So the other week I was driving my children to school and we had a car accident.
The adrenaline set in and we were all in shock. I was trembling all over, my daughter was screaming, my two boys in the backseat were deathly silent and the driver of the other car wasn't moving. I remember her sunglasses had fallen out of her broken window and were laying in the smashed glass next to her car. It all happened so quickly yet everything was in slow motion.
The crunching of metal, the breaking of glass, our car being turned around, strangers coming running to help us.
The man in the red jumper standing on the corner just filming it all like he was going to be a social media sensation. Yes, I remember you very clearly, dickhead.
The staff in a nearby business bringing my children hot chocolate. The unknown man who, judging by appearances, didn't have much to give yet gave my children a new toy he happened to have with him. The help from the emergency services. Thank you for your kindness.
It could have had a very different ending, but thank the universe, everyone was able to get out of their cars and walk away. I am beyond grateful that this was the outcome, that everyone got to go home to their families. That besides a few bruises and some whiplash, everyone will be physically okay.
You know this right. That I am grateful that my children are healthy. I don't know any person that wouldn't be grateful. Yet I am still upset by what has happened. I still replay what happened in my mind. I can still feel the fear and uncertainty of those first few moments.
And that will take me a little while to get over.
In the meantime, I still have to go on with my life. I still have to drive my children down the same road. I have to sort out all the paperwork and phone calls that go along with a car accident. I still have to comfort my children who draw pictures of what happened. I am still grateful that our bruises will heal and we will be okay.
So why do people keep telling me "You should be grateful!".
That cars can be replaced but people can't.
I know this. You don't have to remind me.
I know it can be difficult to be with someone going through an emotional time. That you don't always know what to say or that you want to make me feel better. But I'm not asking you to fix it. I'm asking you to just sit with me and let me be, however I am feeling. Hold that space for me.
Don't start telling me about your friend's car accident that was probably worse than mine and how they are just happy to be here. I'm allowed to be upset that the new-to-us car I got only three days prior is now gone. Don't brush off my feelings as though they don't matter when compared to the outcome. How a person feels after a traumatic event is important too. The memories will take longer to heal than the bruises. I hope you understand.
The point of all this though isn't really to tell you about me.
It's to make you think about those women and families who go through a traumatic birth and are told they should just be grateful that they have a healthy baby. A traumatic birth doesn't have to be a cesarean birth either. A traumatic birth is whatever the woman says it is for her. Where you are left feeling scared, fearful, out of control, traumatised. And yes, you can still be grateful that your baby is healthy.
A healthy baby isn't all that matters. Parents matter too. Their mental, emotional and physical health is important. The fact that mum and baby are alive doesn't cancel out what happened to them during labour and birth or how they feel about it.
Please be mindful of your words and don't tell them to be grateful their baby is okay because believe me, they already are.
Kelly is a mum to four amazing children. She works as a birth, bereavement & postnatal doula in Adelaide and also offers placenta encapsulation services.
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Kelly Harper is the owner of Elemental Beginnings Doula & Placenta Services in Adelaide. She provides placenta encapsulation and doula services to families during pregnancy, birth and in their fourth trimester.