Planning to welcome a new baby after a previously traumatic birth can be quite a challenge. Women want to welcome their babies with love, but when that doesn’t happen at one birth, they worry that all their births will be the same. The truth is that birth, no matter how we plan it, can go off course, but there are a few ways to help you manage your previous birth trauma, in the lead up to your next birth that might minimise your stress, and hopefully minimise the odds of a second traumatic birth.
1) Make a birth plan: People often say that birth plans only lead to disappointment if things don’t go to plan, but that shows that they don’t understand the purpose of planning. A birth plan isn’t something to set in stone and refuse to deviate from, it’s about making a PLAN! A plan for if everything goes to plan, and a plan for if things change course. Be sure to make a Before Birth Plan too. Not enough people do that, and it can make all the difference if you have the waiting stage planned out.
2) Be the boss: Don’t hand your power over to a care provider and tell them to do whatever they deem necessary. Hire a care provider who recognises that you are the person in charge and that their role is to provide you with information, options, supporting evidence, and then to stand back and provide the service that you have requested. Listen to your instincts about them, do you feel like you can trust them? If not, be sure to explore other options.
3) Hire a doula: Doulas support all kinds of births, and a good one will understand how important birth is to you. Doulas can help with birth planning, they can help support your partner, they can help keep you on track and in line with your birth plan, and they can help ease your fears before and during labour. They will also be there for a debrief afterwards. If you can’t afford a doula, some doulas are still training so they offer their service free of charge, and others offer a sliding scale or a payment plan to make it more affordable. You could also take along your mum or a good friend. The reading material below (provided for fathers) will be a good crash course for them.
4) Find some strategies to help manage tension and anxiety: EFT, meditation, homeopathy, yoga, prayer, whatever floats your boat. Do it lots in pregnancy, and then do it in labour too. Some courses, like hypno birth, can be expensive so research them, and also visit your local library to see what they have on offer.
5) Speak to your care provider about it: Tell them how you felt after your last birth and why this birth is so important to you. Pay close attention to their response. if they say “all that matters is a healthy baby” or some variation of that, they are the wrong provider. If they make you feel like they understand and want you to feel safe in their care then proceed with caution, always on the look out for potential signs that they might not be the care provider you need to attend your birth after birth trauma.
6) Protect your birth space: We tend to see birth space as the physical place where we will give birth, but it’s more than that. Birth space is also our emotional wellbeing during pregnancy. If you have any family or friends who are likely to be negative about your birth choices, don’t try to change their attitudes until AFTER your baby is born. You are too vulnerable during pregnancy to be an activist, so just gestate in peace, then tell them all later and watch their faces fall.
7) Harness the hormones: Hormones control birth. They help keep you calm during labour, manage the intensity of birth, and create bonding once your baby is in your arms. Learn how they work and do everything you can to support them when you’re in labour. Hormones are there for a reason, and one of those reasons is to help you feel good after birth.
8) Prepare for The Last Minute Freak Out: Some time towards the end of your pregnancy you will probably start to worry about the prospect of birth again. That’s normal! Use the freak out to get your birth plan onto paper, to ensure you have the right support team, and to fill the freezer with nourishing meals for after baby is born. Remember that fear does not create outcomes, what it does is cause us to make choices that we might not make if we weren’t afraid. Feel the fear, and keep on keeping on!
9) Make an after birth plan: Have a plan in place for any outcome. Know who you will call if you don’t achieve the birth you want, and know who you will avoid. Have a basket of after birth goodies, from physical comforts, to nourishing snacks, and anything else you think you might like. Reach out for support no matter how your birth goes because new mothers should have support around them!
10) Have your partner fully informed about birth: A supportive partner can make or break a birth plan so before you let your significant other step foot in any space where you are labouring, ensure that they are FULLY INFORMED about everything. They need to know your birth plan, and they need to know WHY you have made this particular plan. They need to remember that they are there to support you, not to cajole you into doing things that are different to your birth plan. Some men don’t understand why birth after birth trauma is so complicated so just give them some reading material, and leave them to it.
Birth after birth trauma can seem like a truly daunting prospect, but it doesn’t have to be like that. With careful planning, you give yourself a better chance of getting through pregnancy and managing your birth trauma during future births. And with a good post birth plan, you know you’ll survive if things go off course, after all you have a good track record. Good luck! And may your birth be everything you dreamed of and more.