Why it’s important to understand your birth story (no matter how long ago you gave birth)
As mums we have so many experiences in common but our pregnancy and birth stories differ greatly. But now that you’ve done the hard work, baby is home and you're recovering well, what’s the point in re-visiting your birth story? It's important, and Louise Hurley explains why.
As mums we have so many experiences in common but our pregnancy and birth stories differ greatly.
Not one woman’s story is exactly the same.
And not only that, we all experience these events differently – one mum may experience her vaginal birth as smooth sailing and uncomplicated yet another mum who had a similar delivery may experience the event as scary and traumatic. But now that you’ve done the hard work, baby is home safe and sound and you’re recovering well, what’s the point in re-visiting your birth story?
There are several reasons as to why it’s important to understand your birth story:
It helps us to understand the type of rehabilitation we need
You wouldn’t attend a physio session after having broken your leg and not know how it happened or what exactly was damaged. You’d probably know all of the details so that you could tell the physio and start your rehab. The same goes for your birth story. Knowing what has happened to your body and understanding the implications of this is an extremely useful starting point when beginning your physical recovery.
It’s a major life event
Processing and understanding what has happened can help us to feel more able in mentally coping with the rollercoaster of motherhood.
For some women, giving birth can be extremely traumatic (no matter how technically “well” the birth went). Remember, we all have different experiences and we all process these events differently. For me, both of my deliveries had complications of varying degrees. My first baby was induced 5 days after my due date due to my high blood pressure. The actual birth was pretty straight forward and I feel like I could easily, calmly and happily recount the event.
It’s taken me a while to process the birth of my son, my second baby, and I still have moments (two and a half years on) where I become teary and emotional in the middle of the night when I’m by the side of his cot, my hand on his back soothing him back to sleep. He was delivered via emergency c-section at 27 weeks gestation due to me developing preeclampsia. I was unable to hold him in the NICU for the first two weeks of his life due to him being on mechanical ventilation. After that, it was another hundred days of kangaroo cuddles, respiratory support and gastric tubes. While I was in hospital I kept a journal, I wrote down my story, I’ve talked to other people about it and received support from friends and family. I feel that I’ve processed it and understand it well… But still, years on, I have teary and emotional moments, and I think I always will.
What can I do to help in understanding my birth story?
- No matter how long ago you gave birth it’s never too late to try to understand your birth story.
- If you had a baby recently you can ask your obstetrician or midwife for a debrief on your birth, or take your hospital discharge papers to your GP or women’s health physio. They will be able to answer any questions you have and inform you of the implications your delivery is likely to have on your recovery.
- Write a journal or verbally record notes on your phone. It doesn’t matter if you don’t re-read or listen to them again. Sometimes just the act of recounting your story is powerful in itself.
- Talk to friends, family or your mothers group about your experiences, and be honest about the way you feel. The Australian Birth Trauma Association run the Peer2Peer support program to help you reach out to another mum who has experienced something similar to your own story.
- If you feel that recounting what happened during your baby’s birth brings feelings of stress, anxiety, overwhelm, panic, sadness or any other heightened emotions, talk to a mental health professional about this. You can find support links on the PANDA and Australian Birth Trauma Association websites.
Louise runs Strong Mums in Gosford, NSW. She has a background in clinical and research psychology and became a mums’ fitness professional after having her first baby.
If you are a new mum returning to exercise and are not sure where to start check out our FREE Safe Return to Exercise for New Mums program to learn all you need to know.