It’s a phrase heard by so many women and families, and one that many of us are now keenly aware of, trained to avoid and to challenge at all costs. A simple, well-meaning phrase that can shatter, destroy, devastate. Think I’m being over dramatic? I’m not. Telling a new mum that the horrendous, life changing experience she has encountered is ‘just one of those things’ can be hugely damaging. Telling her that her feelings are not valid, she’s not entitled to feel that way and she needs to focus on the positive can be huge damaging. Telling her all that matters is a healthy baby can be hugely damaging. Because the thing is that is all matters. All of it. Every word spoken, every note written, every slight glance given. This is her experience, her moment and her once in a lifetime pregnancy. It’s not just another day. It’s not a little blip in the road towards a positive outcome. It’s not all that matters.
Many of us are now aware that we shouldn’t really tell a new mum that at least she has a healthy baby, and what came before no longer matters. Many of us know that we should be listening, taking action to prevent the same occurrences and helping to aid recovery. We know it, but we don’t always show it. Our actions matter. Whether we say the right things or not, the way that we interact with women who have suffered a traumatic birth really does matter. We need to listen. We need to accept that we do not understand, but that we want to try to. We need to be there, be willing to work on improvements and to allow this mother to grieve. Yes, grieve.
My son has been the focus of this blog for so long. Since he was brought from my body and into the world with a cut on his face and a little blue body. Since he was taken as I slept, and tubes were inserted down his throat to force him into the living, breathing amongst us. Since he was thrust into my arms as an unrecognisable bundle of fury. The journey I’ve been on since then isn’t over, and dare I say never will be. Parenting throws up so many curve balls no matter how prepared you think you are, and just when you think you’re healed and you’ve got it all sorted… another ball. I’ve accepted this non-linear path and I’m working with it, gaining strength with every hill climb and self preservation with every dip.
It all matters. What happened to you, how you felt, how you were treated. No matter how small, how seemingly insignificant. It all matters. Documenting my story here hasn’t always been cathartic. There have been comments, emails, messages that portray just how little some people understand. There has been anger towards me because my son did not die. He took that first breath, and many more beyond. There has been disappointment as I took shaky steps to stand up and talk about what went wrong, what was not done to protect me. There has been disbelief, scorn and humiliation. Telling my story has never, ever been easy. It took me seven years to seek counselling in an attempt to finally ‘move on’ and another two years after that to accept that moving on isn’t quite what I thought it would be.
The point is that telling my story matters. Just as telling your story matters too. Your words are your power, your story is important. Change will never happen if we do not speak up, and by change I mean acceptance. Acceptance that it happened, and it shouldn’t have and steps need to be taken to ensure it never happens again. Acceptance that your feelings are valid, and you are entitled to feel that way. Acceptance that grieving for the birth experience you thought you were going to have is a natural part of the process.
There will always be people who do not understand, and cannot understand. Your path is so different from theirs. Comparing is a waste of time and energy, and trying to justify yourself can be soul destroying. Just accept that you own your story, you are in charge of where it goes from here and only you can make the decision to share it.
If you would like to share your story with me for the All That Matters Project (with the Positive Birth Movement) then please do get in touch. Leave a comment here or on Facebook, send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Know that I will listen. I might not understand completely, but I WILL listen.