Postpartum Grief and Gratitude

I gave birth a few months ago and I think I’m really struggling. Not with postpartum depression exactly, but with something more like grief. We ended up needing an emergency c-section and my daughter was rushed to the NICU where she stayed for 8 days. Those days are a blur. I didn’t get to hold her right away. Now we’re home, she’s healthy and growing. I’m deeply grateful, I’m aware of the blessings, but I’m still sad. Something isn’t wrong with her anymore…something is wrong with me.

Dear Mama, there is nothing wrong with you. You and your family had a birth experience that was unexpected and scary. The memories are lingering with you, and your grief is coexisting with your gratitude. I often tell my clients to erase the word “but” from their sentences — it’s not “I feel grief but I also feel grateful,” as if the two cancel each other out. Instead, it’s “I feel grief and I feel gratitude.”

You are not ungrateful because you are also sad. Just because the worst things didn’t happen, doesn’t mean you can’t feel sad or disappointment for the very, very hard things that did happen.

Allow yourself to hold the now — your daughter as healthy and growing, a sense of safety, deep relief that she’s home with you — alongside the was — your daughter in need of intensive care, a sense of uncertainty, deep fear that she won’t come home with you.

This is so hard to do, and (see! therapists need to use and, too!) doing it is also so healing.

Individual therapy can help you process your grief and find a way to make space for it with your gratitude. By talking with an experienced counselor, you can heal the trauma of a scary birth experience, learn new strategies to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and find new ways to bond with yourself and with your baby.

Couples therapy for new parents can also be deeply healing. Your partner experienced the birth differently than you, from his own perspective, and those differences can become a source of strength and healing rather than divisive and isolating. He will also benefit from sharing what he felt then, and how he thinks and feels now. The two of you together will benefit from creating a blended story of your daughter’s birth, one that honors the intense spectrum of emotions that were a part of it.

Support from other new moms can be a balm on your heart and soul. A second group of Mama Groove is starting soon, and the support group focuses on movement with your baby to deepen bonds of connection, the meaning of motherhood to you personally as it changes your identity as a woman and a partner, and building a community, a tribe, a village of other mothers that can lift you up and help you not to feel alone.

It’s easy to get started in counseling at Emily Cook Therapy. Contact us today through our website, or use the app that appears on every page to request a consultation by viewing real-time therapist availability.

There is nothing wrong with you, new mama. You are not alone.