“A healthy mum and baby isn’t all that matters.”

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The birth experience matters too.

“All that matters is a healthy mum and a healthy baby.”

How many times did I hear that after giving birth?  How many times did it drive me deeper into confusion and self-doubt over my son’s reception into this world?  If all that mattered was a healthy mum and a healthy baby, then why was I so heart-broken?

The birth of my first child left a marked and profound impact on me.  All throughout my pregnancy, I had dreamt about and planned for his arrival.  It would be hard, it would be painful, but it would be beautiful and graceful.  And I would rejoice.  But it wasn’t and I didn’t.

We need to induce you ASAP or your baby is going to be born sick.  Ok…if you say so.

We need to crank up the pitocin, or you’re going to have a c-section. Ok…if you say so.

I’m glad you did what we said, because we almost had to cut him out. Ok…if you say so.

I did what they said and I regretted it.  I didn’t give birth — birth had been done to me.

For months I mourned his birthday.  What was supposed to be one of the most extraordinary days in my life was a day that I couldn’t stop reliving, but only wanted to forget.

 

I felt ashamed of how I’d let things happen and remorseful that I didn’t give my son a more welcoming entrance into society.  Would I ever even desire another child? Would I ever willingly repeat the trauma of labor and delivery?  I was stuck between a place of swearing I’d never give birth again, and wanting an encore just so I could have a shot at doing it “right”….of fixing what I believed I had failed at the first time.

Baby blues quickly spiraled into full blown postpartum depression.  What was wrong with me?  I loved my son almost more than my heart could handle and I was so grateful for the gift of being his mum.  And I was healthy and had a flourishing little boy.  Everyone kept telling me that’s all that matters…so shouldn’t I just be happy?

Then I had another baby and I finally understood.  They were wrong — a healthy mum and healthy baby are not all that matters.

Birth matters.  How you give birth matters.

The second time around I had a doula who comforted and supported me.  Who repeatedly reminded me that birth could be beautiful.  Who believed I was designed for this.  I had a midwife who encouraged me and trusted my body. Who never once debased or belittled me.  Who respected me.

And I was FREE.  Free to labor how I wanted…in the tub, on a ball, and even in the hospital parking lot when I needed fresh air.  Free to go home even though I was 7cm dilated (only to return 30 minutes later) because emotionally, it’s what I needed.   Free to give birth right there in the middle of the hospital room floor, because that’s what my body told me to do.

It was beautiful and graceful. And I rejoiced.

Birth matters.  How you give birth matters.

Just ask the thousands of women in this country who have been bullied and coerced into a birth experience they never asked to have.  Ask the thousands of women in this country who suffer from actual post traumatic stress disorder after giving birth.  Ask the thousands of women who love their children deeply, but hated their birth.

A healthy baby and a healthy mum are undoubtedly the primary goal.  But how you give birth matters too.  To the mum who’s grieving, it’s okay to mourn your birth experience.  It’s okay to feel heartbroken over how you brought your baby into this world — or more pointedly said, how birth was done to you.  And it’s okay to fervently pray for something better the next time around.

Not everyone can or should have a natural birth.  And natural birth, while generally the safer and healthier option, isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all. Complications arise and thank goodness for medical interventions.  But as a woman, you deserve a birth experience you can feel good about.  A birth experience where you feel supported, dignified, and in control.  How you give birth matters, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

How do you feel about your birth experience?

This piece first appeared on Best of Baby.  You can also connect with Best of Baby on Facebook and Twitter.

Want more? Try:

The birthing decision that has just become a very, big, deal.

“My true feelings regarding my home birth experience.”

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