by Erin Newton, LCPC
When I had my daughter five weeks early in 2008, I was surrounded by people who tried to make me feel better about my experience in the only way they knew how.
Actual things people said to me:
“You’re so lucky she’s small! My baby was so big!”
“It’s great you didn’t have to carry her to term. I was so uncomfortable.”
“My induction was awesome.”
And, everyone’s favorite……
“….at least you have a healthy baby! That’s all that matters!”
At the time, these comments made me really, really angry. I actually responded to that first comment with, “Well we didn’t know if she was going to breathe the whole induction but sure, good thing she’s small.” That last comment? My immediate thought was, “Why don’t I matter?” and that thought was followed by a wave of shame and guilt that I put my feelings above the health of my new baby.
I was too angry for empathy then, but I now know why people did this. It’s hard to sit with pain, it’s easier to “look on the bright side.” I’ve blogged before about how it’s even hard for me to sit with the pain of my clients at times, and I know the benefits of it. Toxic positivity is a way of life in our society, and moms are frequently expected to by martyrs to their own pain.
Things that no one said to me:
“I’m really sorry.”
“It’s ok to be angry/sad/feel cheated.”
“How are you feeling?”
“The way that you feel matters.”
If you’re new here, you should know that that last one is my own personal battle cry for moms everywhere. When I run my birth trauma group, when I do therapy with women who have suffered as a result of their birth experience, when I work with moms battling PPD and PPA, that one sentence brings them to tears almost every time. No one has told them they matter, that the way they feel, even if it’s not positive, matters. Everyone asks about the baby – how she’s sleeping, how she’s eating, if she’s a “good baby.” But mom? Who asks about mom?
How many of you know someone who had a baby in 2020? How many of you have checked in on that mom and asked how she was doing? Really doing? Not about the baby, but really about them? Thanks to covid, an estimated 116 million women have given birth under circumstances never before considered. Many birthed without support and many birthed afraid or sick. Compounding this, these women then had to go home without their normal support system, which is often such a lifeline for new moms. No more breastfeeding support groups, no more mommy and me groups at the library, no more friends and family stopping by to hold the baby and visit. The moms I have worked with this past 10 months are full of anxiety, fear, and just plain loneliness. Being a mom is frequently a lonely job – this past year has been especially lonely.
Today, we are issuing a call to action for all moms out there. We are asking you to send this blog post to all of your mom friends, even the ones who didn’t give birth this year (because unprocessed trauma lives on…and we’re gonna tackle that next week!). You don’t need to ask to hear their story, you don’t need to know if they’re struggling at all, you can simply pass this along with the sentence, “just in case this is useful to you.” Reaching out to ask for help is hard. By sending this along no questions asked, we can take the shame out of needing help. We can let our mom friends know that we see them, we are thinking of them, and dammit, they matter.
If you are struggling with a traumatic birth experience, the REBIRTH therapy group could be the place for you! The REBIRTH group is a birth trauma group designed to help facilitate a conversation about birth trauma, postpartum depression (PPD), and postpartum anxiety by exploring topics such as anger, depression, isolation, guilt, and shame. The ideal audience for this group includes mothers who feel they have experienced trauma and/or who feel that they exhibit signs of PPD or postpartum anxiety as a result of their birth experience. Through a blend of psychoeduation, mindfullness exercises, journaling, experiential exercises and talk therapy within the group, group members can begin the healing process of their traumatic birth experiences.
The Rebirth group is led by Erin Newton, a licensed clinical counselor, a survivor of birth trauma, and a candidate for PMH-C certification, a standardization of training and experience for perinatal mental health specialists.
The group meets virtually on Tuesdays from 7:00 – 8:30 and begins February 2nd. The group will run for ten weeks, ending on Tuesday, April 6th. Contact Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 570-689-8130 to register.