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What Needs to Change?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

So yesterday I had this moment, mamas. 


I went to the local birth center to pick up something another mama left for me there (some eczema cream samples for my kiddo). While I didn't give birth there (we planned a homebirth), I did look into it and went to some moms groups there after I had my baby.


I walked in, and these women at the counter were so warm and kind. The whole vibe of the place is relaxing and just, awesome. There's this fountain in the waiting room, aromatherapy going, everyone wearing organic hemp. It's just, *sigh. I love it. I do. And there was a pregnant mama in there who just glowed and was laughing with the midwives.


And when I walked out of there after getting my samples, I felt so so angry. It took me a while to figure out why. First I thought I was angry because of the old jealousy thing. The birth center is a place where births happen that aren't like my birth. And I wish I could've had the kind of natural, sem-zen experience I had hoped so much for.


Then I felt angry because I think we are likely going to have just the one child, for financial and other reasons. And I just think, I will never get another "shot" or something like that. I will never get to enter this world again where people hold you and help you and there is this warmth of a community coming together to help a baby arrive.


But then I thought, "No. I don't actually want to be pregnant again. That's not what I miss."


And it dawns on me. I'm angry because that community feels closed to me now in a way that it wasn't before. After I had my baby the way I did, I felt like I didn't "get into the club," so to speak. My story wouldn't be told by my midwives to any future clients. It wasn't something they made me feel ashamed of, but it wasn't exactly a celebration either, you know? Not like what I've seen with the other mamas. 


Women who've had kids there or at home dress their babies in onesies that say "x Birth Center baby" or "Born at Home." I bought one and my son never got to wear it because it wasn't true and I sobbed everytime I looked at it. 


There is a homebirthers picnic in my hometown every year but I can't bring myself to go because I feel like I don't belong in this sisterhood. Photos of my birth will never go up on any website. My birth story is an "unfortunate exception" to the successful natural birth narrative. 


I felt, after my son arrived, like I was out in the cold, and didn't know where to go. I didn't identify with mamas who had planned hospital births. I also no longer identified with the homebirthers. I felt like I was without a community.


So today I'm asking myself, and all of you, is there anything our communities and little social circles can do better so that mamas like me (or others who might feel as I do) don't feel like outcasts who have "exception" birth stories that don't fit any existing narratives?


Here's what I have thought up so far:


Can we expand the "successful birth story" narrative?

-I wish c-section stories were on homebirth midwife websites alongside homebirth stories. Midwives serve both, and smart midwives know when transfer is neccesary. A successful birth that involves a transfer is still a beautiful birth that is worth talking about. It is still part of the spectrum of homebirth.


-I wish birth centers did the same thing.


Can we do more to make sure that c-section mamas have a wide option of choices for their next births, if they become pregnant again?

-I wish insurance companies weren't so closed to VBACs. Now that I've had a C, my options are limited, and I often feel that this isn't based on real evidence, but on just a feeling that VBACs are risky. How risky are they really? Do the stats bear that out? I feel like women who've had C's and wanted a natural birth sometimes feel ostracized because they know that certain options within the natural birth spectrum are closed to them because of what happened before. That isn't the natural birth folks trying to hurt anyone, it is the reality of their insurance premiums. And I think it has an emotional impact on c-section mamas.


These are just my thoughts, and I'm just speaking for myself here. 


I'd love to hear what other people think of all this.





post #2 of 25

Great post.  I had a HB transfer turned c-section also, and I felt very excluded from the NCB in general and in NYC in particular.  I was at a Choices in Childbirth event a few months after my son's birth (our HB part was 3 days long, so we had many beautiful professional pictures from it that went into the birth guide, this was the celebration of the guide being published) and a random CBE/doula lady asked me about my birth.  Mind you, I had been a doula for 10 years, my midwife was at the event, my doula was an old friend hosting the event and president of the group (clearly we did everything in our power to have a HB and I had a whole lot of tools under my belt)... and this lady had the nerve to say to me, "Well, if you'd like a different outcome next time, call me, I can teach you hypnosis."


I was SO FLOORED by her rudeness and presumptuousness I was speechless.  It made me question whether I had every said something so cocky to another mother, questioning her birth experience as though I had the NCB secret formula and she was just some dumb sheep lining up for surgery. 


