Q&A with Mixing Up Motherhood: The Birth Debrief

Today we have spoken to Illiyin (Illy) Morrison (@mixing.up.motherhood) who is a birth trauma specialist midwife, author of the book 'The Birth Debrief' and mother of two to talk about why it's important to reflect on pregnancy, your birthing experience and redefining postpartum.

Tell us a little bit about you and what you do?

I am a mother of two, a registered midwife, author and birth debrief facilitator, based in Norfolk.

Why did you decide to write the book ‘The birth debrief’

So, I was actually approached by my now agent before I had any ideas of even writing a book! What is now the finished product came from recognising a deep need for validation in women and their families. Birth trauma - a short hand term for post traumatic stress disorder affects nearly 40% of women, with many being clients of mine. What I realised through my work was that traumatic or difficult perinatal experiences extended well into motherhood and parenting experiences and the processing was not only essential but extended further than many realised. And so, The Birth Debrief was born!

Why is it important for us to discuss how we are feeling and what we have gone through in pregnancy and birth?

Because it’s better out than in! Sometimes we keep things in but that means that often we don’t get the support we need because people don’t know what our ailments are. It’s also a way to stop people feeling isolated in their experiences and form relationships. Pregnancy and childbirth are massive experiences that although unique to each person, can be relatable in other areas. Birth experiences, consensually shared can be great conversation starters and a way to form bonds with others. 

Have you got any advice to help new parents validate their feelings?

If you feel it happened, then that in itself is valid and you get to have that. You start with internally validating them, once you have done that, it will give you the power to tell your story and validate your story with others and hopefully, in turn receive the validation you deserve. 

Is there a way to discuss your experiences with your doctor or midwife if there is no one else you feel comfortable to talk too?

Firstly write them down, once they’re written down you can go to your doctor and speak clearly about what is ailing you without getting overwhelmed and forgetting what you want to say. If you feel you are not being heard, do not be afraid to escalate or to see someone else. It is important that you don’t get silenced into ignoring what is bothering you out of fear of being a nuisance, if there was ever a time to be a nuisance it is then!

Do you think it’s beneficial to discuss your birthing experience with other new parents?

It can be extremely beneficial if the other person wants to hear it. It has to be consensual in the sense that I would advise not to trauma dump or to scare someone who is perhaps not a willing participant so it is always good to ask first.

Is there a method of self care you would advise to new parents struggling in postpartum?

The best form of self care in my opinion, is creating community and support, reaching out to friends and family so you know you have the support in order to access self care. Whether they are cooking for you, cleaning, holding the baby or even looking after the baby, every little helps.

Is there anything you think we should ‘normalise’ talking about in postpartum?

Pelvic health is very important as well as mental and physical health. Normalising post birth symptoms so that they feel less isolating and worrying for those who may be struggling.

Do you have any advice on how to mentally prepare yourself for the third trimester and birth?

The third trimester is generally where things start to feel really real. It’s also a time where your baby is doing a lot of growing and can be quite a physically exhausting time as a pregnant woman. So my biggest piece of advice is to rest. Resting will allow you to prepare in a calm and intentional way but will also prepare your body for birth and the postpartum period. If you are well rested you will have more in your reserves to manage labour and immediate postpartum. 

Is there anything we should be discussing with our birthing partner in preparation for birth and postpartum?

What your needs from them are in both situations. They might know what they think your needs are in general but it is always important for them to know what you specifically need from them, this gives them focus and the opportunity to care for you the way you want to be cared for. 

Have you got any advice on how to deal with triggers especially in a world of social media?

So my rule of thumb is, block, unfollow or mute. You decide, you have agency over who you follow or engage with and if something is bothering you, you can remove it from your immediate sight, be it temporarily or permanently. Most people who trigger you are not trying to trigger you, however that doesn’t take away from the impact what they have shared or said has had. So my advice is to make a decision that suits you in that moment. 

As a midwife, is there anything you think could be improved upon in the birthing experience for others?

I think the pandemic really through a massive curveball and highlighted many of the shortcomings in maternity services in the UK. The main things I would change would be improved staffing across all maternity services, the lack of staff is deeply impacting care provision and maternal experiences. There are many campaigns for this and hopefully our government will heed the demands and make changes.

If you would like to hear more from Illy about reflecting on pregnancy and redefining postpartum, she has recently published a book 'The birth debrief' which is available to buy here.