This month, in the UK, there have been some interesting, inspiring conversations taking place as part of #MatExp. It’s an interesting collaboration between parents and professionals. Honest. Open. No holds barred discussions.
The discussions have helped me think about rainbow pregnancy, my birth, and my early days with my baby. I’m sad that I didn’t receive the emotional support that I needed. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t tell anyone the thoughts I was having.
I was so scared. People told me anxiety was natural. Normal. Heck, I tell people all the time anxiety is normal. I have been teaching anxiety management for 15 years. But I was scared by the level of my anxiety. I was scared of what I was thinking, feeling, experiencing. I was scared to tell anyone how bad the flashbacks were.
I’m sure that this anxiety affected my bond with my baby. When I was pregnant with Finley, I’d talk to him, play with him, poke his feet when they stuck out. I’d hold my bump.
In stark contrast in my next pregnancy I couldn’t bring myself to do any of these things. I know now that was an act of self preservation. A way to keep my distance, so that my emotional investment was less.
When Twinkle was born (by cesarean at 37 weeks, after my request when things got too much) she needed to go to the Special Care Baby Unit. After a little cuddle in theatre, she was taken away from me. When I met her, she was surrounded by very tiny, very poorly babies and beeping machines. I needed support and encouragement to even place my hand on her chest. I was so convinced I would lose her too.
I spent the first night sobbing on the postnatal ward, alone.
I wish I’d had better information about what would help me. So I’ve put together some ideas for things which may help you to relieve anxiety and begin to bond with your baby.
Someone to talk to who understands: This is such an important tool to helping to relieve anxiety, someone to confide in who has been in your position can help you feel less alone.
Counselling: Throughout pregnancy thoughts and feelings may change and a skilled counsellor, who you trust can help you to make sense of them.
Holistic Therapy (reiki, reflexology, aromatherapy, acupuncture): A helpful tool to bring relaxation. Often baby will move more during times you actively relax, so it is a chance to notice them within your body, in a safe environment.
Overcoming Birth Trauma/Natal Hypnotherapy CD’s: There are many different versions available, for different situations. These can help teach techniques for labour and birth, as well as provide a guided meditation which can help with processing thoughts.
Distraction: Keeping busy, finding tasks or hobbies that occupy your mind can help when you experience intrusive thoughts.
Writing: A great tool for self reflection and expressing difficult emotions safely. Also can be used to help look ahead to the birth and bringing baby home, or to create affirmations to use in labour.
Vision board: Creating a vision board is a beautiful activity. It is a great tool to help capture the heart’s hopes and dreams visually. Simply collect old magazines, and cut out pregnancy related pictures and words which inspire you, make you smile or give you hope.
Bump talk and play: Babies are very interactive when they are in your tummy. They’ll respond to music, touch, water, a torch being shone over the bump. Being in physical contact with the vitality of your bump and baby is a great way to use mindfulness, bringing awareness to the present.
Doula: A doula can be a fantastic source of hope, positivity and a calming presence during pregnancy, labour and birth.
1:1 support from a familiar person: It may be helpful to contact your hospital and arrange to meet some of the midwives/staff that would be on duty when you might be planning to be induced, have your surgery, or those staff who would look after you during your homebirth.
Choices: Sometimes it can feel as if our choices were taken away from us with our loss pregnancy and birth, ending with an outcome so far away from what we had hoped. There are many choices available to you in subsequent pregnancy. It is helpful to explore each one to find the easiest, most healing options.
Skin to skin: Holding a warm, soft newborn baby against your skin is beneficial for you and the baby in so many ways. You can hear and feel their breathing, helping your mind to realise they are here and alive. It stimulates the production of hormones which will help you to feel more relaxed and happier.
Baby Massage: Learning baby massage techniques is a helpful bonding tool. It is a lovely experience for both of you, and being in touch with the physical warm body of your baby can help to dispel worries about their wellbeing, or flashbacks which might happen.
Additional Support: Sometimes having a healthy baby can be more isolating, people expect that you will be happy and relieved (and you may be). You may also feel more anxious, overwhelmed or experience intrusive thoughts or flashbacks. It is important to be aware of what extra support is available to you – be that breast feeding groups, health visitor, counsellors or friends and family.