I'm trying again this time for a HBAC, but I am so much more at peace 3 years later with the idea of a transfer, and it has much less of a prominent place in my psyche.  If I don't have a HB, I won't be quite as crushed as last time, I think. 


I don't know what it means in terms of community, but in general, I was turned off a bit by the cockiness/inflexibility of the AP/NFL community in general in my area and became much more open to finding friendships based on personality and not a rigid set of rules.  Maybe that's because "mainstream" around here doesn't mean McDonalds and spanking, it seems like a much more subtle blend. 


My experience made me more open and accepting, even if it didn't change anyone else.  And it certainly made me happy to exclude myself from any gourps/moms who shun people who are not 100% in line with them. 

post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 


"Well, if you'd like a different outcome next time, call me, I can teach you hypnosis."

UGH! See, this is the kind of language that gets carelessly tossed around that makes mamas feel upset. There is another thread on MDC right now in which people are talking about the "perfect birth" theory. Some mamas have mentioned that they don't feel the NCB community every really promises mamas a natural birth, and they ask where some of us get the idea that if we don't "achieve" one we did something wrong.


This. This is where we get that idea. 



post #4 of 25



I just want to say, I am so glad that I can find other smart, articulate, cool women who have BTDT and can say this kind of stuff.


I have been thinking about this A LOT lately too. Not sure how to put all my thoughts into words.


When my neighbor was pregnant and within 6 weeks of delivery, she casually asked me one night while we were hanging out together if I would tell her what went wrong with my birth so that she could be sure not to make the same mistakes. I don't remember her exact words. She had never shown any interest in my birth story before, but she knew I had a c-section. She knows I was in labor a crazy long time because our neighbors fed our cat while we were at the hospital...which of course turned out to be about 5 days longer than we were expecting!


Um, thanks for asking, but I'm not going to share my birth story with you. Sorry. It's not a "cautionary tale." This is why I almost never share my story. I just don't need to feel like the only value that it has is to warn someone about all the stupid things they shouldn't do. I don't think my neighbor meant to be insensitive. Maybe she assumed that there was some kind of intervention at the hospital that had clearly led to my "demise" and I could tip her off to the problem. (We birthed at the same hospital and she used the same doula...at my recommendation. And she ended up with a vaginal birth. Good for her.)


Luckily, I was far along enough in my recovery when this conversation happened that I didn't immediately go into an emotional tailspin. I changed the subject. Though I do admit, I avoided talking to her for awhile after that. I just didn't trust myself to refrain from saying something inappropriate.


I'm glad there is finally a community of some of us who share similar stories. But I also feel strongly that we all have a place in the larger community, and not just to serve as warnings about how not to do what we did. We have another kind of wisdom, another kind of experience, and we deserve a time and a place to have our experience honored and recognized.





post #5 of 25
Originally Posted by Altair View Post
I'm trying again this time for a HBAC, but I am so much more at peace 3 years later with the idea of a transfer, and it has much less of a prominent place in my psyche.  If I don't have a HB, I won't be quite as crushed as last time, I think. 


Altair, YOU ROCK. I'm not sure everyone can appreciate what an amazing thing this is. But I am moved to tears when I read these words. This is the kind of strength that we have and we need to share with the larger community. The strength to walk into the maw of the beast and not be crushed.

post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 


post #7 of 25
Thread Starter 

Mamas, I want to share something exciting with you.


After sending out some feelers to midwives in my area about the whole- why are less than picture perfect birth stories missing from your sites? I got a response from 1 midwife who is now posting transfer stories.


She said she thinks it's "just time" that midwives do this. She said that really, it's women with less than ideal birth scenarios that need and benefit from the midwife model of care the most, and that it's these stories that really show what a difference a midwife can make. She said she has been "honored" to be part of these stories, and that they are very special, and part of the support she offers her clients. And as for what this might mean for people looking for a midwife she said to me, "if they are turned off, there are plenty of midwives advertising only perfect birth stories that they can hire."


Oh how I cried when I read this email from her. It feels like progress. I am so proud of this woman.

post #8 of 25

And I am proud of YOU for reaching out, asking the questions, and encouraging this kind of response. Brings tears to my eyes, in a good way.

post #9 of 25

I can relate, completely.

Although I did not plan a homebirth, I did plan a vaginal hospital birth. The idea of a c-section had not even occured to me. After all, I had to go back to school 3 weeks after my LO was due - I couldn't afford to have a c-section!

