Birth is more than just a healthy baby. You feel guilty because your birth experience wasn’t what you wanted… and it still bothers you. Today’s episode explores why birth matters so much - and why it’s okay to acknowledge that you’re not happy with what happened. Discover how you can validate your feelings and still be a great mom. In fact, you’ll be an even better mom.
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Things Mentioned on This Week's Podcast
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This is The Birth, Baby, and Life Pocast with Kristen Burgess, and we're going to talk about why a healthy baby is not the only thing that matters in episode number 165.
Welcome to the Birth Baby and Life podcast. The tips, tools and straight talk. You want the pregnancy, childbirth and bringing up baby. And now your host, Kristen Burgess.
A Healthy Baby is NOT All That Matters
Kristen: Hi ladies. It is Kristen Burgess from NaturalBirthAndBabyCare.com. Today we are talking about what is somewhat of a hot topic, at least among mothers. It can be emotionally charged and that is that a healthy baby is not all that matters.
When you've had a difficult birth, a traumatic birth, you ended up with a cesarean that you didn't want or whatever. Often you hear, oh, but you have a healthy baby and aren't you so happy or some variation of that. You have a beautiful baby. At least you got that. And even we as moms ourselves may console ourselves with that. Oh, but I have a healthy baby and that's really what matters. That's true to a certain extent and. There can be healing that comes we're going to talk quite a bit about healing today.
But I want to jump off of points that I touched on in the last podcast episode, really pregnancy and birth and motherhood are so interconnected and in many ways the topics that I talk about on the podcasts are so interconnected. In the last podcast, I talked about that shadow system that underpins much of the pregnancy and birth care, maternal care that we see throughout the world. And while some of that care is indeed lifesaving and we're really grateful for it, women who have prenatal care do tend to have better pregnancy and birth outcomes. But a lot of that care, especially the procedures done during childbirth, are much more about risk mitigation or they're guided by legislation that was passed under the belief that we need to make birth completely risk free.
And by getting rid of particular dirty individuals, dirty criminal individuals who are unskilled charlatans, that we're going to somehow make birth perfect. So those are their underpinnings, like mitigate mitigating risk to the hospital or that somehow we can somehow remove all risk overall just by removing these people who we've decided aren't legitimate for whatever reason, that. That's what underpins much of the system and that completely disregards women.
It focuses a little bit on the baby because usually if you deliver a healthy baby, everybody's happy because a healthy baby is what matters. But it disregards the woman and it disregards how profound of a journey this is for a woman, how much this might shape her and how.
Things not going well or her feeling like she's pushed into things that she doesn't want or didn't need. How profoundly those things can impact you and your life. A healthy baby is, of course, very important, but denying a woman's feelings and disappointments does not make her a better mother, and denying feelings doesn't bring healing. So if you're trying to succor someone by telling her at least you have a healthy baby. That. It may get a smile, it may get acknowledgment, and it may comfort you, but it doesn't necessarily comfort her. Healing starts with acknowledgment. Many. Many core tenants recognize that acknowledgment is a catalyst, even if you look at something.
Acknowledging the Pain is Important
It seems a little bit off the wall, but if you look at many religions, they begin with confession, right? Like you confess your sins and then you can walk away with them and be free. That is actually a tenant in many different religious backgrounds. Or if you look at something like addiction's, we see like with Alcoholics Anonymous, their model is acknowledging that there is a problem. And then once you've acknowledged that there's a problem, you can go on oftentimes and life when we feel really stressed about something, if we can stop for a minute and put a name on that feeling, what's causing that stress? Even if we don't solve the stress, it's validating and and it relieves some of the pressure because at least it has a name.
So we can look at many diverse areas in life and see that this is true, but somehow when it comes especially to feelings about birth, but in many ways, feelings in general. If. You know, there's not seen the wisdom that by giving a name to this, by voicing this, that by being allowed to acknowledge this, that is the catalyst for healing that starts us moving forward on this journey, because life is a journey. Motherhood is a journey. It's not necessarily a destination having a healthy. And that maybe that's part of the problem. I didn't even have that in my notes.
