Recovering after a traumatic birth experience
Every expectant mother hopes for a birthing experience which is as smooth and complication-free as possible, and while modern medicine has gone a long way towards making that possible, sometimes problems do occur. In rare cases, these problems can be very complex and can result in an emotionally and physically traumatic experience for mother and baby. When this happens, it can be difficult to get over the loss of what you imagined would be a joyous (albeit unavoidably painful) time, bringing your child into the world. If this has happened to you, it’s important that you do not place blame on yourself and that you give yourself time to heal.
Here are some positive steps you can take to help you come to terms with and recover from a traumatic birth experience.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
There are lots of organizations out there which specialise in supporting new mothers, especially those who are struggling. Whether it’s finding a counselor who can help you to work through the trauma through talking therapy, speaking to other new mothers who have had similar experiences or writing in a diary about what has happened, processing your trauma is an essential part of the healing process. Of course, if you and/or your baby have suffered injuries as a result of the birth, you need to ensure you get the medical attention you need.
Find out exactly what happened during labour
Part of processing what has happened to you is to understand exactly what happened to cause your complications. Obtain copies of your medical records and discuss the issues with your doctor. You may also want to read books about birth and possible complications to help you to realise you are not alone and certainly not to blame. It’s also worth noting that birth injuries in newborns could be a result of medical negligence, so you might want to consult a solicitor about whether or not you are entitled to compensation.
Try to build a bond with your baby
Sometimes mothers can feel unable to make a connection with their baby if the birth was traumatic. In fact, some report feeling like the baby is not their own, particularly if mother and baby required medical attention immediately after the birth and did not have time together. If this is the case for you, it’s essential that you spend time trying to reconnect with your baby. Skin to skin contact, breastfeeding, babywearing, or even infant massage can be very effective in reinstating the natural bond between mother and baby.
Consider your partner’s experience
A traumatic birth experience will also have affected your partner, although probably in a different way. They may have felt overwhelmed and unable to help you and the baby, guilty because they cannot take the pain away and, unfortunately, these feelings can manifest as anger. If they are also dealing with their own emotional trauma, they will be unlikely to be able to support you and communication can break down quickly. It’s important that you and your partner talk about what has happened and, if possible, seek help and support together to stop the experience from impacting your relationship in the long term.
Don’t rush into any decisions about future pregnancies
Some mothers make quick decisions following a traumatic birth which are potentially not in the best interests of all the people involved. For example, some will decide to become pregnant again very soon afterward in an effort to ‘correct’ what went wrong last time. This denies them the opportunity to physically and emotionally recover and to bond with the baby they have. Others may decide they never want to risk it happening again may make rash decisions about birth control. Take time to work through and recover from your experience to avoid making decisions you may regret in the future.