Healing Strategies for Traumatic Births
Updated: Apr 9, 2019
Let me start with an offering in the form of a poem:
I am sorry. I am sorry that what is a sacred, spiritual, glorious moment was not what you expected. Maybe you had uncaring health workers who left you feeling inadequate, broken, humiliated, worthless...Maybe you were ripped of control or safety as emergencies took over what was suppose to be the most beautiful moment of your life...Perhaps you were separated from your babe after the birth...Whatever happened, I am so sorry.
And today I honour all of you who are left confused and aching after the gates of labour and delivery have closed. Your bones are back in place, your uterus is small again..but your heart aches, as it hangs on to the thunderous birth to gain understanding. And simultaneously, it reaches forward to hold your child's hand. It is exhausting...
This entry is for you, to give you hope; because there is hope. After trauma, there is tremendous opportunity for growth, transformation and healing. Here are a few guidelines to help you on your journey.
1. It takes time. I always say it is like peeling the layers of an onion. You might feel a shift, a wisdom or a freedom and months or years later, the trauma resurfaces. You have reached a deeper layer. If you follow your gut, you will get to where you need to go. If you allow space for healing, healing will occur. Your mind and body are set up for healing...That is where you are going.
2. Write your story. Use feelings in the writing. Talk about how each event made your feel, what you were thinking, why..etc. Writing helps transform physical memories into words and helps you begin to process the event while starting to make meaning out of it.
Here is a resource:
How to Heal a Bad Birth by: by Melissa J Bruijn and Debby a Gould has some guidance on this and many more things.
3. Do art. Play with play-doh, clay, water-colours, finger paints, poetry, journalling, music and song. The finished product is of little importance. The process will be therapeutic and will bring you wisdom. After you are done creating, always take a moment to reflect on what has shifted.
Here is a resource:
Pam England's Birthing From Within book has lots of great examples and exercises for this.
Also see my blog post: https://www.empoweredcounselling.ca/blog-and-resources/how-to-create-healing-art
4.Listen to your body. Get connected to your body through spontaneous movement, yoga, dance, walking, breathing, progressive muscle relaxation...etc. Sit with your physical sensations when you are remembering. Here is a great video that can help you learn to lean into sensations of the body.
If this approach attracts you, I invite you to read Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine and look for a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner in your area.
5. Create Rituals. What do you feel you need? Perhaps you could do a re-birth, an opportunity to re-create the birth experience you desired. Maybe around the anniversary of the birth (a common trigger) you can do a special ceremony to honour your experience. Here are some ideas of healing rituals: reading your birth story to your family and friends, walking through a threshold while acknowledging what you've lost and gained, healing lovemaking with a partner, vaginal steaming, writing the birth story with your child (once he or she is older), chanting, song writing and performance, foot bath.... Basically anything can be made into a ritual, from showering to having your evening cup of tea. It is all about the intention and awareness you bring to the experience. Make it your intent to heal, move forward, transform, re-claim and strengthen from your trauma.
6. Talk to others present at your birth. This will help you 'thicken' the story. What else happened that you don't remember? Was there another way of looking at the experience? (I do NOT mean to try to invalidate your truth. Your truth is unquestionable. Rather, I invite you to get more information to ADD to your truth. For example, maybe you felt you were extremely passive and not assertive enough but your partner remembers you asserting yourself despite your pain..etc. You can also go through birth records with a professional to see if you can gain some understanding.
7. Complain if you feel you need to. Write a formal complaint to the place of birth. Usually they have a formal process that is quite easy to follow. You can also work with a birth complaint doula: https://complaintdoula.com/?fbclid=IwAR3KKp_YJPAc8bFwkqNv_sPYZRWPFqOHeMbEIUqlXitp0XqaZHICHdZPGWc
8. Pace yourself. With each step, each layer of the onion, each rose petal fallen, you are getting closer to realising how bad-ass and strong you are. While this will remain difficult, and in some ways a negative memory, you will feel whole and integrated again if you honour your experience by taking time and steps to process it.
9. Talk to a professional! Birth trauma is a huge passion of mine due to personal experience and my feminist standpoint. Please reach out if you want my support. Otherwise, I know wonderful colleagues who could support you as well! Be in touch.
May the sticky mud that has weighed down your heart begin to dissolve so you may shine freely again.