The answer is, Yes!
When we have an injury or a wound, it hurts as it’s healing. When it’s healed, there is a scar that stays with you forever, but it doesn’t hurt anymore. I believe that emotional scars are the same. What happened to us was horrible. Our lives were completely changed in a matter of hours, and the memories are with us forever. The healing comes when our memories don’t hurt us anymore... And that could take years. I hope I’m not discouraging you. All I’m trying to get across is that it’s a process.
I think a lot of times we become slaves to shame and guilt. I used
to think I was a horrible mother, a terrible person and a failure, and that I
deserved to be punished. I was in bondage to the
shame/guilt/depression cycle. I lived in my own prison that I had
created. No one could set me free but me. Only I had the power. I
had to choose to stop thinking that way. It didn’t happen
overnight... It only took half my life! If you believe that you are
going to get better you will. I’m not saying that you won’t have bad days, because you will... we all do. I’m also not saying that we don’t need to reach out for help, because we do. I went to counseling for years and I am still on medication to this day. I still get triggered, I still get angry, and I still get depressed. But I have to choose whether
or not I will stay depressed. I need to look at my anger, comfort
myself (self-talk), and move on. If I don’t address my feelings, I
stay depressed. I don’t want to be depressed anymore.
I have to say that I still deal with the remnants of ptsd. I have experienced it three times in my life: when I was 4, 13 and 22 with my son. Certain people and activities trigger flashbacks and nightmares to this day. I don’t tell you this to discourage you, I tell you this to prepare you. This is something we will all deal with the rest of our lives. But in saying that, I also want to say that, just because we are haunted by the ghosts of our past, doesn’t mean we have to succumb to them. Have you seen that movie, “A Beautiful Mind?” John Nash was tortured by his alters for years until he learned how to deal with them. They were always there, but as time went on, he wasn’t tortured by them anymore. Our children, or in some cases, the memories of our children are always going to be there. Our scars will always be there. Our lives were completely changed. There will always be triggers.
I don't believe that we
ever reach a place in our lives where we stop having problems. We
always have things we have to deal with, but we decide how much it’s
going to affect us. I think everything has meaning and everything happens for a reason. No matter what it is, no matter how horrible it is, we can learn something from it. And then it’s our choice whether or not we will use what we learned to make the world a better place in spite of it. That’s why your thoughts are so important... you
are what you think you are. You can change how you feel by changing
the way you think... that’s the basis of cognitive behavioral therapy, of which
I am a huge believer. If you think you can move a mountain, then you
will. If you don’t think you can, then you won’t. If you think that
you can move on from things that happen to you, you will. If you
don’t think you can move on, then you won’t. It’s your choice. The
power is within you and no where else. People are always looking for
an “answer” when all along it’s inside you. You just have to let it
out and use it!
You are your own life’s work, and it’s a project worth tackling because you deserve to be healthy.
According to an article by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, published in the 2002 issue of New Beginnings, there are some things we can do to on our journey to healing:
What You Can Do
If you had a difficult birth experience, you cannot change that fact. There are, however, a number of positive steps that you can take to help you resolve your experience, and heal from it. Here are some things that other mothers have found helpful. Keep in mind that coming to terms with a negative birth experience is a process that can take months. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen over night. You can overcome this!
Process Your Experience
You may find it helpful to contact one of the support organizations (see the Liks page) who can validate your feelings and help you come to terms with your experience. Another option is to write about your experience. Some women find writing in a journal to be very therapeutic. Others might write letters to the people involved (whether or not they are ever mailed). In either case, writing gives you a chance to express your feelings without fear of censure.
Learn As Much As You Can About Your Experience
I always encourage mothers to get copies of their medical records. If possible, talk with your health-care provider or someone else who can help you understand the events that occurred during your birth. It is also helpful to read books that might put your birth experience in a broader perspective. This type of reading will do much to validate your experience, and help you understand it. You may still be angry (or you may get angry for the first time), but eventually the experience will not dominate your thoughts. If you plan to have another baby, the information you gain during this stage will make you a wiser consumer.
Understand That Your Partner May Have Also Been Traumatized
A negative birth experience can create problems between you and your partner. Like you, your partner may have felt powerless and swept away by the experience. He might feel guilty because he could not protect you, and react to his bad feelings by being angry with you. Because of his negative feelings, he may be unable to offer you emotional support. In this case, the most effective thing you can do is to be honest with your feelings to one another and try to find outside support together. If, however, your partner is not willing to work with you to resolve your birth experience, you must seek help alone.
Recognize That Birth Is Only The Beginning Of A Life-Long Relationship With Your Baby
Motherhood is a role you gradually grow in to. A difficult beginning does not need to be the blueprint for the rest of your mothering career. It is important to realize that a negative birth experience can affect your relationship with your baby, but it does not have to. This is why it is vital for you to get the support you need as soon as possible. I have seen mothers who have had difficult births try to make up for it by being “Super-mom”--to everyone’s detriment. It is difficult for anyone (even Super-mom) to be responsive and giving toward an infant or child when she is hurting inside.
Resist The Temptation To Rush Into Another Pregnancy Just To Do It “Right”
I often meet mothers who were unhappy with their birth experiences, who quickly become pregnant again in order to make it a better experience “this time.” You need some time in order to put your experience into perspective, get to know the baby you already have, and physically recover. Adding another pregnancy to the equation makes things much more complicated, and may not give you sufficient time to consider all of your options.
In A Similar Vein, Resist Making Hasty Decisions About Not Becoming Pregnant Again
This is not the time to make a decision about permanent birth control. Some women make this decision only to regret it later. Understandably, they never want to repeat what they’ve been through. However, it is much better to make a deliberate decision rather than simply reacting to a negative birth experience.
Make A Conscious Effort To Forgive Yourself
At first you might balk at this suggestion. “I have nothing to forgive myself about.” If you still feel this way after you’ve thought about it, great! However, I’ve talked with many women who blame themselves, and feel like they somehow failed. “If only I had been stronger...” “If only I had checked out the doctor/hospital more carefully....” “If only I had gone to a different prenatal class...” The “if only’s” are endless. Recognize that you did the best you could under the circumstances and with the knowledge you had at the time, and let yourself off the hook! (See also Forgiveness)
Also Read: Emotional Recovery From A Cesarean
© Copyright 2016 Jodi Sabo
- Kendall-Tackett, Kathleen, PhD IBCLC. Making Peace with your Birth Experience. New Beginnings, Vol. 19, 44-47. 2002.