How NOT To Support a CBAC Mom
Supporting a grieving CBAC mom is not an easy job. Supporting grieving people never is, no matter what they are grieving.
Sometimes it's easiest to learn how to support CBAC moms by learning what NOT to say to them.
Here are some ideas brainstormed by moms from the CBAC Support Yahoo Group of how NOT to support CBAC moms, based on their own experiences:
- The first rule of dealing with grieving people is NEVER try to talk them out of their feelings, or tell them that no, really, they don't feel that way (or shouldn't feel that way). Acknowledge their pain and the reality of that pain to them. --Anonymous
- Don’t make CBAC moms tales of caution. Yes, sometimes, the choice of care provider or location or labor support wasn't wise, but rather than say "so-and-so tried that and look what happened,” just say “so-and-so used that person if you'd like some feedback." --Kristina R.
- We had a big discussion on our message boards a while back about the word "successful" with regards to VBAC. One mom who had had a CBAC felt particularly pained by that word, and after some discussion, most of us have ceased using it. --Maureen Finneran Hetrick
- What I try NOT to do is to help them figure out where they went wrong. I more try to focus on where they went right. As time goes on sometimes things come more clear. For me, it wasn't until 3 years after my CBAC that it was put into a more understandable light that I arrived at myself. After my VBA2C. --Anonymous
- Don’t tell the CBAC mother about your “almost” CBAC story, except you did x, y, or z and that’s what fixed it. Intended or not, what the CBAC mother often hears is that she just didn’t try hard enough, didn’t do enough, didn’t last long enough. --Anonymous
- Don’t blame the mother. CBAC moms often hear “You must haves” like:
-You must have had too much fear
-You must have been emotionally "stuck"
-You must not have learned enough about "x" or "y" or "z"
-You must not have been fit enough, not eaten properly, gained too much weight, etc.
-You must have given up too soon; if you'd stuck it out a little bit longer you could have done it
-We create our own births -- are you sure you didn't have some emotional issues that were unresolved?
How TO Support A CBAC Mom
Similarly, CBAC moms have brainstormed ways in which people can support CBAC moms after the birth, and some of the things that were said to them after their own CBAC experiences that meant the most to them. These included:
- Don’t forget to congratulate her on her new baby, acknowledge how hard she worked and that she may have a lot of conflicting feelings now, and don’t forget to ask how her physical recovery is going. Then ask her open-ended questions about how she is feeling about her experience and follow her lead. --Anonymous
- What we want most...is a safe place to debrief. To walk through the experience without judgment. We don't need suggestions at this point; that will come later. What we need is someone to nurture us through the healing process, both physically and emotionally. --Connie Banack
- I just don’t think there is a one-size fits-all response, because we are SO sensitive after a CBAC. I’m inclined to think that the best thing is to keep it short, and focus on the baby without minimizing the mother’s effort. Something like “WOW, you tried so hard, what an amazing effort, welcome to the world little one, and congratulations. I know you’ll be a fabulous mother!” --Caroline Kelley
- THIS is the best comment I got [after my CBAC]: "How difficult and how strong and powerful you are! Women wanting a VBAC and having labours like yours are so amazing to me, the strength, the determination, the willpower you have." (Comment was from Connie Banack, a CBAC mom herself. You can tell she gets it.) --Anonymous
- [Tell her] it’s okay to focus on physical recovery, bonding with baby, and getting breastfeeding established at first. Give yourself permission to not figure out “what went wrong” for the immediate postpartum period. Liberate yourself from the “what-if” and “if-only” monster for the first few weeks. Set a date 6 months or a year down the road for trying to figure out what happened. Focus on ways to deal with or aid your physical healing ─ realize that emotional healing will need much more time. Maybe shelve that for a bit. --Anonymous
- I do believe that most people are well meaning in their comments and that they really just don't know what to say. I think that we each filter all the responses we make/get through our experiences which can make a completely innocent comment seem harsh. I also believe that those of us who ended up with a CBAC wanted so much to VBAC, we did everything "right" and for some reason, we didn't get what we wanted ─ I think that makes us a little more sensitive. So I guess my best answer to what should be said is something supportive of the mom acknowledging how difficult it was to decide to sacrifice our desires for birth to take care of our babies. We just really need someone to encourage us after making a horrible decision that none of us really want to make. --Cindi Cunningham
- When I posted my CBAC story I wanted to hear how strong I was for trying. I wanted to hear I was courageous to attempt VBAC, given that the general population thinks VBACing is dangerous and most other women have a repeat section. I wanted to hear I gave my baby the best beginning I could have despite ending in c/s. I wanted to hear how wonderful it was that I let her choose her own birth day despite being over 42 weeks and being pressured for induction. Most of all I wanted to hear that people were sorry I ended up with a CBAC given how hard I tried to birth her myself. --Shelley M.
- I don't know that there is much one can do other than lend an ear to a grieving CBAC mom. It seems that there is no one right thing to say as we want to hear different things ─ it's not our fault, it's not possible, it IS possible, KWIM? So listening and giving big hugs may be key. --Caroline Kelley
- What I would have loved for someone to say is something like, “Wow, what a great mom you are, you did so much for the well being of your child. No child could ever ask for more than the mother who loves them so much they would try anything to give them the best birth possible, with a natural labor and delivery, but who so willingly put her own needs and wants aside to give them a c/s when you had to.” --Allison
- When our chapter has a CBAC for something like mom pushed and baby just wasn't coming out or a true fetal distress or something, I usually reply with something like: "Congratulations on your sweet baby! I am sorry the birth did not end how you were hoping, but I am so proud of you for all of your hard work. Your baby was given a wonderful gift of labor and of getting to choose his own birthday - you are a warrior momma who, once it was apparent that the birth could not proceed as planned, laid down her own life and sacrificed her own dreams to ensure her baby a safe entrance into this world. I want to acknowledge your strength." --Anonymous
- Things that would be wonderful for folks to say to a CBAC mom:
-I'm proud of you
-I have utmost respect for you
-You are not a failure
-You are not a quitter
-You worked so hard for this
-You were a birthing warrior
-You tried with all your heart
-You are amazing and strong
-I am thinking of you
-You did the best you could with the information you had at the time
-When you are ready to share your story I would love to hear it
-If you ever need to talk about the birth, I am here for you