What can I do to come to terms with a “bad” birth experience?

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By: ryan remillardCC BY 2.0
I’ve seen lots of resources online for dealing with poor labor care, lack of support, and unwanted interventions during childbirth, but none of those resources deal talk about labors and births that were just bad on their own. I had a precipate labor — which means from start to finish, the entire process took less than three hours and the baby was expelled quickly. My labor and delivery included falling down the stairs, choking in the car, having to consent to an epidural, barely getting it in time, etc (among other delights).

The interventions and hospital staff are the only things that made labor bearable. After taking some time to process it, I realized that there was really nothing I could have done to change it — despite the well-meaning advice from friends. I dropped out of a class for new and expecting mothers after the class leader told me that they’d appreciate if I didn’t share my birth story because “We don’t want to frighten anybody who hasn’t had their baby yet.”

My question to you all would be: if any of you had a not so great experience, or needed to talk about the negative aspects of labor and birth, where do you go? Where have you found places (other than here) to talk frankly about experiences that weren’t so great and get support without any judgment? — Ashley

Comments on What can I do to come to terms with a “bad” birth experience?

  1. My advice would be to find someone who is not pregnant, or about to be to share it with. A wise woman perhaps? Do you know any Doulas or private Midwives? I am lucky to know a couple in each profession that if I needed to talk to, could help me work through this kind of thing, likely for free.

    Ask around, and you might be surprised that a friend of a friend is a Doula, or other kind of birth professional. I specifically say that kind of person rather than a therapist, because my Midwife helped me talk through my first labor which was very negative for me… and helped me come to a point where I was glad my body did what it could, that it grew this beautiful baby, and that I came through it and am a different person now. I was not in that place 5 years ago…

    I hope you find someone, it’s good to get these things sorted out, especially if you plan to have more babies!

  2. Dana at House*Tweaking had a precipitous labor with her second child and wrote about her third birth (and how she handled some of the fears/anxiety resulting from her second child’s birth) online here: http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/05/10/mabreys-birth/ She had some pre-birth talks with a doula to help her cope with the lingering feelings surrounding her precipitous labor.

    While a doula might not be the most appropriate person for you (since you’re not currently expecting), it might be helpful to find someone to talk with about your experience. Precipitous labor can be very traumatic and leave emotional scars long after the birth. If you are having trouble coping with your feelings about the birth, finding a counselor to talk to might help.

  3. First I want to say I am sorry you had bad birth experience. I can entirely sympathize, my first birth experience was terrible (I actually shared my birth story here on OMF). As a result of my terrible birth experience I developed postpartum anxiety and postpartum PTSD. I didn’t get help for the first year and it only made things much much worse.

    Just after my kids first birthday I started seeing a counselor. Talking it out really helped. I can’t even express how much it helped. She also connected me to other families in the neighborhood who were going through the same experience. We’d meet in person at the playground or the farmers market and just chat. Having someone else who understood and didn’t immediately turn my bad experience into fear of their future birth experience was so freeing. It is so much easier to talk through your pain without getting the pity eyes or feeling like your life is someone else worst case scenario.

    I also connected with other moms via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I just started tweeting and posting pictures while on bedrest, in the NICU and afterwards and people just connected. I also was invited to join a few closed Facebook groups that center around a specific topic (post partum mood disorders, parents of preemies, parents of disabled kids, etc). Their is a great supporting online community of moms (and dads too) who understand and want to listen and share.

    • I think that you noted the most important thing – talking it out. Honestly, I’ve been shocked by how hard it is to do that! I move in circles that tend to lean more towards unmedicated birth / home birth / trusting your body and that sort of stuff. When I was pregnant, I made a conscious choice to avoid any negative/less than glowing birth stories, articles or anything like that (and nobody ever even said the words “precipitous labor” to me). So when it happened to me, I had no clue what was happening and I was terrified – which then led to a cascade of negative feelings and worry about my mental health. Turns out my family has a long history of rapid births (back in Ireland, my mom’s family had a reputation in the town as the “hurry up Mulligans” – now I know why!). But I never bothered to learn this and talk about it with my doctor. If I had, maybe I would have been less scared when it happened to me. I think another part of the problem is that birth has become so heavily political and ideological. It’s hard to find somebody who is totally unbiased about birth decisions, but I think it’s worth searching for. I do wish that moms who have negative experiences (whether because of interventions or experiences that are just negative all on their own) had a secure space to just talk. I’ve found that PreggiePals is pretty good – they have a message board dedicated to precipitous birth moms, and that has helped. But I think the ideal would be face-to-face counseling of some kind, which is what I’m still searching for.

