They say mothers forget their labor pain.
That’s the only way to explain why we’d be crazy enough to birth more babies.
But for some mamas, the pain doesn’t go away.
No, some wounds are deeper and cut to the heart.
- Maybe your delivery dreams of having a “shareworthy” birth story were shattered…
- Maybe you didn’t have time to prepare and the whole thing is lost in a haze…
- Maybe you didn’t get to hold your baby for days, even weeks…
It’s times like these when I wish I could sit down for a cup of coffee (or Diet Coke) with each and every one of you, hear your stories, and give you a great big hug.
But alas, the blogosphere doesn’t quite allow for that. *sigh *
So instead, I’m sending you a virtual hug and serving up what I hope will be a cyber cup of coffee brimming with encouragement just for you.
(Let’s be Real. They Happen.)
Two years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy with a big ‘ole head.
Unfortunately, his head couldn’t quite make it through the birth canal, so he entered this world through an unplanned cesarean delivery—and a traumatic one at that.
My labor story began on the day of my father-in-law’s funeral.
Instead of pre-laboring at home, I did it in a church full of people with a smile on my face and what felt like a thousand knives in my belly.
My water broke ten minutes after we got home from the funeral, and I spent the next 18 hours laboring, only to find out that I would need a C-section.
When the anesthesiologist poked me to test if I was numb, I told him that I could feel the prick. He told my husband I was probably “just out of it.” (Epic fail on #bedsidemanner.)
I felt every. single. cut.
Taking my loudly expressed “hints,” the doctor stopped and asked if I wanted to go under general anesthesia. My body said yes, but the adrenaline caused me to say “no,” and I pushed through.
What was the result?
A mom too weak to hold the baby she labored so hard for. Instead of nursing him right away as I planned, his first feeding came from a bottle.
It was a delivery filled with disappointments.
5 Steps of Emotional Healing
A few weeks later, my friend Heather (not our Heather, another equally awesome one, though) wrote me a note asking how I was recovering—both physically and emotionally.
To be honest, I was too busy figuring out this whole motherhood thing to even consider the emotional pain that came with an unexpected C-section. But at that moment, a flood of emotions bobbed to the surface.
It struck me that I actually had two wounds that needed to heal: one across my belly and another across my heart.
Here are the five steps that helped me overcome my disappointments and (dare I say it?) trauma and move on, eventually even having another child.
Emotional Recovery Step 1: Grieve
Because my father-in-law unexpectedly passed away right before our son was born, what was supposed to be a joyous time was also a time of grieving for our family.
Maybe that’s why I recoiled a bit when Heather suggested that I take time to grieve my lost labor story.
Grieving my labor story seemed somewhat selfish and trivial in comparison.
But then Heather hit me with this truth…
“The reality you faced is different from what you had hoped in your heart, and it’s okay to be sad about that and walk through a little season of grief about it.”
Those words were so freeing for me. I had to give myself permission to grieve.
For me, grieving involved a lot of verbal processing with friends and loved ones and late night tears as I read and prayed through the Psalms.
This one was particularly helpful: “The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” ~Psalm 121:7-8
For you, grieving may look different.
Scream into your pillow. Pound the pavement. Binge on Ben and Jerry’s. Cry until your stomach hurts.
Just give yourself permission to be sad.
It’s okay to grieve over your lost labor story, friend. It’s okay.
Emotional Recovery Step 2: Talk to the Doc
I was an event planner in my former BC life (“Before Children”). After every event, I sat down with my team and debriefed about important details…like whether or not the chicken tasted like rubber. 😉
Ready for a non-shocker? Delivering a baby is a major event!
It deserves a debrief.
Debriefing with my OB was a huge part of my healing process. Because he didn’t end up delivering my baby, he wasn’t actually aware of my complications.
Seeing the frustration on his face and hearing him utter the words “I’m sorry” moved me to tears and helped me to trust him moving forward with my second pregnancy. He knew my lost story, and with his help, my second labor story was a much happier one.
We’ve talked before about being an advocate for your baby, but you need to be an advocate for yourself as well.
Talk to your doctor about your disappointments. Share your concerns. Ask questions. Get answers.
And if necessary, cut ties and find a better doctor.
