• Mon, Dec 2 - 1:00 pm ET

If You Refuse To Sympathize With Someone’s Traumatic Birth, Just Shut Your Mouth

171296634You know how everyone’s mother always says, If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all? Well, we all know that’s impossible – especially on the Internet. But there are certain situations when – if you don’t have anything supportive to say, you should really just shut up. One of these situations is when a woman talks about a traumatic birth. If you find the words, You have a healthy baby and that’s all that matters! beginning to roll off your tongue – just keep them in your mouth.

After the birth of my first child, I fell into a deep depression for months. I had an unexpected emergency c-section that frankly shocked and traumatized me. I wasn’t prepared to go through surgery. Having since had to have another c-section, I can say with confidence that an emergency c-section is terrifying and totally different than one you expect.

My child’s heart had come to a near stop which necessitated lightning speed in the operating room. He was ripped from my body. I’m really not exaggerating. What seemed like about 30 seconds after they numbed me and made the initial incision – I heard him crying. The physical recovery was awful. The short time I had spent in the hospital, really fearing I was losing my child put me into a very dark place. No one understands why a healthy person with a healthy baby is crying everyday. Pretty much everyone except my husband chalked up my depression to some sort of disappointment that I was not able to birth naturally. Yes, I was disappointed – but it was more than that. The experience really scarred me.

It would be impossible for me to provide a tally of the number of times someone said, Well, the most important thing is that your baby is healthy! I just wanted to respond, No shit. I’m his mother. There is no one on this planet that cares that he is healthy and alive more than me. Totally discounting the way a mother feels to remind her that her child is alive is the most dismissive, patronizing, and frankly, cruel thing you can do to a woman that is having a hard time coping after her baby is born. You’re basically saying – you don’t have a right to feel the way you do, because people have it way worse than you. 

Here’s the thing; a mother losing a child in childbirth or giving birth to a severely unhealthy baby isn’t traumatic, it’s catastrophic. The two situations have nothing to do with one another. It’s like having someone tell you their car was stolen, and saying something like, Well, at least you didn’t die in a fiery crash! The two scenarios are so far apart from one another – it is senseless to compare them. If you know someone who is having a hard time after a difficult birth, this is what you should say:

You are strong. 

You made it.

I’m so proud of you.

I’m here for you.

Don’t be the asshole that says, At least you didn’t die in a fiery crash! 

(photo: Getty Images)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • lilacorchid

    But seriously, there is a huge difference between saying, “I’m traumatized because the unicorns and fairies I hired for my orgasmic birth did not show up but everything else went okay, send me hugs and sympathy cakes, I HAZ SADZ” (but not PPD, that is serious business) and having an emergency C-section to save you or your child’s life. I had one of those too (and was even thinking the c/s might happen anyway) and it was still jarring. It’s major surgery you are awake for, WTF.

    I am going to roll my eyes if anyone uses the term “birth rape” without their actually being a rape or tells me how traumatized they are just because it didn’t go according to their 10 page birth plan. (And then I’m going to feel sorry for the woman in the second situation because if she thinks she can control birthing to that detail, raising that kid is going to be that much more stressful.)

    • Edify

      I don’t know that the unicorns and fairies debate should really be perpetuated.The women that fall into that category are rare and it derails what’s at the heart of this discussion.

    • KB

      YES. Thank you for saying this.

  • ChillMama

    The internet kills sympathy, I swear.

    I’m so sorry you had a traumatic experience too. It sucks but, like you said, we made it through and are now on the other side. Hurray us!

  • Anne

    As someone who lost a child the day before my due date and than went through labour know I would be holding a dead baby….yeah, I earned the right to say shut up, at least you have a baby to hold. And if you know a woman has lost a child…don’t be the asshole who a few months later has the gall to complain about her “traumatic birth”. Unless you bleeding out on the operating table and hearing angels singing….it was not traumatic.

    • ChillMama

      First of all, I am so sorry for your loss. Truly. That must have been absolutely terrible.

      However, having to have my baby resucitated and then losing conciousness because of complications…yeah, it was traumatic for me. It certainly was not on the same level as what you experienced, but it was still traumatic.

    • Anne

      But that is a trauma. And it must of been terrifying. But I’m not going to lie, when I hear you speak on that, I still get a little voice inside of me saying “At least you got to take your baby home”. Because it makes me think I would have given anything to see my baby gain consciousness, even it was once so I could have seen her eyes. Because I never did. But that’s my hang up and me throwing my grief at your doorstep.

