Women suffering from birth trauma are NOT just being selfish!

Once again, a woman commenting on this blog has expressed views that could be offensive & insensitive to those recovering from the impact of birth.  We again considered ignoring the comment, but as we see so many similar viewpoints on various forums, chatlists, websites and blogs that go unchecked and unchallenged, we have chosen to address the myths, misconceptions and hurtful assumptions that this woman has raised.

How this all started

Some readers commented on our blog that they feel robbed and ‘less of a woman’ as a result of their caesarean births.  One woman says, I can no longer talk to my parents about the births of my two daughters as I get the same thing…healthy mother, healthy baby. I am not healthy. I have not entirely healed. My surgical birth openings may be less sensitive but my heart and mind still feel the pain. I still feel robbed of the natural birth experience and sometimes feel “less of a woman”. I feel my girls were also robbed of the natural rite of passage and were “taken” instead!!

Another woman shared those sentiments, writing, “The not wanting to talk about certain things, and the feeling that my son was “taken.” I had a cesarean, also. I … ALSO get the “Well you should be glad they did a cesarean because the baby was in distress!” Yeah, he was in distress, from the pitocin contractions, and I never should have let anyone induce me. ..So, needless to say, I don’t talk much about the birth to my MIL or her friends or anything like that, and I try not to talk about other things. Their remarks remind me that I wasn’t happy with labor/delivery, and it makes my blood boil.”

A disagreement of feelings

These comments then received the following response by another woman  :

Hi ladies, as a mother who had a emergency cesarean, i would just like to express my disagreement of feelings. I don’t understand how you could feel “less of a woman” or “robbed” of the experience of vaginal birth? i was dreading it. I was induced, failed to progress past 8cm, and had emergency C section and i feel that cesarean was the best outcome possible for me and baby!! A positive is my vagina is still intact lol. I think that maybe you view your experience too negatively.. i mean i didn’t have the worst birth ever (eg. broken tail bone that one of my friends experienced and a billion vaginal stiches) but it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. 18.5hrs of labour (thank u science for epidural, couldn’t have gone the whole way otherwise) But i feel that either way it wouldn’t have been fun! It all involves pain which ever way they exit. If i was back in the ‘old days’ one or both of us would have died!! They think that my pelvic shape may have something to do with it and doc said next time i will probably have to have cesarean again. I did feel that the whole thing was traumatic for me, like now and then i have flashbacks, but all of the pain and suffering gets almost forgotten with that one prescious moment of the doctor holding my baby girl up over the curtain and my partner and i bursting into tears of happiness …that is when i had known i had done it. She was out and alive and so was I, and I felt a real sense of accomplishment. We had made a beautiful baby and she was healthy. Now if you ladies cant tell me that you felt that feeling, of success seeing your baby out, alive and well, i believe that you are selfish. Selfish because you aren’t really caring about what is important- that babies well being! Would having that baby come out dead from your vagina because that is what is “supposed to happen” make you feel better? NO!! And having a traumatic birth only makes you a stronger person, learn from it.. it makes other things in life seem less painful. If people judge you because of a cesarean then that is ridiculous. No one has ever made me feel any less than what i am..a wonderful mother. People will always throw advice at you, but take it with a pinch of salt, they always think their way is best. But only you know what is best for your baby.. Mentally, having my baby was the scariest and most challenging thing i’ve ever done. I proudly tell my birth story to my friends and other people, because its MY story and its what happened to me. I am not ashamed, i am no less of a woman than my mother who had me vaginally. I am not weaker because i had to have a cesarean. I just thank god for what i have… An beautiful baby girl, and my own healthy and functioning body.


Birthtalk.org’s reply

Below is Birthtalk.org’s reply to Jacinta.  We have chosen to address her statements in segments, for ease of reading…

Jacinta – it is due to common misunderstandings such as yours that we began this blog.  We were tempted to delete your comment, as you have said some things that could be very hurtful, and come across as unkind, to many women.  However, because so many traumatised women deal with comments like this every day, and because so many people share your sentiments, we have decided to publish your comment, and include our own reply.  We are tackling your comment section by section, beginning with your opening statement.

…as a mother who had a emergency cesarean, i would just like to express my disagreement of feelings. I don’t understand how you could feel “less of a woman” or “robbed” of the experience of vaginal birth?

Firstly, it is entirely appropriate that you would have a ‘disagreement of feelings’ with the women who have commented previously. There is no ‘set’ response to birth and  womens’ experiences of that journey can be vastly different.  It also follows, then, that you can have a different set of feelings post-birth…every experience of birth is different, every caesarean is different, every vaginal birth is different.  The reason you don’t understand how someone could feel less of a woman or robbed is because fortunately you didn’t feel that way yourself…NOT because it is unreasonable to feel that way (which is what you have assumed).

i was dreading it. I was induced, failed to progress past 8cm, and had emergency C section and i feel that cesarean was the best outcome possible for me and baby!! A positive is my vagina is still intact lol.

A caesarean possibly was the best possible outcome for you and your baby. No-one would argue with you on that, as we don’t know the exact circumstances around your birth. It sounds that, whilst obviously challenging, a caesarean birth was also less scary for you, which also would have influenced how you feel about your experience. Going into birth with a feeling of dread can also mean that decisions are made out of fear, rather than knowledge. Your comment regarding having an intact vagina needs to be addressed also, as you have made a common, yet incorrect assumption. The birth process is not designed to cause vaginal trauma and mostly does not need to be experienced in this way. So whilst it’s great that your vagina is still intact, so are ours…and we’ve had vaginal births (Melissa has had a caesarean followed by a VBAC).  Our three vaginally-birthed babies have ranged from 9lb to 10lb, (that is, around 4kg to 4.5kg).  We do not offer this information as a boast of our ‘birthing prowess’, as we know that our ability to birth these babies without vaginal trauma was largely a result of having access to excellent antenatal information, plus wonderful emotional and physical support during the birth, the positions we were able to use for birthing, and having caregivers who did not pressure us to push.   We are telling you of our own experiences merely to demonstrate that vaginal birth does NOT have to equal vaginal damage.  To be honest – there are many women who would not see an intact vagina as an overriding positive, if the alternative is having a scar on their belly & uterus that gives them additional risks for future pregnancies.

I think that maybe you view your experience too negatively.. i mean i didn’t have the worst birth ever (eg. broken tail bone that one of my friends experienced and a billion vaginal stiches) but it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. 18.5hrs of labour (thank u science for epidural, couldn’t have gone the whole way otherwise) But i feel that either way it wouldn’t have been fun! It all involves pain which ever way they exit. If i was back in the ‘old days’ one or both of us would have died!! They think that my pelvic shape may have something to do with it and doc said next time i will probably have to have cesarean again. I did feel that the whole thing was traumatic for me, like now and then i have flashbacks, but all of the pain and suffering gets almost forgotten with that one prescious moment of the doctor holding my baby girl up over the curtain and my partner and i bursting into tears of happiness …that is when i had known i had done it.

This is not about who’s had the ‘worst birth ever’.  It’s about women having experienced feelings during labour & birth that have resulted in feelings of trauma & distress afterwards…whether this is the result of how they were cared for, or the circumstances surrounding their birth.  It’s not about pain.  We have had women come to Birthtalk who have painless labours, and still suffer postnatally because of how they were cared for.  I can imagine that your own experience was ‘no walk in the park’, as you say, with 18.5 hrs of labour – that’s a pretty intense experience…and often more so with an induction.  And without knowing more about your labour it is impossible to say whether the Doctor is giving you accurate, evidence-based information in telling you that you will need a repeat caesarean.  We would recommend getting a second opinion on that one, as there are so many more factors at play than merely pelvic shape.

