New roles, expectations, childhood experience all need to be discussed throughout the prenatal period for a woman to not feel overwhelmed with these changes at delivery or postpartum. This is particularly true in this day and age of mothers working in and outside of the home. Postpartum depression is in part a result of continued minimization of the tremendous changes women experience in becoming mothers. Processing feelings about the birth experience are an integral part of the postpartum transition. When a child is born a mother’s needs may be forgotten. Support to integrate her experience of the birth, whether through celebration or supporting her in any emotional recovery needed becomes insignificant to those around her, and even to herself. It may not be until the child’s first birthday, that the woman recalls the event.
It is as invalidating to withhold celebration of childbirth as an empowering feminine experience, as it is to insist that all women should experience natural birth in order to be empowered.
Empowerment is a process. We must not confuse it with an end product (i.e., medicated or unmedicated delivery, home or hospital birth, etc.). A woman’s positive feelings about her femininity come from a sense of support, acceptance and encouragement to express herself as a whole person, in any way that contributes to her sense of well-being. I have had occasion to witness women’s empowerment by cesarean birth, and I have seen women overwhelmed by the experience of natural birth. The determining factor in a woman’s self-esteem is that they have the opportunity to address their own emotional changes about becoming a mother and the experience of their bodies in pregnancy, labor , birth and postpartum. If this occurs, women usually feel good about themselves.