This is Only the Beginning of the Journey
But part of the problem might be that we see the destination, quote unquote, as this baby in our arms, but that's not the destination because this is a journey of profound change to who you are as a woman, as a person, as a human being. Your fundamental identity is shifting or shifting again if you're adding more children into the mix and. So there's just a lot there's a lot more there. There's a lot more there. And. There, so we have to look past that destination oriented perspective and see this as a journey. You're not going to arrive just because you have a great birth and things are not completely lost just because you don't have a good birth.
In fact, this is a step on the journey, and you can look at this step and take from it the wisdom that it brings with it, which it does, regardless of how you feel like it goes, there's something to learn. And one of the main ways that people can heal from traumas and bad things in their life is if they can find some sense of meaning in it. And the same is true for a birth experience. It is a point on a journey and you will go forward from it. But if you're not allowed to acknowledge that it was difficult, then you're also not allowed to do the inner work, really the inner work to search for the meaning in it, to pull the strength from it and to go forward.
Whatever You Feel is OK
It's very difficult. I want to tell you that it is OK to feel whatever you feel, in fact, sometimes, especially when the wound is deep, there may be an absence of feelings. I've talked to many moms who say that they had trouble bonding with their baby, that they just they felt unemotional, flat. There wasn't really emotion there. Oftentimes that's because there's a really deep wound and the body goes into a protective mode, there's this armor, this wall that comes up to protect us and that's OK, too, because that is a step on the journey to healing and on the journey to strength and power and moving forward. It it is part of that. So your feelings are OK and even the absence of feeling can be OK for a time. And feelings probably will come in time. And it can be hard. It can be hard to probe into what you feel or even put the feelings that you're feeling into words, because they're they're so difficult. It's called, I'm going to come back and talk about this term a little bit more, but there's a term called disenfranchized grief, which means grief that you have... But culturally, societally, you're not you're not allowed to have or you're not supported in a societal way. And when you have that grief, it can be really hard because it's not socially supported. And so how do you how do you name it, how do you label it?
Holding Space for Women
I've been really blessed in the past few weeks as I've been working on my new program to be able to be on the phone with women and talking to women and listening to them talk about their birth experiences and listening to them share their thoughts and feelings.
And I was on the phone with more than one mom who we just ended up sitting in silence at periods throughout the conversation because she had to sit and think and process because nobody had ever held the space or invited for her or told her that it's OK to do these things, that it's OK to think about these things, that it's OK to feel these things and that it's OK to express and share these things. I was the first person who ever hold that space for them to be able to share these.
Taboo is a really harsh word, disenfranchized sounds a little bit less harsh in some ways it is taboo, but it's definitely disenfranchized for them to be able to express these feelings. And because these feelings are things that they're not, quote unquote, allowed to think or feel, they're all these emotions and feelings swirling around inside of them. But putting them into words is difficult because they've never had permission to do that. To me, that's a great tragedy because it means there's healing that isn't happening, there's frustration that isn't happening.
And a lot of times when we have healing that isn't happening, it turns back on us and it becomes guilt or even a level of self-loathing or a worry that we're broken. That's toxic. It's not good for us, it is not a place that we want mothers to be in because I won't go into what I think is systemic. But I do think women, mothers especially, but women are extraordinarily powerful. A lot of change happens when a group of moms get together and demand change, that mama bear power is strong and perhaps on a level societally, there's a fear that if women are able to step into their power completely, that there will be shifts and changes that will upset balances or that will just be weird.
And again, I'm not going to get real political about this because my political views are are all over the place and are as probably as complex as yours are. But I believe that we have a situation where we disempower people and it is not limited to women because we also disempower men, men are allowed only a very few emotions. I've been talking to my kids about this analogy of looking at their emotions like a box of crayons. And if you look at the box of crayons, like if the crayons are the emotions most men have, like a black crayon and a red crayon, and that's it, because they're allowed to feel rage and they may be allowed to feel like bitterness and resentment and blackness.
