It’s always worth making a birth plan. In the process you gain information, choices and confidence about your options in birth, all of which are incredibly empowering.
Sometimes however birth doesn’t go to plan, either Plan A or Plan B and can become more difficult than anticipated. If you have had that experience, it can be really challenging to reconcile the expectations you may have had with the reality you experienced. Healing and moving forward is possible and also very beneficial for your physical and emotional wellbeing.
5 ways you can support this healing are receiving support, getting rest, gaining wider understanding, self-compassion and bonding time.
Receiving Support; Emotionally and Physically
If birth has taken turns you weren’t expecting it can be even more important to seek good emotional support. Talking about your feelings, hopes, disappointments as you process what has happened, can really help. This can be from a professional such as a midwife, health visitor or with talking therapies via a GP or privately.
Talking to someone you trust such as a partner, family or friend can also give you the space to consolidate, air and work through your thoughts and feelings about what has happened. Talking gives the opportunity for your experience to be heard, validated and empathised with.
This is such an important one that many of us don’t do after birth and is even more important if you are coming to terms psychologically with your birth.
After we birth, either vaginally or via belly birth we birth our placenta, this leaves a dinner plate size wound our uterus that needs time to heal well.
In many cultures it is traditional to allow women who have just birthed 40 days of deep rest. It is recommended in UK to not take on anything strenuous for first 6 weeks, a similar timeframe.
Rest allows the body to heal and also allows our brains to heal via sleep. Rest is also essential for our wellbeing both emotionally and physically, it is has been shown to have neurological benefits after trauma, improve mental ability and also regulate the body. It shouldn’t be seen as a luxury after birth but an essential that is grabbed as much as possible.
Often after birth we can ruminate over the choices we made and how things could have been different. This space can be difficult as we can find our thinking stuck and unable to shift from the feelings. However having a well-performed birth notes debrief with a midwife can offer new insights and perspectives. These can help us come to terms with why and how some of those choices were made.
It can also be useful to speak to other professionals to also offer light on other aspects of our birth we may not have known about and allow us to release some of the responsibility we hold on the outcomes.
If you feel you would like to take any aspects further, it is worth doing so through your local MVP (Maternity Voices Partnership) at your hospital, your feedback can be useful in informing their practice for future and supporting other parents.
This underpins so much and leads on from releasing the responsibility we may take on. As women and mothers we tend to carry responsibility for so much. This means that when things have not gone as we hoped we can feel guilt, shame, sadness and sometimes a sense of failure.
Being kind to ourselves and seeing what we have done well is essential. If we notice our own inner self-critic, it is worth asking ourselves if we would talk to a friend in the same way?
Our birth is an amalgamation of many factors, most of which are beyond our immediate control. Remembering that we did the best we could with what was available to us at the time is so important in holding our own feelings internally. Psychology Today has a useful article on how we can cultivate self-compassion.
If birth has gone down a more challenging route than expected, having time with your baby is so important.
Skin to skin, looking and responding to your baby and feeding your baby with mindfulness can all support bonding. This also releases of hormones that help you physically and emotionally.
If your experience has been challenging it can be difficult physically and emotionally to navigate this. So take your time, give yourself rest and nourishment, and eliminate stress wherever possible.
Remember bonding takes time; this is about laying foundations that feel positive for your relationship with your baby and yourself as a mother.
More than anything be kind to yourself. Remember to seek support and help where you can. And if you are finding things more challenging, do speak to your GP or Midwife for further advice.
HYPNOBIRTHING PRACTITIONER, SURREY