Written by Rachel Clarke
Taking the next step towards growing your family after experiencing what can only be described as one of the hardest entries into motherhood, a preemie baby arriving before 37 weeks of pregnancy is a huge, brave decision. Those long, surreal days in NICU or HDCU where you had to learn to mother in a way, place and environment that you never thought you would have to face.
You might be thinking – will I go through that again? What are my chances of having a preemie baby again? Perhaps you are feeling more and more worried about your bump as you near the week that your preemie baby was born. You might be more cautious, or more anxious generally about your health and wellbeing.
It’s normal to be drawn mentally to a fearful experience you have already faced. Your body and mind will be reminded of those memories of that time so try to be kind to yourself.
What can you do if you are pregnant and are looking to build your confidence for a better birth?
Here are some steps that can help you prepare for another birth after a preemie:
Process your birth trauma
First, if you haven’t already done so, consider talking through your previous experience with a mental health expert such as a counsellor, CBT therapist or psychotherapist. This will likely be where the root of all your fear sits. With support you can learn to acknowledge your experiences and learn from them how to move forward.
Learn about hypnobirthing
Hypnobirthing is a great approach to take when you struggle with worry or anxiety. The combination of antenatal education and self hypnosis techniques will stand you in good stead to have a positive birth.
Know Your Strengths
Build a positive mindset by thinking about what inner resources you needed to get through that hard time. You have been through a likely traumatic experience and have managed to overcome your fear to become pregnant again. What has helped you so far to get to this point? What helped you at the time to get through each day?
Acknowledge to yourself that through your previous experiences you have come out the other side with more resilience, more awareness of your mental strength and ability to cope with an unexpected situation. You know what it feels like to be a fighter.
Try Daily Journalling
Use a daily reflection journal to notice how you are thinking and feeling. Becoming more aware of patterns of negative thoughts or ideas that come to mind can be useful in understanding them.
Design Positive Birth Affirmations
Repeat a daily positive birth affirmation to yourself to counteract negative thoughts. Make sure they are positive (‘I am confident’ rather than ‘I am less nervous’), in the present tense (‘I am calm’ rather than ‘I will be calm’) and personal to you. Depending on your story, you will be able to design positive statements that you connect to more intensely as they have come from your own ideas, in your own words.
Practice Self Compassion
Being kind to yourself – it will feel familiar. It is not the same story. You are not living the same experience even though sometimes it feels like you are. This is a new baby and you are a different person than before. You know what it feels like to face the unexpected and dig deep. You’ve much more wisdom and knowledge about yourself than ever before. Trust your gut and follow your instincts.
You can have a positive birth that will bring you so much healing and comfort. Holding onto the knowledge that you have faced great challenges and overcome them will be your greatest asset during this pregnancy. Incorporate into your daily routine relaxation, self-hypnosis and mindfulness practice to build positivity, confidence and belief in yourself. You’ve got this Mama.
Rachel Clarke BSc(hons) DipHb is a mum of one, a birth coach and runs Hey Mama, helping women feel better about birth. She is an accredited and insured antenatal educator, KG Hypnobirthing teacher, TBR 3 Step Rewind for Birth Trauma practitioner and trainee Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist.
Rachel also works part time for the non-profit mental health charity Mind. She lives in Weybridge, Surrey with her partner and son.
Did you see?
In the last blog Lisa writes about her experience of life after being discharged from the NICU.