      • The same thing happened to me. My mom had all three of her children at home. I always assumed it was a planned home birth (she and my family friends run in those circles). I found out after my first, also a precipitous labor – among other complications, that my dad had to catch all three of us because they didn’t have a chance to leave the house before we were born. I never knew.

        I brought it up to my maternal-fetal medicine specialist at my first appt this pregnancy and she was all, “oh yes, rapid labor can run in families. and with your history 0f a precipitous labor I’d expect the same this time around.” The first thing I did after that appointment was call my pregnant sister to discuss our family birth history with her to make sure she and her midwife knew.

      • “I think another part of the problem is that birth has become so heavily political and ideological. It’s hard to find somebody who is totally unbiased about birth decisions, but I think it’s worth searching for.”

        THIS x 100!!!

        I made a point of bringing this up with my midwife when I met with her the first time. All of the politics around birth was stressing me out!! My midwife had been attending births for 30 years and had witnessed every scenario possible. She’d seen conversations around birth shift and change and intensify, and she had such a practical outlook on birth. I found her to be a great source of politics-free information. Perhaps a midwifery practice in your area can put you in touch with some post-birth mental health services.

        • The politicisation of birth makes everything so difficult. I had a wonderfully supported emergency c-section but am still struggling with the idea that it’s was my ‘fault’ for choosing a hospital birth.

          • You’ve likely heard this statistics before, but the World Health Organization says that the caesarean rate should not be over 10-15%. This is usually mentioned as evidence that the caesarean rate in most US hospitals is too high, however, it ALSO means that in at least 1 in 10 births there is a sound medical reason why a caesarean is necessary for the health of the mother and/or the baby.

            This is a scary statistic for me, a someone who is pregnant for the first time, but might be reassuring for you, if you’re feeling guilty.

          • What is your fault? That you had wonderful support before/during/after your c-section? That you went home with a healthy, beloved baby?

            Many of my friends consider unmedicated home birth to be the “perfect birth experience,” and sometimes their zeal can really get to me. When I explain that I would like to deliver in a hospital, some assume it means I am uninformed. Then, they try to educate me.

            In my opinion, it is really problematic to seek the “perfect birth experience” in the first place. I can write a birth plan all I want, but there is no way to predict how things are actually going to go when labor begins. I’d rather not add additional stress to my experience by trying to write the story before it happens. Instead, I want to accept that some things will be outside of my control, and that my husband and I will make the best decisions we can in whatever circumstances are presented.

            From now on, I plan to avoid dispensing any criticism or any gold stars of approval in response to birth stories. I believe that birth is an experience best left ungraded, and THAT can be my ideological statement.

  4. A lot of midwives work with counselors, social workers, or post partum doulas in order to make referalls for families with trauma in their past or unresolved feelings about birth. Calling a birth center or midwives group could be a great resource. Depending on your hospital, the postnatal (or postpartum depending on what they call it) care nurses may be able to make recommendations, too.

    • Yes. In my experience, at almost every clinic I’ve been to, you can find local contact information to help deal with emotional issues before and after thr birth of your child. You could call your provider and ask them directly.

  5. There are therapists that deal with traumatic birth experiences. I found one by googling that phrase plus my city. She was very helpful as I came to terms with being put on hospital bedrest just weeks after finding out I was pregnant, and then having an emergency c-section at 25 weeks. I had PTSD from the birth (a friend of mine had died less than a year earlier during an emergency c) and my daughter’s time in the NICU. I have also found it useful to talk about my experience in general–it’s not common but it’s a possibility and I wish I had known more about the likelihood before I got pregnant. I think it’s also important for pre-pregnant or pregnant women to see that you can have a less-than-ideal birth or even a traumatic one, and still be FINE. We’re almost programmed to believe that we won’t be good moms if our birth experience wasn’t Perfect, and that’s just not true.