What are some of these factors?  Firstly, being induced means that you already were not experiencing a ‘normal’ birth, as your body then goes into labour before it may be ready. If your body is not ready, then this raises question marks over a number of things, starting with your baby’s readiness & correct positioning.  If your body was not ready, then you likely lack  the presence of hormones that reduce the pain in a labour which starts on its own, so it will hurt more.  And there would be question marks surrounding the readiness of your cervix to dilate.  Even experiencing feelings of dread about the impending birth, and having feelings during the birth that lead you to describe your birth to us as ‘traumatic’, can be enough to disrupt the progress of labour.  You describe your birth as consisting of ‘pain and suffering’, which often indicates an environment not supportive of birthing (whether it’s the physical environment or the emotional environment), and this can affect the ability of your body’s hormones to do their job to progress your labour, and also reduce the pain.  Then if you add in the fact that you had an epidural, which alone is associated with increasing your chance of caesarean, then perhaps you can see that there are many variables (separate to pelvic shape) that may have led to ‘failure to progress’.

In ‘the old days’ one or both of you may have died…or you may not have.  It depends on so much more than just lying on a bed and labouring and ‘seeing what happens’.  As you can see from what we have said above, if you were labouring in a different environment, with different support, and different information, the outcome may have been different.  (we should also add that we are not making a judgement of you for having an induction or an epidural…it’s not about whether you have them or not…it’s about having good information about how these interventions can affect the progress of your labour, and taking steps to support your body in such situations, which is only possible with a different set of information)

We hear what you are saying, that the whole thing was traumatic for you, for which we are really sorry.  We could understand this, from what you have told us about your experience, especially if you are having flashbacks, which indicates that this birth has affected you profoundly.

You say that either way, your birth ‘wouldn’t have been fun’.  We know many, many women who find their births to be enjoyable experiences, and who would have more babies…just to experience birth again.  So yes, maybe ‘fun’ is not the right word…but women having empowering (even if painful) births describe them as ‘exhilarating’, ‘ecstatic’, ‘mind-blowing’, ‘awesome’ experiences, that are infused with positive emotions (ie no dread, no suffering, no trauma)…and these are NOT all natural births that we are talking about.  We are just throwing this ‘out there’ to challenge your assumption that birth will be horrible & something you just have to go through, regardless of how the baby is born.   Again – we do not judge the fact that you experienced dread, suffering and trauma…we completely understand why you did, based on what you have told us, plus reading a bit between the lines…we are just saying that with different education about birth and perhaps differences in your care, it does not HAVE to be that way, and is not ALWAYS that way.

She was out and alive and so was I, and I felt a real sense of accomplishment. We had made a beautiful baby and she was healthy.  Now if you ladies cant tell me that you felt that feeling, of success seeing your baby out, alive and well, i believe that you are selfish. Selfish because you aren’t really caring about what is important- that babies well being!

And how do you know that the women who have commented above did not burst into tears of happiness when their baby was held over the curtain?  I certainly did exactly that, even though my birth was very traumatic and I ended up with a caesarean after 30 hours.  You can be happy about your baby’s arrival, and devastated with your experience of the arrival, all at the same time.  That’s what can make it all the more confusing for a woman in that position.

And of course you should feel a sense of accomplishment for making a beautiful, healthy baby.  But just because you feel it, doesn’t mean that other women will.  How you experienced your caesarean will likely be different from how another experienced hers. How can you tell another woman that she should feel like you, when you did not go through the same thing that she did?  Caesareans can be beautiful, positive events…or they can be horrific, devastating events…or anything in between.  And the things that make them one or the other are not things that you can find out just by hearing that a woman ‘had a caesarean’.  That does not tell you how she was treated, how she felt, what went on during the surgery, whether the health carers treated her appropriately.  It is THESE THINGS that a woman is responding to as well, NOT just ‘having a caesarean’.

The impact of being mistreated can easily overshadow the feeling of accomplishment for making a beautiful baby, especially if no-one acknowledges the significance of this for the woman.
If a woman ‘can’t feel that feeling of success seeing her baby out, alive and well’, then to call her selfish is extremely revealing.  It clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding about birth, and especially about traumatic birth.  What is important goes WAY beyond the baby’s well-being.  Of course all women with healthy babies are grateful for that-  it’s a bit of a no-brainer really.  But if they have been through a traumatic birth, they may be swamped with overwhelming emotions that need validating and processing.  The woman’s wellbeing is every bit as important, as it affects her ability to mother.

Would having that baby come out dead from your vagina because that is what is “supposed to happen” make you feel better? NO!!

Bringing up the topic of dead babies, Jacinta, is rather unnecessary, damaging, and irrelevant.  We have women come to Birthtalk who HAVE had babies die.  They are often suffering from two levels of trauma : one from losing their child, and another from how they experienced the actual birth.  Chances are, they would have been at Birthtalk even if their babies had survived, to deal with the trauma of the birth…but because the grief and shock of their baby dying takes precedence, they often only deal with birth trauma a long way down the track. Does that make sense?  Even women whose babies die can experience the same trauma as women whose babies survive.  Of course those women who lose their babies have a whole new terrible tragic level to deal with, but the women in this situation who have come to Birthtalk have expressed their relief to be able to separate the two different types of trauma., and finally process the birth trauma.

And having a traumatic birth only makes you a stronger person, learn from it.. it makes other things in life seem less painful

You say that ‘having a traumatic birth only makes you a stronger person’, but you are wrong. Having a traumatic birth does not make you a stronger person if you receive no support, no validation, no means to understand your experience.  It is the healing process that reveals a woman’s strength, and for many women this process needs to be helped along by wonderful support and understanding.  Your own comments have not provided any support and understanding, and actually serve to perpetuate the myths in our culture surrounding traumatic birth.

If people judge you because of a cesarean then that is ridiculous. No one has ever made me feel any less than what i am..a wonderful mother. People will always throw advice at you, but take it with a pinch of salt, they always think their way is best. But only you know what is best for your baby..

You are correct that this is a ‘ridiculous’ judgment but just because no-one made you feel less than a wonderful mother, does not mean other women receive the same treatment or have your ability to process it. Everyone is in a different family situation, with different friends, different partners, different mothers and mothers-in-law.  It’s great that you have been able to feel a wonderful mother.  However  your comments could easily make another woman feel judged and less-than, simply because of the lack of empathy and awareness you show.  There is also a difference between ‘people throwing advice at you’ ( as you have described it) and being told that you are selfish for wanting to emotionally recover from your birth (which is what many women continually hear from those around them…including you).

Mentally, having my baby was the scariest and most challenging thing i’ve ever done. I proudly tell my birth story to my friends and other people, because its MY story and its what happened to me. I am not ashamed, i am no less of a woman than my mother who had me vaginally. I am not weaker because i had to have a cesarean. I just thank god for what i have… An beautiful baby girl, and my own healthy and functioning body

Of course you are not less of a woman because you had a caesarean.  Of course you are not weaker.  But maybe this is because the unique set of circumstances in your own unique situation enabled you to maintain a sense of it being your story rather than experiencing it as ‘others doing things to you’. (which might explain why you don’t feel ‘robbed’).  Women who feel impacted by their birth often report feeling that it wasn’t ‘their’ birth…usually because they were treated in a way that implied this.

Perhaps, too,  you have not been inundated by others  around you implying that you ARE less of a woman.   Other women hear constantly that they are not responding appropriately to their birth…when the appropriate response is actually dependent on each woman’s experience of it. The only one who knows how a woman feels about her birth is the woman herself, because she was the one who experienced it. Without talking to her, how could we possibly know?

And we are sincerely glad you have a healthy, functioning body.  Other women have not been so lucky in their recovery from caesarean.  You do not know the recovery details of the other women who have commented here, or of the other women who have had caesareans…or vaginal births for that matter.  It would be incorrect to assume that everyone has been as lucky as you.

Women who feel robbed after a traumatic birth are experiencing reasonable, understandable emotions in response to particular situations that arose during their births. They may feel robbed physiologically (that is, they did not get the hormones and physical experiences that women are supposed to get from birth), or emotionally (that is, they did not get the emotional support and feelings of safety that are required for a birth to feel positive). And even those who have had positive births may still need to process the circumstances surrounding their birth.

