how do i get over a bad birth experience - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 01-20-2005, 10:27 PM - Thread Starter
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DD was born 2 months ago and I am still upset over the experience. She was a hospital birth and we opted for an epi. (stupid I know now, but I really didnt have faith in my body at the time) The nurses treated me like a child through the whole process, I had to beg them to let me get up to pee after my water broke, then the epi didn't work after all and instead of just taking it out and letting me do things naturally they redid it and it still didn't work so i had a epi that didn't work and a nasty cathetar that they insisted on doing with the epi. The whole experience was degrading. Then as soon as dd was born they took her for over an hour to do whatever it is they do. I am still upset about all this. I just don't know how to get past it. DD is probably my last child, and I am tormented every day by the memory of her birth. If I could do it over we would have just birthed at home, but you know, hindsight is 20/20. How do I get past this? Please don't flame me for my poor birth choices.
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#2 of 9 Old 01-21-2005, 02:38 AM
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It's been 6 yrs since my first and I'm still working on issues of anger and resentment toward myself, the doctors and nurses and the hospital.

I have since gone on to have a great birth experience and hope to repeat that in the future.

I get some of my therapy through advocating midwifery here in VA, since it is so suppressed.

I have a thread out there on this board similar, you can do searches at the top of the screen for topics like birth trauma, bad birth experience, etc.

It helps tremendously to know I'm not alone in my feelings. It will take time and 2 mo isn't probably enough time yet.

And the best thing any woman ever said to me I'll share with you... "You did the best you could at the time with the information you had."

This is so true, at the time I didn't know what I know now and I did do my best with what I was given to work with. This phrase gave me comfort and helps me to forgive myself. But I will never forget the experience, I just continue to live day by day letting it have less of a grip on me than the day before. Some days that grip is hard, but most days I'm okay with it.

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#3 of 9 Old 01-21-2005, 05:11 AM
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i think perhaps the first stage in healing is knowing that perhaps you will never *get over* this epxerience.. that you were traumatized by something negative and that your 100% vaild to be upset and hurt by that. I think it seems a fair bit like your taking it on as well.. saying *stupid i know*.. I don't personally equate intelligence with poor birth outcomes...I am not sure if this example is too extreme for you, but to me it is the equivelant of saying *stupid i know i shouldn't have dated* in response to being raped,, we put our traust in the hands of medical staff to birth in most cases, and when any trust is broken and the results are harmful it is something that can cause a lasting pain...i think it is important to know that you are strong and didn't do anything *wrong*.. to me you just describe a pretty average north american birth.. but like most (if not all) women you have a voice inside telling you that this wasn't the way it should have happened, and I think your right..
I know too that sometimes when your surrounded by powerful enlightened women it can feel almost shameful to have a birth go this way, as if you should have known better, but i also think way too many of us became enlightened about birth after living through what you have, or having someone we love live through it, or reading some touching story like yours.. and perhaps sharing it and helping to educate women about what this feels like and helping to ensure more babies are brought into this world with love and dignity will help you heal some.. that is not your job, but I know for me I had to be angry about my first birth, and I still am and i think it is justifiable..
no one should flame you for expressing your needs for will likely take a lot of time.. i am sure your daughter is surrounded by much love and that will be what guides her now..and perhaps she will grow up knowing that women deserve to be treated with honour in birth..
And don't let yourself get into the head space that you *couldn't do it*.. of course you can.. you did do it.. but others prevented you from doing it in a way you would have felt healthy.. and that is not fair.
There is no shame in being victimized (there shouldn't be anyway).. this is an industry that thrives on taking advantage of women.
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#4 of 9 Old 01-21-2005, 10:24 AM
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The first step (at least for me) was to accept what happened as just that- what happened. It was in the past and there wasn't anything to do to change it.

Part of my acceptance process resulted in me becoming a doula.
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#5 of 9 Old 01-21-2005, 01:13 PM
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I tend to agree, make a list of what to do next time.
I had a very negative birth experience with Craig. With Logan, I made a list of what I wanted and insisted that he stay with me after his birth. As hard as it sounds, try not to beat yourself up over it.
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#6 of 9 Old 01-21-2005, 01:28 PM
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I just wanted to say that I recently posted the same question and got lots of great answers. My situation wasn't exactly the same, but the thread might give you some suggestions:
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#7 of 9 Old 01-21-2005, 02:13 PM
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Hi, I'm new here.

I'd like to mention that although my first two birth experiences were more or less okay, my third was emotionally scarring and all-round awful. I have been putting off seeking therapy for this issue, as I am still, three years later, letting it affect my day-to-day consciousness, and I'd really rather get over it as well as possible! Or get through it to the point where it's not the shadow hanging over me that it is right now.

I think now, after reading about others' experiences here, and feeling a bit emboldened, that I will at least talk about it a couple of times with someone.

This is, sadly, not an uncommon thing, is it. None of us is alone in that, regardless of the personal details.
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#8 of 9 Old 01-21-2005, 08:46 PM
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You are soooo not alone in this! Lots of hugs to you. Recognising, feeling and talking about the experience are some of the first vital steps to recovery. So you're on the way It can be a long, slow road and people will try to tell you that you should be over it according to their timetable and that you should be grateful for a healthy baby. Well who isn't??? But it's not the only aspect to birth. This is a pamphlet I give women in my group for recovering from birth trauma. I hope it helps you. Keep us in the loop about your progress.

Dealing with traumatic birth.

There are many things that women can do to begin healing from traumatic birth. Some of the avenues which have worked for us are:-

Seek out a support group. Consumer-driven support groups are usually free and run by women who have experienced trauma as well. You should feel safe and well supported in the group you choose. Or, start your own group! You will certainly attract other women as birth trauma is a vastly underestimated experience in Australia. Accessing Artemis at Joyous Birth is both online and real life support. Check below for details.

