One of the things that has spurred me on to become a childbirth educator is the sheer number of birth stories I have read in which the woman had a bad experience. Those experiences were varied, and some of the times couldn’t have been changed (like the woman whose C-section operation was started before the anesthesia took full effect); but most of them could. But when something happens during birth that you wished hadn’t happened, what do you do?
This is a very difficult question, and I want to tread lightly, because this is a sensitive and delicate subject. Most people just tell moms who are hurt emotionally or physically just to get over it and be happy the baby is okay. But is that all that there is to it? To me, that’s like telling a rape victim to just be happy she’s still alive. Yeah, there’s a positive side to it, but that doesn’t make that big dark cloud really that much smaller.
To me, processing this experience is like any other grief experience. For one thing, it’s different for everybody–no two people have the same way of dealing with any experience no matter how similar, and it isn’t right or fair for people to tell other people how to grieve. I’ve had sadness in my life; but my biggest experience with grief was with the unexpected death of my father. It was an extremely emotional time, and here 9 years later, I have just been able to put the bulk of the grief behind me and be able to look back at the good times without the pain of grief stabbing me every time. There are still difficult times (such as now when I’m talking about it, and reliving that time yet again), but for the most part, it is over. At the time he was killed, many people said things that they thought would make me feel better, but in reality, almost everything was a fresh wound, because it rubbed the raw, gaping wound that was my heart, and made it bleed again. I have struggled with anger and bitterness over what happened, even blaming people who were probably blameless, and trying to ignore the feelings I had because it hurt too badly.
If you think about dealing with a bad experience as a grief, things make a lot more sense. You give yourself time to deal with things; you accept as natural the negative feelings that come with grief–shock, denial, anger, bitterness, resentment and depression. I’m not saying it’s a good thing to give yourself over to these; but it is natural, and it may be beneficial to relieve your feelings through tears as you work through the sadness. You may seek answers (and not give up) to find out why things happened as they did. It may be beneficial to find out what could have been done differently; but then again, it may not–you have to decide that for yourself as it happens. And eventually, you heal.
As a Christian, I must look to the Bible for my answers, and look to God for help. I’m ashamed to say that I did not do this for nine years as I repressed the grief surrounding my father’s untimely death. Yet when I did, it brought immediate relief. (You can read more of this on my personal blog.) If you are a Christian, then I would urge the same to you–go to God and ask for healing and peace. If you resent the people who were instrumental in your birth experience, try to forgive them. I held onto bitterness for 9 years (although it obviously slackened over time); but it was gone in a day. I cannot promise the same to you, but I know that healing is possible. Bitterness does not have to rule your life. Accepting what happened does not mean that you like it–any more than accepting my father’s death meant I was glad to have him gone. That’s another way that viewing a bad birth experience as something to grieve can help. It can’t be changed; but accepting what happened actually frees you up to look forward, instead of always backward. Acceptance and forgiveness bring healing.