When your friend's birth doesn't go as planned (and how you can help).
I'm going to do everyone a favor and not bother with a long and detailed intro to how amazing and spectacular giving birth is- we all know that!
But we also know that, in spite of having a birth plan (which is developed with the intention of helping an expecting woman become informed of all of her rights and choices as well as having an overall end goal.....not to have a plan set in stone) sometimes a woman birth does not go anywhere close to how she dreamed it would.
And that can look like several things:
Maybe her birth ended in a necessary or unnecessary c-section. Maybe interventions were involved that she had no desire to experience. Maybe her baby stopped breathing or she experienced heart decels. Or maybe it was even worse.
As a mom myself who has experienced two miscarriages and also had a traumatic first birth, I am pretty familiar with the well-meaning but not well-received comments:
"Well at least baby is healthy- that's all that matters"
"God intended it this way"
"It's a good thing you were at the hospital. Who knows what would have happened" (exactly- who does know? but that's topic for another day......)
What I have found to be true in my own life experiences is that people, in general, do not like hurt. We don't do well with pain. It makes us especially uncomfortable when its someone else we know who is hurting.
We don't know what to say. We just want our friend or family member to be ok so maybe if we just SAY these things then it will somehow change your whole experience in an instant and you'll be all better.
I get it. It's an awkward place to be as a friend.
But. Please understand that it does a great disservice to us moms who feel as though we had a traumatic birth experience to not allow us to then feel and process those feelings. If we try to make it go away on a whim, it will only aid to future anxiety and depression issues. As a new mom, we are already slammed with immediate responsibilities to raise a newborn child and also heal physically that the last thing we need is an immediate pressure to "get over it". Assigning a new feeling of overwhelming guilt for her feeling these things in the first place will NOT be productive.
So while we are of course delighted and appreciative that yes, our baby is otherwise healthy and alive and well, what we need is for you to simply listen. Don't try and fix us. It's certainly ok to be encouraging and offer words of optimism but sometimes the encouragement comes simply by listening, acknowledging our hurts even if you don't personally understand them, and then asking how you can help.
You could offer to bring a meal over.
You could help with household chores or laundry.
If you aren't physically available, you can gift the new parents with meal orders from Postmates or pay for a postpartum doula or maid service.
Maybe you volunteer to watch the baby so that she may have time to get therapy or counseling if necessary.
Allow her to get to a new normal. Give her permission and space to grieve whatever she needs to grieve. And remember that grief looks differently for everyone.