Let’s Talk About Dealing with Grief from Birth Loss

Having something other than your ideal birth can be a painful experience, especially if you truly desired to deliver naturally. Often, women who end up with an emergency c-section feel a sense of guilt, loss, and even failure. Or perhaps it wasn’t a cesarean that you or someone you know is grieving over, but an intervention that you desired to avoid. Sometimes opting for pain-relieving drugs can make a woman feel like she had less of a birth experience than she desired to.

My first delivery went very well, and was a successful homebirth. I was very proud of myself, but somewhere between delivering my daughter and her placenta, something went wrong. I appeared to be losing a lot of blood, which was most likely because I hadn’t delivered the afterbirth. Within an hour I did in fact deliver the placenta, but my mother/midwife was worried and sleep-deprived, and didn’t want to take any chances. She had me transferred to the hospital.

By the time I arrived, my bleeding had stopped. However, since I did have a minor cosmetic tear they offered to stitch it for me while I was admitted. I was very hesitant to have anything near my girly parts any time soon, so they administered psychotropic drugs to calm me. While I was out, they gave me a D & C. They DID NOT fix my labial tear. I was not able to speak on my own behalf because of the trauma and drugs, and felt violated because of this. For a long time I was not happy about my daughter’s birth, and didn’t fully know why. Later I found out how very invasive the procedure that was done on me is. On top of all that, I didn’t spend my newborn daughter’s first hours of life with her, and she had to take formula while I was gone. I can never get back that first day, and it saddens me.

I can only imagine that a c-section would be infinitely more devastating for someone who desires to deliver naturally. For someone who knows of a woman that is upset by their c-section delivery, it’s important to not try and console her with phrases such as “Your baby is healthy, and that’s the most important thing”. This can negate her feelings, which are perfectly valid. Instead of consolation it may come across as patronization. Instead, remind her that it’s okay to grieve over her loss, and that looking ahead can be productive. Validate her feelings by acknowledging them instead of changing the subject.

It’s important to let yourself grieve for what you have lost, and go through the grieving process as you would for any traumatic experience. Remember, acceptance is the FINAL stage, not the first. Ignoring your grief may cause it to turn into depression. Many women experience post partum depression directly caused by their poor birth experiences. In my experience, I suffered from a mild case of post partum depression and did not realize it for what it was until several years later. It was so mild that it slowly disappeared without my knowing it, but looking back on my daughter’s birth first few months, I now understand why I was sad when I should have been happy.

If you start to feel like what you are experiencing may be post partum depression, talk to your doctor and find out what you can do about it.

How did your “birth loss” affect your post partum period? What would you have done differently to change the way you reacted to your grief?

See these related articles for more info:

Let’s Talk About Avoiding a Cesarean-Section

Let’s Talk About Pregnancy Support Groups

Let’s Talk About the Cultures of Childbearing