When we think about pregnancy, birth, and newborns we often picture a wonderful, life-changing moment that’s full of happiness and joy. Sadly, for many women, their childbirth experience is a little different. Birth trauma can relate to a wide range of issues ranging from perineal tears to placental birth injuries, life-changing errors resulting in Erb’s Palsy or cerebral palsy, or the lack of control at the moment, the feeling that you weren’t listened to and that your special moment was ruined by an emergency.
Don’t rush your feelings
When you experience something as traumatic as a negative birth experience, it’s important to give yourself time to consider what happened and how it has affected you and your newborn. You might be feeling pressured to simply move on from your experience and not dwell on it too much, or just be grateful that your baby is healthy and move on. This isn’t helpful, or healthy for your mental or physical wellbeing. Take your time to go through each emotion you’re feeling, discuss things with friends and family and keep checking in on your own feelings. Don’t feel pressured to forget your experience.
Rediscover your birth story
Hearing your friends’ successful and happy birth stories can make you feel even worse about your own experience. It’s likely to trigger a “why me” state of mind. One way to heal and recover mentally from your traumatic experience is to rediscover and reclaim your birth story. Go over what happened in your mind and rather than thinking of all then negatives, try to consider any positives you can take away from the experience. Was there a midwife or nurse that was particularly kind to you? Remember how excited you felt when you went into labor or how well you coped with the pain. Focusing on the positives will help you heal and move on.
Love your body
We all struggle with loving our bodies. But women who have been through pregnancy and childbirth often have a harder time accepting their new body. Accepting that your body has done an incredible thing is a positive step towards healing from your birth trauma. So, try a little post-pregnancy yoga or Pilates, enjoy massages (a great way to reconnect with your partner too), go for a nice long walk with the pram and get those daily steps in. Looking after yourself and your body will make you regain control of your body and what happened to you.
Get the right support
The friendly and kind words or friends and family are of course always welcome. However, they only go so far. And it’s natural to worry that people around us are getting fed up with hearing about our negative experience – although this probably isn’t true! If you’re worried about your mental state, then you should speak with your midwife/health visitor or doctor. They’ll be able to put you in touch with councilors and people who can help you. Don’t ever be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
I’ve heard all the stories, and have seen many women overcome their birth trauma. With the right support and therapy, you can overcome it. No one will say it’s easy, because it’s not. But don’t be afraid to seek the help you need.