A Catalyst to Your Strength
And that's it. Because they're not sanctioned to really feel a lot else. So as a culture, we we are not really comfortable, super comfortable with emotion. But it's especially important that we overcome that for moms and babies, for everybody, because when we're able to work through emotions and these feelings, it does become that catalyst to move forward, to be stronger, to be more empowered and ultimately to be healthier, which leads to a healthier family. It leads to healthier children who grow into healthier adults. It leads to a healthier society, a healthier nation, a healthier world. It's a good thing. So you got a healthy baby. Can it can just ring so hollow? And this is this is why, because it doesn't acknowledge the enormity of what's going on, because, again, the destination is not just a healthy baby, you are not simply a vehicle to bring forth this baby. My family has gone through a lot of difficulties in the past few years, unfathomable amounts of pain and trauma in many ways. And one of the things that I felt really frustrated about going through everything was that there was sometimes just this focus on, oh, just do what you need to do for the kids because, you know, you got to do for the kid. And it dismissed me as a valid entity or that I was anything more than a vehicle to get my children to the age of majority.
It is a disservice to women as individuals and human beings to view them as simply a vehicle to bring forth a baby. That is not in any way to diminish motherhood. I believe that motherhood is one of the highest callings on the planet. I believe it is sacred, beautiful, empowering. It is. A journey that allows for individual growth and change that is unmatched, unparalleled in many ways, it is truly a beautiful joy and an honor, but it is not the totality of who I am as a woman or as a human being or who you are as a woman or a human being. And when we look at this as only being about having a baby, only bringing forth this baby, then we deny the complexity and totality, totality of the human being who is bringing forth this life as blessed and as honored and as sacred and even as a magical as that journey can be. Should be. There's also much more to it. It's it's about becoming a mother, which is a fundamental shift in your life and identity, even becoming a mother again is a fundamental shift in your life and identity. It is essentially a re definition of who you are and how you relate to the world. In some cultures, it you may be looked looked down upon. In other cultures, you're venerated once you become a mom. So.
I just. It's.
You know, but it's it's more than just having a baby, it's more than just being a vehicle for this new package, this new person, and it is a profoundly cool thing. And if I will talk about this more, I'm sure an upcoming podcast. But if you are stuck in the place where or you feel like. The role that's been assigned to you is that mother is somehow this kind of quasi oppressed person or role, that means that you deny anything else or who whoever else you are, or that there's anything outside of the fabric that makes up you other than mother or perhaps wife or partner. I would encourage you I read a book recently that I feel like did a really good job talking about this called called One Hundred and Sixty Eight Hours by Laura Vanderkam. I'll link to it in the show notes. She does a great job exploring how multilayered and multifaceted a woman can be and still be an awesome wife and mother. It's just really empowering. So and and like I said, I'm going to come back to these topics, I'm sure, in future podcasts and in blog posts. But I wanted to give you that there, because the truth is, is that you are redefining yourself with mother as one of your roles, and it does cause a profound shift in your identity. But it doesn't diminish you in any way. It doesn't make you it doesn't take you from being the beautiful, complex woman that you are to being one dimensional.
You remain very multifaceted, but you have this profound shift in your identity, in your being. And that is a lot to grapple with. And our culture just it doesn't really even acknowledge the shift, it doesn't acknowledge the deep profundity of that shift, which is one thing that leaves many women hanging. Or if anything, again, it's this belittling one dimensionality that you become a mother or perhaps a wife and mother or a partner and mother, but, you know, the rest of you is like suddenly as if that's in conflict, but really your whole being. And so there's a lot, you know, there's a lot there. But when the entrance into motherhood, when the entrance into the super profound shift in who you are, this redefining of you. Occurs. Then you you can struggle even more because. If it's rocky, if it's difficult, you have to integrate that on top of the enormity of the change that's already happening. So that's where we get where we come back to this disenfranchized grief. If that entrance into motherhood is rocky, that transition is rocky. It does a lot of things. It can do a lot of things to women. It can undermine your confidence. It leaves you doubtful of your body and doubtful of yourself. It leaves you perhaps feeling guilty because you can't just quote unquote, get over it. And that society doesn't support those feelings and so you have a grief, but it's disenfranchized you don't have societal support to process it because society's answer is at least you have a healthy baby, which then causes that guilt.
