In my experience, birth shaming and judging can increase triggers for postpartum distress.
A lot of women love to share our birth stories. Why not, it’s one time that a woman can allow herself to be completely vulnerable while simultaneously invoking her inner warrior queen. Some of us have had amazing, joy-filled, inspiring births and some of us have had scary, nightmare inducing births. Some of us have had both. And most births have parts of each. Bottom line is each is our own story and no one else has authorship.
When a person is seeking treatment for PTSD, one of the therapy techniques is to talk about the event over and over. Continually sharing their own recount of the traumatic event can become healing, each time becoming a little easier to share. For this reason, it’s a great idea for moms, all moms to share their stories. Good, bad, awesome, and ugly. Sharing can help heal not only PTSD but can aid in the struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety.
So, what happens when a mom who is over the moon with her birth story, completely thrilled and loves to tell it but is struggling with postpartum distress and receives disapproving criticism? What can happen when someone (even unwittingly) says to that struggling mother that her experience was subpar?
Not to be dramatic, but disaster!
It can happen as fast as a tornado rolling through the prairie and leave as much damage behind.
Because we don't always know where a mom is sitting in her postpartum experience. We aren't always aware of her insecurities. We need to avoid critiquing the births of our fellow moms. So what do we say? Often just a genuine “wow what an experience” or “I’m so proud of you” is enough validation for any birth story.
Now please don’t think I’m encouraging anyone to dismiss a mother who truly mourns her birth, perhaps it was severely damaging and she needs some extra hugs and encouragement and validation. Maybe she needs to be encouraged to take corrective action. Either way, it is still her decision.
The old saying still stands “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”. We may not always agree. Personally we may not approve of another mother's birth plan, but in that moment, it is her birth being discussed and not ours. It would be nothing short of cruel for anyone to tell a mother her body has failed her, just as it is cruel to tell her that the birth she thought was amazing was not. Even more so when it triggers a recurrence of Postpartum Distress in any form.
So in closing, I just want to say, please be careful with your words. They can hurt or they can heal. Words can mend, or they can break. We absolutely should be able to share and listen to one another. And though you may want to explode inside over someone’s differing choice, a simple. “Thanks for sharing” will suffice.
Because we never know the battles being fought that day or how easy it might be to knock a mother down.
Each walk is different, but we walk together, and that makes all the