Requesting a medical debriefing from your caregiver. If you were traumatised by birth in a hospital or birth centre they will probably have a midwife and doctor with whom you can discuss your experience. They should be able to explain to you, and your partner, exactly what happened and why. This can be particularly beneficial when something life threatening and unexpected has occurred and you feel shellshocked by it. It can also help your partner to understand why you are feeling as you are and how to support you. If you cannot go to the hospital because it is too distressing they can conduct this off site for you. If you do not wish to have anything to do with the hospital or BC, or your trauma occurred at home, a private midwife might be a good source of information for you. A general counsellor can sometimes help with the fallout but may not be able to give you medical information or explain your record to you.

Contacting the health service where the trauma occurred and requesting your medical record. Quite often during labour women will be unable to see all that happens around them. If you were in pain or had drugs such as gas or pethidine, you may not have a very clear idea of some of what occurred. Having a support person who was with you who can tell you what went on is also helpful in this way. We feel that to fully heal you need to look at everything that happened and your medical record is one way to fill in some of the gaps. Labour and birth notes are often not very clear and you may feel the staff’s notes have little or no relation to what happened from your point of view.

Write your experience down. Putting your story on paper can be very difficult. Some women write little bits of it and then string them together. This can help you feel that the experience is out of you and not sitting in your heart distressing you. It can help you find patterns in what emerged, work out your reactions and those of the people around you, and even find new ways to see some of it.

Keep a journal. You can record your emotional state and work out what distressed you the most as well as how you are healing yourself.

Talk about it to sympathetic listeners. Talking therapies such as counselling can be vital in giving us space and validating our experience. It is another way to get the pain out of you. People are often uncomfortable with emotions and you may find that even trusted friends or family members cannot comprehend what you are saying. They may try to comfort you by saying “You got a healthy baby, why don’t you concentrate on that?” This is not helpful. It goes without saying that we are happy that our baby and ourselves survive but there are many other factors which are important in a birth. Sometimes giving people a copy of your birth story to read will help them to really see why you are distressed.

Be good to yourself! You may find as you review your experience that you will start to feel that it was your fault. While it is always better to be an informed consumer, sometimes this would not have helped you improve your experience anyway. Hospitals and birth centres are institutions and can only be as good as the staff you get. Protocols are not necessarily useful or sensitive and some staff are not thoughtful about how they follow them. Having your medical record and understanding hospital/BC protocols will help you understand how much choice you actually had in the situation and what you might think of changing in subsequent births.

Alternative therapies can help. Maybe see your naturopath or GP. Not all caregivers, especially those in conventional medical fields, view traumatic birth as important or valid. If your caregiver is not supportive and understanding, get a new one! A naturopath or homeopath may offer you herbs, vitamins or flower essences to aid your recovery both physically and emotionally. Some of us have found this extremely helpful to use alongside talking therapies. Be wary of prescribed drugs such as antidepressants or sleeping pills which may help alleviate some of the symptoms but not help you with the root cause of your distress. They also may make it hard to care for your baby.

Try to get some physical support. Sometimes having a friend wash the dishes, do the washing or clean the kitchen can free up you and your partner to have time together. Some women find that a less chaotic home environment is beneficial. Sometimes even a little bit of scrubbing can be cathartic in itself! But we don’t recommend you get too bothered by housework at this point – healing is so much more important and, trust us, the dishes will be there tomorrow.

Read some books and articles about birth trauma and recovery but also about sexual assault. Many women feel that their experience was similar to sexual assault and find relief in approaching some aspects of their healing this way.

Some useful books, articles and web sites are:-
Reclaiming the Spirituality of Birth: Healing for Mothers and Babies, Benig Mauger, Vermont, 2000.
Rebounding from Childbirth: Toward Emotional Recovery, Lynn Madsen, London, 1994. Woman’s Experience of Sex: The Facts and Feelings of Female Sexuality at Every Stage of Life, Sheila Kitzinger, New York, 1985.


Accessing Artemis for women recovering from birth-related trauma. Melbourne
Contact Janet (03) 9499 8954

Birth Trauma and Stress Support, Brisbane
We offer support through email and phone and a support group. Contact Ursula at Estramina House: phone: 07 3809 0196 or email us at

Support, Advocacy and Recovery on the internet
Loads of useful links. Includes info on recovering from traumatic birth. Very empowering. Encouraging of a consumer-type attitude to your health care.
Caesarean and Traumatic Birth Support. A site for women who want to truly heal spiritually and emotionally after a difficult birth experience
A site by, for and about those born by c-sec.
New Zealand site on traumatic birth and recovery – PTSD and PND.
Kitzinger on birth trauma.
Petition and declaration on the rights of birthing women.
A US site devoted to improving women’s experience in birth. Excellent for birth trauma.
Healing the Temple Door – a guided meditation on healing from rape which can also be excellently employed in recovering from birth trauma.

This pamphlet was written by
Janet Fraser for Accessing Artemis.
© Janet Fraser 2004
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#9 of 9 Old 01-22-2005, 12:08 AM
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hi summertime mommy

please don't beat yourself up over wanting an epidural. Your birth experience hurt you because you were forced to surrender so much control-- that's the nature of hospitals, whether you're giving birth or having kidney surgery.

If it helps any, I was totally traumatized by a homebirth where I had everything natural, in the water, with doulas and a midwife. sometimes life creeps up on us and takes us by surprise. There's no way of knowing that you would have been less injured, emotionally, in a different setting. You need to be gentle with yourself now-- none of this was your fault. sometimes in life we end up giving up control when we'd prefer not to.

I think you will heal from this, and above all don't blame yourself.

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