Updated: Oct 27, 2021
I wish for all birthing people a provider that is willing and able to spend time debriefing their birth experience. But the truth is that this is an uncommon practice for many reasons. Here are some of the most common:
Group practice model: It can be nearly impossible to guarantee that you see the provider who attended your birth for your 6-week visit (and I would argue that debriefing should happen much sooner and in some cases, may need to be revisited a few times).
Postpartum Rounds: This is what we call it when we check on people who are still in the hospital in the days following the birth. This is often done by the provider on-call for that day. Remember that the provider who caught your baby is likely at home sleeping on day one and then in the office seeing clients on day 2. That's a pretty typical setup.
This is NOT part of their training: Many providers are not used to being questioned about the care they provided and this may be perceived as adversarial or confrontational even when this is not at all the intention. Many times the birthing person has legitimate questions about things that were said or done when they themself did not feel they were fully present or able to advocate for themself and they just need (and deserve) answers.
Lack of time: Whether during postpartum rounds or at an office visit, time is of the essence for most providers. The on-call provider is usually rushing to get through postpartum rounds so they can get back to the labor floor. (I've been that person). And in the office, they know others are waiting their turn to be seen and growing more and more frustrated in the waiting room while they are with someone else, and so, they just don't open that door (I've sadly been that person too).
So, two alternatives I propose to you.
Debrief with me: Clients who are in my monthly subscription program receive a 1-hour virtual session in the days following the birth. In this session, we commonly start by reviewing the birth experience before moving on to reviewing common warning signs and symptoms, discomforts, and troubleshooting infant feeding concerns. I have found that many questions remain for new parents, many of which I can provide insight into. Together we can streamline the questions you may still have for the provider who attended your birth so that you can get to the bottom of things. These lingering thoughts and questions, when unanswered, can fuel feelings of self-doubt and anxiety. Talking through your experience is validating, it can legitimize any trauma and help guide us through the work that lies ahead.
Write your birth story: If you are a natural writer, go for it. But if you are like me and you tend to stare at the blank page feeling stuck, I've got a great idea for you thanks to my friend and colleague, Carrie Murphy, Doula, and professional writer. I'm so excited to share her course with you!
This is a self-paced course you can do over seven consecutive days or you can choose to take your time with it - totally your call! It is brilliantly crafted and affordable. Here is a closer look at the program.
There is a book that was very special to me when I was quite a bit younger. Maybe some of you will know it. It's called, The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. In it, she recommends a tool that she calls, "Morning Pages." While this is about one's creativity, it has been used by many, including myself, in times of loss, sadness, and change and the effects can be profound. Carrie's first step is reminiscent of this and a very powerful writing and healing tool.
She gives you a list of important and insightful questions to ask yourself. Not every question will resonate with you but you will organically land on the ones that do and this is why no two stories are ever the same. Use this list of questions to take a deeper dive into your experience. It will help you find the gaps in the stream of consciousness that you allowed yourself in step 1. If you have a lot to process, you may choose to sit with one or two questions at a time, over an undefined amount of time. This need not be one more thing you feel you have to do today.
And on it goes for 5 more days!
Carrie shares sample birth stories with you, she makes all sorts of suggestions and offers an array of strategies that will help you work through your birth experience and bring out the writer and you. Lastly, she helps you through the essential finishing steps (the ones that are often ignored like non-writers like me!)
I think most people can benefit from writing their birth stories and therefore most people should do so while it is still relatively fresh in the mind and body. Revisiting it now and again as your child grows can be such an interesting, introspective and enlightening experience. Or maybe you see it the opposite way and you need to write it once and put it away forever. Regardless, it's a worthy endeavor. Her list of resources for birth trauma and healing is incredible
She even provides resources for people considering filing a complaint. There is so much packed into this course that I suspect it will make writers out of many of you!