But an emergency one I did have, sadly. My story will be up as soon as the moderators approve it - darn being new!

However I can relate. I feel like I don't fit in sometimes, any time that the birth stories come up. ALL of my momma friends had natural births, and thus not one of them can relate to the incredible sense of loss that I feel, or the jealousy. I tell people what happened and there is no real support or emotion, while inside I am DYING for somebody to reach out and tell me that it is okay, that it will be okay.

I think it's sad that women still think that there is a 'perfect birth' and that c/s's did not give 'birth.'


What I went through was no less than what any other mother went through; in fact, in some cases, it was more diffcult. (3.5 days of labor, emergency c/s with general)

Anyway just wanted to say I agree, I hear you - nothing else to really contribute :P

post #10 of 25
That's awesome to get that news back from a midwife! Women planning NBs and HBs know that transfers and surgery are a possibility, but sometimes the idea of thinking too much about those outcomes can somehow CAUSE them creeps up and women just push away the whole idea. For some, that can make a transfer traumatic and scary. Some in the NCB community make you think that if you give in to those thoughts, you are making it more likely that it will be a reality.

I disagree. Even in the most perfect circumstance, a change in plans is always a possibility. Choosing a c-section at the end for my son felt like a decision I was making FOR HIM at the expense of my own dreams going down the tubes. I knew 100% at that point that there was no leaf left unturned and our team had tried everything.

Which makes my blood boils when I hear comments like you heard CI Mama... That we did something wrong and pregnant women need to hear our stories to know what NOT to do. No. Maybe pregnant women could learn from us that despite the best intentions and ungodly amounts of willpower and strength, birth is unpredictable.

It has taken 3 years to be fully at peace with my birth. I can remember the lovely morning after, as I'm recovering in bed and can hardly move my legs yet, but I'm blissfully rooming in with my big boy and staring down into his eyes. My partner is home at that point, after us receiving a call that out birth pool exploded and we caused 10s of thousands of dollars worth of damage... But I am still able to block out everything and love up my boy. I remember those 3 long days of home labor being fully supported by a midwife, doula, partner, acupuncturist, birth photographer... I remember how deeply internal I was and how connected I felt to the labor and my baby. I can re-remember how hard it was to mutually agree and consent to the transfer and c-section. It's easier to remember the "good" and not focus on the "bad." which is why I feel so much stronger going into this birth, no matter what it brings.
post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 



Women planning NBs and HBs know that transfers and surgery are a possibility, but sometimes the idea of thinking too much about those outcomes can somehow CAUSE them creeps up and women just push away the whole idea. For some, that can make a transfer traumatic and scary. Some in the NCB community make you think that if you give in to those thoughts, you are making it more likely that it will be a reality.


I heard this numerous times during my pregnancy. And to be honest, I think it was one of the biggest contributors to my extreme post partum depression following my unplanned c-section.


I wasn't prepared, mentally or physically. And on top of that, once I had one, I thought I had somehow caused it with negative thinking or unresolved emotional something-or-other and that I was totally to blame.


This viewpoint you reference here is one of the things I want us to do away with.

post #12 of 25

Ahhhhhhh the unresolved emotions BS is what offends me the most.  As if there could be no actual physical reason that a baby needs to be born by c-section.  I can't cure cancer by thinking it away, and I can't force a baby out of somewhere he is stuck by getting over my mother yelling at me about wetting myself when I was 4...  



(just an example, I didn't actually wet myself)  ;-)

post #13 of 25
Thread Starter 

Ugh, so true! When I was in labor for the second day, my midwife starting asking me about my issues with my parents. And I just wanted to say, "I know what you are doing. But seriously. I've been in therapy for 10 years to resolve issues with them. It isn't helping me for you to insinuate that my childhood of trauma and emotional betrayal is causing this long labor. In fact, bringing them up is a real f'ing downer right now."


And doesn't this "mind over matter" BS apply to lots of issues? I had a friend who experienced infertility, and plenty of people told her that her focus on wanting a child so bad is what was preventing her from getting pregnant. ... thanks? I mean, how is that helpful?

post #14 of 25

Hi ladies...it's been way too long since I posted, but there's something that's been on my mind.