Because I should just be happy because I have a healthy baby, but the impact of my baby's birth or even pregnancy, often birth is is kind of a locus that that the focus comes around, especially if it was hard. But sometimes the disempowerment happens all throughout pregnancy. I spoke to another mom recently who she's just having a lot of procedures thrown at her that she's she's not sure of the benefit of those procedures throughout her pregnancy. And it's it's undermining her confidence in herself. It's the sort of thing that she wouldn't choose. But she's just kind of paternalistically being told, you, you need to do this because this is just what we do. So her voice is being taken away. So in pregnancy and in birth, we feel that these things are being stripped away from us. But then we can't grieve over them. We can't process that. And another thing that makes the disenfranchisement even more difficult is not only are you told you should just be grateful for a healthy baby, but you're often told that nothing wrong was done and yet you may feel betrayed or you feel like there was wrong done to you. Having an intervention that you don't need can feel like wrong was done to you.
Even having an intervention that you do need, there's a mom that I worked with years ago at this point who had had a cesarean for a baby and a presentation that just was not going to come out. So presentation means the way that the baby is in the in the womb. So like a transversely baby, a baby lying side to side, unless the baby turns, the baby is not going to be able to come out that way. So this mom had had a positioning of her baby, and that's really statistically rare, ladies, but it does happen occasionally. So this mom had had this this position for her baby. The baby just wasn't going to come out. But she had had a traumatic first birth and then she had a necessary cesarean for the second. But she ended up with so many complex feelings and feeling super betrayed by her body. And she had she had issues with the cesarean scar and just anxiety about that and a difficulty even looking at that because of all of the emotion and symbolism that was in that. And it took a lot of work, we worked a lot back and forth to help her work through that and prepare for her third baby's birth, with which ended up being a beautiful and empowering birth experience for her. And I was so happy for her. But to get to the point where she was ready for that aspect of the journey, she needed to be allowed and have the space help to go through that that difficult part of the journey.
So if you feel this disenfranchized grief, which can then trigger guilt. It can also really undermine your confidence in other ways because you feel betrayed or you feel like your voice doesn't matter, or you second guess yourself and that can impact how you mother, it can impact your bond with your baby. And again, that all rolls into guilt. It just. It snowballs. Feeling upset about your baby's birth is OK. Feeling upset about your baby's birth, first of all, allowing yourself to feel upset about your baby's birth is validating. It is OK to feel whatever you feel, you can feel anything. And some feelings are really icky. We don't like them. Of course, you're still in control. You are a powerful woman, a powerful human being. You get to do with your emotions what you want to do. And even though we all blow it, I had a really hard week this week. I yelled at my kids. Somehow we all blow it. Sometimes I'm not saying that you have to be perfect. So hear me on that with Grace for yourself as a mother when it gets stressful. But just because you feel bad about this birth doesn't mean that you have to act on that by, say, rejecting your baby or giving up on motherhood and, you know, sticking your thumb out on the side of the road and hitchhiking away to the jungle or something.
You just it's when you acknowledge these feelings, you're not necessarily unleashing. A whole chain reaction of behavior that you don't want to express are just acknowledging emotion, you still get to decide you're still in control, you still get to decide what you do with that emotion. Now, there may be some validity to allowing yourself the space to cry and scream, especially if you have somebody you can talk to. One of the things that I'm working on in my new program is offering one on one support for women. And if you are a woman who's hearing this and saying, oh, my goodness, Christine, I would love to go back and forth with you like you just talked about doing with this other mom, shoot me an email, Kristen, at NaturalBirthAndBabyCare.com, and we can jump on the phone and you can we can talk through what that would look like. But again, I think there can be some benefit maybe to crying or screaming or being with somebody who can just hold the space, maybe it's a counselor who, you know, you can curse and say vulgar things that you would never say in front of your kids, but really express the depths of your emotion that you may not even say to your husband or your mother for sure, but you may need to do that.