We are glad you are proud of your birth story.  You rightfully have nothing to be ashamed about, and probably much to be proud of.  But what you have done with your comment is to shame other women who feel differently.  This is unacceptable, unkind, and unhelpful.  As we said – we have published your comment to demonstrate the kind of misinformation that women who feel bad about their births come up against in our society and to perhaps allow others, like yourself, to reflect on this.  And also, most importantly, to give women who are struggling after a traumatic birth a clear message… that you – and others who share your sentiments – are wrong.

©Birthtalk 2010

The difficult days following a traumatic birth, where a woman needs support and validation, not shaming and judgment.                                     Photo©Birthtalk

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  1. I would like to share some comments that were triggered by reading Jacinta’s email. I had a Caesar for my first baby and then two vaginal births at home with excellent care and support since. When I had my Caesar,I was grateful at the time because I thought my baby’s life was at risk. I was seperated from her for several hours and then had limited contact for several days (she was early). The grief from that early separation lasted many years and the circumstances of her birth impacted on our relationship for several years. Luckily I found the right women/support who helped me heal and connect with her. It took till the birth of my second child to recover from the “baggage” that I carried from that Caesar and the feeling that I was physically incompetent, not in birth but in the ability to nourish my baby (my caesar was because there were concerns she wasn’t growing and was without a labour).
    One of the things that surprised me enormously post Caesar and then post vaginal birth was the change in my sexual enjoyment. After the Caesar, “things” just didn’t feel right during sex and as a midwife and sexual and reproductive health nurse, that didn’t make any sense to me. Aren’t women who have Caesars meant to have “an intact vagina” and therefore no affect on their sexual well-being? And then consequently the best surprise after healing from my stitches (which incidentally were my biggest fear antenatally but also unfounded), and resuming our sex life, found that sex after vaginal birth was better than ever. I still don’t understand why but know that a Caesar had an negative effect on me physically and vaginal birth fixed it.
    I am really happy for those women who don’t have grief after their Caesars but I do wonder why they are so angry at women who do if they are so comfortable with their experiences.
    For those women out there who are still healing – find the support and women that can help you heal and connect with your babies. It can be done and Jacinta is right – it does made you stronger but acknowledging your grief and finding the support to heal is so helpful. I still feel sad when I think about my first baby girl’s separation from me and I know that will never be gone but it is part of our story together.

    1. Maxine I had the same experience after C/S in terms of sex and many of the women I know did too…. Painful and unnaturally tight is the best way to explain it for me. Conversely I have also heard from friends who had vaginal births that their sex life improved. I have a theory about it which is totally unproven, but I wonder if since the body expects the vagina to have to shrink down and contract back to an original alignment after birth, that it does so even if vaginal birth doesn’t occur and leaves the woman with an unnaturally aligned vagina….. Just a theory. I know it took my husband and I over 12 months to be able to have anything like enjoyable sex again, where we had previously had a great sex life even up to the late stages of pregnancy. I would love to see a study done on this.

      Also sorry to hear of your birth trauma but I am glad that you had great support. I am still healing myself, but feel like I turned a big corner several months ago and will plan a VBAC for my next birth. Many blessings in your journey.

      1. Thanks for sharing Belinda – I have only ever talked about it to my midwives and it is great to hear that other women have also experienced this – not so much to hear there was a problem with sex but that I am not the only one who found something wasn’t right post caesar. And that vaginal birth fixed it.

        Best wishes for your future birthing.

    2. Maxine, thank you for your comments on how having a C-section affected your sexual well-being. I experienced many of the same problems you and Belinda described after my own C-section. I had no sexual dysfunction after the vaginal birth of my 1st child. Sex after my C-section, though, was painful and often left me feeling emotionally numb. Often I would cry after sex. I think that for me, the C-section experience was such a violation of my body that afterwards, sex only served to re-traumatize me. It was only once I worked through these feelings with the help of a wonderful therapist–who likened my birth experience to a rape–that I was able to enjoy sex again.

    3. I am happy to see you raise this issue of sexual pleasure so that other mothers might find they are less alone in their feelings. I am terribly grateful for my own birth experiences, as my history of birth trauma occurred long before my own births in the history and stories of my family. I do not have personal experience of cesarean birth, and am indeed very fortunate to have had three home births. As to this issue, I can only comment on my own experience of significantly enhanced pleasure sexual after my births. It has never made sense to me that Nature harms us in birthing our babies, nor exacts the emotional toll that so many mothers contend with.

      Having heard other mothers comment as you have, however (including close personal friends), I have theorized that there may well be a physiologic component in the shutting down of oxytocin receptors during many surgical and even otherwise medically interventive births. This combined with the vast array of emotions a mother might feel about herself and those involved in her care and even her partner’s role, must surely come into play in her sense of herself as a sexual being. So, I surmise, the mind-body connection must be at work and healing must surely require attention to both.

      In my capacity as a lactation consultant, holistic parenting consultant and energy worker for 20 years, I have worked with thousands of mothers and their families. It is commonly understood among LCs that post-surgically, mothers will often need a very different kind of support in overcoming breastfeeding difficulties than other moms, although there are certainly many kinds of birth trauma that negatively impact breastfeeding. The fear that she will “fail” at breastfeeding is often poignant and fraught with so much emotion that it can create a powerful potential for greater trauma or an opportunity to begin to heal. Again, that healing then has both a physiologic and psychological component.

      The more you and other mothers have the courage to speak about your experiences, the greater the likelihood that others in my position will be aware of the need you have for such support.

      Because I tend to work with so my of clients over many years, rather than only in the immediate post-partum period, I have witnessed the often-painful process so many mothers have gone through in first knowing and then healing their trauma. As one person here commented, it is not being traumatized that makes us strong, but rather the healing.

      I have had the honor of attending many births including a number of VBACS and HBACs. The very personal journeys that I have supported and witnessed women take to claim their power is amazing, raw, honest, terrifying, vulnerable and so much more–running all the gamut of human emotion and experience. Birth, in my opinion, holds within its parameters all of the complexities of being a woman and a mother. Thank you for sharing your stories and for allowing those of us committed to healing birth and healing mothering to learn how to support you.

  2. Bravo Deb…. Well done. Once again compassionately explained and firmly admonishing. I think you have done a great job of this. The champion of so many women who want to explain this to people but don’t always have the words or arn’t in a sufficiently healed place to step back from the comments like these to react in such an insightful manner. I think I like your last sentence the most. I hope that just hearing this will give a space to some women to recover from all of the times they have heard comments like this from friends and family. Just knowing that even if they couldn’t say it that other people feel it and know this truth is comforting.

  3. What a brilliant post! I had a very difficult labour myself, and though I had a VBAC birth, I can relate to those women who felt as though they didn’t ‘own’ their own labour for various reasons. My labour was extremely long, spanning several days – and what started out as a wonderful adventure (I had truly truly looked forward to going into labour), for various reasons it became necessary for medical intervention in the end. I am extremely thankful that my amazing midwife did every single thing she could to stop the doctors from performing a C/S. Unfortunately, despite managing to birth vaginally, my little baby swallowed meconium during the long labour and as a result I didn’t see or touch her for several hours after the birth, while a medical team worked on getting her to breathe independently.

    What I find most difficult now, is that as a result of my labour and the circumstances that superceded it, I am unable to voice my feelings of mourning about my birth experience (by mourning I am refering to losing that first moment of bonding with my baby – she was not released into my ward until 27 hours after birth, and I did not hold her until she was 14 hours old) because people always repeat that refrain “at least she is healthy now”. I know I have a healthy baby, and I know I am so so lucky compared to other women and men who experience much more devastating sets of circumstances – but my feelings of pain and loss are very real to me, and I find it so hard being unable to ever voice those feelings without being ‘reminded’ of what I’ve got. For me the two things are very separate. What I’ve got is the most wonderful, happy and healthy baby in the universe, who I love to death. What I lost was that very first and blessed moment of welcoming my child into the universe, and holding her against my skin and kissing her little nose. That moment of first knowing my child. By the time I really met her, I felt so traumatised by the whole experience, I didn’t feel like a proper woman, let alone a proper mother.

