Mother who come out of traumatic childbirths often experience depression, but there is a greater evil to this dimension of emotions.
As a Childbirth Educator and Birth Advocate, I’ve met mothers who:
– Are unable to connect to their babies, and this problem can become prolonged to the point they build extremely poor relationships with their children as they grow up.
– Are unable to enjoy sex after birth, or sex itself becomes extremely painful and traumatic, even if their births ended in C-sections, with nothing being passed through the birth canal. This reflects severe psychological trauma that ensues after multiple interventions that take place, such as vaginal examinations, and perhaps, the artificial rupture of membranes.
– Decide to not have children, as the trauma is “not worth it.” Some even consider termination of subsequent pregnancies, as and when conception does occur.
-Develop Tokophobia – the phobia pregnancy and birth, whereby a conception can cause severe psychological damage.
Just looking at this simplified lists of possible side effects, how is this type of mindset healthy for a people who is supposed to build an ummah of integrity and high caliber, when the child bearers themselves harbor fear, shame, and resentment in their own capacities?
Not only did societal norms put women in this situation in the first place, but so little support is provided the morning after a traumatic birth.
Providing support for victims of childbirth trauma
While I am a strong proponent for women to speak up for their rights and express themselves, as well as to fully study the course of natural birth and how Allah has designed it as a gift for women kind; to have mothers empowered and honored, and to challenge misconceptions that birth is a burden and a women are blameworthy for the conditions that they get themselves into, this article is not dedicated to women alone.
Society has to step up. Not just throughout the pregnancy and birth process – to stop passing ignorant and judgmental comments, creating an impending traumatic scenario for a birthing mother, but to create a non-prejudice, non-judgmental, understanding environment for mothers emerging from less than favourable births.
Men! Men are protectors and sustainers of women. The best of the menfolk are those who are the best to their wives. What better time for a husband to step up when his wife is left with an experience of distraught, after bringing his child to the world. Even better a head start to parenthood would be to accompany one’s wife to childbirth classes, to shop around for care providers, to question the well being of the expectant mother when given dubious advice by care providers, and to do one’s own research in lieu of natural and empowering births.
And when a wife is hurting, it is best to sympathize and get help as and when necessary, not to simply tell her to be grateful for a healthy baby.
Family circles are also a much needed support network. Unfortunately, many new mothers have expressed disappointment in the judgment of close ones. It is not unheard of that new members are often chastised for being at fault for having a bad birth, laced with superstitious innuendoes for birth being a punishment for being a bad daughter or disobedient daughter-in-law, to simply being blamed for being overweight or “unable” to have an easy birth.
While family members tend to get carried away with showing off a new grandbaby / niece / nephew like a gleaming new showpiece, it is also time to slow down and acknowledge a new mother who is hurting, and to aid her in bonding with the baby, rather than removing the baby from her care at every given chance.
In this respect, birth advocacy groups need to be more prominent and constructive with their support systems as well. While many advocacy groups do exist, they sometimes get buried under the disparage of misinformation about birth and turn into bland voices championing something that is abstract. Having birth advocacy and support certainly has provided the relief for many women, when friends and family have abandoned shipped.
The medical industry is another faction of the birth ambit that also needs tweaking. Unfortunately, this is the hardest to change as doctors and medical professionals in general are trained in anomalies of birth, but the normalization of medicalized birth has steered the birth climate away from natural birth, and those beliefs of empowering births are left playing second fiddle of importance when it comes to mothers.
Unfortunately, the actual support for birth is completely left behind. It doesn’t help also that there are birth advocacy groups that, while trying to work well with the medical professionals, end up being agents for their cause, causing women who fall outside the normalcy of hospital birth to feel like failures on multiple levels.
I guess this goes back to birth support groups to be more supportive of women across the board, and empower them as to their choices, rather than push them to “compromise” their beliefs, just because hospitals dictate the majority of narrow birth choices for women, which include plenty of interventions and protocol that can cause more detriment than harm to mothers and babies.
Birth as a journey, a milestone, and a turning point –
The effects of birth does not just end when the cord is cut after the baby is born. Birth marks the beginning of a mother’s journey into motherhood, or a continuing motherhood – even mothers emerging from subsequent births will carry their experiences into the parenting realm. Birth is not a simple function that is left behind after post-partum; the effects last forever. And while there is a lot of work to be done on the preventive – to help mothers birth naturally, surrounded by love and support, there is a massive void of love and support for the mother who is recovering after a difficult childbirth.
Ideally, I love to work with the preventive. I love childbirth education, but it’s awful to see mothers feeling like train wrecks and failures after a bad experience, and it’s time for society to step up, and provide the love and support they need, without the judgment, without the prejudice, without the superstition, and without the ignorance.
First published: October 2014