STOP SAYING ‘AT LEAST YOU'VE GOT A HEALTHY BABY’
Anna Williamson shares her birth story
Find out why Anna Williamson decided to turn her placenta into pills...
40 hours, two epidurals, and a spinal block later, and I finally delivered (with the help of some rather large forceps) a gorgeous baby boy. Yet, instead of being delirious with joy at my new son, I was walloped with the overwhelming feeling of disappointment that my longed for ‘hearts and flowers’ birth had somehow been taken away from me.
Now, of course, had it not been for the brilliance of modern medicine and for the expertise of the midwifery and obstetrics team at my local hospital, there’s a strong chance that me and my little lad wouldn’t have made it at all – a very sobering thought indeed – and I am of course eternally grateful. However, the feeling of sadness at my baby’s traumatic and violent eviction from my privates, somehow swamped me and any elation I ‘should’ have been feeling from minute dot.
I lost count of how many well-meaning people said, ‘At least you’ve had a healthy baby’, and naturally, I was overjoyed that my little Vincenzo was fit and well, but unbeknownst to well wishers, these words can heap a load of guilt and extra emotion on top of a struggling new mother. Because it potentially trivialises the ordeal she has just been through.
These words can heap a load of guilt on a struggling new mother.
Now, if I may, I speak for other new mums who may have had a traumatic time of it too. We are, of course, super-grateful for our healthy babies, however, we are also allowed to feel a little hard done by and disappointed if our much-planned-for, and anticipated, birth experiences didn’t go quite to plan. In the few weeks I’ve been a parent, I’m shocked by just how many women are feeling as I was….scared, and somehow too guilty to moan or grumble about their birth experience.
This isn’t healthy, or right.
As a counsellor and life coach, I believe it is extremely important for new mothers, and fathers (after all they witness and experience a lot too!), to be able to offload and ‘debrief’ their births, should they wish to. Often it doesn’t go to plan and that can be really unsettling for new parents – I know it was for my husband and I – and any feelings and thoughts surrounding the experience shouldn’t be belittled or brushed aside, they deserve to be vocalised and aired.
Being a new parent is a cocktail of emotions: joy, fear, excitement, happiness, confusion. All this and often on just a pinch of sleep. Any untackled negative emotions surrounding the birth, in my experience, needs to be worked through as soon as is appropriate for all, in order to be able to move forward in a happy and healthy manner. Hospitals offer a ‘debrief’ for traumatic births so do look into it, as I have done, if this is something which resonates.
Seven weeks on, and I’m delighted to say that motherhood is getting better and better. The early blip of feeling rubbish after such a horrible birth has given way to enjoying every smile and coo I get from my thriving little boy. I have moaned, talked and cried about any disappointment I carried around what should have been (in my ideal world) the best day of my life, and I am now looking forward to watching my little family grow.
The next time a woman mentions her birth story (and lots of women do like to chat about it), bear in mind that she probably wants to talk about it without hearing a well-meant, yet guilt-tripping caveat thrown in.
I know it’s tempting to say ‘Oh but at least he/she is healthy’ or ‘It’s over with now’ but, as true and lovely as that may be, it might be better just to listen, and let silence and space ‘be’ instead.