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What does it mean to process your birth and why is it important to do so?
If you have ever given birth, you understand all the powerful emotions surrounding your birth experience!
You may have had a very peaceful and beautiful birth experience, or you may be feeling disappointed or even traumatized by the events surrounding your labor and delivery.
Either way, you need to take the time to process your birth.
In this post, we are going to normalize the emotions surrounding childbirth and postpartum.
We are also going to discuss why it’s important to process your birth and give you some ideas for doing so. Let’s get started…
Childbirth is Emotional
Having a baby is one of the most powerful experiences in a woman’s life. No matter what type of birth you have had, you will never forget it!
You have just brought another human being into the world! There are so many emotions surrounding this experience.
While it is certainly important to take childbirth classes and prepare a birth plan for your upcoming birth, many births simply do not go as planned or expected. And even if they do, the emotions you feel during and afterwards may be surprising and confusing.
If you have had a difficult labor and delivery, you may be feeling lots of negative emotions.
Many women struggle with disappointment, regret, resentment, anger, guilt, or shame when a birth doesn’t go as planned.
There are also women who feel violated or traumatized by a particularly difficult birth.
If your birthing experience was particularly difficult or traumatizing, I recommend this book as you start working though those negative memories, emotions or fears.
Even women who claim to have had positive birth experiences, are often surprised by the negative and confusing emotions they may feel postpartum.
In spite of the extreme joy they may feel, many women also struggle with feelings of failure, grief or sadness. These confusing and conflicting emotions are totally normal.
Most postpartum emotions known as Baby Blues, are caused by fatigue and hormone changes. However, in many cases, it is more than simply “hormonal”.
The Challenges of Becoming a Mother
Once your new baby is born, you are quickly thrust into motherhood. In addition, you become completely consumed by your new role as mother.
Most new mothers don’t have time to process the birth and many don’t even take the time to think about what just happened!
A Mom’s New Identity
A new mom needs to adjust to her new identity as a mother.
Becoming a mother is a HUGE transition! Although this may not be a big issue for every new mother, many women find the adjustment period to be emotionally challenging.
When you process your labor and birth experiences, make sure that you take some time to reflect on how your life has changed. It’s okay to mourn the loss of your independence, previous lifestyle or career, if that’s how you are feeling!
Don’t try to dig up feelings that are not there, but recognize, validate and process those that begin to surface.
The Importance of Being Validated
There are also those poor mothers who try to express their disappointment or grief, but are quickly shut down by comments like, “Well, at least you have a healthy baby.”
While it may be true, this type of comment negates the mother’s feelings. Not only that, but it also can create more guilt or shame in the mother as she tries to dismiss her feelings about the birth.
It’s okay to be upset if your birth did not go as you had hoped or planned! Take the time to grieve that, but realize that not everyone will understand.
It is confusing how such profound joy and grief can coexist, but just knowing this is normal can go a long way in helping you cope and move on!
Why is it Important to Process Your Birth?
I believe that every woman who has given birth, needs to set aside some time to process the experience.
Why? Because our birth experiences leave lasting impressions. The emotions we feel during birth are real. They are powerful. They also deeply affect us.
When we ignore these emotions or don’t appropriately deal with them, they can negatively affect our emotional well-being or mental state.
When a new mother is given the opportunity to tell her story, process her birth experience and feel validated, understood and affirmed, she is able to more quickly appreciate the experience, heal and grow from it and move on.
It’s especially important for a new mother to process her childbirth experience before giving birth again. This prevents any negative emotions from the previous birth to interfere with the next pregnancy, labor or delivery.
What is a Birth Story?
A birth story is the story of your baby’s labor and birth. Telling this story is how you process your birth.
It helps new parents to begin by sharing their birth story together. Each parent has a different perspective and they can each fill in the gaps as they share it together.
The more you share your story, the more you are able to let go and come to peace with the experience. Sharing the story also helps you to appreciate and grow from it.
In the case of a difficult or traumatic birth experience, sharing your birth story helps with acceptance, healing, and closure.
How to Tell Your Birth Story and Process Your Birth
There are several ways that you can process your birth story.
If you are having trouble getting started, I recommend Heal You Birth Story, by Maureen Campion. She is a psychologist and birth trauma expert.
If you are afraid, get the book and take your time as you read through it and work the exercises in the book.
1. Tell Your Story
The easiest way is to share your story with whomever will listen. Women have a need to talk about their childbirth experiences. Most women love talking about it, too!
Many birth and postpartum doulas include processing the birth as part of their postpartum services.
Don’t be afraid to ask your doula about this. A doula will also provide her perspective and offer lots of encouragement and validation for your experience.
If, however, you find it difficult to relive the events of your baby’s birth, then start small by sharing with your partner or someone you deeply trust. Ask them to listen to your perspective and not try to talk you out of how you are feeling!
When you share your story, make sure that you share the good and the bad. Describe your emotions, fears, sufferings, hopes, memories, surprises, disappointments, etc.
2. Write Your Birth Story
Many women prefer to write out their birth story. This can be a helpful tool and first step if you find it difficult to talk about it. As you write out your story, be sure to include your thoughts and feelings along with the events as they unfolded.
3. Find a New Mom’s Support Group
Another great way to share your birth story is by joining a new mom support group. You can find groups in your area by checking with local churches, hospitals, birth centers, libraries, pediatric clinics, breastfeeding support groups, fitness centers etc.
If you have a birth or postpartum doula, ask her to provide resources for new mom groups in your area!
4. Consider Talking with a Therapist or Counselor
There are many professionals who specialize in pregnancy and postpartum counseling. If you feel it would be helpful to process your birth with a professional counselor or therapist, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
Often times, a few visits to a professional is all you need to help you to process and move on!
What about you? Have you found it helpful to process your birth by telling your birth story? How have you done this?
What has been most helpful for you? Please share in the comments!!
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