I had an awful birth experience. But I didn’t die. My baby didn’t die.
In fact, she is thriving – the brightest, happiest little ray of sunshine you ever did meet. And, almost two years on, here I am, getting the help I need. We all lived to tell the tale. So why does that tale even need to be told any more?
Because birth is not always a positive experience.
And being honest about that should not be something that women are made to feel shame or guilt over. Expressing natural feelings of sadness or anger about a difficult birth doesn’t mean that a new mother is ungrateful for a healthy baby, the opportunity for motherhood, or anything else.
Because silencing anyone who has lived through trauma is not OK.
I was utterly shellshocked by my experience, but I didn’t feel able to talk to anyone about it without downplaying it, because I didn’t want to be ‘too negative’. With a new baby, you are expected to give smiling introductions to eager friends and family. Not be a tearful wreck. I self-silenced on my feelings, because I felt the implicit judgement and silent comparisons of friends, family and strangers when I gave the basic stats and details everyone asks for.
“Ooh, it sounds like my birth…” (…but I’m fine so…?). “My labour was much longer/shorter…” (…you’re lucky).”Well at least you have a healthy baby…” (…get over yourself and stop whining). If someone has been in a car crash, or escaped their burning house in the middle of the night, they are received with open ears and arms. We are horrified and want to help.
But birth is such a commonplace event, and one which evokes so much for others, there simply isn’t the same space for a new mother to express what she’s been through with honesty, and not feel judgement or comparison. And when a traumatic experience is compounded by feelings of shame and guilt, because there is no space for open discussion, it only leads to isolation.