      I’m talking about women who had a “birth plan” with midwives and doulas and pixies and such…and some big, mean doctor came in and told her she wasn’t progressing enough and if they didn’t intervene it would turn out bad. I actually had a “friend” complain to my face three months after my daughter died, that her birth was traumatic because she had to get an epidural and couldn’t feel the pushing and it wasn’t how she planned.

      On a side note…I finally had my beautiful birth and although things didn’t go as planned…I got my beautiful healthy baby…and he just turned one last month.

    • Megan Zander

      Anne, I am so sorry for your loss and so happy to hear about your little boy. While it pales drastically in comparison I relate to your friends complaint in the wake of your loss. I had complications during pregnancy and had to choose between having my boys born prematurely or possibly die in utero. They were born at 34 weeks and my then-pregnant friend came to visit them in the NICU. I was terrified of the cords and machines surrounding them and bitter at my loss of control over the whole situation. She looked up from the isolette and said to me, ” Aw, I hope mine is born at 34 weeks!” I still get anger tears just thinking about it.

    • Allyson_et_al

      Your friend is either an idiot or… nope. That’s all I’ve got. I hope your boys are ok now, and that you have better friends around you than her.

    • Megan Zander

      Ha! The boys are doing well, and so far, seem to have no premie issues. The friend is still a friend, though we have VERY different parenting styles. It’s been interesting.

    • Allyson_et_al

      You’re a far better person than I. Is she still jealous of your teeny, tiny babies?

    • Megan Zander

      Yes but just because they’re twice as cute as hers :p in seriousness, she was annoyed when they started giggling because hers just ” sits there”. But he was supposed to he’s four months younger, even if he is heavier than my boys! It’s funny how having kids brings out different sides to people.

    • JadePanda

      Agreed. As someone who was “bleeding out on the operating table” and had to be resuscitated, I don’t think it has to be to that level or worse to be traumatic. No one can tell others how hurt or disappointed they are allowed to be. There is always someone who has had a more difficult experience or lost more, so by that logic, we should all just shut up. It’s all relative, and unique to the individual’s experience.

    • Beth

      I can even begin to imagine …. I’m so sorry to hear that this happened to you.

    • ted3553

      I am so sorry for your situation and devastating loss. I also think this is a similar paradigm to the person who gets pregnant and didn’t enjoy the pregnancy and isn’t supposed to mention that to her friend who is trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant. I think both have a right to their feelings and opinions and I should be able to say my feelings out loud. I also think that as a friend and decent human, I would be able to figure out when that’s appropriate. When someone tells you about their traumatic birth, you don’t need to one up them, you can simply listen. your story can be told at another time and I hope they would take the time to sympathize how it affected you rather than dismissing it since their story is “worse”. Both stories can be upsetting to each story’s teller.

    • Rachel Sea

      No experience earns you the right to be mean.

    • Diya Naidu

      Hopefully someone with a traumatic birth experience wouldn’t be spilling to you so you wouldn’t have to say STFU. I think in this case it’s know your audience.

  • Beth

    I feel sympathy for people who had a plan that didn’t go the way they wanted it to – because we all like to feel like we’re in charge. When we don’t feel that way, it’s scary – and the memory of the fear can last a long time and colour our other experiences. But complaining definitely affects my feelings toward people. I often say that the point of the birthing process is a healthy baby. The most positive result one can gain from the birthing process is a healthy baby AND a healthy mother. If you got that, and you’re whining anyway, my sympathy dries up, and is replaced by irritation. Maybe people who don’t just pat you on the head and try to offer you a different perspective are trying to help you appreciate what you have, which we can all agree is a positive approach.

    • Simone

      The need to heal through an experience that caused pain, fear, anger, and confusion is not ‘whining’. It’s a necessary step in psychic recovery. If you hold in that stuff too long, your spirit can get sick, so it’s usually natural for people to talk about those really sad or scary events in their lives for as long as it takes until they feel listened to and healed.

  • Kay_Sue

    Fear is a powerful emotion. We often discount that–maybe because of living in the developed world? I dunno what the reason is, but I know fear, real fear, stays with you and f***s you up in unimaginable ways. (Hugs)

  • JadePanda

    Traumatic births suck…no other way I can describe it. I’m still learning to cope with the PPD associated with mine. I went in with no expectations, have been through plenty of medical procedures, and yet still was horrified by the experience. In my case, I was begging the doctor to perform a c-section, because vaginal delivery was obviously not working and my daughter’s vitals were crashing (mine as well). They refused and forced a forcep delivery, which nearly killed me and kept me from my baby for days.