    I guess the reason I have replied to this (other than the relief of unburdening some of my feelings), is that – I agree so whole-heartedly that all women need a supportive environment in which to process the circumstances of their births. There is no right or wrong way to do it, and there is no right or wrong way to feel about it.

    1. I totally understand. I had 2 vaginal births to premature babies (27 weeks and 32 weeks), where thebabies were taken straight to the NICU. My most recent delivery was a full term baby, but resulted in a tramatic emergency c section. My baby needed to be transported to another hospital, and because of the type of incisions I had to have, I was not considered stable enough to go with her. We were separated for 5 long days.

  4. Erin Horsley · · Reply

    Another fantastic response- Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I agree that birthtalks compassion but ability to put someone right in this instance is enormously impressive.
    My own pain and suffering was greatly worsened by other womens lack of compassion, hideous unthoughtful comments or even their mere inability to just listen to my often confused and conflicted story- meant that I seriously doubted my pain and grief- with awful consequences for my confidence and mental health.
    gladly with lots of time (7 years )and a satisfying and empowering second birth as well as slowly finding help out there- I now realise how very real my disapointing and traumatic birth was and finally that it is ok to at least own that. Guilt, anger at myself and my husband and sadness still rears its ugly head at times- but to realise that this was very very real to me was a vital step.
    I have also learnt that every womans disapointment and loss when it comes to birth is different and no less real or relevant- and it would be fantastic if one day we could express our emotional stories with out having to justify them! A healthy baby is a gift, but the mothers birth journey is very significant and we owe it to ourselves to reflect and work through these strong and complex emotions.
    However- This strong thread of storied proves to me once more how hurtful and damaging other peoples comments are when you are strugging with birth issues. I have wished daily to be able to let them go, not take them to heart and come up with witty or effective responses- but alas- I was not created that way and sadly comments have hurt me deeply also. Comments such as “I am so glad I had a c-section at least my vagina was intact” also added to my own personal terror after having a forcepts delivery (my worst case senario), along with the constant “at least you were lucky compared to me- I had x,y, z” meant I devalued my own experience because on paper it wasn’t as bad. I was also told by a birth reflections nurse that she was more used to dealing with people who loose their babies than someone who merely had an unwanted induction- still sits uneasily inside me, along with the assuption from a friend that “her doctor told her birthplans- raise womens expectations too much- and cause post natal depression”. Finaly and most hurtfully my own mothers inability to accept my unhappiness about my first birth, and constant statements from her such as “all that matters is a healthy baby” and her unwillingness to really listen still effects me. She created her own fabricated birth story about me to tell her friends still annoys me, along with her response, when I told her how proud I was to have had a brilliant second birth at home- “that I wasn’t the only one to do that”- a put down right at the time when I needed her love, support and positive feedback. So to me it feels that she wouldnt even alow me to feel pride that I had finally experienced what I had lost during my first birth and worked so hard for the second time arround. I am still working with these aspects of my birth trauma- so thankyou to the inital women who wrote so bravely about their experience with this also.

  5. Hi ladies I have to say that I have had 2 c sections and have not had any personal trauma or disappointment. I found the labour that came before the first one did take a toll though and it was tough and maybe even a little emotional trauma came from that, but not the c section itself. Now I am here to clear a couple of things up. 1 is I think someone on here asked “why do women who have had good experiences feel angry with those who didn’t”…something like that anyways I think I do sometimes feel a bit angry but not neccessarily towards the women just because they have trauma but just because many women out there talk constantly about all the negative aspects of c section births and how awful and “unempowering” they are, whether they have had one or not. For a woman like me who has only experienced c sections to hear those things makes me feel like the way I gave birth was not special or validated or that I should not be feeling a sense of empowerment or strength within myself as a woman and that does hurt a bit because I am happy with how I gave birth and I don’t believe any birth is more special or better than another.
    Also I want to say that I can relate to Jacinta’s feelings of not understanding how these other women could possibly feel these things. BUT, I have to tell you that when I first came onto these sorts of pages and blogs a few mths ago I just couldn’t wrap my head around the negativity towards c sections or sympathise at all with these women experiencing trauma. But after lots of reading, responding back and forth with many women and really listening I have to say now I absolutely have love and respect for these women. While I cannot personally relate to their feelings, I have learned that yes they are experiencing trauma and yes they deserve my support and empathy. I do not want any woman to go through such awful feelings after any birth and I have compassion for these women now and am really thankful I have been able to stop and listen to them. While I agree that the healthy baby is the most important thing at the end of the day, I absolutely don’t think its right to say these traumatized women are selfish. Thats simply not true. All the healing power to every woman who needs it…..and to those who don’t, lets support the others!

    1. I agree with melanie, although i had a relatively easy natural birth with very little intervention and side affects i had a hard time trying to relate why women would have such negative feelings about the way they had their babies. I too had the opinion that if a c/section was needed it was the best as at least they are both safe and healthy. I would never opt for a c-section and fortunately didn’t need an emergency one, however if it did happen i find it hard to believe i would have a negative feeling about being robbed or ‘less of a woman’ if that did happen. Now however having read this blog and your responses and having friends who have been thru somewhat similar experiences, i now feel i can sympathise and agree that we all view things differently and that the way i feel about something isn’t necessarily correct or the right way. But that there are women who take a drastically different view on things and they should be supported and listened too as our/my opinion on something could be more hurtful then the actual experience.
      So if nothing else, thank you for giving me a different view on this and i promise to be more open minded, caring and understanding next time i come across this subject!

  6. Hi Deb, Melissa and Everyone, I just got this comment through on my email, and I really appreciated your response to Jacinta. I am upset again by Jacinta feeling we are selfish, if we were selfish we would not be mothers in the first place. Mothering is a wonderful giving experience, we give our unborn baby our body as vessel for which it will grow, we birth him or her, physically and spiritually, we breastfeed and nuture, their very existence is entirely dependent upon us and we give with the power of all our love anything and everything to keep them alive and safe always for as long as we shall live. I would have never ever put my daughters lives in jeorpardy, I went on advice from the medical attendees on the day at the time of both of their births to have them born by emergency caesarean. There is nothing selfish about an emergency caesarean Jacinta, it is frightening, I was “lucky” in the sense that I was able to still be awake for both births and “participate” in the sense of being “concious” but still very limited with a screen stopping me from seeing, and not being first to hold, both babies whisked away for their checks, skin to skin limited at first due to being paralysed lying flat on my back being operated on with drips in my arm and monitors etc. There is nothing selfish about wanting to birth your baby naturally in fact I worry more for any effect it has had on my girls and our relationships, I feel like they have been cheated more than me therefore I was being most unselfish when I “tried” both times to birth naturally, and I unselfishly consented to my caesarean births as I have finally worked towards calling them. Am I a healthy mother if I am still sometimes stopped in my tracks at mother’s groups looking at all the other Mums wondering if they had vaginal births and whether I am as good a Mum because I didn’t? Whether they are more woman because their vaginas “work properly” when mines a “dud”? (I know it’s not….) Or like just today when I visit my beautiful girlfriend and new baby girl in hospital and find myself tearing up as I leave my car to go see them, being overwhelmed and taken back with mixed feelings of joy and sorrow? I’m glad for you Jacinta that you were satisfied with the way
    your baby’s birth unfolded and that you both are safe and well, we all are for eachother. Perhaps you haven’t any issues, that is great. But please do not be like “some people” and hurt us all over with the “healthy mother healthy baby” statement or say we are selfish! Please don’t guilt us with any mention of potential death! Birth is physical and emotional, it is sacred. Natural birth should be as accepted and expected as breastfeeding and nuturing, why are we selfish for wanting our baby to come out the normal way? Please may we all as mothers empower eachother and help us find peace and power in our births, not more pain!! I am forever grateful for my two beautiful daughters, my love, my life!!… Michelle Spring

