You adore your baby—but her birth was a disappointment. Sound familiar? Many women go into labour prepped with an ideal birth plan, only to be blindsided by complications that throw those plans out the window. If this has been your experience, it’s important to own your feelings—and be real about what is only a natural response to such a major life moment.
According to Milli Hill, author of The Positive Birth Book and founder of The Positive Birth Movement (PBM), the key thing after a disappointing and/ or traumatic birth experience is not to blame yourself: “…nothing you did or didn’t do has caused these difficult feelings about your birth that you are having now – they are just a normal, human response to life not going the way you hoped,” Milli affirms.
The next vital step is to communicate your feelings. You might talk with your partner—or a close friend or family member if your partner is also feeling affected by the unexpected labour events. If you suspect you’re suffering the signs of post-natal depression (PND) or birth trauma (often referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD), you need to seek a counselling referral from your midwife, health visitor, or GP.
Finally, if you feel your negative experience was the result of the maternity care you received, you have a right to lodge a formal complaint. Advises Milli: “…write down as much as you can remember about your birth as soon as you can, and also to request a copy of your maternity notes.” For the next steps in submitting a complaint or taking legal action, see here.
To heal from the pain of a birth not gone to plan is to remember that while a healthy baby is the biggest thing—it’s not the only thing. The birth process itself is monumental and life-changing, and you’re entitled to feel all the feelings you have about it. And allowing yourself this freedom does not change the bond with your baby—in fact, being honest and actively working to heal from it can only strengthen the mother-child relationship.
“Having and feeling a smorgasbord of complex, varying and even opposing emotions is a normal part of being human,” says Milli. And a healthy part of motherhood itself, too.