As we begin this new project of sharing our birth and recovery stories about 4th degree tears, I know there will be negative reactions. One of the things that we hear when we share our traumatic birth stories is “stop scaring pregnant women with your horror stories!” They say fear can cause problems during labor or cause women to make decisions that are based off of that fear and not based on evidence.
Here are five things that I think are important about this topic.
1. This one may surprise a lot of people but it is that I actually understand where you are coming from. I believe that childbirth doesn’t have to be something that is feared, and that childbirth can be a completely normal process of life. I feel like I come from a unique position in the birth world and on this topic in particular because I had a traumatic delivery with my first birth, but then went on to have two perfect home water births. So I understand the idea of not wanting fear associated with birth. During the planning period of my home births, I wanted to focus on the positive, trust that I would have a good outcome, and hope that I wouldn’t have a repeat of my first birth. And lucky for me, they both ended up being amazing healing experiences. So I do understand where people are coming from who say those things about “horror stories.”
2. BUT there is absolutely a place for these stories even for pregnant women. While it is really important to stay positive during your pregnancy, if you never hear these stories and something does go wrong during your birth but you haven’t even considered it as a possibility, then it is going to cause you to be even more traumatized because it was completely unexpected. There are women who have had a 4th degree tear who didn’t even know what it was until after they had one. They wish someone had at least told them about it being a possibility so they weren’t so blindsided.
3. One reason why these stories are so important is that they can actually help women learn from what we have gone through to help them prevent the same thing from happening to them. Sometimes there are things in our stories where we wish we could go back and do things differently, and if someone else can learn from that, then it makes it a little more worth it. Plus there actually IS a place for fear in childbirth. Just because you may fear something, doesn’t mean that you can’t still do it. I recently read something that said “Bravery includes fear” and isn’t that so true? Being brave means that you still do something even though you may be afraid of it. Even with all of the mental preparation for my first home birth after my 4th degree tear, I still had a lot of fear when it came time to push. I was literally praying out loud to please don’t let me tear that bad again. Just because someone has fear, doesn’t mean their birth is doomed.
4. Sometimes all of the positivity and planning in the world will not prevent bad things from happening. There are some women who had 4th degree tears that did everything “right”. They had completely natural deliveries, no epidural, pushed in an upright position, no coached pushing, had home water births, had a doula and a midwife, yet they still tore to a 4th degree. Sometimes these things just happen. I feel like when most people in the birth world hear a negative birth story, then they automatically start assuming blame – they blame the woman for making bad decisions or blame the medical providers for using unnecessary interventions. They start thinking about all of things that most likely happened to cause that negative outcome. And while this may be true sometimes, there are also times when there is no explanation. Sometimes interventions ARE necessary. Sometimes things just happen.
5. The truth is that 1/3 of women are describing their births as traumatic, so it is something that needs to be talked about. Silencing women who have a traumatic experience will not help – it won’t help them in their healing, it won’t help pregnant women in their preparation, and it won’t help medical professionals from learning how they can help prevent traumatic experiences as well.
Laura Fry ~ Pennsylvania, USA