I live in a community that is "crunchy" by US standards. You can't swing a cat without hitting a doula or a midwife in my town. There are dozens of options for birth education. I took a relatively "mainstream" approach for my community, at the hospital where I would be birthing. That option focused almost entirely on preparing women for unmedicated vaginal birth. You had to take a separate class if you wanted to learn about epidurals. The hospital routinely provides birth suites and expects women to "room in" with their babies. That was true for me even after I had a c-section. They expect you to breastfeed your baby. And that's the "mainstream" approach in my community. There are plenty of people doing home births, UC, etc.


I'm not saying that this is utopia...but this is a community that "gets" natural birth. It gets that the birth experience is important to women. There are tons of ways to learn about and prepare for a "good" birth, meaning "as natural as possible." There are a lot of resources to support women prior to birth.


Which is why I'm still trying to understand why it was so fricking hard to find support after I had a difficult birth. I had 3 different HCPs tell me that I didn't have PPD, and I just needed to get more sleep. Two of those HCPs were working very hard to help me through a painful breast infection that was threatening my breastfeeding relationship with my DD. I was a mess; I cried at the drop of a hat, clearly things were not going well for me during those first months after DDs birth. But not one person asked me, "how did the birth go?" or considered that birth trauma, or just a need to process the birth, was part of my problem. I guess since my baby was alive and I didn't have bleeding from my incision, I was considered "fine" in terms of the birth, nothing to talk about. And perhaps the focus on the breast infection distracted from the underlying issue. (I don't think I would have gotten the infection if I hadn't been so exhausted and depleted because of the birth).


What I would like to see in my community is a network of support that not only helps women have their best possible birth, but is ready to jump in and support when things don't go well. So that the message is, no matter how things turn out, there will be a way through. A community that helps create resilience in mothers who have a hard time.


Maybe my experience was unusual. Maybe the support was there & I just didn't know where to find it. Maybe I'm just particularly neurotic or difficult and nothing would have helped me through. But when I think about what I would like to give back to my community, this is what I think about. How to create more awareness and more support for mothers who have a hard time.



post #15 of 25
Thread Starter 

I think about this constantly. And we are in the same community. :)


I'm working with another mama in the area to start up a birth trauma support group. I wish there had been one for me, and there wasn't. I'm also speaking to the local out of hospital midwives a a couple months, to help them figure out ways to better assist women post-partum, especially women who are at risk for PPD due to unexpected birth outcomes.


I felt so embraced and loved when I was pregnant. But after I had my son, and especially after having an unexpected outcome, I suddenly felt left for dead on a roadside. The networks of support seem to have dried up. We can do better with seeing women through the ENTIRE perinatal period.

post #16 of 25
Thread Starter 

Thinking more about this post today.


I often felt like, looking back the Edinburgh Scale that they use to diagnose PPD wasn't really helpful to me. I remember being asked if I was worried or anxious for "no good reason." What the hell did that mean? What qualifies as a 'good reason'? Having a new baby in the house qualified as a really really GREAT reason to be completely freaked the f*** out, so I remember not answer that question in the affirmative. Maybe I should've.


I really like this tool better. It's from Penny Simkin and it helps women and care providers address the impact of a difficult birth on post-partum mental health. 



post #17 of 25

Wow, that's a MUCH better tool. I also didn't respond well to the standard PPD questionnaire. I think one of the questions was, "do you think about harming yourself or your baby?" and my answer was "NO, I feel like enough harm has been done & am desperate for things to feel easier and get better."


Another thing that I don't see showing up on either tool is feeling "triggered" by other women's birth stories, but that was a major one for me. Five months after DD was born, a close friend had a picture perfect home birth, and I couldn't talk to her. It's not that I wasn't happy for her or didn't want to talk to her, but she called our house one day and I burst into tears and could not stop sobbing. It was embarrassing. The feeling I had was that I had no right at all to speak to someone who was a real woman who had had a normal birth, when I was clearly a defective mutant who would never be normal. Even as those thoughts were going through my head, I could see how irrational they were. But I couldn't make them go away, I couldn't stop crying, and I couldn't talk to my friend. Which just made me feel worse because I decided I was "emotionally immature" for having such a freaky response. Geez, it was crazy.


That's when I first realized when I was truly traumatized by my birth experience, that I wasn't going to "get over it" on my own, and I needed help. I ended up seeing a dance therapist 2-3 times a month for 6 months, and that really helped me move to a better place. But I feel like I really had to come to that path on my own.


