‘I’m a new mum and I had a really bad birth experience which I haven’t quite got over yet- is this normal?’
I was asked this question for a mother and baby magazine:
Yes it is completely normal. Having a traumatic experience and suffering from birth truma is not something that you can just forget or sweep under the carpet – no matter how many times people tell you that you should be grateful or happy that you have a healthy baby! No one can go back and change the events of your birth, however with time, gentle support and guidance you can change how you feel about the birth, and begin to look to a time in the future when you will no longer feel this way.
Do not feel that you have to hurry to get over it or to move on. Take your time to come to terms with the fact that your experience was not as you had hoped and that you have strong emotions that need time to heal.
Steps to help yourself.
- Talk about your experience with someone you trust. Find someone who will simply listen and not try to give you advice or to judge your view of what happened.
- Ask your maternity unit for a full debrief of your birth experience. This will help you have a better understanding of what happened and to put things in context. Some hospitals now have post birth support groups so you can talk about what happened in a safe, supportive setting. They will also have details of counsellors for you to talk to.
- There are several charities and support groups such as the Birth Trauma Association which have local support groups as well as a supportive closed Facebook group.
- Write down your birth experience as you remember it now in as much detail as you can. Then put it in a sealed envelope and post it to a made up address. Then write down 5 – 10 good things that you remember about the birth – no matter how small for example the sun was shining, the midwife had a nice smile, and put it somewhere safe to look at when you are feeling a bit down.
- Seek out self help books and stories on line. It can be comforting to read about other people’s experiences and how they got through the difficult times.
- Use a self hypnosis album such as Healing Birth Trauma which offers you a calm, gentle voice to help you cope better, especially during difficult times. It will help you take time out to relax and allows you to gently reflect on and begin to let go of the negative feelings associated with your experience. It helps build your confidence, feelings of control and acceptance of what happened, so are able to move forward with a sense of hope that you will not always feel the way you do right now (the album does not require to you to relive the experience at all).
By using self-help techniques, coupled with the support of sympathetic friends and family, it is completely possible to come to terms with the difficult birth you experienced, accept the feelings associated with it and rediscover your emotional balance and well-being.