    1. Michelle Spring · · Reply

      Hi again everyone
      We’ve just celebrated both daughters’ birthdays (Kailtyn 4 in December just before Xmas and Lauren 2 earlier January) and my mind cast back to both births again, most strongly Kaitlyn’s….dang I was in early labour, my waters had broken, the contractions were not at all strong but they were there…just not satisfiably strong enough for the medical profession, I was taking “too long” to get started “properly” for them!! I should’ve not rushed to the hospital when my waters broke, I should’ve stayed home!!! Maybes and what if’s continue to circulate in my mind. My labour got started really well for Lauren and I fully dilated without induction but then her position disallowed her natural passage same as Kaitlyn, although I had a much more active labour with Lauren because I’d better educated myself…I didn’t do much of the all fours because I wanted gravity to help her down so maybe it’s “my fault again”. Maybes and what ifs again!!
      Lucky I pulled myself together again and didn’t cry all over again on their birthdays, just swallowed it all up again!! But it will always be there, that wonder if I’d done things a bit different, had different care providers, tried homebirth from the very beginning etc etc etc!!Wonderment of what it feels like for a baby to come out and actually get to feel it, coming out where God meant them to!!
      So you see, I guess this mother STILL isn’t totally healthy!!
      But I will always be incredibly grateful for my two beautiful daughters whom I love so much!!
      Michelle Spring

      1. Michelle Spring · ·

        Hi again Everyone
        May I brave it and add a little more?
        Something else I realised was traumatic was how when you’re in the birth suite and you have your support people and you feel safe, and particularly in Lauren’s case, I really felt the change from when I signed that dotted line…signed my much desired natural birth away, how I lost control of that comfort zone and became the property along with Lauren of the hospital and theatre staff which included a MALE nursing assistant telling me to hold still in between contractions to get my spinal anaesthetic needle which I really didn’t want, having wanted natural birth SOOOO bad, and having a MALE saying “There there’ type comments!! A big change from my beautiful lady friend Terri whom had birthed her two beautiful children naturally without a problem. The rest of the surgical staff seemed cold and distant, being the strangers that they were to me. I knew they had a job to do but yes, it certainly changes things, doesn’t it!! I remember, it was very odd, I spent several contractions in the arms of this MALE complete stranger rubbing my face all over his arms, they could’ve been Terri’s or my husband’s arms, but they weren’t. It’s so hard to sit still for something you really don’t want when all the natural birth literature I had learnt told me to KEEP MOVING!! I’m still left to wondering whether I should’ve just punched that MALE nursing assistant, ran, and done some laps of the hospital corridors, walked up and down the steps, done some inversions on the steps, hip circles etc etc etc, then on all fours etc etc etc!!
        I’m so glad I am so mentally well and moved on…NOT!!
        But I love you Kaitlyn and Lauren, you both truly are little miracles!! xxxxoooo
        Michelle Spring

  7. IMHO, people who have a strong reaction to others’ upsetness often just show how wobbly the scaffolding is that props up the narrative they have constructed to keep their experience from upsetting them.

    My SIL is a “all that matters is a healthy baby” type that had a c-section after a failed induction, and then a routine repeat c-section for her second child because “at least I know what to expect”. She is the type of person to go to the doctor to get antibiotics for viral infections, did nothing in the way of critical birth preparation, and has never openly examined the cascade of interventions that led to her first c-section, even though she said she really didn’t want a c-section. Any bit of information I’ve shared with her, eg information on how scarring can prevent dilation (she had a cone biopsy years before getting pg), has been met with total silence. It’s clearly a no-go area for discussion between us. The way I see it, her unwillingness to critically examine her experience is an indication of how ignorance may be bliss for her (which she is entitled to, of course).

    However, when my husband shared with her how much has been struggling with my trauma from the birth of our daughter, she pulled out similar arguments about how unjustified and unreasonable my feelings were and really became quite aggressive about it. Hearing about my emotions probably highlighted so many things she could have potentially felt (or maybe even did feel but chose to ignore/push into the subconscious) and unveiled how poorly and superficially constructed the narrative that has been helping her integrate her experiences is. I had a great desire to send her a detailed and explicit deconstruction of how illogical and useless the “all that matters is a healthy baby” card really is (and I did educate my husband lest he started pulling it on me directly) but realized that it had the potential to destroy her own emotional integrity, which she deserves as little as I deserve to have my feelings questioned.

  8. Thank you.
    I have never had a cs or many interventions but I still suffered disrespect during birth, and it led to depression. Why are women not more revered as the wonderful women they are in birth like they should be?

  9. Hi everyone,

    I think that for everyone, each labor is different and has different circumstances. One should not comment on how another is feeling, whether that be emotionally, physically or mentally, as both experiences regarding ceaserians were both different, no two are the same. I do feel for those who had no other opportunity but to have a ceaser. I was lucky, I had natural births with both my children. My first was extreamely painful and I was blacking out due to the pain. After an eppidural which I was reluctant to have, I was able to relax my body and give birth to him naturally. The feeling of giving birth to a little person was incredible, magical and something I will never forget in a life time. I dont think people who disagree with how one person is feeling is acceptable. Unless you have a degree or diploma in a field that specializes in that area, then maybe you should consider keeping your opinions to yourself. As the old saying goes “if you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all”. We are all mothers, how about we start to support each other and help each other through rough times. Just because you don’t feel what someone else feels, doesn’t make them less of a person. To all mothers out there, no matter what sort of birth you have, you are truely amazing people for giving life to another little person.

  10. I first read this blog on sat and 2 days later I am still fuming, how dare you belittle and criticise Jacinta for expressing her views, doesnt this make you as bad as your trying to make her out to be?
    I also have had 2 c-sections, 1 emergency and 1 scheduled and in no way was I offend by Jacinta’s comments, I thought these sites were for people to be able to talk about their feelings and experiences?
    shame on you and shame on mumatopia for encouraging you, I will be deleting my mumatopia page from facebook!

    1. Amy – we don’t know what other sites you are referring to when you mention ‘these sites’, but on “Birth Trauma Truths” we definitely welcome people talking about their feelings and experiences.

      But Jacinta is not just doing this.

      She is using her own feelings and experiences as a benchmark for how she believes other women should feel after a caesarean. She makes it very clear that she is judging them for feeling and experiencing things differently to how she did.

      There is a difference between ‘talking about feelings and experiences’ and ‘expressing your views’…both of which you believe we have criticised Jacinta for.

      Jacinta was not expressing her views about her own feelings and experiences, she was expressing her views about OTHER women’s feelings and experiences.

      But it is not up to her – or anyone else – to tell these woman that their feelings about their traumatic births are wrong.

      And if she expresses her views about this on a blog titled “The Truth About Traumatic Birth”, and her views are based on misinformation, then of course we will reply and explain the truth.

      We do not criticise Jacinta for sharing how she felt and experienced her birth.

      We have said in the article that we are sorry that she experienced such emotional trauma and ongoing flashbacks as a result of her birth, and that we could understand that it was a difficult experience for her.

      However, it is quite possible to talk about your own experience and how you felt, without calling other women selfish or making judgment calls on how they ‘should’ be feeling.

      We do find her own comments to other women have the potential to come across as belittling and unkind and highly critical.

      And yes, we ARE critical of that.

      And in Mumatopia’s defence – Mumatopia is merely promoting greater understanding and awareness around birth trauma. By posting a link to this article, (which we guess is what you mean by Mumatopia ‘encouraging’ us) Mumatopia offers access to information about birth – and especially traumatic birth – that is not readily available in the wider community.

      Neither Mumatopia or ourselves will stand for women being belittled for admitting to struggling after a traumatic birth.

      So that’s why we have chosen to – and will continue to – tell the truth about traumatic birth.

      1. Here, here!

        Post your experiences and feelings, you’re welcome to them, but leave my experiences and feelings alone because I should also be welcome to them!

        Obviously Amy agrees with Jacinta or she would have been offended.