And that's OK, too. But what I'm saying is that feeling and acknowledging the depth of this emotion, even though it feels icky, doesn't it doesn't control you. It doesn't mean you're going to become something that you don't want to be. So give yourself that space for that validation and in fact, also validate the feelings that come up with that, because the feelings that you feel in your body are important. When I work with my counselor, one of the things that he reminds me because I'm a very head oriented person is to be OK with stopping for a moment, breathing. And then feeling what I feel in my body, like where does does it feel like, where does it feel like? What does that anger feel like? Where do I feel that? Where does that tension or frustration? Where do I feel that? So be OK with that and be in tune with your body, which also helps you prepare for a next birth for perhaps the sacred birthing experience that you want to have because you're getting back in tune with your body and you're giving yourself permission to listen to yourself, you as your intellectual self or your spiritual self, if that resonates with you, if you want to be guided by your spirit, by the Lord or something like that, that is still in control. But it's OK to acknowledge those emotions. So it's validating to give yourself that space.
And it can be empowering. It can be empowering. It is empowering to be able to put a name on those things. Sometimes journaling can really help, like those moms that I talked about earlier, that their thoughts and feelings were such a jumble, they had never put those down. This might be a place for a password protected file on your computer or a journal that you can lock up in your lockbox, whatever works for you, where you just get those feelings out on paper, where you begin to sort them out and think about them. And again, it brings up pain. It may bring up pain. Some people avoid this because they want to avoid that, that pain, the trauma coming back to them. And that's where having somebody facilitate can be helpful because you're not walking it alone. And you may worry that I'll get lost in that and they can help you validate it, hold the space for it, acknowledge it, and then step step through it and grow from it, which is where we go next. But again, when you you empower yourself, when you validate those emotions and when you give them space to be acknowledged, to be felt, because that is a catalyst. Again, it's a catalyst for healing. Because once you've validated it, once you've validated the wound and that it's a legitimate wound, it can heal if we think about a physical wound on our body. Let's say that you cut yourself out cooking dinner, you cut your hand and you're like, oh, no, that's not really there.
What's going to happen? You're just going to go about your day and you're going to change poopy diapers and clean up a snotty toddler and maybe clean up vomit or urine, and you're going to cook more meals and scrub the sink and clean the bathroom and go out in public around all kinds of other Jervey people. And and what's going to happen to that wound? It's going to fester, it's going to get worse. It's going to get infected. But if you acknowledge oh, my goodness, I just cut myself a number one, I need to get a little bit more sleep girlfriend, but number two, I'm going to go take care of this wound. I'm going to clean it up. I'm going to bandage it. If it's really bad, I'm going to seek support and let the doctor take a look at it. Maybe it needs a few stitches, but I'm going to tend to this I'm going to treat it and the healing begins. But I need to keep changing the dressing because, man, that was a bad cut. Oh, my gosh. And you keep working on it and it requires a little bit of attention day after day, and then slowly that fades and and it heals and occasionally, if it was bad enough, it may still go sometimes. So I've got y'all can probably see it in my pictures, but I've got scars on my left arm because I, I broke my arm, basically snapped it and a half inch just before the ninth grade.
So I still got the scars and I've still got plates and screws in my arm from where they had to put the bones back together because I really did a number on it. And occasionally I will still feel aches around where those plates and screws are. And that happened decades ago at this point. So when we heal from emotional pain, it may be the same way. It's going to be really acute at first and probably require a lot of attention and then less and less as time goes on. And every once in a while, there may be a hint that pain may come back and then eventually it'll probably fade. But if we don't give it the attention, it becomes that wound that festers. So when we acknowledge it, validate it, take care of it, it becomes empowering because we're able to move past it. And it's an opportunity for healing. Healing is able to begin because you acknowledge the wound. You look at it and all of its ugliness. Think about it like when my kids get something bad and I'm like, I've got to clean it up. I got to look at that. Or would Scott, like, cut himself really bad one time... And it's like, I have to look at that when I clean it up, I even feel a little queasy.
