Processing Your Birth Experience: Why and How

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Your baby has been born, and you’re settling in at home – but is the experience really “over” unless you’ve been able to process what just happened? Whether your birth was smooth or complicated, long or short, scary or satisfying, it is vital to spend some time in reflection after one of the most high-impact experiences in your entire life. Here’s why…

All Births Are a Big Deal

Some births are scary. Some births are traumatic. Some births seem like a blur of pain and exhaustion, leaving you with fuzzy or missing memories from the timeline of events. We’ve all heard about these – so if we are lucky enough to have a short and sweet birth with few complaints, we may feel like we don’t “deserve” the time, space, and even professional help to process what we just went through. As experienced doulas who have borne witness to births of every kind, we would like to submit that ALL births are a “big deal”. ALL births are a weighty, life-changing event for everyone involved. And whether you would like to think about it, talk about it, and seek answers for a few minutes or for the rest of your life, you have the right to do that.

When Your Birth Experience Disappoints

After a challenging birth experience, it’s common to not want to think about it too much, or not have strong feelings about it yet. As the weeks and months go by, your newborn demands less constant attention and you start thinking about what you felt and piecing together your memories. This can bring up strong feelings of anger, sadness, confusion, and even grief. You may fear the thought of another baby, and have unpleasant emotions when you hear pregnancy announcements from friends. Please know that you are far from alone, and there is help and support out there for you. Your feelings are valid, and you have the right to explore them and seek answers. You do not have to pretend that you are great and everything is perfect because at least you had your baby.

When You Don’t Remember Everything About Your Birth

No matter what your birth may have been like, it’s very common to have memory gaps or confusion about what happened and when! With hormones surging through your body, and your focus on getting through contractions and procedures, it’s normal to get a little mixed up. Did you have a photographer or videographer – or even a relative snapping some iPhone photos? Those may help you remember the little in-between moments and what you were thinking and feeling. Your partner or spouse, doula, or birth assistant can share their memories of your birth if desired. And, especially when you have medical-related questions regarding your care, you can request your medical chart from your OB-GYN’s office.

Seeking Professional Guidance for Birth Processing

There is absolutely zero shame in going to see a professional counselor to talk about your birth – especially if you are experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, in which case it’s a must! There are all types of counselors out there, so consider interviewing a few to find the perfect fit. Ensure that your counselor has specialized training and experience in women’s health, postpartum mood disorders, and birth trauma.

Working Through Your Birth Experience on Your Own

If seeing a counselor is not for you for any reason, you can seek resources to process your birth on your own. You can also use self-help resources in conjunction with a licensed therapist.

  • Journal about your birth
  • Write a letter to yourself about your birth
  • Draw or paint your birth
  • Visit a support group
  • Join an online postpartum group

Some places you can go, other than a one-on-one therapist, to share your story and receive support might include:

  • Consulting with your care provider
  • Visiting your Colorado doula or childbirth educator
  • Visiting a spiritual mentor
  • A local mom group
  • A local birth art circle
  • A local postpartum and/or birth trauma support group
  • Group therapy sessions

Again, your birth is your own, and there is no shame at all in wanting to talk about it, reflect upon it, or even demand answers about it. As experienced Colorado postpartum doulas, we are also available for in-home support to be a listening ear when needed, and handle daily tasks that clutter up your mind. Giving birth is one of the biggest milestones in a person’s life – it’s time we all recognized that and treated it as such!

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