CBAC Support Group Topics
If you lead a birth-related group, you are probably always looking for good themes or topics for your support group meetings.
Don't forget CBAC-related topics in your meetings, because sometimes CBACs do happen and it's important to raise awareness of them and to make sure your CBAC members feel like their concerns are addressed too.
Here is a list of CBAC-oriented meeting topics you could use for your support groups. At the bottom of the page are ideas for discussion questions, speakers, or individual study topics.
CBAC-Oriented Meeting Topics
What Not To Say To a CBAC Mom – A great topic to really get discussion going and vent some frustrations; the corollary is what TO say to a CBAC mom to support her. A good first-meeting topic for CBAC-only meetings as it is sure to generate many ideas
When VBAC dreams turn into CBAC reality – Acknowledge that CBACs happen and to help them plan how to ease that experience should it occur. Let CBAC moms run the meeting and be the speakers in charge
Coping with Unexpected Outcomes – General discussion about how to cope with unexpected outcomes, surprises, losses, physical complications from the cesarean, social repercussions, etc.
Dealing with Jealousy – Jealousy is a common reaction in grieving people. CBAC moms often wonder, “Why did this go wrong for me when I did everything ‘right’? How come it worked for other people who did things ‘wrong’? How can I get beyond my jealousy?” Even wishing CS on other people is common ─ “I didn't get my VBAC so I hope that person doesn’t either.” These are ugly thoughts to forgive yourself for having, but they are normal. Talking about these things openly can help us acknowledge these feelings, move beyond them more, and help us forgive ourselves for being only too human
Deciding About Future Children - A common source of angst for CBAC mothers is whether or not to have more children, and if so, by ERCS or another TOL. Give women coming from a variety of perspectives an opportunity to discuss this all-important issue. For example:
- If you are not done having children - What are you contemplating about having future kids? What are your plans re: birth choices? Why? What are your fears and concerns about these decisions?
- If you are sure you are done having children - How do you feel about that? How do you feel about never being able to fulfill your birth dreams? How will you make peace with that? Should you even try? How can you continue to make use of your wealth of birth-related knowledge?
- If you are unsure about having more children - What are the arguments for and against having more children in your mind? How can you move forward in making that decision? How does your partner feel about the issue?
Celebrating What You DID Do – How can you give yourself credit for the things you DID do, the work you did towards a VBAC, the accomplishments you did make along the way? Can you turn from an outcome-only focus, redefine “success,” and focus on the journey as the path to growth and maybe even healing?
Healing from Traumatic Birth – Have a therapist familiar with childbirth-related grief come to a meeting and discuss practical ways to process trauma from birth. Perhaps bring in speakers/guests who can discuss EMDR, EFT, PTSD, bodywork, etc.
Healing Spiral – Create a healing spiral, play some beautiful music, and let women walk the spiral and find their own insights on the path
Creating Ceremonies and Rituals for Healing – Discuss creating your own ceremony or ritual for working on healing. Hold a bonfire, have everyone write down things that angered or grieved them about their births, and throw the papers into the fire. Create artwork, alone or together, about CBAC. Write letters to those who were at your last birth (express your emotions, tell them lessons they should learn, give them tasks they should work on). Have a birth therapist come in and speak to the group about possibilities for creating unique ceremonies for healing and what these might look like
When VBAC Won’t Happen: Coping When a VBAC Is Not In The Cards – One of the most difficult situations is helping women who will never get a VBAC come to terms with that loss and find some peace with it. Bring in a birth therapist and have them discuss ways to mourn the loss of your birthing dreams without letting that define your identity as a woman or as a mother
Where do CBAC moms fit into birth advocacy? Many CBAC moms still feel very strongly about birth issues but struggle with advocacy because it brings up so many painful feelings for them. Some channel their pain to create change on a larger scale, while others need to put advocacy on hold, returning to it when ready. Some focus instead on related topics, like breastfeeding, postpartum support, or promoting midwifery. Others find their own little corner of “micro-advocacy,” what they can do to help on a small scale without having to re-open old wounds. Laureen Hudson (from an idea by Loren Eiseley) asks: “What precisely do you want to fix? What's the one thing that would have helped you, that if you can change it for one other woman, you will feel that you will have done good?”
Possible Discussion Questions/Openers
- What does CBAC support look like? – What do they need from a CBAC support group? What does CBAC support NOT look like? What rules/boundaries do we need as a CBAC support group? A good topic for a very first CBAC-only meeting to establish rules of the road for the meetings
- How was your second (third, etc.) cesarean different than your first? – Compare and contrast the good and bad things about your cesareans
- When you considered the possibility of a CBAC, how was your vision different than your reality? – What things went as planned, what didn’t? Was there anything about your CBAC that surprised you?
- Good/Bad things about my CBAC – Take a piece of paper, divide into two columns (or maybe three). Label them “positive,” “negative,” and “unclear.” Ask women to brainstorm silently for a few minutes what was good/bad about their CBAC experience. Emphasize that it’s okay to have lots of negative stuff on the list and they may or may not come up with positive stuff, but just to reflect on their CBAC
- What I got/learned from my CBAC – Same thing, just reflecting on the lessons of their CBAC, if any. Emphasize that it’s okay not to have all the answers, and it’s normal if their answers are all negative at first
- What helped/didn’t help in my CBAC experience? – What did medical people/support people/loved ones do in your CBAC that was helpful or not helpful?
- What people said to me after my CBAC – Recount what people said to you after your CBAC, how it impacted you, whether or not you thought it was helpful and why
- CBAC Hot Buttons – What things about other people’s perceptions of CBAC really make you angry or set you off?
- How did CBAC impact your body image/self-esteem? – Did the CBAC impact your body image or self-esteem? If so, in what way? What overall issues from your life did it reflect?
- CBAC as catalyst for change – Was there anything transformational about your CBAC? How is it an agent of change in your life? How do you feel about the changes that have occurred, positive or negative, as a result of your CBAC?
- How did my partner/spouse feel about my CBAC? – How is your partner/spouse responding to the CBAC? Were they traumatized by it in any way? What do they think about the possibility of future children, future births? How have their perceptions affected your relationship?
- Perception of CBACs moms in midwifery, birth activist, VBAC communities? – What kind of reaction have you gotten about your CBAC from the various natural birth communities? How does that make you feel? What would you like to change?
- Self-blame, anger, and what-ifs – how can we deal with these constructively? – Anger can be a positive force in someone’s life, or it can be a destructive cancer eating you from within. Anger and self-blame are very common after a CBAC; how do we keep these from becoming destructive to us?
- Exploring our feelings about our CBACs more deeply – Explore the complexity of your feelings about CBAC and ask yourself: What purpose is it serving for me to carry this feeling? Who would I be without this pain/guilt/anger? What can I do to move through these feelings? How can I transform them towards a positive purpose?
- How do CBAC moms who go on to have a VBAC fit into the CBAC community? – What do they need to be careful of? Do they have unique processing issues? Does the sense of self-doubt ever go away in future births? How can they be sensitive to the needs of women who don’t have VBACs?
- How do CBAC moms who never have a VBAC (for whatever reason) fit into the CBAC community? – Into the VBAC/Cesarean Awareness community? What are their unique processing issues?
- If I had another CBAC, how would I improve the experience? – What advice would I give another woman trying to plan for the possibility of a CBAC?
- Healing in the Face of Disappointment – How can we find healing after a disappointing life experience that we can never change? Can we find/create ceremonies or rituals that help us move along the path of healing? Can we transform the power of those feelings into action for change or support for others? How?