Some women come out of the labor room with unexpected negative emotions. They can range from guilt... to fear... to rage... to hurt... to anguish. These mothers need our support so they can bring out the strong, confident mama that's inside them. Dismissing their feelings will not help those feelings magically disappear. Insensitive words only make things harder for her. It can be uncomfortable being with someone who is grieving. To be blunt, this is not about the comfort of others; it is about supporting mothers so they can do the best job for themselves and their babies. Mothers deserve this, and babies deserve this.
Here are some common pitfalls to avoid.
This sentiment also conveys to mothers that they don't matter; only the baby does. A mother's feelings deserve respect, she is a person too.
It is possible to love your baby AND grieve for a lost birth experience at the same time. These two emotions are not mutually exclusive. Being upset about how the birth went does not mean that a mother isn't grateful for her child. It means she's upset her work didn't pan out the way she wanted; it means her preparations didn't ready her for what she actually went through.
Instead: Give her the space she needs to feel both sides of this coin. Let her talk without judgment. Listen to her without evaluating. Trust that she will see the happy parts with time. Believe in her love for her baby - it's there.
Instead: Listen, offer a hug, and let the new mother process and integrate what happened to her. If this brings up your own past wounds, please be gentle with yourself and find help for you too. Give her the time she needs without compounding your injuries with hers.
Instead: Honor what she wants/wanted. Separate your opinions from her story. As always, listen.
We, like onions and ogres, have layers. When we process one, it may lead us deeper and that next layer may come with its own work. This is progress! And it takes time.
Instead: Ignore the calendar. Provide the new mother with patience, love, and support anytime she needs it. Check in with her in a few days or weeks. This will help her heal more efficiently and effectively.
There is a possibility that she never planned to have another child. Or she may not want to have another baby, as the idea of possibly going through another experience like this may trigger a panic attack. Some mothers experience secondary infertility. There may not even be a "next time” because mom so chooses or is forced to accept. Reminding her that she is ending her birthing career on this sour note may deepen her pain.
If she is willing and able to have another child it doesn't matter at this moment in time. Jumping ahead devalues her feelings now.
Instead: Stay in the present and help her recover from what just happened so that if she can and wants to have a next time, next time can unfold without added baggage.
Though we are not therapists, we have some tools that may help. If you are working through a tough experience, we invite you to schedule a consult.
Melissa and Ellen are birth doulas, childbirth educators, placenta encapsulation specialists, and Parent Effectiveness Training instructors serving the Denver, CO area. They are passionate about pregnancy, birth, baby care, and parenting. They bring over twenty years of combined experience to their premium childbirth classes, doula support, parenting classes, and placenta encapsulation services in the metro Denver area.