Being a mom of twins, I'm all too familiar with the hard situations that come up when giving birth. I've experienced some myself and have been by friends that have gone through births that didn't go the way they planned or imagined.

Whether you had a high-risk pregnancy (like those with health complications or pregnancy with multiples), or a run-of-the-mill 'normal' pregnancy, unexpected things can happen to anyone at any time in a pregnancy or birth. Sometimes it's tragic and ends in loss. Often times we all survive but struggle to make sense of what we've gone through and all the thoughts and feelings we have with it. 

From day one of finding out you are pregnant, you imagined what life is going to be like with this new little baby. You researched and planned out how you want your pregnancy and birth to happen. You made choices and poured your heart and soul into each decision. 

But what happens when everything gets thrown off track? 

 

Maybe a medical emergency happens. Maybe bed-rest is forced on you, hospital time, an unplanned C-section, surgery, NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) time. You may have had everything planned, and expected to have a natural childbirth or one with a trusted provider, one with your partner or support there, one that goes smoothly without any fear... You dreamed of the day you would meet your tiny new little baby and hold him or her on your chest for the first time, the miracle of life and how you would feel seeing your baby for the first time. 

It didn’t go how you planned. In fact, (maybe) it was horrible!

Now you have to find a way to cope with the grief of your birth plan going out the window. You feel like no one was listening to you or seeing you as a person. You feel pushed around by your birth provider or medical staff. They made decisions for you without letting you have a say. Your birth experience was chaotic and feels completely out of your control. It was terrifying.


 

How do you know if your experience was traumatic? 

Do you still think about the hard parts of your experience often? Do you get strong emotions (tears, anger, guilt, sadness, anxiety, fear) any time you think about it or talk about it? You even experience these feelings randomly, out of the blue. Things about the birth pop into your mind and won’t go away. You have not made peace with your child's birth. If this is how you feel, then it was most likely traumatic. 

 

Grieving your birth plan may be an important step to finding peace. You may feel as if your ideal birth was taken from you. You may even feel ridiculous for having such strong feelings over it all when you and your baby are both fine and healthy now. Don't shame yourself Momma! There is nothing ridiculous about your hopes and dreams being crushed over how your child will enter the world... Any hope and dream for that matter. It's normal to feel emotional, upset, or disappointed when things don't go the way you planned and thought they would. Giving birth or becoming a parent is a major life event and should not be taken lightly. When things don’t go how you planned with such a momentous occasion it can hurt you to your core. 

 

But you can HEAL. You can feel at peace again. It is possible to get to a place where you can think or talk about the birth without feeling all the emotions bubbling to the surface. 

 

So how do you heal from a stressful, disappointing, or traumatic childbirth? 

It starts with self compassion. Being sympathetic to yourself, patient with your feelings, and treating yourself how you would a best friend going through this. We often are much harder on ourselves than we are with people we love.

If your best friend was crying on your shoulder and telling you how awful her childbirth was, would you tell her to suck it up and stop crying about it? Would you tell her she’s being ridiculous? No. You would hug her and comfort her, and let her know you are there for her. You would believe that one day she will be ok. Now turn the tables on yourself. Imagine giving yourself a hug, allowing yourself that shoulder to cry on, and knowing that you will get through this. It helps, doesn’t it? 

 

It's also important to work through your thoughts and feelings about it all.

There are a few ways you can do this: journal about what happened and all your thoughts and feelings about it, talk about it with someone supportive, express it in some way (like art), or reach out for professional support. Counseling is there for times like this. We all go through difficult things in life and sometimes we can’t just bounce back and recover on our own. Sometimes we need some extra help. There is no shame in getting help. 

 

How ever you decide to manage these feelings, you’ve got this Momma. You will get through this. And I know no matter what your experience, you CAN feel good again. Hang in there.