Processing your birth experience
The following are only suggestions and may, or may not, suit where you are in your healing journey. There is no pressure to try any of these exercises if you're not comfortable or don't feel ready - do what feels right for you.
Read through your birth notes
Getting a full understanding of why things went the way they did can bring clarity and understanding.
It can also help to go through these with a trusted health professional who can explain any medical terms or decisions.
Write your birth story
Your birth story is more than just the medical notes. Writing out the birth, as you experienced it, makes the experience your own and means you get to tell the story as it occurred for you. Include how you felt at each point in the story also.
If you can, read the story out loud, to yourself or to a trusted whanau member/friend. Doing this gives 'voice' to your experience and gets it out of your own head.
Telling your story can be hugely relieving, empowering and it allows you to own it.
Join a support group
There are many women and men out there who are feeling the same way you are.
If you feel comfortable, join one of these communities of others' who have had a negative or traumatic birth experience - here you can read stories, gather advice and share your own story if you wish.
There are currently two Facebook support groups in New Zealand: 'Birth Trauma Support NZ' and 'Birth Trauma Support Christchurch NZ'.
Links to these can be found on the External Resources page.
Talk it over
Talk about your experience with a trusted friend or whānau member.
Similar to speaking your story, mentioned above, just talking about what you experienced and what you are feeling can be hugely relieving.
Use your preferred creative medium to process what you're feeling.
Draw, paint, weave, create, move, commune, pray.
Many people find it healing to tend plants or a garden - watch it grow, fall away and grow again, moving through different "seasons".
Re-write your birth story
Your experience is your own.
You can re-write your birth story.
When you are ready, write your birth story again, then again, then again ...
HOLD A RE-BIRTHING CEREMONY
If you feel it might help, hold a ceremony where you can re-birth your baby. Do whatever you are comfortable with, make it personal and appropriate to you. Here is one example:
Fill a bath and create an environment you are comfortable in - you could use essential oils, candles etc. Relax with your baby in the bath. If you want to you can visualise the birth you wanted. When you are ready, pull the plug - as the water drains tell your baby anything you need or want to (e.g. what you've felt about your birth, that it was no-one's fault, that sometimes things in life don't go to plan, that you forgive yourself ...).
Making a complaint
Your birth experience may leave you wanting to provide feedback on the care your received, or you may want to make a complaint about medical errors or malpractice.
There are a few avenues you can take when making a complaint and the one that suits you best will depend on your unique situation and experience.
Click on the following organisations to link to their feedback/complaints process pages:
- The NZ Health & Disability Commissioner
- The NZ College of Midwives
- The NZ College of Midwives Resolutions Committee
For hospital complaints service contact the hospital you used to follow their individual complaints process.
Your Voice Matters is a one-Mum-band who can help you through the feedback/complaints process. Kylie has an English teaching background and she utilises this to help you put together feedback for your care provider, or help you navigate the complaints process.
If you would like further guidance or help processing your experience, go to External Resources. Here you will find a list of counselling and support organisations that can offer further insight and help. This list includes the Government funded Maternal Mental Health service.