  6. Thank you all for your suggestions. It has, truthfully, been difficult to find people who can be totally supportive in this situation. I think, firstly, as I have learned since, precipitous labor is actually rare (less than 1% of all births qualify). Because of this, a great many birth professionals don’t have any experience with them and don’t know quite how to respond (the sole midwife I spoke to asked me whether it “was really as bad as I made it out to be.”). I could tell she had never seen one, since she probably wouldn’t ask this if she did! I bought very heavily into the idea that birth is something our bodies instinctively know how to do and that my body wouldn’t guide me wrong – until it did.

    Another major problem I’ve encountered is that it’s easier to deal with things that happen to you than things you do yourself. One of my biggest hurdles has been dealing with the decisions I made immediately after the birth was over. Namely, I opted to not see my daughter for about 2 hours after she was born. I think I did this for two major reasons: I felt very frightened, upset and angry about the birth, and I think I was worried that if I saw her immediately, I would possibly transfer those feelings onto her, and I wanted to prevent that. The second major reason is that I have bipolar disorder and the period immediately after birth is extremely vulnerable for bipolar women as a time when acute episodes might begin (and this risk is higher if the birth is frightening or traumatic), and I ws terrified that the birth would push me into mania and I’d pose a risk to my baby – so I waited until I could receive some meds that would help lower the risk.

    Part of me really thinks that the best option now is to find somebody who is outside of the birthing sphere entirely. Many people have particular ideologies about birth (and on a personal level, there’s nothing wrong with that). However, I’ve found that can cause some problems for those who are seeking support for their own decisions and experiences. I have my therapist now, but she is geared more towards general mental illness issues. I personally never entertained the idea of a midwife seriously – largely because all those I spoke to initially refused to take me on owing to my mental health history (I was always classified as “high risk” despite my age and physical health being good). Do midwives deal with women postpartum who could never use their actual services? I wasn’t aware that they could, but perhaps that is worth checking out.

    • I realize this is not the initial topic of your post, but since you are the original poster I wanted to reply to this comment. I just want you to know that there are MANY women out there who have to decide between concealing their mental health histories or receiving midwifery care. Often, regular OB/Gyns and midwives lack training and competency in the care of women who face an increased risk of perinatal mood instability. Mental health is not a huge subject of conversation when it comes to women’s reproductive health–other than some cursory mention of postpartum depression. I’m so sorry you had such a traumatic experience; precipitous births (yes, the “real” kind that are <3 hrs start to finish) run in my family, and even decades later some of the women in our family have their experiences denied, minimized, etc. And yes, you're right, some of the people in the communities who support natural birth have been guilty of acting as though precipitous birth is a great thing, or just glibly cite it as a reason to birth at home. But there are midwives and doulas who acknowledge the extremely difficult nature of many of these births, and my first thought was that an experienced birth professional in your area might be able to refer you to someone who does birth counseling. I would be wary, though, since many of these folks have very fringe approaches and might have an unwelcome focus on guiding you through the experience again in your mind, or trying to imply that your outlook or approach somehow caused your experience, or led to its being traumatic. So maybe a counselor who specializes in PTSD would be more helpful, if they are competent in providing that care in conjunction with whoever manages any bipolar meds you choose to take.

    • I just want to say that, when I become a parent, I hope I have the presence of mind to do exactly what you did in the hours after your daughter was born.

      I’m doing well now, but I’m prone to very poor mental health. I have ADHD and battled major OCD when I was a teenager. I take medication for my ADHD and have a tremendous therapist I check in with from time to time, but I know that when the time comes for my partner and I to become parents that I will battle to adjust. I just know that postpartum depression is going to be a factor in the beginning, and I really want to find ways to anticipate and cope with that before we take the leap.

      When the time comes, I want to be able to do what you did: to be able to check in with myself and my mental wellbeing, to give myself time and space to ground myself and be okay while my baby is safe and taken care of.

  7. I spoke with a CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) professional to work through some of the feelings I had about my son’s birth. In my case, it turns out that all I needed was a few hours to talk to someone who was a) not my (very supportive) husband (he just didn’t appreciate reliving all the negative stuff), and b) not somebody who said, “Well, all that matters now is that you have a healthy baby” (um, fuck off, please).

    What I liked about the CBT approach is that it’s action oriented: specific strategies to address specific issues, like anxiety).

