*I want to give a brief trigger warning here. Traumatic birth is real and raw. You can heal from it, but it needs to be on your own time. If this post is too much for you right now, don’t read it. <3 Katie *
What does it mean when someone says they had a traumatic birth? Does that mean she didn’t get the birth she hoped for, she had a cesarean section or an epidural?
Birth is not defined by how a baby exits your body, it is much more than that.
Birth trauma is real.
A woman and her partner can experience a traumatic birth when either one feels like they are not being heard or their feelings validated.
During labor, birth, and even after the birth, things can go away from the plan and often times that’s ok. Trauma is created when people act without regard to the birthing parents or their wishes. This can be hospital staff, friends, family or anyone else in contact with the parents.
Sometimes trauma is felt instantly. Sometimes it may take months or years to process everything that happened during the birth and you might find certain things to be a trigger. Things have a way of creeping up on us when we least expect them to.
Can you avoid trauma during birth?
I will never be the one to make any promises. There is nothing that you or your husband can do to guarantee that your birth experience will be peaceful. I will tell you that there are things you can do to help!
- Never feel ashamed for speaking up. If you are unsure of something, ask! If you don’t like the way your nurse, mother in law or best friend just said the thing he/she said, don’t hesitate to say something.
- Make a plan. Many people will debate on this one with me. I firmly believe that making a birth plan helps many people feel like they have a voice during labor, even during the middle of a very intense situation. Plan for the birth you want first (because that’s the most fun) but don’t stop there. What if things need to deviate from that vision? Make a cesarean birth plan, make a ‘what if’ scenario and maybe even have a ‘worst case’ discussion with your husband.
- Let your family and friends in on your expectations. If you are expecting a party in the hospital and nobody shows up, you will most likely feel very disappointed and maybe even a sense of abandonment. Your mom might be planning an all day camp out in the waiting room. She will be devastated to find out you don’t plan on having visitors after birth. Whatever your desires are, make them known to friends and family well before the birth.
Can you heal from trauma after birth?
Was that loud enough?
You can absolutely heal from a traumatic birth. Here are some suggestions I have for you:
- Talk about it. Talk to your husband, to your doula, to your friends, to your mom and/or to your doctor. Whatever feelings you are feeling are normal and they are ok.
- Write it down. Write down your baby’s birth story. It doesn’t have to be today, it doesn’t even have to be right now. You have permission to get pissed, sad and hurt all over again. Let it happen. Writing it down isn’t reliving the hurt and it doesn’t mean that you aren’t ‘getting over it’. It gives you words to say the things that you’ve needed to say. If you need to write a letter addressed to that nurse, or your sister, or whoever it may be. Write it. It is your choice if you mail it, but just writing it is so freeing.
- Get help if you need. If the feelings that you have don’t seem ‘normal’ or you have more bad days than good, get help. There is no shame in asking for professional guidance. They might suggest that you begin an exercise routine, change your diet, or even begin a medication. All of them are ok, I promise.