The “Healthy Baby Card” Part Three: Talking to a woman with birth grief

By Bethy Young

Welcome to Part 3 of our series! If you are behind please check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our series on the “Healthy Baby Card”.

Let’s go back in time to the friend from part 1. Your friend has expressed the sadness that comes with not getting the birth she desired. In this scenario, you have yet to pull the ‘Healthy Baby Card’. You are a new person now! You’re now a person who understands what birth means to those who hold the action close to their heart; you are a person who understands what the ‘Healthy Baby Card’ implies and know to avoid it at all cost! So what do you say when no words seem right? Your instincts may still go toward reminding the women of the positive: her healthy baby. You still may want to take away her pain or focus the subject on the more comfortable choice…

But STOP and put away that card!

Instead, let’s pull out your “love and support” card. Lay that on the table!

Simply taking a second to ask how the mother feels is an amazing start. I get it: new babies are adorable and exciting but if you can just take a moment to talk to mom before swooping in on the newest little one, it can be an amazing gesture. If the new mom expresses any sadness toward her birth, remember that these feelings are her own. You can’t force her to not feel them and they are very real to her. Take a second to show her love and support:

“It’s ok to to cry.”
“I’m sorry, I know you were really excited about natural birth.”
“Allow yourself to grieve.”
“I’m sorry your door into motherhood was not the one you always dreamed of.”
“You're a strong woman and you gave up so much for the safety and health of your baby... I’m sorry it had to be like this.”

The goal is to let her know you love her. You are not disappointed in her, but you are sorry that she is in pain, and - above all else - to respect her right to feel disappointment. If the mother seems like she wants to talk more, you can then just be a listening ear, a hand to hold, and a shoulder to cry on. On the other hand, if the mother is not ready to express her feelings deeper yet, don’t push. Let her know that it’s ok to take it one day at a time. You are there if she needs you. After that, you can move on to partaking in the joy she has for the new baby with the knowledge that mom and her feelings are validated.

Some people feel a cesarean is a good thing, an easy way out. They think it’s less painful and think we should be grateful to be relieved from the pain of childbirth. However, recovering from a c-section can be an extremely painful ordeal that can take months upon months. Labor is pain with purpose - it lasts a short time and comes with so many wonderful perks. A c-section can be much harder to heal from - both emotionally and physically - and it’s simply not an easy way out.  In some people's quests to make the mom feel like everything is ok, they may turn their focus on showing her what they perceive as the optimistic side of what happened.  Many of us c-section moms have heard things such as:

“Feel lucky you did not have to go through labor.”
“Be glad you did not have to push all 10 pounds of your son out of your body.”
“Now you have an excuse to have an early c-section next time! How great that you can get future babies cut out at 36 weeks before you get super huge and uncomfortable. Oh and no labor pain!”
“Some people just weren't meant to give birth naturally.”
“You can make healthy babies, you just can't birth them the right way.”

It’s important to remember that many women who have had birth plans go awry are very sensitive about how they could have made their outcome different. Avoid picking at the decisions or speculating on what could have happened if they would have went a different direction. Comments like:

“Aren't you glad you didn't have that home birth you planned?”
“Doctor knows best! He has the degree, not you!”
“Do you wish you would have gone to that midwife I suggested?”

These are examples of things you could say that will tear a mom up inside and make her question herself. She will make herself sick thinking of all the ways she could have changed things and of every outcome from the horrible to the amazing:

“If I would have had a homebirth, would my baby have died or would I be standing here a changed woman with a miraculous birth experience under her belt?”
“If doctor knows best then I must be selfish for being upset. But what about mothers intuition?”
“This is my fault. I let fear control me. I could have been more educated. I could have researched more. My body is broken and so is my mind.”

The honest truth is no one really knows what she would be like today if she would have made a different decision.

Remember above all respect of the mothers emotions is the most important thing.

Coming Soon - the last post of the series: The “Healthy Baby Card” Part Four: When baby is not healthy