  8. I have a few friends and family members who are supportive, so I talk to them about it. I write about it. But one of the most important things I did was place a complaint with the hospital, in the hopes that it might somehow contribute to positive change within the hospital so other women don’t experience what I did. It made me feel like I had done something productive with all that I was feeling, and even if it doesn’t actually change anything, I feel better knowing that I spoke out.

    • I think this is possible in cases where there is an external force that caused the negative aspects of the birth, but this isn’t true in many cases. For me, nothing anybody else did made it bad. It was bad all on its own. Frankly, the hospital staff were the only people who made it bearable! My frustration from the whole thing comes from the knowledge that there isn’t something productive to do in every case. I can’t change what happened. I can’t even do anything to try to prevent it in the future (there is little rhyme or reason as to who experiences precipitous labor). I am glad that you had the option to do something productive and to be able to point to an external source, but that’s not the case for all of us. A big part of my frustration with finding a place to talk it out is that many people assume that a negative birth experience must be due to external factors (since the presumption is that all women inherently know how to birth and out bodies will not fail). But that kind of space leaves out a lot of us who just had negative experiences and need to come to terms with that too.

      • “A big part of my frustration with finding a place to talk it out is that many people assume that a negative birth experience must be due to external factors (since the presumption is that all women inherently know how to birth and out bodies will not fail). But that kind of space leaves out a lot of us who just had negative experiences and need to come to terms with that too.”

        THIS THIS THIS!! Sometimes, birth just goes wrong and interventions are completely necessary. I think the current rhetoric around positive birthing makes those scenarios seem completely unlikely, and people end up thinking that if folks accept interventions that the hospital staff pressured them or they didn’t know their options; if you insist that interventions were necessary they say that you’re just trying to justify a bad experience to make yourself feel better. There’s little recognition that sometimes, birth goes wrong. It just does.

        I think that’s helped me the most. To recognize that it happens, that I’m not wrong for wanting the space to talk about my experience, and that my experience is no less valid just because it wasn’t awesome and empowering. I write about my birth on my blog sometimes. I talk about it with anyone who will listen. I’m being treated for postpartum depression, but almost a year later I’m toying with coming off medication. It’s gotten better over time.

        I am so sorry you had a bad experience. Our births seem like polar opposites (I was in labor for nearly 60 hours and ended up with a c-section), but some aspects are similar (I, too, didn’t meet my daughter for several hours after her birth). If you ever want to talk, I’m here. My blog is linked through my name. Sending you lots of love.

        • You know, a mountain climber I know once said something I keep repeating to myself. he said, “The human body is a wonderful machine. But like any machine, sometimes it runs into kinks and needs a little oil.” I like to compare birth to that – for some women, the machine works perfectly. For others, there’s a kink and a little oil (medicine) is needed sometimes. Every body will need a little oil time and again. There’s no shame in it. I guess my regret comes from knowing that my machine ran into a kink during what I was hoping would be one of the best times of my life. I also felt upset because birth is promoted as the “quinessential female function” – what we were born to do, above all else. The inability to “birth right” feels like more than a medical issue – it can strike at the heart of the female identity.

          I hope your depression is doing better. I’ve been there, it’s not fun. I’m glad you can find people to listen to you nonjudgmentally. I think that is the key in all this.

        • People’s bodies fail to BREATHE properly sometimes and require medical intervention (asthma, for example). Why should birth be any different?

      • Ashley, I’m sorry you went through this and are still struggling. I had a difficult birth that was the opposite: 36 hours with intense back labor most of the time, plus perineal injury. But like you, for the most part, it wasn’t anything anybody did wrong, it is just what happened to me. I felt a similar sense of helplessness and, although I had read a lot about negative birth outcomes, I also felt that I hadn’t been given information about some key things that would have helped prepare me psychologically.

        I also totally agree that the home/unmedicated birth crowd can be dogmatic and leave one feeling as though the problem is failure to trust one’s body or some crap like that. Ideology on both ends of the spectrum can be unbelievably rigid. But I suggest you keep looking for the practitioners that are not extreme, because they are out there, and a lot of the resources you could find are in that holistic birth community.