    I am beyond grateful that my daughter and I made it through, but am also furious at the risk these physicians took, especially knowing it was solely to reduce their c-section rate that month (I work there, so I’m aware of their goals and priorities).

    The only thing worse than dealing with depression resulting from trauma, of any kind, is listening to others say you shouldn’t be feeling what you’re feeling. “If you both lived, it must not have been so bad” and “at least you delivered *naturally*” are some of the wonderful ways people have “helped”.

  • Tinyfaeri

    Gotta love the “at least you don’t have cancer” reaction to someone being upset about something. Just because you “only” got shot in the foot doesn’t mean you should stfu and be grateful you didn’t lose a leg, because see Susie over there? she lost a leg and you don’t hear her complaining.

    • JadePanda

      This. My husband is terminally-ill, and “at least it isn’t cancer” is a regular statement from others. Even my dad, who has cancer, wants to throttle people when they say it. The funny thing is, both my husband and my dad are the most empathetic people I know, and ache for anyone experiencing hardship. No one has a monopoly on hurt.

    • Tinyfaeri

      *hugs* for all of you.

    • JadePanda

      Many thanks. Hugs back to you and yours.

    • Edify

      After reading about your experience up thread and also this, you deserve all of the hugs on the internet. And if anyone tries to give you shit, I’m sure more than a few of us will have your back on here.

      You are strong and you will come out the other side. Love and light to you and your family.

    • JadePanda

      Thank you for your kind words. It seriously made me tear up. This has been a rough year, and has been difficult to reach out to others. After reading this site for the past few months, I finally decided to join the conversation, because everyone here seems genuinely cool. Thanks for making me feel welcomed here.

    • ChillMama

      I lurked for a while before joining too. However, most of the people are so great and so supportive that I wanted to be able to “talk” with them.

      Hopefully being able to chat here will be helpful in some way – at the very least you can vent!

    • Edify

      Anytime. Just take care and vent and find reasons to laugh.

    • cabecb

      When I was a teen, I developed a condition that I will have for the rest of my life. I remember talking about it and explaining what happened. A girl at the table basically told me that I had no right to complain because it was not cancer. I was going through a hard time trying to come to terms with the fact that I would have to take meds for the rest of my life and the complications that would result from it. It really shuts down the conversation when that happens. It does not make the person feel better it makes them feel worst when someone says that.

    • Tinyfaeri

      *hugs* I’m sorry you had and have to go through that and yes, it really does shut down the conversation, and it invalidates the person’s feelings. I got similar things from my mother when I was going through treatment for an ectopic pregnancy a few months after having an early miscarriage, and was basically told to count my blessings…which I certainly had a lot of, and was grateful for what I had, but that didn’t make my heart less broken. Of course things could almost always be worse, but that doesn’t mean that what someone is going through isn’t bad for them how they are now. It’s all relative.

    • Allyson_et_al

      When I was 41, I had a stroke caused by an undiagnosed heart defect. As a result, I suffered partial vision loss (bad enough to keep me from driving) for almost a year. Part of me agreed when people told me how lucky I was– no speech issues, no paralysis, successful corrective heart surgery, eventual (almost) full recovery of my vision. Another part of me, however, wanted to scream, “If I’m so damn lucky, why did I have a freaking stroke??” So, yeah, what you said.

  • http://carrie-murphy.com/ Carrie Murphy

    I’m sorry to see that the comments here quickly devolved into essentially what you were trying to deflect with your post. Your experience is your experience, no one else’s to judge or quantify. Much <3.

  • Kim

    It’s one of those things where no one is ever going to get it right.

