BY THE KNOCKED UP ABROAD AGAIN CONTRIBUTORS
To the mom with the bad birth experience,
It doesn’t matter what happened. Whether you had an underlying condition or were treated badly by your doctor or midwife. Whether the baby wasn’t doing well or whether your providers caused you considerable unnecessary stress. Whether in other words it was caused by an inherent problem with your pregnancy or something external that was out of your control. Maybe, like us, you gave birth in a foreign country, not speaking the language and not familiar with the maternity system.
Maybe giving birth traumatized you. Maybe the people you trusted most let you down.
It doesn’t matter because all that matters is that you’re hurting. That’s why we wrote this post: we are here for you. We want to tell you that you are not alone.
We know because we’ve been there. I think most of us had a traumatic birth experience—for a large variety of reasons. Olga, for example, felt patronized by her Dutch midwife who was always telling her everything was normal (or in other words, “just shut up, don’t speak about your problems”). The thing was that she didn’t feel normal because she was in pain most of the time and no one wanted to help her.
The birth experiences vary but one thing is clear: women (and especially women in labor) are often not getting the care they need, or on the contrary, they get treatments and interventions they don’t need forced on them. And we want to say we’re sorry. As contributors to an anthology about pregnancy and birth abroad, it’s our mission to show support to expectant women and mothers all over the world.
We see your tears and feel your tense heart, swelling full of pain. We don’t know what’s just happened exactly, but we know it’s not what you expected. It’s not what you wished for during those days hurling into the bowl, or what you dreamt up when you absentmindedly washed your hair three times that one day in the shower. Little fingers, little eyes, and little lips are what you thought of as you rubbed your bump late at night when the back or leg pain kept you awake. What you dreamed was perfect for you, what you wanted, we agree.
The joy and awe of birth kept your fears at bay as you hoped for the best and tried to push the nagging what-if’s away. Stress isn’t good for the baby, and thinking about dread only raised your heart rate and made it hard to sleep. Which, coincidentally, is also not good for the baby.
So you hoped on. Thought on. Dreamed in the day, dreamed in the night. And then the day arrived, and it wasn’t what you wanted. It was far from happy. Words hurt, choices hurt, circumstances hurt. Maybe you even lost it all, lost a heartbeat that should have been there.
Sweet mom, I know it’s so hard to go through this. I know sometimes you wake up without feeling at all, just staring somewhere and losing yourself in all the dreams that you suddenly can never have. And sometimes you’re so angry. Lividly, piping hot at the nurses, the doctors, your friends, your family, the strangers, the country, the room, the stark clean or the too-dirty-to-really-be-a-hospital view.
And then maybe you’re embarrassed. By the way you acted when you realized you couldn’t have what you wanted. Or when you didn’t succeed in doing what you came to do. Or in going home empty by your breast and in your womb. We get it. We’ve been there, too. We are crying right now, right along with you.
The harsh truth and the best grace at the same time is that life will go on. There is a moment and a time for everything. This moment right now that is so haphazardly jutting into the course of your story need not cut or crush you forever. It’s one week, or maybe just one day. For some, it’s even just a few hours.
Soon you can close this day and stand at a distance, waiting to face the pain of the day on your own terms and in your own time. Maybe you didn’t have control of what happened or what was done, but the hurt of this day doesn’t control the woman you will be tomorrow or the next day.
When you’re ready, you can cry. You can shout. You can tell those you trust how you want to grieve for the loss of your beautiful dream the way you need to grieve. You can hug and love and forgive. You can fill up your heart again with new hopes and new dreams born from the loss of your others.
Lovely momma, we’re here for you.
Here’s what we want you to know:
- Have someone with you whom you trust like a family member or doula.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself. Some things are beyond your control.
- Make peace with what happened during birth. You can do this, for example, by writing down your birth story.
- Think about your options, expectations, and wishes and try to find a solution that fits you best.
- Please know that you are not alone.
Sending our love and peace,
The Contributors of Knocked Up Abroad Again
Olga, Vanessa, Lucille, Michelle, Sara, Brynn, Nicola, Debi, Cecile, Charlotte, Mihal, Rosemary, Sarah M, Marcey, Amy, Erin, Jennifer, Sarah H, Margie, Cristina, Ruth, Kristy, Melissa, Amanda, Clara, and Lisa.