        I talked it through with my midwife and multiple others. One of the things that helped me immensely was doing some counseling sessions with Penny Simkin (a big force behind the doula movement). I could have worked with a mental health counselor (which I think can also totally help just by talking it out), but I actually found her expertise as a birth educator/counselor helpful–she was familiar with others who had similar experiences. I never felt judged by her. Penny is a particularly experienced professional, but I think you could find someone skilled through referrals. Her website https://www.pennysimkin.com/articles-resources/ has some articles and links that might by useful including this one http://pattch.org/ (Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth).

        Although the support I got helped, as did talking it through and time, one of the reasons I chose not to have another child was that, as you say, there was no way to prevent another bad experience in the future. It just wasn’t worth it to me. However, I also realized eventually that just having a body and being alive means lots of stuff will happen to us that we don’t want and can’t control, and coming to terms with that is a lifelong project for me.

    • I’m curious as to what country you’re in and how you went about making your complaint? My entire pregnancy and labour was a catalogue of errors, ignorance and dismissal and I’d love to make a complaint to help other women avoid the 35+ weeks of misery I’ve endured. However in the UK you have to interact with your midwives for several weeks if not months after the birth and I’m terrified that making a formal complaint will worsen the continuing treatment we have to receive.

  9. I used to be a labour and delivery nurse and am now a counsellor. I have seen the intensity of short fierce labours, what strength women have! I have been really touched by the labour experiences I have been involved in and their transformational nature and in part went in to counselling to be able to spend more time listening to to people’s experiences. Among other things I now see people who have had challenging birth experiences and want to process them. When people identify a birth experience as “bad” I think sometimes that reflects on the negative emotions that arise. Sometimes in the work I do it can be helpful to think of negative emotions as signals for action that tell us about what is important to us. For example anger is an emotion of volition that lets us know that there was a need that was not met. Emotions are not inherently good or bad, just signals. Sometimes this can allow us to hear the message more clearly. We cannot always have a perfect birth, and yet a birth can still be a powerful tool for learning and coming into oneself as a mother. Despite negative emotions women may have been in touch with their primordial knowing (the innate knowing of how to birth) or were able to connect in a helpful way or take a stand against certain modern knowing (medical and hospital culture knowing) during labour. Deconstructing a birth narrative and highlighting how women were in touch with their primordial knowing or modern knowing in a way that was supportive for them or how they were able to create responses that resisted modern knowing can help to identify more clearly the great power and strength that was shown at such a vulnerable time. I think sometimes a counsellor would be helpful in this regard, or friends that are able to help to deconstruct your narrative constructively. I agree with a women called Laura Stavoe Harm “we have a secret in our culture, not that labour is painful. It’s that women are strong”. I think that sometimes the language we use can highlight this, including the way the instructor of the class approached you.. You are a mother now who through amazing strength and some intense experiences have brought a child to the world… And you did it and are here to tell about it! Thank you for sharing.

  10. I had great luck finding resources through our midwives and compassionate nurses at both the hospital and our pediatrician’s office. It was amazing how many women had told medical professionals “if anyone else goes through this, give them my number.” I have a knee-jerk refusal of anything resembling a support group, so talking to people one-on-one was a great way to connect without feeling like I had to comply with rules or protocols beyond common decency. It’s worth asking!

  11. This article is perfectly timed! My husband and I have been thinking about a second baby and I think my largest fear is going through birth again. Like yours, no one did anything wrong per se, but after 4.5 hours of pushing they had to use a vacuum, I had bad tears and he ended up in the NICU. I was in a bad mental place before the birth due to some life changes and I’m sure that didn’t help but the whole experience left me more traumatized than I would have liked. I sort of joke about it now because I almost feel guilty about saying it was traumatic, scary or not what I wanted. The response sometimes is “well you have a healthy baby, so you should be grateful.” Yes, I am grateful for my beautiful boy but that doesn’t make the experience any less scarring for me. Or any less concerned about future complications should we decide to have another one.

    • “well you have a healthy baby, so you should be grateful.” is a dreadful silencing technique. I don’t think the people who use phrases it realise how crushing it can be.

