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We are often told a health mother and a healthy baby are all that matters when it comes to childbirth. Yet traumatic births, whether they leave you or your baby with any kind of injury or not, can leave you depressed and in need of healing. Talking about traumatic births when your baby was completely healthy at the end of it is rather difficult. The chances are that people will not even listen to you. But birth trauma is real to those who experienced it, and healing is important.

A traumatic birth can mean many things to many different mothers. Perhaps you had an unexpected complication towards the end of your labor, and you were worried whether your baby would make it out alive. Or perhaps you were treated badly by hospital staff, or talked into procedures you did not want and did not feel were necessary. Perhaps the pain or stress of your birth left you feeling traumatized. Birth leaves us quite vulnerable! My births were not traumatic, but my first birth did leave me questioning my midwife's actions, years after my daughter was born. I had a homebirth, but when my baby did not emerge after two pushes (and five minutes after the urge to push), my midwife yelled at me, asking me why I chose to endanger my baby's life by keeping her inside. She then asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital by car or ambulance only to fiercely jump onto my abdomen to launch the baby out. This is a technique called fundal pressure, and it is dangerous for mom and baby. I'm not traumatized, but I am angry.

So why that story? My baby and I were completely healthy, but a situation like that could easily have left someone with a lot of negative feelings. Emergency c-sections, repeated unwanted vaginal exams, and forceps deliveries, are common reasons to be traumatized by a birth. But as long as your experience leaves you feeling sad and depressed, that needs attention regardless of exactly what happened.

What can you do to heal from birth trauma?

Talk about your experience with other women, in real life or online. Write your birth story down, and specify what about your birth left you feeling traumatized. Go to therapy if you feel you need to. Write a letter to your healthcare provider with any complaints you have. This can make you feel like you are taking control again. Give it time. Time really does heal, at least some. Also see, should you make a birth plan? and deciding where to give birth.

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