful three-day long induction resulting in a cesarean followed by hemorrhaging and blood transfusions to save her life, an extended hospital stay with a baby in the NICU for days, Lily is now pregnant again. She hopes to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). She has done her research, chosen a hospital with a low cesarean rate, a supportive OB practice, and an experienced doula.
With her doula by her side, she does everything in her power to facilitate a successful vaginal birth after cesarean.
She addresses her previous experience in a Birth Story Healing session, receives regular chiropractic care, and stays in close communication with her doula for emotional and informational support. She is feeling confident.
Her due date comes and goes. She is told she will have until 41 weeks and 6 days gestation before her care provider will recommend an induction. She would desperately like to avoid an induction this time.
Lily decides to see an acupuncturist to encourage her body to go into labor, and does nipple stimulation with her breast pump at home to get the oxytocin flowing.
Finally her patience and determination pays off. Contractions start in the early morning on week 41, day five. Just in time. After coping on her own for some time she requests her doula to join her to provide support. Her doula arrives and notices that Lily is nearing transition. They decide to head to the hospital.
Within a couple of hours of arriving at the hospital Lily gives birth to her 10 pound 11 ounce baby vaginally! It is the happiest day of her life.
She is overwhelmed with love, relief, surprise and joy. Despite the odds stacked against her she accomplished the birth of her dreams and she is so proud.
Lily finds out from her doctor that she has a third degree tear of her perineum and will need to be repaired. After further inspection the doctors decide that due to the extent of the tear the best place to do this repair will be in the OR where the proper lighting, tools and equipment are in place.
Lily is still completely floating on cloud nine and is not bothered or upset about the fact that she will need to be repaired in the OR. This is the best day of her life and she accomplished what she set out to do. The terrifying experience she had the first time has been avoided and she has her beautiful baby in her arms. As far as she is concerned everything is fabulous.
Her husband stays with their baby girl and Lily and her doula are guided to the OR where her repairs will be done. Lily is relieved that her doula is allowed to stay with her in the operating room. Her doula is a friendly and familiar face and comforts her throughout the surgical repairs.
One nurse in the OR comments to Lily a couple of times: “Oh you poor thing. You did the whole birth drug free, med free, and all natural and you still had to wind up in the OR. What a shame. You poor thing.”
Wait just a second!
Although this person might be well meaning she is assuming that all of this is somehow a huge disappointment and that Lily needs her sympathy.
Meanwhile Lily is not in the slightest bit disappointed. In fact she is celebrating with mental fireworks because she was able to experience birth the way she wanted to.
Sure it would have been nice not to have torn – but this small setback pales in comparison to the heartbreak she experienced the first time she gave birth where she nearly lost her life. To Lily this is a necessary but simple procedure she will undergo, with her doula’s constant presence, and then she will be reunited with her baby.
“You are amazing. Don’t let anybody steal your thunder. You did this! It’s yours forever” says her doula.
Lily has tears of joy in her eyes and can’t even believe this is real life. This birth has healed her heart and soul and she feels like a new woman.
That state of mind should be respected and preserved.
This lesson can be applied in the reverse way as well. It’s okay to be sad if you are sad. Sometimes a well-meaning person, your doctor, nurse, midwife, husband, mother-in-law, sister, or friend may negate how you feel about your birth.
“It’s best to let it go. At least you got a healthy baby.”
“What matters is that everything was fine in the end.”
“Be grateful things weren’t worse.”
Such comments do not make the hurt go away or help you recover faster.
If your birth experience makes you happy despite how others might see it – be happy.
If your birth experience makes you sad or disappointed, despite how others might see it – you’re not wrong for feeling that way.
The emotional impact of the birth is real. Your feelings do matter.