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Pregnancy after a Traumatic Birth

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Jennifer Farrell: The birth of my first son was traumatic in a way that I could never have anticipated, and I felt completely out of control during the entire experience. That's why, when I found out I was pregnant a second time, I was terrified.

woman giving birth
My second pregnancy was unplanned, and emotionally I knew I could handle it, but I was unprepared for the rush of emotions related to my first pregnancy that continually colored my experience this time around. Along the way I started talking with midwives, doulas, and OBs who recommended taking steps to conquer my fears well in advance of the new baby's arrival. To that end, I started applying the following measures:

• Talking openly and honestly with my partner about my fears -- I found the worst thing I could do was bottle them up and pretend I wasn't having them. Admitting my fears and opening up about them allowed us to begin a dialogue on both sides that felt safe and healing.

Writing down my fears in a list in bullet form, discussing them one by one, and determining what -- if anything -- I can do differently this time around to ensure the same things don't happen again. The things I can change, I do. The things I can't, I accept that I have no control over and hope for the best.

Reading positive birth stories like those found in Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth. Through this, I learned we live in a culture of fear, where the worst delivery stories are often the best because they are the most entertaining. It doesn't have to be this way. Reading positive stories helped me focus on how I can make this birth different just by being more informed about my choices.

Reading books on labor and delivery that center around mother-led choices and options. This includes leaving What To Expect When You're Expecting at the back of my closet and embracing books like A Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth, by Henci Goer.

Consulting with therapists, midwives, doulas, and OBs about my options for planning a birth that is positive for me -- so even though I will probably have another high-risk pregnancy, the way that labor and delivery is managed doesn't have to be high-risk, too.

Making an empowering birth plan which clearly states my wishes and desires -- knowing full well that plans can and do sometimes change. This, at minimum, gives me a measure of comfort in knowing my intentions are on paper for all to read and talk about.

• Most importantly, I learned to forgive myself for the circumstances that were beyond my control in my first traumatic birth. I learned that I had a part in it by being uninformed, but I wasn't the only one to "blame." With understanding comes forgiveness, and I was able to forgive others who I felt contributed to the traumatic experience. This has been very freeing.

When I took control of my impending labor and delivery, started talking to other moms about my traumatic experience, started reading about all of the options available to me, and consulted medical professionals for advice, I started feeling better and found that I was learning how to let my first traumatic birth become a thing of the past. After all, this birth is totally different and I am much better informed about what I want, what choices I have, and what I can accomplish as a strong, educated woman.

My advice to you -- newly pregnant moms who had a traumatic first birth -- is to find a way to let it go if you can. This new baby is a blessing, and this labor/delivery will be different because you are different, your baby is different, and the people supporting you are also different. There is a lot of power in positive thought, and I believe that we, as women, can achieve whatever we set our minds on.

next: Kelly Preston to Address Grief Over Son's Death
1 comments so far | Post a comment now
Katie July 10, 2009, 1:20 PM

We almost lost my first child through a very traumatic birth. My doctor recommended a c-section with my second child. It is was not ideal. But it probably saved his life since my second one was even bigger than my first. Just listen to your doctors and all your options.

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