As a doula, I recently attended a 30-hour birth that turned the mom’s birth preferences on their head (or maybe into the breech position). The mama was elated to end up with a healthy baby but is moving through deep regrets over certain aspects of her experience (about 90 percent of her preferences had to be scrapped for medical reasons.)
It can be really deflating when you put in months of preparation to have a particular type of birth, and then fall into having the opposite type of birth. It totally sucks. But “it’s not allowed to suck” — or so everyone says — if you and baby end up healthy.
“Well at least you have a healthy baby.”
Yes, you had your healthy baby, and obviously you’re thrilled with that ideal outcome, but what about all the yuck in between? The dashed expectations? The missed opportunities to move through certain experiences you had prepared for? The residual trauma of moving through experiences you hadn’t prepared for?
The energy of all that unknown, all that disappointment, can linger for awhile after baby is born, and that is OK. You are so allowed to feel that, to express that, to move through that on your own terms.
Here are a few ideas to help make your journey of integrating with your negative birth experience a bit more gentle.
1. Give yourself gratitude for your preparation.
If you put in preparation for childbirth via classes, books, relaxation recordings, affirmations, prenatal yoga, frozen yogurt binges (just me?), or any other activity that made you feel more prepared for the birth you wanted to have, hug yourself. Those efforts were not in vain, even if many of the learned practices were not directly put to use.
You filled your baby with so much loving energy during that preparation, helping them to know they would be greeted by the arms of a woman who loves them so purely. Baby doesn’t care if you had to be helped along by some drugs or a surgeon — they just want you.
2. Honor your courage.
You exerted a mighty dose of courage to move through birth. If you perceive a portion of your birth as negative, that likely means a portion of it was unplanned (and probably unknown). The unknown is so scary — it’s where fear is birthed.
But, you did it — you faced the unknown. You may have hated every moment of it, but you pushed through it for your baby and that makes you a total badass.
3. Find beauty out of the challenges.
OK, so you feel like your birth kind of sucked. But, I bet there was some good that came out of it (besides the obvious). Maybe your capacity for staying composed under pressure grew. Maybe you tapped into a deep reserve of courage you couldn’t even fathom before birth. Maybe the bond between you and your birth companion became rock solid after navigating something so daunting together. Mine the gold out of that sucker.
4. Know you had the birth you were meant to have.
Yes, this is a super annoying one, and something you may hear from the “At least you have a healthy baby” people. But, there is truth to it. For whatever reason, the universe decided to smack you in the uterus with a curve ball — because it knew you could handle it.
This one ties in to the “Find beauty out of the challenges” advice, but it goes beyond that; there was a “bigger picture” in play in regards to how your birth unfolded. Even if you can’t see that picture, it exists, and is being painted for your greater good (even if you currently have a desire to burn the picture down).
5. You’re a stronger mama for your baby.
Being smothered by challenges made you stronger, even if you currently feel depleted. If you survived it (and if you’re reading this I assume you did), you now hold a soul-deep knowing that you can handle pretty much anything.
Projectile spit up on your favorite shirt? Whatevs, you got this. 3 AM meltdown (baby, or you)? It’s all good, nothing you can’t handle. Sore breastfeeding boobies? Child’s play. Remember, you’re a total badass. (And badasses also cry, pout, and beat the proverbial wall — even when they’re handling “it.”)
Positive transformation can exist in the same space as a negative birth experience, even if you’re still regretting that experience. The yummy can live with the yuck. Be gentle with yourself, let yourself feel the emotions that come up, and just keep breathing into motherhood.