Childbirth is hard. Perhaps your “birth plan” didn’t go as planned, or, you changed your opinion of the choices you made after the fact. Either way, for some moms, the choice to get an epidural can cause regret and guilt, whether it is warranted or not. Here are ten steps to letting go of the guilt, so you can move on to what really matters—motherhood.
1. Let It Go
Did you have different expectations for your birth? Do you feel disappointed because you set some bar for yourself and didn’t reach it? Guess what? None of that matters! The important thing is, your baby is here, thanks to YOU. So let go and realize that there is a whole lot in life that we simply cannot control. Sometimes, the lesson lies in our ability to let go and accept things for how they are.
2. Concentrate on Your Child
How do you have time or energy to dwell on the epidural? Get some rest, change the next diaper, answer those hungry cries, and pack that diaper bag! You’ll hear this echoed throughout these steps because it is the most important reason to move on and put it behind you. Your child should be your main focus.
3. Write it Down
Sometimes the easiest way to get over something is to write it down. Get it out of your head and down on paper. If you keep a journal, let it out. If you don’t keep a journal, grab a notebook and write down what you are feeling. Consider writing it from the perspective of what you would say to comfort another mom who is beating herself up over the same choice. We are often harder on ourselves than we are on others. It will be freeing to write out your thoughts and feelings. Make sure you include the positive!
4. Find a Doula
If you still regret your choice, take steps to possibly avoid it next time. A doula is a birth advocate and supporting role during childbirth. They also support the pregnant and postpartum mother. This means that even speaking to a doula after birth, especially if some of your birth plan didn’t go as expected, may be greatly beneficial to you. A doula has experience in all things birth related and can give an empathic ear as you move past what happened in labor and on to what really matters: your baby!
5. Find the Root of the Issue
Ask yourself why you feel guilty. Would you, or did you previously, judge other moms who had made this choice? Are you afraid of such judgment from others? Is someone in your family pushing guilt on you for your choices? Whether it’s perceived judgment or real, it has no place or purpose.
Accept that the past is the past. You did what you thought was best or what you could handle at the time. You have nothing to feel guilty about. You had a baby. There are different ways of having babies, and remember that how you had your baby does not somehow set the pace for how you will be a mom. If, for whatever reason, you feel like you didn’t live up to what you had planned in your mind, so what? What’s done is done. Dwelling about it won’t change anything. If you don't accept it, you won't be able to move on.
7. Treat Yourself to a Pick-me-up
Postpartum hormones added to your guilt can make it seem like the end of the world when it is not. Treat yourself to a pick-me-up. Perhaps you can take a long shower, with some relaxing music, followed by a facial. Confide in someone you can trust that you are struggling, spend some time in prayer or reflection, and find small ways you can give your mood a boost: an hour free to yourself, some extra sleep mid-day, a pedicure… whatever will refresh you and help give you some needed new perspective.
8. Cut Yourself Some Slack!
Childbirth is painful. It’s not the same for every mother, or even with every child. As hard as childbirth is, though, the long haul is still ahead. Raising kids is where it counts. So cut yourself some slack and focus on the job that matters now. Regardless of how your child was brought into this world, they are here now, and the road of motherhood awaits you.
9. Forgive Yourself
If you keep beating yourself up over something, you will never get past it. So forgive yourself. It is important to let go of the guilt. If you don’t, you will likely feel defensive over your choice. If someone talks about their natural or at-home birth, you may take it as a personal judgment on your experience. A pro-natural birth approach does not make one assisted by an epidural a failure. If you don’t forgive yourself and accept it, you’ll risk harboring defensive feelings and attitudes toward yourself and others.
10. Enjoy Motherhood
There is no gift like the present. Start enjoying the joys of motherhood, as there are many, and stop allowing the past to steal the present. The sooner you make peace with the past, the sooner you can bask in the present and look ahead to the future. Enjoy motherhood!