There is no life experience that comes even close to what it's like to give birth, and every birth is different, as mothers across the globe would testify.
But while some women find their birth experience to be empowering and positive others find it traumatic, and the ordeal is not quickly forgotten. Trying to deal with the feelings you're left with as well as care for a newborn can be overwhelming, as Manawatu mum of one Kate Hicks knows only too well.
Kate was left traumatised after the birth of her daughter who had to be quickly whisked away to NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). Finding no specific New Zealand-based online support for mothers who've had negative or traumatic birth experiences Kate set about creating a website and online support service for new mums, My Birth Story.
My Birth Story provides reassurance, validation and support after a negative or traumatic birth experience. It suggests ways in which women can process their experience and there is a strong focus on external support resources and organisations that can offer further help.
Kate says, "Birth trauma and negative experiences around birth happen for very different reasons.
"For some people it's because of misinformation, for some it's because of unconsented procedures, physical injury, for some it's the trauma of losing a baby or a NICU experience. For many women childbirth can trigger earlier experiences like sexual assault or rape. So the spectrum of birth trauma is wide and what's traumatic to one person is not necessarily to another. It's up to you whether you feel like you've had a negative experience."
"People will say 'all births are hard' or 'you should let it go because you're healthy and baby's healthy and that's all that matters'," she continues. "That can all be very true but you're still allowed to feel wobbly and you're still allowed to get the support you need."
When you don't address how you're feeling your bond with your new baby, as well as your relationships with family and friends, can be deeply affected.
When Kate began working on My Birth Story two years ago she was shocked to learn that suicide is the leading cause of death in new mums in New Zealand. One in three women consider their birth traumatic and one in five women suffer from postnatal depression.
In putting the site together Kate consulted health professionals, a mothers focus group and organisations that work in the area of maternal mental health.
"I just hope it helps put people a little bit more at ease at one of the most important and often challenging times in their life."
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