    I had an emergency caesarean, my daughter’s arm popped out and then got stuck, for me, it was an interesting experience, I wasn’t anticipating it but I actually enjoyed it in a way, I wish I could have seen it (and yes at the point where they hung up the sheet and I said “Oh I don’t get to watch?” my husband informed me that I was 100% insane) but to me it was interesting, but that is the kind of person I am.
    I do look back on my child’s birth with some negative thoughts, mostly centred around the hippy-dippy midwife I had overnight (midwife care is the norm at the hospital I was at, the other two midwives I had were lovely) who blocked every ‘modern medicine’ request I had and gave me alternatives that I did not enjoy, leaving me screaming at one point “STOP FUCKING TOUCHING ME, I DON’T WANT YOU TO MASSAGE ME, HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU TO STOP TOUCHING ME?” (this was around time number 10 I had asked her to stop rubbing my thighs, reminded me a lot of when I was sexually assaulted).
    I think with all negative experiences people are going to say what would make them feel better, and because people are different what they say will be okay for some but not for all. The common factor is distinguishing what can go wrong mentally following a birth that didn’t go as ‘planned’ (I also think we need to start steering pregnant women away from the idea of planning their births, yes you can have preferences, but the baby should not be expected to conform to them which, in my experience, the emphasis was very heavy on “You get to pick exactly how this will happen” which is impossible, heck, I was born at 36 weeks following my mother being in a car accident, bet she didn’t plan that) with aftercare through a psychologist, plus discussing professional practice for those involved in delivery.

  • Chailo

    For my first birth, I had been brainwashed by the whole natural birth woo…«Fear and ignorance cause pain, «it’s not pain, it’s pressure» » and «Medication and interventions are baaaaaad»…Well giving birth scared the crap out of me. it was absolutely not what I was promised it would be if I took all the right classes, did all my breathing exercises, etc.I never, ever thought it could be so painful (I had contractions for 48 hours before my water broke, and then it took an additional 20 hours to give birth). I wound up getting an epidural and Pitocin a few times, and antibiotics because I became feverish…So my first birth felt kind of traumatic, I felt like a complete failure (thanks to a doula who was actually disappointed in me and my choices) and I was so, so afraid to give birth again. I thought my trauma was a very big deal.

    So for my next birth, I really educated myself, reading actual research and not birthing blogs. I was fully prepared for a fully medicalized birth. Well, I learned what a real traumatic birth was. When I was 9 months pregnant, I was hit by a car while I crossed the street. I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, thinking my baby had died. A few hour later, my baby was born via c-section, unharmed, while I had a very badly injured pelvis. a year later, my baby is doing great, and I’m mostly ok.

    I’m furious at the natural birth movement. If i had not bought in the idea that a natural birth meant a more meaningful birth and made me a warrior-woman or some dumb shit like that, I would not have spent 3 years being afraid of my next birth. Real traumas happen. My first «trauma» was completely fabricated.

    • Anne

      This ^^^
      is exactly what I am speaking about. You had a trauma, not some pie in the sky natural birth mama thingy.

    • KB

      I planned on a home birth. 16 hours into labor, my water broke & there was meconium in the fluid. That meant we had to transfer to the hospital. I knew that was a possibility, and accepted the fact my “dream birth” wasn’t gonna happen. Once I was admitted, they wouldn’t let me out of bed and I couldn’t manage contractions without walking & moving through them. So I got an epidural and I didn’t beat myself up over it. After another 14 hours I hadn’t progressed enough, so they gave me pitocin. Again, not part of the plan but I knew it was necessary to get things going. 6 hours later, I was on antibiotics, my & the baby’s heart rates were accelerated, the baby had hardly moved down and there was talk of MANUALLY moving her head — that’s when I’d had enough. I asked for a surgeon and had a c-section. I’ve never felt like a failure. Obviously my birth happened the way it was meant to, and it sounds like your first one did too (your second birth, however, sounds terrifying and I am so sorry about that).

      I’m confused about why you’re “furious at the natural birth movement” and why you felt “brainwashed”. You are an adult capable of making her own decisions, right? You chose a path, it didn’t work out, and now you don’t want to own responsibility for the consequences?

    • Chailo

      Yes, I am an adult, but at the time, I was a very scared, naive, vulnerable and trusting one. I was terrified of giving birth so I hired someone who I thought I could trust. She was an experienced doula, studying to become a nurse midwife. I believed what she said, I believed all the books and blogs she made me read.

      I believed, because she told me over and over again, that it would be much more difficult to bond with my baby if she was born all drugged up, which is why it was so important to have unmedicated birth. I also believe that with the proper training and the proper frame of mind, I could endure the pain and rise above it, to greet my baby with perfect clarity. I also believed, because I trusted her, that managing pain without drugs was a sign of character and inner strength that would have repercussions on how I raise my children.

      She could not make it to my birth, so I called her up to let her know how it went. She made it very clear to me, after she heard how it went, that she was disappointed in me. I «failed» my birth.I have seen time and time again on forums, in blogs and books, the same kind of judgement coming from the natural birth crowd.

