If you’re pregnant again and need to know how to prepare for another baby after a traumatic birth this post is for you. I hope that the words below will be the beginning of peace, wisdom, strength, courage and healing for you and your family.
Ask any woman about her birth experience and if given the space will share as if it happened yesterday (even if it was thirty years ago). Birth is not simply a medical event but a significantly transformational process that brings about unprecedented change. The things that happen and are said at births impact how we see ourselves as women and mothers.
Birth changes us. Birth matters.
How to Prepare for Another Baby After a Traumatic Birth
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t matter where you give birth or what type of birth you have, anybody can experience a difficult or perhaps even traumatic birth.
A woman can have a waterbirth with dolphins and unicorns while five doulas simultaneously fan and feed her grapes, but still have difficulty processing all that happened. She may be unhappy with her birth experience even if she and her baby are healthy. And that’s ok.
I am not a clinical psychologist, but work with women as a childbirth instructor and doula. Therefore the following advice isn’t from a “professional counselor”, but comes from my personal experience and what has worked with people in my community. Some of the advice will work well for you, and some may not. Take what works and leave the rest.
NOTE: Partners may have a similar need to prepare for a new baby after a traumatic birth. The advice below can be applied to them as well.
Admit the Need for Healing
After an ordeal, we often enter into “survival mode” which helps us cope with significant change by allowing us to focus only on what absolutely has to get done. A few weeks or months of this is pretty standard after having a baby. There usually is no other choice!
However, after some spending time in survival mode we sometimes become so accustomed to this way of living that we forget that this is actually not our normal state of being. We forget that we have to take time to process and heal in order to move forward out of survival mode.
One of the first steps to prepare for another baby after a traumatic birth is admit the need for healing and recovery. Just as we allow our physical body to heal and recover, we need to let the other parts of ourselves do the same.
- a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.
Take an Inventory
I’d like to think that our traumatic birth experiences fall somewhere along a spectrum rather than being simply defined as traumatic or not traumatic. Depending on where a woman falls on this spectrum will determine the intensity and resources needed for her recovery.
It may be helpful to take an inventory of the symptoms of disorders such as PTSD. Notice how many of the below symptoms sound familiar or totally foreign.
- Flashbacks – reliving the traumatic event
- Intense physical reactions to flashbacks
- Severe distress when reminded of the trauma
- Triggered by words, objects, or situations that remind the person of the event
- Disruptions in everyday routine
- General memory problems
- Hopelessness about future
- Emotional numbing
- Feeling detached from others (this may include a new baby)
- Avoiding certain places, events, or objects that remind a person of the trauma
- Challenges recalling important parts of the traumatic event
- Trying to avoid thinking or talking about event
- Avoiding activities once enjoyed
- Trouble concentrating
Build a Support Network
Now that a certain level of awareness has begun, the next step is to gather a support network to aid in recovery. Trust me on this one, a support network is not optional.
As much as we would like to heal by ourselves, avoid vulnerability and continue to portray a facade of health and wellness, the fact of the matter is that people heal in the context of relationship with other people. The desire to heal in isolation is just wishful thinking.
TIP: If you’ve been burned in past relationships and struggle with discernment on how to choose safe people, a recommended resource is the book Safe People by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
When building a support network consider the following suggestions:
- private counseling
- a support group for new mothers
- our partners
- relationship with God
Another thing to do when preparing for another baby after a traumatic birth is to figure out what happened at the previous birth.
Perhaps up until this point, you’ve tried to NOT think about what happened, but at some point it’s important to gather information to try to get a better picture of what happened.
At first, it’s important to just focus on the facts. This may simply look like requesting medical records and other pertinent documents to help fill in any gaps.
Next, talk to your doula or other support people that were at the birth. When hearing other people’s story, it’s important to listen as objectively as possible to their perspective of how things happened. Remember, everybody experiences things from a unique perspective. Their perspective is not wrong or right, it’s just theirs.
Tell Your Story
After gathering information and figuring out exactly what happened, the next step is to tell your story. This is one way your support system is useful – you need to share your story with them.
To be heard, listened to and validated is incredibly healing.
TIP: When sharing your story tell it from your perspective. For example, instead of saying that the doctor was a jerk, try saying when the doctor said this and made this decision it made me feel _________ and I _________.