      2. Thanks M! Well said! As someone who has been at the end of comments like that when I experienced my own traumatic birth, I stand proudly side by side with those women who have not yet been acknowledged or who have not yet healed. Birth trauma nearly took my life and that is no small thing. It was not selfish for me to feel as I did about my birth and now, because of Birthtalk, I have dealt with it and have been enabled to move on. That is why I passionately promote the work they do! They are amazing women. I will never apologise for encouraging them.

      3. I actually disagree with you here, Birthtalkdotorg. The way I read it, Jacinta was simply offering comfort to those who had cesareans. We should NOT feel judged by how we give birth, because at the end of the day, everyone just wants a healthy baby.

        I gave birth vaginally, but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish that I could trade a scar across my belly for a healthy child. Instead I had placental abruption and a cord wrapped around the neck, resulting in a blue baby and a 10 day NICU stay coupled with preparing to say goodbye to my son since he was supposed to die. Instead, I have a baby (of which I am thankful for) who has developmental delays and may never walk. He’s 6 months old, but still has the gross motor skills of a 3 month old or younger.

        Everyone wants a healthy baby, and we shouldn’t allow the method in which we came to that end to cloud us or paint us in a negative light. A healthy baby is all that matters, because in my very short time that I’ve been a mother, I have learned that it’s baby first and us second. We can eventually get over a traumatic birth, or one that didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but a baby may not.

        Jacinta is allowed her own opinion, tearing her comment apart is not fair. I am also allowed my own opinion, which is why I must respectfully disagree with your post. I believe that Jacinta wrote it with the intention to comfort those in her similar situation, not to tear down those that happen to disagree with her.

  11. Well said Helen.

  12. A lovely article that got you a newbie.

    My first daughter was born alive at 19+6 weeks and died the following day at 3 hours old. I got pregnant pretty quickly after despite not knowing what was wrong with me (it was agreed at the time that I was the problem because she wouldn’t have survived birth if she was “just” a miscarriage) so I held back on connecting with my pregnancy, I said I would believe I was having a baby when I saw her born and held her in my arms.

    I went into labour at 31 weeks and when I got to hospital I was 2cm dilated. They set up the drip and gave me the first dose of steroids. As I had delivered quickly first time around they decided they would check back in an hour. An hour later, the doctor did a VE and said “We need to get this baby out” my room was suddenly swarmed with people, I had explained and signed three consent forms, had the nail varnish cleaned off, my jewellery removed the IV line taken down, I was put under General Anaesthetic and my baby was being ran down the corridor within 20 minutes of that “We need to get this baby out”. I later found out he had found a foot.

    So let’s break this down. I didn’t believe I was pregnant and wouldn’t until I saw my baby being born but I didn’t. I went to sleep with them trying to stop labour (OK, they’d stopped trying at that point but I didn’t have enough time to process that) and then woke and my contractions were stopped. I didn’t believe I had delivered a live baby, in my head my baby had died. When I got to the ICU I looked around the room at the babies “Too big, boy, wrong race, has parents” mine was the “too big” she was 4lb 2oz at 31 weeks! So I looked at my baby and didn’t even recognise her as mine!!! I was convinced they’d given me this baby to look after whilst the mother was away even though my baby had died, how cruel! Of course logically I knew she was mine and I pumped, I did KMC, I did all cares, I had MWs waking me through the night to pump, I cherished the moments when I breastfed her because all the other things could be done by anyone, but only *I*, only her mother, could breastfeed her. On top of her being very ill I was also ill. I had pyrexia, PGP and reacted to the GA.

    Until the birth of my third daughter (also a crash section, although an elective crash, with GA this time at 35 weeks after 11 weeks of labour and baby suffering from IUGR) literally until I went under, I was in a bad state.

    I can not add to what has been said in this article, you have covered all of it. Jacinta doesn’t know what it feels like to not even be at the birth of your child because you have to have a crash and a GA, she doesn’t know what it’s like to be scared stiff of losing another baby because you know (the outcome of my loss is I have Hughes Syndrome which gives me less than 20% chance of having a baby at the end without medication and every other complication in pregnancy you can imagine we cause at least 1 in 8 of)there is something wrong with you. She doesn’t know what it’s like to be so ill that you can’t even get to see your baby.

    Maybe another woman would handle what I went through better than me, it’s not for me to say. Some women get BT even having what seems like a wonderful birth (I heard of someone who had been left with it after the doctor walked in and said “Get your knickers off then” to most of us we think “well yeah, baby ain’t coming out with them on!” but for her it was upsetting) you can’t say who will. Would you tell a solider who comes back from war to be grateful he’s alive? Would you tell him he’s selfish because his friend is dead and he should be glad he isn’t? Why does one solider come back with PTSD and the other doesn’t? Birth trauma is the name for Postnatal PTSD.

  13. I’ve had multiple traumatic births (all c-sections) and one not-so-traumatic birth (also a c-section, and it still sucked, but wasn’t particularly traumatic). I’ve also had a child die.

    The trauma of losing my son didn’t wipe away the trauma of my previous c-sections. It ADDED TO IT. The trauma of my various births didn’t make me stronger. That’s the kind of thing someone outside says, so they can avoid looking at how damaged I am, and avoid having to look pain straight in the face. I’m not stronger. I’m weaker, in many ways…certainly far less functional.

    And, an intact vagina?? Really? That’s a perk? I have four women my age in my family, who have had all vaginal births. None of them have had any lessening of sexual pleasure or enjoyment after their births. I, on the other hand, have been numb through much of my abdomen and pelvis for *five years*. That numbness has caused me a lot of trouble with sex. And, my vagine may be intact, but for almost a year after my third c-section, I couldn’t feel my clitoris – not at all. So…yay – my vagina’s intact. My husband couldn’t enjoy sex (well, he *could*, if he didn’t care whether I enjoyed it)…but I couldn’t. What an amazing outcome.

    Selfish? Maybe I am. So effing what? I’d give a whole lot for my kids. I do give a whole lot for my kids. That doesn’t mean I’m a martyr, and they need a mother, not martyr, anyway. I’ll just continue to care about how I was treated during my c-sections, even if that makes me a horrible person. (I care how my daughters will be treated, too – guess I’m not 100% selfish, after all.)

    Why are people so flipping judgmental about it when other people go through hell, anyway?

  14. An incredibly thoughtful response.

    I’d add though that the “dead baby out of vagina” isn’t really helpful. Intervention in birth doesn’t necessarily lead to a live baby every time and it completely ignores the levels of post natal suicide amongst mothers who have not had the opportunity to process the trauma surrounding their births.

  15. To Claire and Lisa- I am so sorry for both of your losses. I cannot imagine what you have been through and I wish you all the best love and support in the world. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Melanie.

      I just re-read my post and wanted to clarify that I do know how to spell “vagina” AND I meant that my husband *could* enjoy sex (insert comment in parentheses), but I couldn’t. I need to proofread!

    2. Thank you Melanie.

  16. Many thanks to you Deb and Melissa. Thank you for challenging this topic. It has helped me connect with myself on a deeper level when it comes to the support that I need, that include blocking out the words that are not very well thought out and come across as hurtful. I am honest to my family and friends when it comes to discussing my grieving process of not birthing my baby vaginally and feel I need to justify my feelings to those who can not empathise or allow me to feel what I need to feel on order to move on.

    Thank you for giving me some words to use to help clarify to myself and others my experience.

  17. Thanks for posting this! I also dislike when people try to tell other people how they should or shouldn’t feel. Your response to this is very professional and well said!!

