Giving birth is a time of great transformation for women. An extremely special, difficult, amazing and painful experience. There is no other experience in this world that has the same mix of positive and negative emotions that surround us for birth and the early part of our parenting journey.
However, there seems to be a problem in our society with accepting women’s feelings about the process of their birth. A serious problem that leaves women holding onto their feelings of pain, fear, failure and dis-empowerment because they don’t believe they have the right to have those feelings.
It is these words, spoken by many and often (including the mothers themselves) that feed this deeply ingrained societal belief;
‘At least you have a healthy baby’
‘At least my baby and I are healthy’
Yes, thank you, I do have a healthy baby and I am eternally grateful for that. The fact that I have HUGE feelings about things that happened to me during the birthing process are now not important because ‘I got the healthy baby outcome’ that is the only thing that matters.
WELL IT IS NOT ALL THAT MATTERS!!! What ALSO matters is that Women are supported and encouraged to express their feelings about their birth. It can be dangerous to both mum and baby’s mental and emotional health to hold on to and feel ashamed about negative feelings, especially during this time of great transformation in the life of a mother.
Mothers experience a huge amount of both physical and emotional healing and transformation after giving birth. There are changes to the brain, hormonal changes, physical changes and emotional and psychological changes. Women have carried their child on the inside of their body and it has grown there from a mere spec to a fully formed human baby. Then they support the journey of that little human, to exit their body and live outside, no longer permanently attached to their bodily system. This is a beautiful and perfectly natural process for the female body, but that doesn’t mean there is no level of trauma attached to it! Especially when the natural processes of our body don’t always work the way we had hoped for or worse, don’t meet hospital policy!
You can’t ever assume that just because a woman has ‘A healthy baby’ that she doesn’t have big feelings about how that healthy baby left the inside of her body and made its way into the world.
Given the phenomenal changes that you experience on so many levels during and after the birth of your baby, any and all feelings you have about your birth are valid. You have the right to own the story of your birth and the emotions associated with that story. There is no shame in any of those feelings, no matter how healthy you or your baby turned out!
So Please, please can we change the language we use around birth outcomes. Outcomes for babies are super important, but so are outcomes for mothers. We need to remember that a Healthy mum includes emotional and mental health outcomes too.
So next time someone tells you about their birth or you ask them about it, let them know that you are listening and that you truly care about and accept their feelings.
What to say
Anything that validates the person’s feelings or shows that you care and want to listen or help them.
“I’m here for you if you want to talk about it”
“It sounds like this is really hard for you”
“It’s okay to feel (sad, angry) about what happened”
“It might be helpful to talk to a professional about how you are feeling”
What not to say
Anything that disregards or shames the way they are feeling.
“Never mind at least your all okay now”
“At least you didn’t ………. (insert your version of a worse scenario)”
“But look at your healthy, happy baby”
It is time for a shift.
It is time for women to reach out to, care for and authentically support each other.
Processing or debriefing your birth story with a professional can help you to move through feelings that are associated with your birth. I am please to offer this service to New Mums or mums later in their parenting journey who are still holding on to those feelings. Birth Story Counselling is very flexible and can be a space for you to tell your story and be supported with your feelings or can involve expressive therapy methods such as sand play or finger labyrinths. Please get in touch if you would like to enquire about these sessions.
If you are pregnant and would like to look at preparing for your early parenting journey, please also get in touch – More Information HERE
Thank you for reading
Peace, love and a listening ear,
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