A Day You'll Never Forget

A Sense of Satisfaction
Most of the women reported a great sense of satisfaction when they recalled their first birth experiences. Their satisfaction was based on a feeling of accomplishment, of being in control (of both their responses to contractions and of what was done to them) and of enhanced self-esteem. But more than a third felt quite dissatisfied that they weren't in control, that they didn't accomplish anything important and that the birth lowered their self-esteem or made them angry.

The most important finding of the study was that the women's satisfaction was not associated with the length or difficulty of their labors or the need for interventions or pain medications. Their satisfaction was associated more with how they were treated by their doctors and nurses, which seemed to have a great impact on their sense of accomplishment and control and their self-esteem.

Nine of the women wept during the interview as they recalled events that took place 15 to 20 years before! Some wept from joy: "It was the best day of my life." "My Mount Everest!" "I know I accomplished something."

Others wept from remorse: "Because of what I experienced in the delivery room, I felt powerless." "I was too embarrassed to make a big fuss…I didn't want to be a nuisance to the nurses." "I kind of blamed myself at one point that I'd had a cesarean. When I was feeling bad about myself and thinking of all the things I couldn't do, that was one of them. I couldn't even have that baby naturally. No one ever told me I was doing a good job."

It's clear that women don't forget their birth experiences, even years later, and their memories are vivid and accurate (though hazy about what happened when narcotics were in effect). They remember not only facts and events, but also feelings. If they were well treated and given an opportunity to participate, they were likely to remember the experience with joy and satisfaction.

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