  18. I feel frustrated about comments like Jacinta gave… Each birth is so different, and when women prepare for a natural, low intervention, empowering birth experience then are confronted with situations they are not able to control, the feelings are overwhelming. I have been recovering from my daughter’s birth that took place over 3 years ago, she was born vaginally, but the experience was less than I had wanted. My nurses were wonderful, but the doctor was hurried, and caused vaginal trauma that later had to be corrected with steroids, numbing cream and vaginal dilators. My breastfeeding relationship and bonding with my baby were greatly affected in the beginning. My baby screamed and cried continually, most likely because of being drugged (through epidural), and because my hormones no longer protected her from the pain of birth. I am sure that she was traumatized from her birth, and we have worked through it together, slowly, willingly, lovingly.
    I have come to a point in my life, now, thankfully, where I am empowered by the prospect of giving birth. I look at my daughter’s birth as a way of driving myself to learn as much as I can about physiological, normal, conscious birth.
    To all of you women that are suffering from birth trauma, my prayers are for you, my love is with you, my compassion is sent to you, and I wish for you to be healed completely, physically and emotionally.

    My Gentle Birthing

  19. Beautifully worded Melissa & Deb. 🙂 That is what I love so much about Birthtalk that it is a place where all women from all experiences find support & no one is laughed or scoffed at for saying their experience was traumatic for them.

    (Oh,& my vagina is still intact after birthing a 10lb 12oz baby in an empowering natural birth. My abdomen, heart & soul aren’t so intact after an 8lb 3oz baby was unnecessarily surgically removed from my body though.)

  20. It has been over 20 years and the birth of my daughter still brings tears to my eyes and and ache in my heart.

  21. My 2 CS were 35 and 37 years ago when I was fairly young. Induced and then CS for failure to progress both times. I now know it was failure to be patient but you didn’t question the doctors then.
    I grew to really HATE the “at least you and the baby are healthy bit”. I wasn’t and had depression after each. I definitely felt less of a woman. For that reason there was no way I was going to fail at breastfeeding and after much difficulty with each baby I got it right and fed them “properly”.
    There was nowhere I knew at the time to get understanding, I just had to live with it. I got good at the sport Squash. Maybe that smacking that little black ball as hard as I could was a good outlet for my angst.
    I went nursing when my second baby was 18 months old, purely as a path to midiwfery and it is now 30 years since I qualified. VBAC, preferably HBAC are my area of interest as well as preventing the primary CS which would lead to a need for VBAC.
    I guess you could say that that is how I dealt with it.

  22. circularchoice · · Reply

    Thank you for choosing to respond to Jacinta’s comment with such care, tact, and beautifully articulated wisdom. It’s difficult to respond to such heated topics by opening a calm and respectful dialogue. It was inspiring to read and I’m very grateful that you didn’t click ‘delete.’ Well done.

  23. I would just like to add that I believe the “controversy” over accepting birth-truama is there because so many women think a hospital birth, with all of it’s interventions is normal. Women think it is best to labor in bed hooked up to an IV. Women think it’s best to push flat on their backs with their legs up. If they learned that these things were harmful to having a successful vaginal birth, they would reconsider their opposition to birth-trauma. I also think that many women would be angered if they learned how hospital birth came to be. Jacinta’s comment comes from her not knowing what birth can be, or why it is the way it is.

  24. I think it’s sad how much women disregard other women’s feelings and pain. In the end it usually boils down to a sick contest– who’s been hurt the most, why “lesser” feelings are invalid, etc. When are people going to realize that the other woman is not the enemy? We are all people with feelings and issues of healing. Attacking someone else does not solve our own feelings of pain, nor make the other person’s feelings go away. It’s just lashing out.

  25. Barbara · · Reply

    I am so glad I have found this blog and in particular this page. First of all I would like to thank you for talking about such issues with tact and care, in a nurturing and non-judgemental way. You’ve had a respectful response to someone who might have unintentionally hurt other’s feelings, especially because women come here in search of comfort and support.
    I had a terrible experience with the birth of my son. The birth was not “progressing” and I felt like a huge failure after over 24 hours of painful contractions and a mere 4 cm dilatation. The doctor in charge treated me like a piece of flesh, with his only words being: “open your legs” and at some point “c-section”. I was wheeled off to an emergency c-section where i cried the whole time without anyone supporting me or telling me what was happening.I only saw my son 15 minutes after he was born,for a few seconds, and in the arms of someone else, until he was taken to neo-care unit for suspicion of an infection. I only saw him again the day after, 20 hours after he was born, and only then I held him for the first time…he stayed there for 4 days with suspicion of infection,which turned out to be false.
    The first weeks were the most challenging of my life. In fact, the first months. But one of the things that hurt me the most of the reaction of one of my closest friends. When my son was 3 weeks she told me that I was being too negative and selfish, that i was self centered and should just get over it. And after saying that she didn’t talk to me for 7 months, because, in her own words, she was not in the mood to deal with my negativity…Because she doesn’t have children herself, I tried to think of a million ways to excuse her behavior. But I still can’t, 10 months later I still feel hurt. After that I not only felt vulnerable and overwhelmed, I also started feeling very guilty and a terrible mother.

    I can not emphasize enough how important it is for a woman to be treated with dignity and respect during birth and to have emotional support during and after, especially if it is a deeply traumatizing experience.
    My heart and love go to all the mothers out there who have been through hell to put their children in the world, and still manage to love themselves and their children, and do not feel ashamed or bad for having negative feelings about the whole experience. Time makes it all a bit better i guess.
    Keep on the great work and thank you again.

  26. Absolutely spot on reply. Different people find different things traumatic – I know a couple of people who’ve witnessed tragic motor vehicle accidents resulting in death and they are perfectly fine, no post-traumatic disorder, doesn’t affect them in any way – whereas I’ve witnessed a similar thing and have been severely traumatised by it, it affects my everyday life and thoughts. The same goes for birth as well – happy for Jacinta that she’s not been affected in a negative way through her C-section, but that does not give her the right to judge women who has.

  27. Meryl Millar · · Reply

    I had four children and all the births were natural. I use the word natural meaning vaginal but I think that if caesarian is necessary then it is just as natural. I don’t quite understand all of these issues … how empowering it is to give birth naturally … how traumatised women are having had to resort to caesarian birth … how exciting and wonderful vaginal birth is as opposed to c sect. How mother and baby have been robbed because the baby was delivered by c sect. Giving birth is usually a painful affair no matter how the baby emerged but that does not mean you love your baby any less or any more because of the way they entered the world. I think perhaps we have lost the point. What matters is that we birth successfully and the reason to celebrate is that the life we are delivering into this world enters safely and with the least risk possible.

  28. Hi! May I translate this into spanish? I’m starting a fb page to talk about pregnancy, birth, csections and everything related, focusing more specifically on the situation in Mexico, but this would be very useful, as we come up against this type of comment here all the time. Do let me know. It would be great! TIA

    1. BTW, could i also translate some (maybe all! haven’t read them yet) of the comments to your article? I’m sure theyll help a great deal! We don’t have many places to talk about our birth experiences over here and i’m trying to create this. Again, thanks!

  29. I think the reason why Jacinta’s response upset me was because I remember being there. After my sons, I thanked the doctors who cut me open without checking anaesthesia, I was so grateful for having had our lives saved, I was still trying to get my head around my babies being alive when I had thought them lost. I remember feeling so selfish because I had really wanted to have birthed them myself and still feeling that I wanted a vaginal birth even though the surgery was necessary. I felt so angry because I could see how I “should” be feeling and guilty because that wasn’t how I felt. It took me a long time to accept that a healthy baby wasn’t the be all and end all, I suppose you might say I was in denial. I thought the response to Jacinta’s comments was fair and reflected the points that she had put forward whilst still acknowledging that she too has been traumatised. My home vbac daughter arrived without pain. It was a huge revelation to me. It is not acceptable to judge other women simply because our own experiences do not match theirs. It musnt be let to pass – because in allowing judgements like “selfish” to go unanswered it is perpetuating a very harmful and negative viewpoint that is all ready far too comonplace. Thank you.

