Healing Your Birth Trauma: An Expert Shares Information on This Silent Struggle Women Face.
We talked to Maureen Campion, MS LP, about birth trauma. Maureen is an expert in birth trauma and relationships, psychologist, and author. Maureen shared with us an excerpt from her book “Heal Your Birth Story” to help us better understand what birth trauma is, and how we can find healing and wholeness again. Here is the piece that Maureen shared:
Birth is a defining experience.
Growing a person inside your body is transformational. First they look like a blob, then a fish, then a chicken. Then the chicken grows hair and fingernails and you know that it is part you and part him but that it is also something totally new and rare. Part of the consideration to allow this foreign creature to inhabit your body for nine months is the very chilling thought that what goes in, must come out. There is no denying it. The baby has to come out. Before names and onesies, there will be a birth.
Women prepare for birth. Some spend hours on the internet. Some take classes and diet and do yoga and meditate. Some deny and ignore and bury their head in the sand… but they too are preparing. Women want their birth to be safe. They want their baby to be healthy. They want their experience to be uncomplicated and predictable. They don’t really expect it to be painless but they want to be brave and dignified as they face the pain. And for most women, if they could, they would have it be beautiful. Soft and serene and peaceful and loving and magical. That is how we picture birth. That is how they sell it.
Prepare, get ready, be brave and you get to have a beautiful, safe, manageable birth. For the vast majority of modern social media mommas, within days or weeks of having their babies, they post a birth story. A birth story has become part of the ritual. Your friends expect to hear the story. We count hours and sometimes days, compare stitches and interventions. We share Apgar scores, birth weights, and breastfeeding struggles.
There is a dark side to birth. There are the stories that are painful if not impossible to tell.
2-6% of U.S. women experience full blown Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (a mental health disorder shared with combat soldiers and rape victims) following childbirth and more than twice that number report feeling traumatized by their birth experience. Each year at least 200,000 U.S.women have a birth story that isn’t easy to talk about, that doesn’t fit the rosy picture they expected.
I never heard of birth trauma in school. I had never read a book about it. I actually had never heard the term before I was pregnant for the third time. 10 years ago I asked my friend Susan Lane for her help in finding a birth provider who could help me to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) at my AMA (Advanced Maternal Age – 38). Susan was an experienced doula. I had actually been at her first doula birth of my nephew 4 years before. It was the first birth I had conscious and awake for since the day of my own birth. I told her I wanted a vaginal birth and needed her help. Her first question – “Have you done any work to deal with your birth trauma?”
We hadn’t talked much about my first birth but I must have told her something. I remember that I rolled the term “birth trauma” around in my head for a moment or two. Birth trauma? And then I burst into sobs. Oh – I had birth trauma.
So the journey began. When Susan named my pain, she also offered me access to healing.
6 Steps to Healing Birth Trauma:
1. Be patient with yourself. Healing takes time. Give yourself permission to feel however you feel. No judgement.
2. Try journalling or letter writing or art to tell your story, first just for yourself.
3. Find someone to share your story with, a close friend, a trusted therapist, a support group, your partner or a family member.
4. Each time you tell your story, you get a chance to process the feelings in your own way, at your own speed without the trauma. Re-storying your birth allows it to move safely into the past.
5. Be mindful of birthdays. Sadly birthdays are also the anniversary of your rough experience and often, mother’s push their memories away in hopes of having a great day for their little one only to be overcome with their own emotions. Be gentle with yourself.
6. Healing your birth story doesn’t mean you forget what happened. It doesn’t mean what happened becomes ok. It means the story of your birth becomes an integrated part of your life, a celebration of your strength and the tough lessons learned on your journey to motherhood.”
Birth trauma is something that not many women (even women who are struggling with it) know about. This leads many women to suffer in silence. If you know a woman who had a complicated birth, please share this information with them. Help them know that they are not alone in their feelings, and that they can find healing from their birth trauma.
About The Author:
Maureen Campion, MS LP
Maureen is a licensed psychologist and relationship expert. She specializes in the early years of parenting and building securely attached families. Through her weekly newsletter Notes from a Marriage Geek and workshops she offers inclusive, research based marriage and parenting education. She turned her personal birth trauma experience into a passion for guiding couples through their healing and is the author of Heal Your Birth Story.