      I later learned that basically nothing she told me had any scientific standing. Almost nothing I had read on natural birth blogs had any scientific standing either. Asking for pain medication is not a sign of weakness and has no incidence on bonding with a baby. Telling women otherwise is completely messed up.

      So, so many people who promote natural birth talk about «being strong enough» to go through birth with no drugs or interventions. It took me three years to get rid of the idea that I had not been strong enough, that I was weak, that I had failed at my most important task. That I had failed at something that women have been doing for millions of years without drugs.

      Now I’m all for women who want to birth naturally, do hypnobirthing or whatever else feels good or right. Every woman has the right to decide what is best for her. But no birth is superior to the other, and no choices made during birth determine a women’s strength of character (except, maybe, if you’re on meth during your birth…but that’s a different story).

      So maybe I’m not furious at the natural birth movement. I’m furious at the very large number of judgmental, unscientific sanctimonious women with no empathy who give the natural birth movement a bad name. I’m furious that I was led to believe that with hard work, dedication, concentration and courage, I could have a life-affirming warrior-women, hear-me-roar kind of birth, because real complications happen only on the rarest of occasions. I’m furious that I was lied to. But yeah, I was to idiot who actually believed what I was told.

  • JooLane
  • brackenscott

    AMEN.

  • kris

    Pain Olympics – Where your pain is never worth anything, because someone else always has it worse.

    What a loss in empathy everyone has.

    It’s like when I was told I was not infertile because I could get pregnant, not looking at the 6 miscarriages I had, because real infertiles couldn’t get pregnant.

    It’s not a competition. My pain does not decrease yours. Everyones pain means something to them. Do not discount it because you think yours is more important. That is selfish and self-centered.

    • thebadlydrawnfox

      I read somewhere that “When you tell people your good news, they never tell you someone has it better.” I thought it was a really clever flipside to the dismissive pain Olympics.

      I am sorry for your losses, and sorry that there are those who didn’t see them as valid somehow.

  • aDinosaursMommy

    This is long, but I finally found an article I can relate to.. so here goes:
    I gave birth over two years ago to my only baby and it’s still fresh on my mind. Four days after my due date, I was in the hospital to be induced. I had an unplanned (but definitely appreciated– before it wore off) epidural. I was in labor for four hours and pushed for 20 minutes–Pop! There he was! What I didn’t realize, that the “Ring of Fire” feeling had numbed me so much that the burning I was feeling was ripping. I ripped in 7 places. My doctor didn’t have time to do the episiotomy, since he came so fast. I ripped up, down and both sides.. as well as inside. My doctor said it was worse than hers was and hers was awful (according to her). My whole lady area is different now. The stitches healed up weirdly and it is still painful some days. (Weird, I know! I have no explanation since it was so long ago, but it still hurts!)
    Recovery was hard, since I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia. I had to have a lot of help. Since then, I love on my son constantly, but my Post Partum Depression never left. I deal with it on a daily basis. I felt like I had a traumatic birth, but even immediately after, my focus wasn’t on myself.. it was on my son who didn’t score well on the test they do immediately after birth. I was worried about if he had hair, and my poor husband didn’t have the heart to tell me right then he wasn’t doing as well as they hoped. Within a few minutes under the light, he scored perfectly.
    With that being said, even with everything I went through to have him, I don’t regret my son or how I gave birth. I realize other women have it a lot worse than I did, so next time I will be doing extra, extra stretches down there so maybe it won’t rip so much– or at all lol.
    To the women who have lost children, I am sorry. I have a deep respect for mothers who have angel babies. I just want to give a big hug to you! ♥

    • ChillMama

      I totally understand. Sometimes I just want to talk about what I went through so 1. I can fully process it, and 2. I can get affirmation that I am not alone.

  • Edify

    Thanks Maria.

    People’s flippancy and judgment over what you can feel after a traumatic birth is just ridiculous and the message they send is that as an individual, what happened to you in that process didn’t matter. Because you are a mom now and all that matters is your kid.

    We might be parents now but we still have our own independent feelings and lives to live. Respect that.

  • LinZoo

    Maybe someone was just trying to cheer you up with a misguided “look on the bright side” approach and didn’t mean to seem like they were dismissing your pain. Usually anyone who says anything to you after a trauma or loss is trying to be helpful and doesn’t know exactly what to say.

