Weeks or even years after you have given birth, talking through your experience with a midwife can help put to rest any concerns you may have
Writing a birth plan is an important part of preparing for labour and something your midwife will have strongly encouraged you to do. Together you will have talked through your hopes for the delivery, from pain relief to birthing positions. After the birth, there is a strong possibility that you will look back and question those parts of the process that didn’t exactly match your birthplan expectations.
It’s normal to spend time reflecting on your labour, as it will undoubtedly be one of the most significant experiences in your life. But if these thoughts begin to dominate your day, or cause you distress, then talking it through with a midwife could help you come to terms with how your baby came into the world.
During childbirth there is often no time for medical staff to explain things, like why they need to use a ventouse [vacuum device] or why the delivery room has suddenly filled with extra staff. A midwife can use your labour notes to give a medical explanation for what happened and why this may not have matched your birth plan. It isn’t a form of counselling but a chance for you to have your questions answered.
Most labour wards offer this service and a telephone call to the hospital where you gave birth will tell you who to contact. The maternity unit may have a dedicated email address or telephone line for arranging what is sometimes called a birth afterthoughts meeting. They will have to request your labour notes and then agree a time and location to meet. You will usually have a one-hour appointment.
Michelle Lyne, a professional advisor for education at the Royal College of Midwives, points out that you are able to reflect on your birth with your midwife at any stage. However, she recommends giving yourself a few weeks breathing space before attending a birth afterthoughts meeting. Your labour notes are kept for 25 years and you have a right to access these at any time.
‘The birth experience stays with you forever,’ says Michelle. ‘It’s important that you deal with any demons, as they can impact on your emotional and physical wellbeing. A woman can go into a numb state then look back and think: “How did my baby get to be a year old?”
Sadly, some mothers feel they let themselves and their baby down if they didn’t have the labour experience they were hoping for. “If she ended up with a forceps delivery she may think, ‘was there anything I could have done?’ Sometimes she feels she has failed,” says Michelle.