This may be slightly outside the normal birth topic parameter but maybe not... *m

Archived User

This may be slightly outside the normal birth topic parameter but maybe not... *m
In working with my previously mentioned client, I've been trying to come up with resources for her -- books, etc. to read that deal with processing her previous birth experience (particularly in light of her being PG again so that the impact of her previous experience on this upcoming one is not a negative one). I haven't found much so far.

Then yesterday, I received an email from a member of a group I used to be the leader of, and she was asking for information or suggestions on dealing with her lingering sadness over the loss of her dream of a normal birth. I met her when she was pregnant with her second child, so I am not sure what her first birth was like. Her second involved an OB who cut an insane episiotomy and it extended, and then did a botched repair. She had painful sex and some other issues from the rectal tear for a LONG time until finally she had to see another doctor and have the repair repaired. Things were still not "fixed" then but were much better. Anyway, the second birth was a really awful experience, that lingered on for about two years in its effects.

Fast forward a year after that, she was expecting again and was so glad to get a chance to have a different birth. She was "doing everything she could" - she chose midwives so that she could have the midwifery model of care, read your book, Henci- she was interviewing doulas, etc.

Then she realized that the baby wasn't moving one day- listened to her instincts, which saved the baby's life. Her daughter has heart problems and they thought she was going to die. (I believe my friend was ~28 weeks at the point that she realized there was a problem.) She spent a lot of time in various hospitals for the rest of her pregnancy, trying to walk the delicate balance of giving enough heart medicine that the baby would receive and be able to to survive, while not causing damage to my friend, whose heart was fine. It was quite touch-and-go and a stressful couple of months. Eventually, no matter how much tinkering with the dosages that they did, they couldn't give my friend enough of the drug for what the baby needed without the effects on my friend being too toxic, and it truly did become a case of the baby being safer out rather than in, and she ended up born by cesarean prematurely but much less prematurely than she almost was.

My friend did her research, feels good about her decisions and grateful that her daughter is alive and doing pretty well with a pacemaker- she is quite delayed so far but cute as a button and such a joy to their family. They hope that she lives a long life, although I believe she is still at some risk of not living to adulthood due to a variety of problems. Still, for today she is doing well, and they have learned to appreciate each day as it comes and not borrow trouble. They have plenty to deal with on a daily basis without looking for more!

But even so- the cesarean of a preemie was not the healing experience that my friend was hoping for and working for, and she is still mourning it (even as she rejoices at her daughter's life and considers the sacrifices to have been well worth making, etc.) and people basically telling her she shouldn't be doing so, that she should just be grateful she has her daughter (which of course she IS) and that she's ungrateful to be anything other than happy... and that c/s is no big deal... etc. isn't helping. Instead it makes her feel guilty that she still feels kind of cheated of her chance to try again.

For my VBAC client, I am thinking about having her read Mother's Intention, and see if kind of the tone of that book might help her feel more empowered and less helpless... though I don't know that it will help with her fears that the doctors are right and her body IS defective and unable to give birth... but for my friend, I don't know what to suggest for her. She doesn't have regrets about her choices- only about the loss of what she had to give up to save her baby. She considers it worthwhile and yet...

So it seems to me that maybe this is a big unmet need, with the climate of birth there is in our country right now. There must be many more women than only these two in my circle, who are dealing with the grief and pain of not getting to have a normal birth when they so urgently desire one. Is there anything out there for women to read, to help come to terms with the loss of their dream of having a normal birth? Or classes to take? I want to help them- and yet, I'm not a psychologist, and I don't know where to point them to begin their journeys toward emotional healing...

Sorry if this is off-topic...

By: delilahdr1

Archived User

This may be slightly outside the normal birth topic parameter but maybe not... *m
(in response to Archived User)
It certainly isn't off topic, but it isn't my area of expertise. However, I cut and pasted your post into an e-mail to a friend who is a marriage and family therapist specializing in perinatal mental health. I asked her to suggest some resources.

-- Henci By: Henci Goer

Archived User

This may be slightly outside the normal birth topic parameter but maybe not... *m
(in response to Archived User)
Hi Delilah:
This story is heartbreaking on so many levels. It is often true that by listening and *truly* hearing this lovely woman's distress, you are providing a salve toward healing. Too frequently, we are shamed into believing that we are ungrateful if we admit to "negative" feelings, and that love and sadness are somehow mutually exclusive. She is so blessed to know you!
In my practice, I am often with women who have had dramatic and traumatic experiences. Trauma is possible whenever a person experiences fear, horror, or revulsion. No one else needs to objectively validate that experience: the experience is in the eye of the beholder. Certainly finding onself in the hospital, hanging on moment by moment for your unborn child's life, not knowing all the while if your own healthy is also in jeopardy, can be horrifying to say the least. Understanding the grief involved in this trauma, and working through the adjustment from expectations to current reality is important. A very fine book in this regard is *Shattered Assumptions* by Janoff-Bulman.
When working through the trauma itself, I often use "EMDR" as a tool for healing. A good book on that particular form of help is *Transforming Trauma: EMDR* by Parnell.
Looking at the possibility of a residual experience of either depression, anxiety, or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), two very good books spring to mind: *The Hidden Feelings of Motherood* by Kendall-Tackett, and *Rebounding from Childbirth* by Madsen. Each has a section on stress and dealing with the unexpected.
An excellent organization supporting women who have experienced birth-related trauma is hosted by the organization called "TABS" (Trauma and Birth Stress) out of New Zealand. Their site can be found at In the US and Canada, an organization called "Postpartum Support International" (PSI) can be found at On the PSI site, you can find a list of mental health therapists trained to support women in the perinatal period, as well as list of support groups by region.
Not all therapists are equipped to work with trauma, and that would certainly be a screening question I would ask before making an appointment. My experience is that this type of therapy is relative short term (as little as 2-3 sessions! and commonly around 5-6 if the therapist is well trained and experienced, and the subject of counseling is confined to the perinatal experience). When you do locate the appropriate support, relief is often very rapid in coming.
I wish you and this mom all the very best, and hope for a peaceful resolution to her experience. It sounds like you are a very active resource for your local area. What a gift you must be to the mothers you meet. Now go solicit a hug - you've earned it!
Best regards,
Sharon Storton
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Campbell, California By: Sharon Storton

Archived User

This may be slightly outside the normal birth topic parameter but maybe not... *m
(in response to Archived User)
Thank you so much for your reply and suggestions. I sent the list to my friend, and she really appreciated it- she was heading for the library this weekend to find some of the books. I am going to meet with my VBAC client next week to discuss what she wants from her next birth and how to interview care providers with an eye to "does this care provider offer what I want". I will keep you guys posted!
Delilah By: delilahdr1

Archived User

RE: This may be slightly outside the normal birth topic parameter but maybe not... *m
(in response to Archived User)
I just wanted to add these two beautiful articles here in case someone still reads this.

Healing wounded mothers

Wounded Mothers - Healing loss of soul in childbirth

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