  • Guest

    My mom is guilty of this. My son, my first, very unexpected pregnancy and birth, was born at 32 weeks due to pre eclampsia. I went from being put on bedrest, to being admitted, to having an urgent -not quite emergency – c-section in 48 hours. I couldn’t go to the NICU for the first 24 hours, and didn’t hold him for the first four days. He spent five weeks in the hospital while I had to go back to work and could only see him twice a day. Having to fit visiting my son into my schedule was pretty heart wrenching. Other people cared for my son and knew more about him than I did. Other people fed him my milk, rocked him to sleep, helped him settle when he was upset. My tiny, precious baby who was still supposed to be a part of my body. Meanwhile, my mom stayed with us for the whole time. She guilt tripped my husband for his manifestations of grief not matching up with her expectations of a loving father. She constantly told people that it is so much easier for “us” to leave the hospital knowing he was healthy, but just too small/undeveloped to come home. For me, if he was sick, if there were clearly things he needed that I knew I could not provide him with I would feel better about others caring for my son at such a high capacity. All he did there was sleep, be warmed by the incubator and fed my milk by a tube that I was able to set up for him when I was there. He didn’t even require breathing assistance. She continues to embody the experience as if it were her own child. I have so much bitterness towards her about it. I just have to swallow it and remember she doesn’t mean any harm. The experience has left me scarred and mournful for the first five weeks of my son’s life, and terrified to be pregnant ever again. The thought of leaving another child in a hospital scares me to my soul. I can’t hire a babysitter or leave him with anyone except family, and even then for only small amounts of time. I just have a hard time letting other people care for my son, sometimes including his own father. I have tried to talk to her about it, just as a vent or release, and she just says, you know, you have a healthy baby and you recovered completely, you have so much to be thankful for! Yes, I am thankful, but I am daily trying to repair the damage done by such a devastating experience that I was completely unprepared for. I would just love to hear her say, I am sorry, you are a great mom, and if you had to do it again, you would get through it. My issues are not life ending or earth shattering, but they are mine. They are so real for me.

  • DearAmbellina

    My mom is guilty of this. My son, my first, very unexpected pregnancy and birth, was born at 32 weeks due to pre eclampsia. I went from being put on bedrest, to being admitted, to having an urgent -not quite emergency – c-section in 48 hours. I couldn’t go to the NICU for the first 24 hours, and didn’t hold him for the first four days. He spent five weeks in the hospital while I had to go back to work and could only see him twice a day. Having to fit visiting my son into my schedule was pretty heart wrenching. Other people cared for my son and knew more about him than I did. Other people fed him my milk, rocked him to sleep, helped him settle when he was upset. My tiny, precious baby who was still supposed to be a part of my body. Meanwhile, my mom stayed with us for the whole time. She guilt tripped my husband for his manifestations of grief not matching up with her expectations of a loving father. She constantly told people that it is so much easier for “us” to leave the hospital knowing he was healthy, but just too small/undeveloped to come home. For me, if he was sick, if there were clearly things he needed that I knew I could not provide him with I would feel better about others caring for my son at such a high capacity. All he did there was sleep, be warmed by the incubator and fed my milk by a tube that I was able to set up for him when I was there. He didn’t even require breathing assistance. She continues to embody the experience as if it were her own child. I have so much bitterness towards her about it. I just have to swallow it and remember she doesn’t mean any harm. The experience has left me scarred and mournful for the first five weeks of my son’s life, and terrified to be pregnant ever again. The thought of leaving another child in a hospital scares me to my soul. I can’t hire a babysitter or leave him with anyone except family, and even then for only small amounts of time. I just have a hard time letting other people care for my son, sometimes including his own father. I have tried to talk to her about it, just as a vent or release, and she just says, you know, you have a healthy baby and you recovered completely, you have so much to be thankful for! Yes, I am thankful, but I am daily trying to repair the damage done by such a devastating experience that I was completely unprepared for. I would just love to hear her say, I am sorry, you are a great mom, and if you had to do it again, you would get through it. My issues are not life ending or earth shattering, but they are mine. They are so real for me.

    • JadePanda

      I’m so sorry you had to go through that, especially without feeling supported by your mother. As you said, she probably doesn’t mean to hurt you, and may even think she is helping by looking only at the positive, but you are still entitled to feel hurt. If I was in your shoes, I would feel the same.