I hear you… How do you know if a new doctor will actually be better? Ah…that’s a post coming up! Make sure you’re a subscriber so you can get it hot off the press!
Emotional Recovery Step 3: Forgive
Sometimes delivery disappointments are out of our control (like giant baby heads that can’t fit through tiny holes).
But sometimes, they’re the result of human error. When that’s the case, it’s easy for bitterness to creep in.
As I dealt with my own bitterness, Heather had these wise words for me…
“Be honest with yourself about what your doctors did wrong and determine to forgive them. That’s the only way I know to combat bitterness.”
But how could I possibly forgive the people who had caused me so much pain?
Quite honestly, I couldn’t…without Christ. You see, forgiveness isn’t just saying, “It’s okay.” It’s saying, “You hurt me. I accept the pain that you caused me, and I won’t hold it against you. ”
And I couldn’t do that in my own strength. But I was able to do so because I know that Christ forgave me first. When I sinned against him and grieved his soul, he chose to accept the pain that I had caused him and died in my place so that he didn’t have to hold it against me.
And now, I’m able to accept the pain my doctors caused me and surrender it to him. Because he defeated death and was resurrected, I am able to forgive that anesthesiologist, not in my own strength, but in HIS strength.
How about you?
Are you harboring bitterness?
There is freedom in forgiveness, friend. Don’t try to forgive in your own strength. There is someone who is stronger. Let Him be strong for you.
Heather’s Note: I know we don’t usually talk about our personal faith here on Incredible Infant (after all, this isn’t a personal blog), but in this instance, I encouraged Chelsea to share this part of her story inside this article because it was part of her story.
Bitterness never punishes the person you’re bitter against. If this whole section has got you confused or overwhelmed (“Heather, it can’t be done!”), contact me or comment below and we can share what this kind of forgiveness practically looks like in our lives.
Emotional Healing Step 4: Snuggle Your Baby
In the midst of disappointment, it can be easy to lose sight of one important truth: your labor story, disappointing as it may be, still brought you that beautiful bundle of joy.
So when you’re feeling blue about your story, snuggle your baby, give him a smooch, and thank God for your happy ending!
That said, if your baby doesn’t feel like a bundle of joy, but rather a bundle of screams, don’t feel broken or ashamed.
According to Postpartum Support International, 80% of mothers experience “baby blues” for 2-3 weeks after delivery and 1 out of 7 moms experiences significant postpartum depression, anxiety, intrusive repetitive thoughts, panic, or post traumatic stress.
See? You’re not alone.
Those warm-fuzzy-bonding feelings will come, eventually. You can hurry them along by connecting with other Warrior Moms walking the same path.
Emotional Healing Step 5: Pay It Forward
Have you ever been in line at Starbucks when there’s a continuous chain of “pay-it-forwards”?
You know, where one person starts out by paying for the car behind them, and everyone keeps paying it forward until some jerk brings it to a screeching unhappy halt.
Help me keep a good thing going, would you?
- Share your story with another mom whose delivery didn’t go as planned.
- Share the G-rated version with a soon-to-be mom. Gently let her know that her 17-page labor plan may not go exactly how she envisions.
- Share it below in the comments and with our Sisterhood of Mothers.
Help another mom out, and pay it forward.
Heal the Wound but Leave the Scar
One of my favorite songs has the line, “Heal the wound, but leave the scar.” That is my desire for you on your road to recovery.
Wounds don’t always heal on their own. If you need support, please reach out to someone for help. These three organizations may be able to assist you as you begin your healing process:
International Cesarean Awareness Network ~ Provides support for those recovering from C-Sections
Postpartum Progress ~ Founded by a mom and PPD survivor, this website is a champion for all moms who feel there’s a stigma to postpartum illnesses. It’s a breath of fresh air.
Hand to Hold ~ Provides comprehensive resources and support programs to parents of preemies, babies born with special health care needs, and those who have experienced a loss due to these or other complications
Scars Can Be Beautiful
Once you do heal, always remember that your scar is beautiful, mama.
It tells your story. It’s where your baby’s story began, and it’s one of the greatest love stories of all time.
Are you recovering from delivery disappointments? Do you bear the scars? Share them with me below. Let’s connect.