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Realistic Positivity - Part 3

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

The Twists and Turns

To conclude our series on positive birth, we are going to be taking a look at how we can feel empowered by our birth experience even if it takes a different route to what we had planned. Our first post focused on the mind body connection and the role of oxytocin during pregnancy and birth and last time, we suggested some top tips for keeping calm and positive, as well as realistic, when it comes to having our babies. Today, we are thinking a little more about the postnatal period and how we can process our births during the weeks and months that follow.

Let’s start with the idea of a birth plan and what that means. In one of our previous posts, we talked about taking ownership of our births and giving ourselves time to think about our options and what might suit our needs best. Things like place of birth, who we choose as a birth partner and what pain relief options we would like or like to avoid. In order to be active participants in the process, it is so important that we think about our ‘Plan A’ for birth. That said, I think too concrete a ‘plan’ can leaving us feeling like we have failed when our births take an unexpected turn. Better to think about birth preferences instead. The word preferences is more fluid, opening the door to choice and options. It can seem like a fine balance sometimes. Too little ownership over the process and we may encounter situations that leave us feeling out of control or fearful. To rigid a plan and we are left feeling let down when our plans have to change. Where is the middle ground?

Being positive about birth, asking questions antenatally and during labour, keeping informed can all help. Making sure our birth partners are aware of our birth preferences and even writing these together is also a good idea. It’s also fundamentally about trust. Having trust in our care giver and those looking after us gives us room to let our bodies birth our babies without doubt, anxiety or too much adrenaline. When we feel nurtured and safe, we can switch off our rational, thinking brain, and get on with the important job of having our babies.

But let’s be clear. Birth is an unpredictable event. We can write as many birth preferences as we like, surround ourselves with those we trust most and have the utmost confidence in our bodies but we will never be able to plan the day. We won’t ever be able to control our births completely and perhaps this is a good introduction into parenting in general! We can’t control how well our babies will feed, or sleep or when they will walk or how they will do at school.Our babies put themselves in the driving seat before they are even born.

Just because your birth was not as you intended, does not mean you failed or did something wrong. Doing a hypnobirthing course, practicing yoga, reading the books will never guarantee you a perfect birth. Nothing can. And I would argue that it’s not about having a ‘perfect birth’ but rather a birth which leaves you feeling confident, empowered and able to bond with your baby. A birth that leaves you physically well and emotionally safe. A birth where you felt a part of the process, were able to ask questions and understood why certain things were done. And if this isn’t the case, as it may be for so many couples, then there are certain things which can help.

Ask for a birth debrief. Whether that’s with your community midwife in the immediate few days after birth or the following weeks or maybe even when you get pregnant again, it’s so important that you speak to someone about what actually happened. Write your questions down if that helps. Ask for a paper copy of your notes if you need it. Speak to someone about your birth.

See a counsellor. Our births can affect us in profound ways. It may be that you can’t stop thinking about your birth, that you find yourself reliving the events of that day. Sometimes professional help is needed so that we can process our births and start enjoying motherhood.

Hypnobirthing breathing techniques are so useful during the postnatal period. I cannot tell you the number of times I practiced my breathing in the car, with a screaming baby in the car seat whilst stuck in traffic miles from home. If it all feels overwhelming, breathe.

Talk to your partner. Remember your birth partner was there too. They may be struggling with feelings about the birth also. Becoming a parent makes it so difficult to talk to our partners. We are so consumed with feeding and nappies and lack of sleep. But talk to them about your birth, you may have some shared feelings. If anything, having someone to offload to always helps.

The fourth trimester is a time of many emotions alongside a cocktail of hormones and a profound lack of sleep. For all mothers. Adding the recovery from a difficult birth into this mix can have a real affect on our mental health, our relationships with our partners and how we bond with our new babies. How we birth matters. It is day we will never forget. Soinstead of focusing on the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘if only’s’ start focusing on the positives; how strong you were, how calm you were, how resilient you are. Your birth is one day in the thousands of days you will have with your baby. If it was a difficult start, then the only way is up.

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