      It may not mean as much from a stranger online, but I can tell that you are a great mom. You made it through a tough experience, and you now know that you have what it takes to do it again if you so choose. It doesn’t mean you can’t be sad, angry, scared, etc…those are real emotions based on your real experiences.

      Whatever you and your husband decide, I wish you the best of luck.

    • Simone

      That’s a really heavy narrative, friend, and I really want you to feel listened to. I hope you find some good therapeutic listening partner to whom you can unburden all this totally reasonable sadness and anger and fear. Thank you for sharing this story. With a kind electric hug.

  • Gangle

    Having a traumatic and frightening birthing experience sounds horrible, hands down and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I had a really good pal who went through a scary pregnancy and then an even more scary birth, where she ended up flat lining for a short while on the table. At the same time as this, I was going through round after round of unsuccessful fertility treatment. I did, and still do, really feel terrible for her with what she went through. Mostly I am thankful that I still have my friend here, and she has a healthy baby – for a while it looked like that may not happen. I think I could lose patience with someone who complained their birthing experience was completely ruined because nurse lost her playlist, or the doula used the sandalwood incense and not the jasmine or whatever, but if an experience was frightening or out of control and scary for someone, those feelings are always valid. Having said that, I do think you have to sometimes pick your audience. I don’t think it is sensitive or ok to complain of your traumatic birthing experience where both you and the baby were ok at the end of it to someone who has just lost their baby, for example.

    • Edify

      I don’t think that it should be impossible for those 2 stories to co-exist. They are both part of the fabric of someone’s life and experience.
      Just because you are both physically ok at the end, it doesn’t mean you are emotionally ok. Birth trauma, post natal depression and post traumatic stress go hand in hand. If we expect women to censor themselves because someone had it worse, if she’s suffering psychologically afterwards, there is less chance of it being picked up and treated.
      Also, you know someone who had a very traumatic birth. Do you know someone who claimed it based on playlists and sandalwood? If not, why on earth do we keep saying this?

    • Gangle

      I said it is insensitive to complain about your traumatic birth story to someone who has just lost their baby and I stand by that. Who the hell thinks it is ok to complain about that to a woman who has just lost her baby? I went through a really traumatic egg retrieval that landed me in the ER with very severe OHSS. That really, really upset me, especially because I felt like I was having a heart attack and was going to die and at the time had no idea what was happening. I had a valid reason to feel upset about that. Still, there is absolutely NO WAY I would complain about that to a woman who had just recently lost her child. NO COMPARISON. There are other people in my life to talk to. Unless you literally don’t know anyone else at all that you can talk to I guess.. but man, give the other person some space. And yeah, I do know a woman who complained continuously that her birth experience was completely ruined because the playlist was all wrong and her husband forgot to get her favourite snacks and she didn’t feel exactly how she thought she should, according to her birth plan.

    • Edify

      I’m not suggesting that you unload everything in its entirety or that you should say hey that sucked, but what about this. It’s not about comparison. Yes, if a person you don’t know well tells you of their loss, you just listen. Maybe another time as the relationship develops, you might feel comfortable sharing your story. If it’s a close friend though, it blurs the line and those stories need to find a way to co-exist over time if it’s causing deeper pain because both of those people need their friends.

      Stories can be shared in a mutually respectful way. It’s not about comparison.

  • Kelby Johnson

    I had horrible PPD with my first born and I heard this all the time. At least you have a healthy baby!!! Yeah! Too bad I hate myself too much to care for him! THANKS! It was the darkest time of my life and I can understand where you’re coming from.

  • Amber Starr

    Ok, so I have to share this because this really hit home for me.
    On 11/25, my fiance took me to the hospital because I was starting to have regular contractions. My due date was 12/5, so I guess I was mentally unprepared for what was to follow. We got to the hospital by 8:30pm and my contractions were coming hard. I was 3cm dilated by 9pm and 4 cm dilated by 11pm. At that point, I was in horrible pain, and they moved me to the birthing room.

    By 12, I was in so much pain that I honestly thought I was going to die. I know that it sounds traumatic, but its the truth. I was BEGGING for an epidural. I just wanted SOMETHING to help ease the pain. The one nurse who was a total bitch actually got snotty with me for pushing. I tried not to scream at her, but I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t pushing, this shit was happening on its own… Again, I begged for an epidural and they told me that the anesthesiologist just got there and was getting ready to administer it. Just as he was preparing, my midwife checked and told me that there was no time for it. The baby was coming NOW.