  12. I didn’t want to say that I had a traumatic birth for a long time – because in reality, I didn’t need huge interventions (c-section, vacuum, forceps or anything like that) and because my daughter was perfectly healthy (some precipitous babies suffer some side-effects). So I felt like, in the end, I got very lucky and should count my blessings. But it felt a lot better to be able to say that birth was terrifying and I wouldn’t want to do it again. I also met a lot of people who mean well and say, “Your baby is healthy, and that’s all that matters.”Because I know that her health was paramount. But I also now know that a healthy (physically and mentally) mom is also a part of a baby’s health and well-being – and if a mom is struggling with the leftovers of birth trauma, her baby can be impacted too. So working through it is good mothering, frankly. It also took me a while to admit that the experience has put me off of having more children (biologically, at least). Maybe that feeling will fade with time – but as long as the memories are fresh in my mind, I think it’s a no. And that’s okay too. It is refreshing to hear women who will admit that birth might not be something they’d rather do again. It’s very normalizing.

    • After baby #1, I told my husband I was done. My first birth was nothing like anything I heard about in childbirth class. It was not slow, there were no “stages”. I was not walking around, doing housework while in labor. Without the epidural, my baby would have been born very fast.

      Also, I know one other mom who had her babies fast. Generally, we have both seen that labor ward staff, though usually great, don’t always realize how intense or fast a first baby can be. She told me she shocked one of the nurses who told her “there, there, it’s going to be quite a while” when she said the baby was coming. With my first I was having very strong contractions (induction didn’t help, I’m sure) and dialating quickly – a nurse told me to stop panicking. I wasn’t panicking, I was in intense labor & trying to breathe.

      I had to not think about labor when deciding to have a 2nd. And what helped me would hopefully help you if you have another. I had a doula and we reviewed natural labor. When baby #2 came so fast that baby was born at home, and I was laboring on my own (doula couldn’t make it in time, husband was busy with other child, phoning 911), I used those techniques and stayed calm. It was intense, it was painful, but breathing through it helped. Also, not having to ride in a car while in intense labor helped!

      Unless they’ve been through it, other people don’t necessarily understand how difficult a fast delivery can be. I’ve had a lot of comments about how lucky and easy it was for me to have babies. It was not easy at all! Imagine not having a choice between natural childbirth and a hospital birth. Imagine being your own labor coach or doula. Imagine moving very quickly to hard, hard labor. If it helps, pushing was a huge relief for me with #2 – a stage I moved to naturally. My hard contractions stopped when I transitioned to pushing.

      But saying that, I was happy with how #2 went. Totally different experience from my first. I found my inner strength, and so very happy that I decided to stay at home.

      Wishing you well and all the best.

  13. I could write volumes on this topic! My story`s a bit different. I had an emergency c section at 27 weeks; my son weighed 1lb4oz. We were told he had 25% chances of surviving and if he did, would probably be heavily handicapped. The first time I saw him, he was in cardio-pulmonary arrest and there was a staff of 5 trying to rescussitate him. It took 4 hours to stabilize him. He went into arrest like that twice a day for a few days. He had every single scary complication that preemies can have. I didn`t get to hold him for 3 weeks, and he was in the nicu for 105 days. 6 months later we noticed he was stiffer on the right side; he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy – basically brain damage. We did intensive physio for 6 months and all traces of paralysis disapeared. Fast forward 3 years and he`s a thriving, bright toddler. So far (knock on wood) he`s perfectly healthy who is behind physically but ahead mentally. I can`t even begin to know how parents who lose their babies must go through.

    But it`s taken me three long years to stop being ANGRY at the world and to start being ok with what happened. Hearing full-term mothers-to-be bemoaning their swollen feet, or people complain of not finding the right shade of nursery bedding – would drive me BONKERS. I`d get so angry I`d have to leave the room. I would have done ANYTHING to reach even 30 weeks. I saw women cry for hours because they couldn`t hold their baby until the next morning. I used to think they were being so ridiculous and secretly scoff at them. Had I been told I had to give birth upside down in a freezing environment and oh I might lose a limb – SURE bring it on!! Anything to help my son`s chances of survival! But I think now that time has passed, I see that their pain is just as valid as mine was.

    So when a close friend confided she had been depressed for months because she didn`t get the home birth she wanted – I was floored. I just didn`t get it. I was sympathetic and tried to understand but it seemed so trivial to me. Her baby was fine! Who cares as long as the baby is healthy x 1000000 % !

    But I`ve finally regained some perspective and understand how deeply the birth can affect women. I still wish we didn`t idealize birth so much – it`s messy, painful and sometimes (as for the author) unpredictable. But I see now that even great births can mark us profoundly and take us years after to sort through our feelings.

