The birth of a child is a very sacred time for a woman and many dream of exactly how they wish it will go. But when the day arrives and circumstances change rapidly, medical interventions can become an unexpected necessity. Despite how the last birth may have gone, many women are seeking a second chance at their dream experience by opting for the safer alternative: a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC).

There are so many wonderful success stories that it can be difficult for a woman to not raise her hopes the second time around. But the truth is, VBACs can fail and when they do, it brings with it a devastating emotional response. Here are some tips on how to accept what has happened and bring about emotional peace to the birth of your child.

Allow yourself to feel. Birth is already filled with overwhelming emotions, so when grief, loss and sadness enter the picture, it is easy to try to turn those feelings off and just reach for the joy. But suppressing these very real and important feelings can leave a woman feeling empty and lost. Instead, allow yourself to grieve in the moment. Cry with sadness as well as joy as you hold your baby in your arms. Reach in and feel everything you want to feel without turning any of it off and without judging yourself.

Don’t lessen the situation. While the line of thinking “at least my baby is healthy” may sound good on the surface, and gratitude is always very important, do not use that phrase to lessen your own emotions. Of course it is wonderful that we have the technology to save lives during complications, but wanting a vaginal birth and having it taken away is still a major and disappointing moment. Give yourself permission to recognize what you have lost without trying to minimize it. True gratitude can be expressed while still mourning what was lost.

Hold on to hope. Depending on your situation, some women still have a chance for a future vaginal birth. If you are planning to have more children, hold dearly to the hope that you can attempt a vaginal birth after two cesareans (VBA2C). Even if your current doctor is not willing, there are many out there who practice this rapidly becoming norm of birth. Whether you have had two, three or four, try to hold on to the future hope that this was not your one and only shot.

Journal the experience. When a birth is traumatic and wrapped in negative feelings, it is easy to push it aside and slowly forget about the specifics. While the pain of losing the experience you always wanted is strong now, it is important to write down the events of the birth when it is still fresh in your mind. Be sure to write down the positives as well as the negatives. This will serve as a useful tool in the future for when you want to revisit the experience whether to remind yourself of the joys or to continue to process the loss.

Every woman is different and every birth is different. No matter how joyous or upsetting the occasion, self-love and emotional acceptance is the key to the healing process. Above all else, allow yourself to grieve the loss as well as express proper gratitude and hold onto hope, knowing that healing is possible.