Don’t Tell Women How They Gave Birth Isn’t ‘Important’

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traumatic-birthHaving had two failed attempts at vaginal birth, I understand women who are let down by their birth experiences. Conversely, I understand the sentiment The baby is healthy and that’s all that matters! How she got here isn’t important! Ultimately that’s true – and every mother who has been through a tough birth ordeal obviously understands how lucky she is to have a healthy baby. But she’s also entitled to have mixed feelings about how the baby arrived. You know why? Because she exists as a human outside of her role as a mother. Because her feelings are important, too.

For many of us, the day we give birth is one of the most important days of our life. To say that a woman who had a traumatic experience or simply an outcome she wasn’t expecting isn’t allowed to have feelings about it is just wrong. She’s certainly allowed to have feelings about it. It’s a reaction that I truly believe is isolating and damaging for some women. The intent with which those lines are delivered makes all the difference.

There are women who have experienced things that most of us shiver to even think about; stillbirths, losing a child shortly after birth, and other traumatic experiences that absolutely outweigh the discomfort a mother has with a birth experience that ultimately yields a healthy baby. My heart bleeds for those women. But you can be one of the fortunate who never has to experience that level of pain – and still have pain that is very real to you. Women who are struggling with accepting the way the birth of their child went down have every right to feel pain in regards to that – whether or not we believe that it is justified. It is justified. An experience that shapes you and scars you needs to be talked about. Women should be able reach out in an attempt to exorcise their demons about their experiences without being met with judgment or nonchalance.

I’ve made peace with the way my births went down. The second one I was more mentally prepared for, so the surgical aspect of it didn’t floor me as much. But the first one was terrifying. I was reeling for months. I cried everyday. I felt like a failure. Do I now believe that I failed in any way? Absolutely not. It doesn’t make my feelings about it at the time any less real.

I reached out to people in an attempt to honestly reveal something about myself – that I was in a dark place because of the fear I felt the day my son was born. That I hated the way he came into this world – rushed, with surgeons literally tearing me open in minutes to get him out and get him air. Yes I understand how lucky I am that he was born healthy – but there is still trauma there.  It’s important for women to be able to express that. It may seem like a harmless thing to say, but Healthy baby is most important! – although it may be true, reminds a woman that at times she is merely a vessel. She should just shut up, suck it up, and realize how lucky she is.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for someone is just listen. I think we all get caught in a mindset of either trying to fix things or deciding they aren’t important enough to fix. The former will make you deliver the line, A healthy baby is all that matters! intent on making a new mother sure that she knows how lucky she is. The latter will make you deliver the line in a very dismissive way. Sometimes, we don’t need to understand someone’s pain or even help them conquer it. Sometimes the best thing we can do is say – I hear you. You are feeling those things and that makes them real. 

Because the truth of the matter is – there will always be someone who has had it worse than you.