    What really helped me was to speak with the nicu psychologist. She was incredible and became my rock. We still keep in contact. Also I visit preemie forums and help other women through their experience, and go to preemie parent meetings to share my story and support other parents. I greatly benefited from both when we were living our own hell, so I think it`s the least of things to help others in return.

    I’m currently 20 weeks along with number 2 and that has helped also to heal and come to peace with what happened.

    I think in any case it`s a long road to healing and acceptance.

  14. I do soooo hope you can find at least one friend to let you just release and not judge! I, too, had a bad experience that was not caused by external factors. It was so hard for me to even vocalize what I was feeling, that, for me, when I finally decided to write out my birth story in my journal, it was amazingly cathartic. I wrote it, read it the next day, wrote how I felt about reading it and on and on like that for at least two solid weeks. It really helped me to be able to see exactly what was upsetting to me and analyze what I was really feeling.
    I had been so easy breezy about the idea of birth before hand (meaning I kept saying I was going with the flow and not forcing myself into a plan, etc.), that I was shocked that I had some how built up the idea of a “perfect” birth without consciously realizing it, and was punishing myself for not living up to that standard.
    So, I do hope that you can find someone to talk things out with and have the comfort of someone else empathizing with you, but, if you haven’t, a good old fashioned journal might be a nice place to start!

  15. First, I’m sorry to hear that you had a traumatic birth experience, and that it has been hard to find support afterwards. I’m also sorry that I can’t answer your question or give you any advice. I just wanted to express how much I totally, utterly disagree with the leader of your new moms group, who didnt give expecting moms a chance to hear your birth story. I’m a hopeful potential parent, and i personally feel that ignorance and the unexpected are the major causes of birth fear for me. I feel much more confident about birth since I’ve been reading birth stories and watching birth videos. Yes, some of them have been difficult, but I think if I were to go into labor and have complications, I’d feel much better knowing that at least one person has gone through it before and survived to tell the tale. I understand that not everyone wants to hear difficult birth stories, but we need to be given the option. For me, reading about potential complications helps to take the fear away. I hope that if you ever want to share your birth story, you can find someone to share it with who would really be helped by it.

  16. I had a terrible first birth, over 19 years ago. It was so bad, I decided I never wanted more kids, and tried to get sterilized. Of course, at age 23, no one would do that! I stayed disallusioned for many years about it. I finally let it go when I simplified it. I gave birth to a healthy kid in a safe environment, and we both lived to tell! So many people’s stories don’t end as happily. That made all the difference for me. I did go on, 14 years later, to have another child, and I reminded myself of these facts the entire time my almost 9 pound breech baby was being surgically removed. Healthy mom, healthy baby–that’s what really matters:)

  17. Your ex-class leader should be ashamed of themselves! As someone who has never given birth, I never thought about the possibility of labor complications that had nothing to do with the actual labor. I would find labor stories like yours really helpful, as they might help other people with complicated labors remember that things happen that they cannot control.

    I think my mother had a precipitous birth with my sister, though I don’t know exactly how long she was in labor. I *do* know that my father’s decision to take a half-hour shower before driving her to to the hospital almost made her deliver in the car. As you could imagine, she was pissed.

  18. Trauma is the experienced when normal coping is overwhelmed. It is not a cognitive state it is a body experience. This is a state of helplessness and immobility. It unfortunately occurs 18% of all deliveries. The article below is an amazing article that simplifies approaches to managing trauma responses and the possibility of another pregnancy. Whether or not another baby is desired many of the strategies we would suggest from a trauma informed counselling perspective. I work with some clients using somatic approaches to therapy which can be useful ways to connect to the body and its experience of trauma. Perhaps somatic transformation or experiencing would be helpful?


  19. I am so sorry to hear that someone asked you not to share your birth story. Definitely someone to disassociate with – perhaps you should complain?

    I also had fast labors. First labor was overwhelming & progressing quickly – we slowed it down with an epidural. Second baby was born at home after just over 1 hour of labor. No, not a planned homebirth. I felt better prepared 2nd time around.

    You are not alone. Childbirth is difficult, and we all experience it differently. There is no normal or ideal. Wishing you well and sending you peace as you recover and get to know your little one.

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