“Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby” That’s all that matters, right? I hear it all the time, “Well, it was okay because I had a healthy baby.” Yes, we all agree, having a healthy baby and a healthy mom is important. But, in our baby-centric culture, “Healthy mom and healthy baby” often means, “healthy baby, living mom.”
After birth, we dismiss the emotional and physical challenges of birth (before birth we don’t talk about birth at all or we find the most horrific stories possible to scare moms) . Mothers who experience complications, discomfort, or pain often get a message that their particular concern is invalid, because they have the gift of a healthy baby. We assume the recovery from a surgical (cesarean) birth is ‘normal’ because many women experience that type of birth. But healing from surgery is not ‘normal.’ It’s different from healing from a vaginal birth, just as healing from a five minute second stage may look very different from healing from five hour second stage.
In addition to the obvious physical differences, there are also emotional differences. A mother welcoming her rainbow baby at thirty seven weeks has a different experience than a mother at 40 weeks birthing her fourth baby from her fourth pregnancy.
Women on the other side of birth are looking for ways to process their experience and heal from the emotional and physical events. They are often met with platitudes and unrealistic expectations to “bounce back.” Birth is a big deal, yet in our culture we want women to instantly become competent and confident mothers all while instantly returning to their pre-baby bodies and schedules.
For most women, healing from birth requires time. It requires space. More for some, less for others, but every woman deserves to have her birth story treated with honor and respect. Birth can be an amazing, transforming event in a woman’s life and it can also be disappointing, difficult and even traumatizing. There needs to be space for a discussion of the experience, good, bad, painful, and exhilarating.
So, if you come up against a well intentioned platitude about birth, remember: It doesn’t matter how you gave birth. Birth is a big deal. Your birth was a big deal and Your experience of birth matters.