“Congratulations!” somebody says as your baby is passed to you after a birth that you can only describe as the most horrendous experience of your life.
“Thanks” you stammer as you look at your partner and try not to cry, holding your brand new baby. She’s beautiful. She’s perfect. She’s safe in your arms. You did it Mumma. You birthed your baby!
So you leave the hospital and feel guilty that you aren’t overjoyed, you’re still trying to process WTF just happened. Maybe you mention your feelings to your partner, mum, sister or friend… how did they respond? “But you’ve got to be happy! Your baby is healthy and that’s all that matters”. Right?
The highest cause of maternal death in Australia is suicide (link here). 1 in 3 Australian women report their birth was traumatic (link here). Of these, up to 2 thirds say that it was because of how they were treated. Every pregnant, labouring or birthing woman deserves to be treated with kindness, respect, to be honoured as the expert in their body and their baby. You matter. You know you best. You know what’s right for you. During pregnancy, labour & birth there are often choices and decisions that need to be made. There is a HUGE difference in being supported and informed to make a choice and being pushed and frightened into making a choice – even if the outcome of the choice was the same.
“Don’t be selfish”
“You’re putting your baby at risk”
“It’s best for the baby”
So often, care providers instill the fear. They present one-sided information or share opinion of what they would do. Maybe they did share the facts but they said “your risk has doubled” instead of the risk has increased from 0.01% to 0.02%. Women are wired to protect their baby. It makes it very easy to be manipulated into a decision they don’t want to make. This kind of treatment is not ok. It is not in the baby’s best interest to disregard their mum. That baby needs you. They need you at your most supported, nurtured, healing self you can be. You’re not going to be perfect, but you’re going to be great. You know what’s best for you. You know what’s best for your baby.
Childbirth is about more than getting a healthy baby into your arms at the end of it. The current maternity health system has dwindled maternity care down into a series of physical steps and outcomes. This ignores the psychological, emotional and spiritual aspects of giving birth.
Your thoughts matter. Your opinions matter. Your body matters. Your voice matters.
You are the most important person in this birth. You are the only one who is giving birth and being born at the same time.
If you are struggling with a traumatic birth, PTSD, post-natal stress, depression or anxiety there are many people and resources you can call on to help. If you can’t find what you need, please get in touch and I can help find something to suit you. Some starting places:
- PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) free helpline – 1300 726 306
- Birth Trauma Org Australia
- Private Facebook support groups
- Book – “How to heal a bad birth” by Bruijn & Gould
- Book – “Birth Trauma (a guide for you, friends and family to coping with PTSD)” by Kim Thomas
- Fiona Rogerson Counselling
- Sarah Purvey Psychology
- Raphael Services – all over Perth. Free psychology service with a mental health care plan from the GP