But you you face it, you assess it and you begin healing it. So the same is true when you acknowledge that my pregnancy and birth experience weren't what I wanted. And it may be a minor thing or there may be a lot of trauma in it for you. And it may be a minor thing like I shared on the last podcast. For me, the most traumatic point of any of my births was a vaginal exam that I didn't want. And on the grand scale of interventions, that's kind of low. But it's still OK for me to acknowledge that it was a massively disempowering moment for me and it had a profound impact on that birth and has had a profound impact on me going forward. So whatever it is very traumatic, or if even if you feel like it's trivial, like other people would be like, oh, you know, why did that bother her? I talked to another mom who was like, you know, my birth went OK by all standards. But it was it was horribly traumatic for me, even though I didn't have any what anybody would consider, quote unquote, massive interventions, no C-section, no nothing like that. But it was traumatic. And, you know, my job is to hold the space for that mom. And I hope that you realize that it's OK for you to acknowledge what you feel, even if you feel like what you feel is disproportionate.
That's OK. That's OK. Sit with that, be OK with that and allow the space for that. So the healing comes because you matter.
I mentioned that pregnancy birth is it's a journey, motherhood is a journey, it's a transformation of who you are and life really and truly, that is one powerful part important, significant part of the life journey. But life is a journey and we grow and change throughout all of life. We have good times and we have bad times. Everybody faces traumas. Some people, it feels like, have more than their fair share. But the true power comes when we are able to heal because then we can pull the nuggets of wisdom and the strength and also sometimes the resolve and the tenacity that comes from that we can find our voice. You know, there are organizations that speak for for survivors, crime survivors, abuse survivors who they advocate for legislation and things like that, because in finding their voice, they find healing. And it's the same for you in finding your voice. You find healing and they find healing and they find empowerment. So in finding your voice, you find healing, you find empowerment, you have power. You go forward as a more confident woman, as a wiser woman. You go forward as a moral woman. How does that not benefit your baby? Can you answer that question for me? How does that not benefit your baby? How does that not serve your baby? How does that not serve your family? How does that not serve your husband? How does that not serve your society, your culture? You being a stronger, healed, more whole woman who has been able to acknowledge the validity of what happened.
And give it a name of this was difficult for me, this was traumatic for me. You know what? Even if they thought that they were doing the right thing, what they did to me, they shouldn't have done. You may never get an apology from the other party, which is the truth with many of life's traumas. But being able to say, you know, what they did wasn't OK, even if they justified it. And it hurt me and I have these feelings, that is very empowering and it gives you a foundation to build on. And I like the word catalyst because it gives you a catalyst with which you can go forward in life as a stronger person. And that does serve your baby. It serves your community. It serves your family. And it serves you because you matter, your experience matters, every single person on this planet matters and you matter. You matter as a woman, as a mother, as a human being. You matter your happiness, your strength and your healing matter. And I feel so passionately about that, which is why I'm hammering it home, you matter. I'll go ahead and wrap up today's podcast if again, if you want to talk to me, if you've had a difficult experience, if you're preparing for another pregnancy, if you're scared to get started with another pregnancy, if you're just.
If you feel like I just need somebody to hold the space for me again, that's one of the things I'm working on in my new program, I'd love to talk. I can talk to you for, you know, we can chat for a half hour. Forty five minutes just so that you have somebody to listen to you and then we can talk from there. If it's a good fit or not. Just let me know at NaturalBirthAndBabyCare.com. Just shoot me an email. Let me know you listen to this episode and you got stuff going on and probably nobody is really listening to you. And you, you know, I can make that time for you. With that, though, we'll finish up if you want to get notified about new podcast's, new blog posts. I'm working on an entire series that explores this. I'm working on a master class that explores this shoot over to trust. First one on one dot com that's trust worth one zero one dotcom. Sign up for the mailing list. You'll get notifications about all of that. And do shoot me an email. I would love to hear from you. I do hope you have a blessed week, gentle mama, and remember that you matter.