Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Healthy Family is all that Matters!

I know I've discussed this before, but it's always worth mentioning again and again.

You know that common scene where a mama has made herself vulnerable and shared something negative about her birthing experience? Perhaps she questions what was really necessary, or is still experiencing pain (physically or emotionally) from the experience. Maybe she's suffering from PTSD, depression or anxiety. Maybe she has a permanent injury. Whatever it is, she's stepped out onto a limb and shared her feelings with other women.

But what do they say? Do they hug her? Do they tell her it's okay to feel this way? Do they offer suggestions on how to get medical records or encourage more healing?

Hopefully, yes. But more often than not what the mother hears is a chide. A singsong voice rings out, "Oh, but remember! A healthy baby is all that matters! At least you have a healthy baby, Dearie. Don't fret about those other things."

Wow. Pow to the stomach, eh? And yet our entire culture supports this repressive way of thinking, especially when it comes to childbirth. In any other situation, a person who is violated, traumatized, abused, harassed, neglected or even who just experiences something painful is supported and encouraged to grieve and heal. A woman after childbirth? Suck it up buttercup, at least your child is alive!

And that's the point, isn't it? When people say, "At least you have a healthy baby" they aren't really talking about health. Let's get accurate here. What they really mean is, "At least your baby survived." Gee, thanks, what a cup of cheer. It almost sounds like those rude statements surrounding domestic abuse and rape. "Hey, chin up! At least you survived. What's the big deal anyways? I don't want to hear about what he did to you."

A truly healthy baby means more than arriving alive. It means more than managing to survive trauma, abuse, deprivation or other assaults.  Healthy for us is not a medical term. It refers to the holistic balance of a person who is embraced unconditionally, no part of his or her body, mind and spirit ignored or injured. It's time to take back the "healthy baby" slogan. And it's time to expand that slogan to include all the people involved in the birth.

When it comes to true health, a healthy baby, healthy mama and healthy father ARE all that matters. On this, I completely agree. The doctor's philosophy doesn't matter more than the family. A holiday schedule or vacation or superbowl party, none of those matter more than the family. Pride, arrogance, ego, none of those matter more than the family. Profit, insurance, convenience, none of those matter more than the family. The family is all that matters.

Well, get your glasses checked if you only see one person in this photo.
Not only do we have a mama and papa here, but we have TWO babies.
And all of these people matter.

Mamas, remember that you matter. You are important, too. You are in fact, vital to the health and wellbeing of your baby. Fathers, remember that you matter. You are important, too. You are in fact, vital to the health and wellbeing of your baby. A healthy family matters.

 YOU are important. YOU MATTER.
Hi, fathers out there...this one's for you. You're there and you matter.
Your baby knows this. Your partner knows this. Time for you to believe it.

YOU MATTER. You have a right to feel the way you do about your birth. You have a right to be upset about trauma, abuse or neglect. You have a right to question what others did to you or said to you. You have a right to process your birth experience for as long as you have to and you have a right to grieve and a right to rejoice in your own way on your own time.

You are the parent, and your baby MATTERS to you. Of course you are feeling upset, angry, hurt, betrayed, fearful, traumatized or anything else. This is YOUR BABY and YOUR BIRTH we're talking about here. That's all that matters to you and we know it. Keep sharing, keep processing, keep healing, growing, loving and learning. You DO matter, most of all to your precious baby.

The next time someone tries to dismiss your experience, remember
that your baby needs YOU and that to your baby, you ARE all that
matters. Take care of yourselves. Your baby deserves you.

Related posts

A list of links on PPD/PTSD/anxiety and also birth trauma:

A mama shares how she feels even when "nothing really bad" happened. This post also has a list of birth trauma links and additional stories:

Follow up discussion

Several readers shared input that I thought was important enough to share here. They made great points from various personal experiences:

Keely B adds: "I just want to say also that it's horrifying for a mother who has gone through birth trauma, and also what is considered assault and battery under the law, to hear, "Well, at least he is alive" when your child was injured due to negligent and incompetent doctors or a failure to be patient. For the rest of HIS life, my "healthy baby" will have to live with a brain injury that disabled him due to a doctor who didn't know the guidelines whatsoever for a healthy vacuum delivery, starting with consent from the mother!"

Marie F adds: "And THEN after all of that, the bill arrives. Even if your insurance covers it, which most still have a large co-pay, you will get that bill in the mail and know someone paid the doctor for what he did to you."

Kate T adds: "My friend was in a restaurant and two women seated nearby were discussing the birth of a baby. One of the women used that line, "at least the baby was healthy." My friend couldn't help overhearing the conversation at the next table, and was hurt by those seemingly well-meaning words. See, my friend has cerebral palsy. When my friend recounted the situation to me, she told me that when people use the "healthy baby" phrase they forget that babies who are born with a health problem or a disability are just as worthy as "normal" babies. She said it's like a slap in the face the way that phrase is used, as though the baby's perfect physical condition is all that matters. And somehow, if the baby isn't perfectly healthy, it's not even the least-best situation. Of course everyone wants to have a healthy baby, but my friend advocates placing the emphasis on happy instead of healthy. Just food for thought..."

And I wanted to add to Kate's thoughts...I completely agree! Respecting the family during their birth experience is an absolutely vital thing to do even when the baby is not "perfect" by societal standards, and even when the baby is not going to survive! This alone should help exemplify why caring for the parents is important, too. For parents who are birthing babies that will die soon, they will live with that birth experience for the rest of their lives.

Take, for example, the birth of Baby London. He was diagnosed early in pregnancy with a severe midline defect. For these babies, it is a miracle if they survive the birth at all. Every moment of this pregnancy and birth was precious to London's parents. They experienced something immensely important. London died, but that birth MATTERED to this family. You can read more about London and see more photos by clicking on the image below:

Birth MATTERS for ALL babies and ALL families in all situations.

One of our own dear readers, Virginia Ward, also birthed her precious baby earthside with the same complication. You can read more about her daughter, Eden Marie at her page. Virginia is now a strong advocate for educating parents about MTHFR, folate supplementation and the dangers of folic acid. Click on the image below for more info:

And for more info on MTHFR, visit our Facebook page:

Read more about our culture of "a healthy baby" with this fantastic article!

1 comment:

  1. Right on. It took me years to even RECOGNISE the fact that I had PPD after my emergency c-section. I kept repeating the mantra "at least he's healthy" and underneath that I was telling myself that I didn't matter.

    But I did, and I do, and so does every mother on earth.