Certainly, no one expects to experience a traumatic birth, to enter a hospital and wonder if you will be leaving. Even after the health crisis is resolved and physical scars are healed, there is traumatic pain remaining. In my journey of emotional healing after a traumatic birth, this is what has helped me:
Share Your Baby’s Birth Story
Sharing my story and being heard helped me heal. There are friends who didn’t know what to say, and then there were the friends that asked questions, didn’t brush over the hurt, and sat with me in my pain regardless of whether or not they had experienced a traumatic birth. And they made all the difference.
Listen to Other Women’s Birth Stories
When something traumatic happens to us, we can easily fall into believing we are alone, that no one will understand, or that what has happened is indicative of our intrinsic flaws.
Listening to other’s birth stories can convict us that this is simply not true. Our stories can be understood in a new light, and as we provide empathy to others, it can help us heal as well.
Personally, I know I was constantly thinking of things I could have done to avoid my traumatic birth. Then I met moms who had done all those things – and still experienced trauma. Could I have experienced better birth outcomes if I had done X, Y, and Z? Maybe. Can I KNOW FOR SURE it would have made a difference? No. This helped me walk about from ruminating over all the reasons I was to blame.
Re-Write Your Birth Story
The story I told myself initially about my traumatic birth was incomplete. It wasn’t until I re-told my story, that in addition to seeing the pain and trauma I saw my strength in it all. There were pieces of my story that I didn’t even see before – like how when we were at the height of crisis during labor, I quieted myself and focused, and believed in myself. I delivered him with strength I didn’t know I had.
As Brene Brown says, “When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.”
There are many outlets for moms to get help. I would highly recommend joining a support group and/or seeing a therapist that specializes in postpartum issues. Postpartum Support International has a search feature that allows you to find a support group in your community, as well as a listed contact in your community that can assist you in finding services. The DMV Perinatal Mental Health Resource Guide is also another great source for finding a therapist in the DC, Maryland or Virginia area that specializes in addressing traumatic birth experiences.
As you start your journey to healing from a traumatic birth, know that it takes time, but there is hope. Once upon a time, I could not think of my birth experience without crying, but now I can. It would be lovely if the hurts we experience in life would simply resolve on their own, and we could just bury them. But that is often not the case. As difficult as it is, speak up, and know you are strong even when it doesn’t feel that way.