Challenge False Beliefs
Throughout this whole process, but especially while telling and hearing these different perspectives and stories, notice what I AM statements come up.
An I AM statement is a belief you have about yourself that you say to yourself (internally), often times without any awareness of it even happening. For example: I am patient, I am weak, I am doing my best, I am a failure, I am loving my baby, or I am confused.
As you notice these beliefs, write them down. Listening, becoming aware and then writing down what you notice will begin a practice of deep listening.
Now that you’ve created a list of these I AM statements, consider whether or not if these statements are working for you. Do these beliefs actually align with the truth? What is the truth about yourself? At this point it may be helpful to share these beliefs with your support group or a safe person.
If these I AM statements are not working for you, what I AM statements align more with truth? Take some time to journal or share with a trusted person what you learn.
Expect a Unique Birth
Another way to prepare for another baby after a traumatic birth is to remember that this upcoming birth will be unique. It will be its own story, with its own plot and characters. It will be this new child’s birth story and not what you’ve already experienced.
The thing is, however, our brains have this traumatic birth experience and really, really wants to compare it to the upcoming unknown birth. The brain assumes it will be the same because it doesn’t know anything different!
Unfortunately, when our brain thinks that the same hard birth is about to unfold, our body responds physically. A woman may notice feelings of anxiety, tension, anger, suspicion, isolation, etc.
However, this new birth, no matter what the brain says, will be a unique and different experience. This is a brand new baby, moment in time and you are a new you too.
It’s important to expect a unique birth.
Take a Holistic Childbirth Class
Another way to prepare for a baby after a traumatic birth is to take a holistic, evidence based childbirth class (even if you took a class with a previous pregnancy).
Holistic childbirth classes are important because as you now know, birth is not solely a physical process but a whole body experience. Because of this it makes sense to prepare for childbirth as a whole person, and not simplify it to only learning about anatomy or the stages of labor.
Evidence based childbirth classes are important because they encourage parents to make the best decisions for their families without involving another person’s opinion or bias.
Taking a childbirth class for this new pregnancy will give you and your partner scheduled time each week over a series of weeks to pause regularly scheduled programming for a chance to talk about this particular pregnancy, birth and baby.
In my experience, holistic childbirth classes like the ones I teach are extremely helpful, especially to those who’ve had a previous traumatic birth experience. Parents walk away feeling more relaxed, confident and even excited about their upcoming birth.
Address Your Fears
In addition to taking a holistic childbirth class (or perhaps even as part of said childbirth class) it’s important to address fears as they come up during pregnancy.
Anxiety during pregnancy can manifest itself in many ways – headaches, fatigue, poor appetite/diet, lack of sleep, irritability, etc. The thing is, especially for those preparing for a baby after a traumatic birth, the feeling of fear in our body could possibly impede the natural unfolding of the birth process.
During pregnancy we should strive for peace in our minds, bodies and souls so that we and our babies, can experience health and wellness.
Addressing fears does not make a fear more likely to happen. That’s simply not true. However, naming them and working through fears perhaps along side a support network, will actually facilitate peace in the mind and body.
Head on over here for the ultimate list of amazing natural remedies for anxiety during pregnancy that have worked for me and those in the Mother Rising community.
Tap into Your Spirituality
For me, daily prayer and meditation in the word of God is what got me through trauma, helps me recover from trauma, and will help me cope when I experience triggering circumstances (of which seem to be inevitable). Admittedly, I did not have a traumatic birth, however, I am no stranger to trauma.
I can say with utmost certainty that these 43 powerful bible verses for new moms can carry believers through the trials of birth (and life).
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
How to Prepare for Another Baby After a Traumatic Birth
I hope that this blog post has served you in a way that brings more peace, wisdom, strength, courage and healing for you as you prepare a new baby. Just to recap, some ways to prepare for another baby after a traumatic birth are:
- Admit the Need for Healing
- Take an Inventory
- Build a Support Network
- Gather Information
- Tell Your Story
- Challenge False Beliefs
- Expect a Unique Birth
- Take a Holistic Childbirth Class
- Address Your Fears
- Tap into Your Spirituality
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