Another thing: one of the HCPs who gave me the standard PPD questionnaire was a nurse intern who worked at a breast feeding clinic that I went to. I saw her about a year later, and she told me that all the LCs had been so worried about me because every time I came to the clinic, I would sort of break down. And I thought, they just don't have the tools either. I was having trouble, they gave me the PPD questionnaire, I tested "negative" for PPD, and that was the end of the road. They had no follow up, no support system they could refer me to. I'm not blaming them; I think they were genuinely concerned and wanted to help. But they were at a loss. Another LC (this one was an MD) who saw me struggling suggested that I wean my baby because I was clearly too stressed out. Um, thanks. Again, I think she meant well, but it really wasn't what I needed. Giving up on breastfeeding would have compounded my trauma, not solved it.

post #18 of 25
Thread Starter 

Those stories are so so telling! Yes! I also remember being asked "Do you love your baby?" And I remember thinking, 'Well, I wouldn't leave him in traffic. But I absolutely HATE my life at the moment.' 


You're right. The tools are not there. One of my major feelings after the birth was of being abandoned. I felt like suddenly all this wonderful support evaporated and I was just left on the side of the road with a cesarean scar, open emotional wounds, and a colicky baby. I've probably said this before, but in the UK and Canada birth trauma is looked at as separate from PPD, and has separated screening tools and treatments. I wish we did that here, I really do.


Also, as a small note, I recently read this old 'zine article by a c-section mama. She said that she didn't understand why people, after her VBAC said "I'm so proud of you!", but after her initial c-section everyone just said "I'm so glad you and the baby are okay." She writes: 


What would it have been like if someone had said, “I am proud of you for valuing yourself and your child enough to dream of a birth experience that is not just ordinary, but extraordinary.  I am proud of you for bringing your children into this world with love and courage even when you were faced with circumstances that were such a departure from all that you had hoped for.  And afterward, as I struggled to make sense of it all, to have heard, “I am proud of you for your willingness not only to seek healing for yourself, but to share your thoughts and feelings with others so that we might all find a way to heal our birth wounds.  I am proud of you for not letting your birth make you bitter, but for allowing it to make you more compassionate.  I am proud of your strength of spirit, your resilience, and your willingness to do whatever it takes to be the best possible mother to your children.”  I imagine, at that time, that it might have meant everything. 


I wish someone had said that to me. Not even DH thought to say that after the whole thing was said and done. 


And I do recall someone telling me to go to an ICAN meeting. But I just thought, I cannot face the world, and I don't want to be part of a "ghetto" of other freak mutant women like me. I know that's not what ICAN is, and I want to make clear that was just my very sick and sad brain talking at the time. But I did really feel that even that suggestion was someone saying, "go over with the other can't-births and don't bother the rest of us with your issues."

post #19 of 25

So much of this strikes a chord with me. I would give anything for my DP to say just once that she's proud of me. I've had to accept that it's not going to happen.


My doula urged me to come to a new mama group that she facilitated, and she told me that every new mama tells her birth story to the group. And I thought, "No fricken way." Because 1) I couldn't tell my story in less than 1 hour (and that would be the "short" version) and 2) I couldn't tell it without having a total break down. So, the support thing is really tricky. On the one hand, I didn't feel that I fit in to a "normal" mamas group. On the other hand, hanging out with a bunch of other freaked out mamas was not necessarily what I was looking for either.


And I also got turned off by ICAN. When I checked them out initially, they seemed sooooo focused on getting women to have VBACs. And that's just not in the cards for me. Maybe I misunderstood or didn't dig deep enough, but that was my first impression. So I didn't feel like I would fit in there, either.


I'm not sure what the solution is, but my instinct tells me that if we keep this conversation alive and get more people involved, something will make itself clear.

post #20 of 25
Thread Starter 

Hmmm. This is so fascinating, and really resonates with me.


Maybe the question is broader, and relates how you treat trauma in general. With birth, it's so difficult because the experience can run the gamut. For survivors of war, I would think the typical experience would be, if not downright horrific, at least not what you'd call pleasant. So how do you treat birth trauma without making women who have it feel isolated, or without trying to tell them that a better experience (VBAC) will "fix" their initial experience, or without making them feel even more triggered by being around other traumatized women?

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