As a Nurse Midwife, Nina has helped hundreds of women experience beautiful, natural births. She always knew that her own births would be exactly like the peaceful, calm births that she attended. Just to let you in on a little secret: they weren’t.
Nina had one difficult vaginal delivery with an epidural followed by an emergency cesarean section and one semi-planned C-section. She was never able to experience the beautiful, perfect birth of her dreams. Did she feel sad that her birth plan derailed each time? Of course, but she didn’t let her birth choices and experiences define her or her new journey as a mother. She saw the perfect, precious baby her body created and never looked back.
When our birth experience doesn’t go quite as planned, we often allow ourselves to be pulled into the “new-mommy shame game.” For those who unexpectedly deliver via C-section or with the use of an epidural or non-Bradley (natural) method, self-shaming can be quite intense.
Did you tell everyone of your plans for natural childbirth only to end up with an epidural after just one or even 23 hours of labor? Did you have an unplanned C-section? Are you feeling shame, guilt or grief about your labor choices or outcomes? If so, you are playing the “shame game.”
Here are some tips to help you stop blaming yourself and start loving yourself:
- Allow yourself to grieve your “perfect” birth. It can be especially difficult to move forward if a C-section or medical intervention were not on your birthing radar. Start by acknowledging your feelings and talking with supportive friends, family and healthcare providers about why you feel sad or disappointed. Your birth experience does not define who you are. Understanding the necessity of the decisions you and your doctor made can help you.
- Celebrate how strong and amazing your body is, and appreciate what your body CAN do. When your birth experience starts with an epidural or ends with a C-section, it’s common to feel like your body has failed when in fact, your body has accomplished something amazing. Remember that you housed, grew and nourished your baby for 40 weeks and sometimes beyond.
- Recognize that the ultimate goal was achieved: You delivered your baby! It’s easy to lose sight of this when we become wrapped up in the “shame game.” Use this time to bond with your new baby and surround yourself with positive people who will not feed into the negativity.
There are many different reasons why patients, like Nina, deviate from their original birth plan. For example, emergency cesarean sections may be necessary when labor does not progress as expected or when there is a concern for the safety or well-being of the baby or mother http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Cesarean-Birth-C-Section. Self-shaming may be exacerbated when the necessity for medical intervention is not well understood by patients and/or their family.
The goal of Apgardian, is to break down the barriers in communication and understanding and help patients and expectants better understand the necessity of their care. In medicine, we are reminded daily that every baby is different, every woman is different and every birth is different; this is important to know going into the labor process. Allow your birth plan or vision to be flexible in cases of emergency, learn to trust your doctor, and appreciate what your body can do.
By Nina Wilson, CNM and Mariana Rizzo WHNP