  30. Jacinta talks a lot too about the trauma being the lack of having a vaginal birth but there are so many other aspects to it. In my situation I am totally ok with the fact I had a c-section. My daughter was born prematurely by emergency c-section, my trauma doesn’t relate to the actual c-section at all, and obviously I am overjoyed at the fact my daughter was able to be born safely by c-section. (For me personally) Having said that though my trauma really came from the whole event and after the event, from having a baby prematurely, from being sick with pre-eclampsia, from the epidural headache I received after the epidural was given incorrectly, from the trauma related amnesia I have that means I actually don’t remember most of my baby’s first days of life and what I do remember comes in disjointed flashbacks. I’m ever so grateful she was born healthy, but for me the trauma is still real, I have suffered with PND because of it and also PTSD, and it does affect the baby also after the actual birth because I found it difficult to bond with her because I literally have no memories of those days. I wasn’t able to breastfeed until she was a week old. I held her every day but I don’t remember it. By the time I was well enough to work out what was going on it was like a stranger almost handing me a random baby, it took a long time to feel that real connection. And it has taken me 2 years after her birth and months and months of counselling, and debriefing to get to a stage where I am even slightly comfortable talking about it, or thinking about possibly trying for another baby. Its very easy to say you have a healthy baby so on you go with your life, but an emotionally unwell mother can make for a very rough beginning for a baby who is relying on you for their every need, if you are struggling to keep your head above water yourself.

  31. And I think mothers have enough mother guilt as it is without it being loaded on by others as well, no matter how well-meaning their comments may have been intended…

  32. Genie · · Reply

    Why pick on Jacinta? It’s society who lacks empathy and understanding, not just one person. Her post was picked apart and much effort was put into responding to each bit that was dismissive, but this was ONE person. There are so many opportunities to explain how people “feel” after their births and how trauma effects each individual, but using a sole person as an example in the way that has been done here is just wrong. I have a feeling that Jacinta went through much trauma during her labour until they finally put her out of her “misery” and gave her the epidural and took away the fear and pain. Perhaps the mention of feeling less than a woman for not birthing vaginally, hits her raw nerve for her and she takes it as a personal diss? Perhaps the sheer fact that she is grateful for the c-section she had, makes it hard to accept that someone else was deeply traumatised by theirs. I personally feel selfish for crying about my homebirth transfer and c-section under a GA, when I know of women who went through the same suffering as me but wasn’t fortunate to have a live baby at the end of it all. The pain and suffering of the loss of their child far outweighs the suffering of the traumatic birth. I am very grateful to have my baby. I do feel angry, sad, frustrated, ashamed, ripped off, and many other negative emotions in regards to the birth but having Jacinta not understand my pain doesn’t make it worse. People who have suffered like me aren’t dismissive. My friends love me and have supported me. Some of those friends even lost their children and they STILL understand my position and allow me to express my grief. It’s the medical professionals who need to be less dismissive and more aware of the way they treat women. They are the ones who mainstream society relies on to achieve a happy and healthy birth. Perhaps if they understood the true deep trauma women suffer at their hands, less women would be suffering. There would be less need for people like Jacinta, to understand where we are coming from. Don’t take this out on her.

    1. There are so many opportunities to explain how people “feel” after their births and how trauma effects each individual”

      I have been looking for 22 years for an opportunity to explain how I feel about my birth experience. It is comments like Jacintas that have prevented me from having a voice, from being heard and from healing. In essence she, and others like her condemn women like me to a life time of suffering. Does that sound fair and reasonable?

  33. Tanya · · Reply

    Birth trauma can be felt by women who have had c-sections or vaginal births! There is no discrimination and what an individual feels is valid and real – everyone is different and have differing circumstances. I love Birthtalk – thanks for all your good work 🙂

  34. Thankyou · · Reply

    Thankyou… Every time a friend has a baby i cry… I feel and emptyness inside of me and like i have missed and important part of being a woman. I have had one induced ling labour ending in c section due to position. And another with my baby girl as the hospital dont do vbacs here. I didnt conect with my second child as i didnt go through tge progress and i dont go a day wishing to have an experience.
    I have no support and bo one understands and has the same closeminded oppinion that atleast u got it easy… Mind u i had infection problems and multiple hospitalisations due to c section aswell. I watch birthing vids sometimes and cry because i feel so robbed and empty. But no1 here understands how i feel.

    1. Ah Thankyou. I do understand. Same happened to me 40 years ago. I became a midwife and have helped many women to have a better deal than I got even if they did end up having a CS. At least they knew it wasn’t for nothing. I do home births as well as hospital and am happy to do VBAC at home.

  35. It was by acknowledging and then healing the birth trauma I endured when my son was born that led me to understand and re experience my own birth trauma as a baby and to see how it had fundamentally informed my life. Giving birth to my daughter naturally four years later proved to me that what I had instinctively wanted was correct. How we are born matters and how we give birth to the next generation is of utmost importance. Women today inherit a situation that has seen their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers become part of the medicalization of a normal physiological process. Better nutrition and sanitation have removed many of the difficulties that previous generations endured and has actually made birth safer for the majority but the cultural rituals of the hospital system have created another set, of what are in my opinion, even greater problems. I am glad to have safe surgery when it is needed but to have unnecessary procedures inflicted upon a birthing woman and her baby is wrong and carries long term consequences for her and for society
    The power of the imprint cannot be ignored. For a woman to give birth to her baby under her own ‘steam’ as it were, empowers her to be the woman she is designed to be. It is our ‘Everest’. We deserve the triumph that comes with giving birth and the power that is beyond any other endeavour we might undertake. It is our right as women to have the support that ensures we have the opportunity to fulfill our potential as birthing mammals. As babies we require the experience of being born via our own impetus. This is the same impetus that built our bodies, and then we know that we are ‘right’ and in accordance with life’s design. This provides a fundamental feeling of being OK. a self confidence. With this as a foundation we build a life that works with ease, free of the distortions that the feeling that there is ‘something wrong’ with us entails.

    The recent study by Dr Sarah Buckley, author of ‘Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering’ about the hormones of birth reveals in a scientific way the importance of undisturbed birth and how mothers’ and babies’ well being are served when we divert as little as possible from nature’s blueprint.

    The good news is that we can heal. My thirty years work of working with people has shown me time and again the power of the human spirit and body to heal and reclaim what is rightly its divine plan.

  36. I would like to add to these comments by simply saying that I think everyone has an entitlement to feel whatever they feel about their birth experience. But I can say I was thankful and still am that I live in a country wherem we have options – we have the medical expertise and access to medical intervention – meaning we can be relaxed in the knowledge that giving birth is unlikely to result in our or our baby’s death. I am so thankful for that alone. Many women around the world with give anything to have that sort of reassurance. Therefore I can put to bed any feelings I had of not giving birth in a natural way. I agree with much of what you ahve critisisied Jacinta for. I don’t feel she is critiscising anyone but asking that perhaps people who are disappointed try to use a CBT method of turning those thoughts on thier heads for the benefit of thier mental well being.

  37. I had all 3 of my children natural, unmedicated births and loved it. I got my certification in teaching childbirth classes and wanted to help other mothers have “good” births. I had the privilege of being a doula for my sister in law for her first birth. She had an excellent attitude toward birth and was doing great in labour, but after her waters broke, there was meconium and the labour was not progressing. She ended up having a c/s. I felt so badly for her UNTIL I had the joy of witnessing the birth. It was beautiful. She was awake, her husband was by her side and they shared the birth. It was truly a beautiful birth for everyone. It changed my attitude about c/s births. Of course anyone who can have a natural, vaginal birth should, as it is a much easier recovery for the mother and safer all around. But I feel so sad to hear the sorrow in so many mothers because they feel their c/s birth was not as good as a vaginal birth. I don’t want to negate anyone’s pain or sorrow, but I do hope that they will not let the past experience rob them or their children of the joy of today and a bright future for tomorrow.

  38. Midwife International · · Reply

    Thank you for posting this article! Many times we feel that it is beyond our choice or capability to choose the birth we want. Reclaim the experience and empower yourself and your voice!!
    Sandra Maurer shares a deep and intense aspect of hospital birth that is rarely brought to light, or that we choose to ignore….Birth Rape.
    Inform yourselves on what this could look like and how you can have the choice to speak up and stop this.
    Have the birth YOU want and deserve
    learn more here!

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