They say you were meant for this. Your body was meant to give birth. Your heart was meant to love. And you . . . you were meant to mother. What they don’t say is that after you give birth, your body will be flooded with emotions. Some that will put you up on cloud nine and some that will bring you down into a dark, isolated corner.
Trust me; I thought it was impossible to feel anything but happiness and enjoyment after giving birth. But my world was quickly flipped upside down when my boy was whisked off to the NICU immediately after birth. What I wish I knew then that I know now is that it’s okay to honor those post-labor thoughts and feelings. It was okay to lean into them instead of trying to push them away. Today, I want to share some post-labor thoughts that are normal to experience after giving birth to your baby.
Post-Labor Thoughts You May Expect After Giving Birth
“We didn’t follow the birth plan.”
You spent all this time putting together the perfect birth plan. The plan was to head to the hospital with your contractions followed the 5-1-1 rule (when your contractions are 5 minutes apart, lasting for 1 minute each, and continue for 1 hour). You planned to have your husband in the hospital room. You brought the cutest outfit to change your baby into after they were born. And you knew you wanted an epidural because you were nervous about the pain.
And then, it happened. Everything played out the complete opposite as you had planned. Whether you were admitted early or had to be induced. Whether your epidural failed or your baby had to go to NICU. Whatever you thought was going to happen didn’t happen.
I know what it feels like when your birth goes nothing like you had spent the last nine months planning. However, it isn’t uncommon for births to go off plan. These experiences can leave you feeling disappointed that you didn’t get to follow the birth plan. What did you do wrong? And after lots of time to heal and process those feelings after my first was born, I learned that most babies just come on their own terms. It’s nothing you did wrong; it just wasn’t how their story was meant to play out.
“I wasn’t in control.”
One of the biggest lessons I learned after my first baby was born was that I needed to let go of the control. I couldn’t control when my labor induction drugs would begin to work. Nor could I control the fact that my body developed an infection. However, what I could control was minimizing my stress and allowing my body to relax. don’t
You may find moments throughout your labor experience where you feel completely out of control. It can leave you feeling guilty in some ways, but I want you to know that it’s okay. You let your body take reign and trusted that it knew what to do. That’s truly the best thing any mother could have done.
“A C-section wasn’t part of my plan.”
C-sections tend to have such a negative connotation. Often followed by negative post-labor thoughts. A C-section may not have been on “the plan,” but it was a needed event to help you deliver your sweet bundle of joy safely. Now, it can be a bit of a shock walking into the hospital with your hospital bag packed for a standard delivery just to be left feeling a bit unprepared for an invasive surgery you didn’t think you’d be needing.
- Fetal distress
- Prolonged labor
- Cephalopelvic disproportion
- Placenta abruption
- Maternal hemorrhage
- Tangled or prolapsed cord
- Uterus tearing
It can be a scary event to process at the moment. It can also make it difficult to bond with your baby when you’re recovering from major abdominal surgery. You deserve the time to heal and to process these feelings because they’re normal and understandable. If you ended up with a surprise C-section, please know that your birth is just as worthy and important as anyone else’s!
“It was worse/better than I expected.”
When it comes to childbirth, things hardly go as expected. You might even find that you surprised yourself throughout the process. For instance, I did not anticipate having an epidural that would not work during my first labor. I was underprepared, in a ton of pain, had a fever, and somehow managed to stay strong and birth my baby boy despite three hours of pushing.
I surprised myself that day with how strong I could be. Months later, I surprised myself again when I had learned how much of my birth I tucked away because I wasn’t emotionally ready to heal from it. You know what? It’s a normal thing to do.
There will likely be highs and lows from your birth experience. Celebrate the highs because you’re proud and own those lows because they’re still a special part of your birth experience.
“I feel disconnected from my baby.”
After giving birth, it’s normal to feel flooded with emotions. Nervous about raising a child (or bringing them home to their sibling). Excited to finally meet your baby. Anxious to finally get home. However, some moms feel waves of sadness or like they can’t bond with their baby. According to The American Pregnancy Association, around 70-80% of new mothers experience mood swings or negative feelings after giving birth to their child. These mood swings or negative feelings early after childbirth are commonly referred to as the “baby blues.” And in fact — they’re entirely normal.
The good news is that the baby blues typically resolve on their own 14 days after delivery. If you notice symptoms beyond the 14-day mark or your feelings begin to intensify, it’s best to contact your healthcare provider right away, as these can be early signs of a perinatal or postpartum mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD).
Some things you can do to decrease your chances of experiencing negative feelings beyond the baby blues while bonding with your baby include:
- Asking for help (mama, you deserve some time to yourself)
- Prioritizing sleep (take naps or let your partner offer a bottle at night)
- Have someone you can confide in
- Don’t try to “bounce back”
- Lower your expectations
- Get outside and enjoy some sunshine together (as long as you’re medically cleared for activity)
“I feel anxious when thinking of my labor experience.”
Birth trauma can be defined as ANY event you’ve experienced during birth that caused emotional or physical distress. These types of traumas can trigger feelings of anxiety, sadness, and even depression by thinking of your labor experience. And when these feelings aren’t shared or talked about, they can lead to more serious issues, such as:
- Developing a PMAD
- Difficulty bonding with baby
- Unable to trust anyone else but yourself with baby
- Relationship struggles
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty eating
Although about 4% of women who give birth end up experiencing some form of birth trauma followed by postpartum PTSD — there are ways moms can work through these traumatic experiences to minimize the feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression.
Talk therapy is one of the most popular ways a mother can combat feelings of anxiety or depression associated with a traumatic labor experience. Some moms also find relief by connecting with other moms who have experienced a similar experience as them — this could be through local mom meetups or online motherhood groups.
If your anxiety surrounding your labor experience becomes overwhelmingly too much to tolerate, please make sure you notify your healthcare provider. This way, you can be on the path to healing from your labor experience.
Remember, none of these post-labor thoughts mean you’re weak or insignificant. It’s normal to feel all these different emotions after birth. Take the necessary time to validate your feelings, heal and get additional help if needed.