All That Matters
I've heard it many times, and it came up again today in a comment on a mommy group:
"Your birth experience may not have gone the way you wanted it to, but you have a healthy baby and in the end that's really the only thing that matters."
I understand this sentiment. Of course every parent hopes for a healthy baby and we would all do whatever we possibly could to ensure the health and safety of our little ones at the time of birth.
But is it really the only thing that matters?
I don't think it is.
I don't think it is because I've seen bitterness, grief and resentment re-surface when certain women have shared their birth stories with me years after their healthy babies were born.
I don't think it is because birth is an event that can affect us deeply. It can be transformative and can impact us for a lifetime in either positive or negative ways. Many women have to do a huge amount of inner work to come to grips with and heal from their difficult birth experiences, even when they've had healthy babies.
I don't think it is because birth trauma is real. And a traumatized mother is not a mother who is likely to function at her healthiest as a parent.
And what about parents who don't have a healthy baby? What if something goes wrong? What if their baby is born with a serious illness or a genetic disorder? What if their baby is stillborn or only lives a few days? If a healthy baby is the only thing that matters, where does that leave these parents? Their experience may be the only thing left of their birth, particularly if they know they will not be meeting a living baby at the end of it. And should not their caregivers strive to make that experience as positive as possible in the face of so much grief? I have a friend who had a stillborn baby late in her second trimester. It was, of course, a heartbreaking experience. But as she shared her story with me, I was struck by how she described the care she received from the student midwife who was at her birth and how that loving care helped to create a positive experience for her amidst the devastation of losing her baby. That experience mattered.
We can't control birth. We can't make a plan and expect to be able to follow every last detail of it no matter what. We don't know what interventions may end up needing to be employed. We don't know if our birth will be anything like the one we're envisioning and hoping for. We don't even know for sure if we will end up with a healthy baby. But there are things that those who care for and attend birthing women can do to help create a positive experience, one that will be treasured, regardless of how far things stray from the plan.
There are those for whom a healthy baby truly is the only thing that matters. But for many others, there are other things that matter as well and we would do well to recognize this and validate it.
A healthy baby is everyone's top priority. But a birth experience that one feels good about is hugely important and should never be blown off as something inconsequential, something that doesn't really matter. And no one should ever put their idea of what constitutes a "good" birth experience on someone else. We all have different expectations, hopes and ideals. We all are affected by things in different ways. What one person feels incredibly grateful for, another may feel traumatized by.
In the end, you and your baby matter.
Your birth matters.
Your experience of it and your feelings about it matter!
Don't let anyone tell you otherwise!
Rachel Nafziger, CD (CBI)
Doulaly thoughts, musings and updates from Rachel.
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