Living With A Traumatic Birth


Living With A Traumatic BirthBefore I gave birth, I had a certain picture of how things would go in my head. The details were fuzzy, but I just knew I would get that special moment when my daughter was laid on my chest, freshly delivered into the world, and we would look into each other’s eyes and my heart would practically explode. Then, I imagined my husband and I would spend the next few days blissfully happy, getting to know the newest member of our family.

The reality was so far from that.

I had no idea what my daughter looked like for hours after she was born. I wasn’t able to hold her for days. I never imagined my daughter’s first car ride would be in the back of an ambulance or that a nurse would change her first diaper and be the one to offer her first bottle.

Childbirth is so overly romanticized in our society. But the reality is that for so many mothers, the day their child is born is simultaneously the best and scariest day of their life.

Thankfully, my story turned out okay. After a week-long stay with an abundance of love and care from a fully equipped neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU), our baby made a miraculous full recovery. Looking at the rambunctious two-year-old she is today, you would never know how perilous her entry into the world was. But even though it all turned out okay, I will never get over that day.

Most of the time, I keep the thoughts from my daughter’s birth pushed way down. I focus on the here and now. But it’s always there. I don’t think you ever fully recover from a traumatic birth — you just learn to live with it.

I was reminded of this when speaking to a dear friend who experienced her own difficult birth, different from my own birth but traumatic all the same. Their little one just had their first birthday, and it was extremely hard on my sweet friend. It reminded her of all the hopes and wishes for that day, and how differently it all turned out.

Traumatic births are complicated. It involves feelings of being robbed, then feelings of guilt for feeling robbed when things could have been much worse.

You feel guilty when the worst day of your life is the day of your child’s birth. It’s so strange to have the best and worst day of your life be one and the same.

And even as the years pass by, you are constantly reminded of that day and the feelings of that day. Sometimes it’s a television show, sometimes it’s the birth experience of a friend or loved one, or sometimes it’s a date, time, or place that brings back the not-so-great memories.

For my dear friend, I pray the days ahead are filled with so much sweetness and blessings that it lessens the sting from that day. That while the memories of birth will always be etched so tightly into memory, the days of joy are too many and too strong to be ignored.

A mom never truly gets over a traumatic birth. For me, it feels like I carry it with me in my pocket, bringing out certain parts of it in everyday conversation. I think I drive my husband crazy with the number of times I talk about that day, but talking about it has helped me normalize the day. It’s almost like it’s just a part of our story…almost.

If you are dealing with the residual effects of a difficult or traumatic birth, please reach out to friends, family, anyone. If you need some resources, please click here and here.


  1. Great post Sarah!
    I completely understand and am a member of this club too. My daughter was blue at birth and spent a week in the NICU while doctors told us how much brain and organ damage they thought she’d have. Miraculously, she left the hospital in a week with a clean bill of health.
    She’s 14 now and she is so tough that every achievement of hers makes me remember that she is a fighter, and always has been.
    I hope that the good moments overshadow the bad when your daughter is older too.


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