    My whole pregnancy, I was adamant that I wanted an epidural. I was terrified and now, I was being told that I was gonna do this on my own… I’m no hero. This was NOT what I wanted, but I had no choice. Yes, in the end, I had a beautiful, healthy baby girl, but the actual labor was so horrible and so painful that I have a hard time speaking about it because I start crying. Even writing this is hard because as soon as I think about it, I get panic-y.

    I wanted to eventually try for one more baby, but now, I don’t think I do. I don’t ever want to feel that kind of pain ever again. Never.

    I’m already getting the “well it’s SUPPOSED to hurt!” from people. No shit. I know that it’s supposed to hurt… But what I wasn’t prepared for is how it would affect me mentally. I seriously feel like it was a horror movie. I kept begging for help. Begging for it to stop… and feeling my skin tear as she came out… It scares the shit out of me.

    I am so thankful for my little Paige, and I do not regret a single thing about having her, but I don’t think that I could ever do it again.

    Holy hell, I actually feel a little better just getting it all out. Sorry for rambling yet again.

    • Edify

      Oh Amber.

      Firstly, congratulations on your beautiful baby.

      Secondly, I have no experience in a rapid birth like yours but from what I’ve heard, they are tough. Your body kind of moves through it and progresses a little quicker than it can build a pain tolerance for and it makes getting an epidural tough if the anesthetist wasn’t just hanging there waiting for it.

      Talk and talk about it until you cry less and less. It took me a couple of years to be able to talk without crying and then I cried again the whole way through my second pregnancy.

      If it feels like the pain isn’t lessening or it’s getting worse, please see a counsellor. And if you do one day find yourself having another baby, surround yourself with a medical team that cares and understands. My second experience was a million times better because I was surrounded by caring empathetic people who understood me.

      Enjoy your baby girl!

  • Betsy Riser

    I had a friend who apparently expected me to be able to sympathize with her having a c-section (healthy baby) the same year as my son died of SIDS. Uh… sorry and fuck off. At least that whole experience gave me a good perspective as to what’s worth getting upset over and what’s not, so thanks, universe?

    • Anne

      OOOh, thank you for this comment. Exactly….

  • Diya Naidu

    I think people in general stink at “saying the right thing”. Don’t get me wrong, I totally ripped people’s heads off for saying shitting things after my miscarriage, so I’m not excusing them. But it doesn’t surprise me that people don’t say the right things. They’re idiots.

  • Edify

    Just re-reading all of the comments here. It’s like an open therapy thread and you can hear so much pain in the stories.
    I hope everyone finds a way through their situation and seeks professional counseling if they need to.

  • Jallun-Keatres

    One of the best sayings I have ever heard is “Don’t let anyone prevent you from being entitled to your own grief.”

  • Amanda

    Nope.

    Going through a frightening/painful medical procedure is awful. I get that. I’ve been there.

    But stop.

    I lost my son. He was born still. I went into the hospital, and he was doing well. I left the hospital 2 days later. Alone.

    Women who have had traumatic birth experiences are not to be negated. It hurt, it was scary, and I hope they don’t suffer any permanent physical or psychological repercussions. They should feel safe enough to find the help they need to heal, either physically or psychologically or both.

    But you know what? It’s OK to say “I am happy your baby and you are safe.”

    Because some people don’t get to hear that. All I hear is :

    “At least your son wasn’t older, that would have been worse”

    “You can have more kids, why are you upset?”

    “Now you can finish your doctorate- have another baby after that’s done”

    “This baby wasn’t well timed anyway- aren’t you relieved you can wait?”

    “It’s not the same as if an actual child died.”

    “Why aren’t you over it? Just have another baby!”

    This isn’t a pissing contest over pain. This is complaining about a fender bender when the woman next to you died in a crash. Women die in childbirth. Babies die in childbirth. Remember that. I feel bad for women who have had bad birth experiences- because that sucks. But your baby is alive. Rejoice. Get the help you need, and love your child.

    I lost a lot of blood, I was given too much pain medication. I tore, I had a postpartum infection. I wasn’t able to get an epidural, and I was so drugged during my contractions that when I was finally told my baby had “expired” (hours after the fact), I was too messed up on pain meds to understand. I asked to hold him dozens of times. I tried to get out of my bed to “go see him”. They told me he was dead- I didn’t understand.

    I also had a traumatic birth. But I don’t have my son to show for it.

    Grieving is good, all pain is real. All I ask is a bit of perspective.