After reading about the messed up context of birth, and where the feeling of being traumatized comes from, you may be really ready to start healing from your emotionally traumatic birthing experience and you don’t know where to start.
There are excellent resources for healing emotional birth trauma, and I want to make sure you know what’s out there. I am not the only one with answers, and the answers I do have are a result of the answers that other people have offered. The resources below are affordable (ranging in price from free to $200 dollars, as of publishing date), and are excellent as individual resources — but I do think something’s missing. I’ll explain at the end, where there’s also an important announcement!
- Rebounding from Childbirth: Toward Emotional Recovery by Lynn Madsen From the point of view of a traumatized mother (who happens to be a therapist) who offers her own story and asks questions at the end of each chapter to offer the reader space to consider their own feelings; deeply committed to the work of emotional healing. She is aware that self-love and self-work is the key to a different experience in the future — whether we choose to have more children or not.
- Heal Your Birth Story: Release the Unexpected by Maureen Campion Available as both a paperback and kindle edition, this book is close to my heart, because it encourages the same method that I found so useful — and the one I teach in my own book: writing. Maureen Campion is a family therapist, and encourages you to feel your feelings deeply, including and especially rage. She includes notes for women who have lost their children (though warns that deep grieving work first will probably be most effective), as well as partners and practitioners who have witnessed traumatic birth. There are 11 stories included in the end part of the book — including the author’s 3 births.
- Healing The Pain of a Traumatic Birth Experience by Nicola Hogg A mother and a psychotherapist, Nicola Hogg too became interested because of her own experience. This is an incredibly quick read that suggests activities you can do in your own home. The first part of the book focuses on her story, so be careful if birth stories of trauma trigger your own trauma. Kindle only.
E-Courses & Coaching
- Mindfulbirth Wellness Program: Supporting Your Recovery from Traumatic Birth This is a wellness program by a therapist based in Ireland — some of her recommendations, such as getting a debriefing from an independent person to explain your medical file, aren’t readily available in the US (though apparently are in Ireland, the UK, and Australia!). However, overall, it’s an excellent program that offers authoritative information on screening for problems, some exercises to try to see what works for you, and a wellness plan that includes daily routine, nourishing yourself, becoming aware of when things aren’t going well for you, and especially triggers for your disassociation and trauma. She also encourages you to join her facebook community — and this is all free, and always available at your own pace.
- Healing Traumatic Birth Circles — by the Sacred Living Movement’s Sacred Loss This approach to healing from traumatic birth is soul-centered. It emphasizes creativity and the mysteries of creation as well as ritual and gathering a sisterhood. The schedule for when this course happens is irregular, but will be announced on their facebook page several times before it happens. (The Sacred Living Movement was founded by Anni Daulter after she was inspired to make her book Sacred Pregnancy into a retreat and class series — if you’re interested in using creativity, beauty, and ritual to ponder important questions and reach your full potential, check it out.)
- Birth Story Medicine by Birthing From Within There are two options here — you can either learn about the process of Birth Story Medicine in an online course, or you can choose to find a Birth Story Listener to whom to tell your story. Birth Story Listening is a laser coaching session, focusing on the meaning you attribute to your story, and how to go from feeling like a victim to feeling like a warrior. This is very much an idea that inspired me, and I use some of Pam England’s explanations and terminologies in my book (with proper citations!).
- Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth (Website | Facebook) PATTCh’s website is very basic in terms of information, but their Facebook page is consistently on top of the latest news and analysis from around the internet on the subject of traumatic childbirth.
- ImprovingBirth.org (Website | Facebook) This organization is behind the Labor Day Improving Birth rallies across the United States and World. They’re supporters of the Exposing the Silence Photo Project, as well as the best place to get information about filing a formal complaint with your hospital regarding your treatment in childbirth and legal options (including emergency legal). See also: Birth Monopoly, a project of the Vice President of ImprovingBirth.org, Cristen Pascucci. Her Birth Monopoly Facebook page reports on her advocacy across the country on improving birth.
Transforming Maternity Care, a project of Childbirth Connection Childbirth Connection and their project Transforming Maternity Care is what I would call “grass tops” advocacy. They’re located in Washington D.C., and they have the ability to engage the power brokers (insurance companies, government agencies, professional associations) in the discussion of improving childbirth in the United States, but they don’t seem to provide much of a way for individual mothers to engage in the problem.
What’s Missing, then?
I believe that full recovery from traumatic birth includes several things.
You need to be able to normalize the trauma, place yourself within a context, where you’re aware of the factors that were always out of your control — and also that you were not the only person who was victim of those factors. The books I’ve listed do a good job of providing this normalization by offering up the author’s stories as a point of reference, thus allowing the reader to begin to see that we are not all alone in our suffering. The courses I’ve listened put you with other women who have experienced similar things, so that you can look at each other and say, “I am not the only one.”
After we realize we are not alone, we need to take the power out of the emotions we’re feeling so they can’t hurt us anymore. We need to feel emotions, and process them, and be held in a safe place so that we don’t need to return to our state of frozen numbness. The courses I’ve listed do an excellent job of holding that space, teaching us how to care for ourselves so our emotions aren’t so overwhelming, and begin to discharge the emotional energy that’s keeping us stuck in one place.
To heal, you need to be able to change the way you tell your birthing story — our birth stories are, in many ways, unspeakable. They’re unspeakable because they’re unpleasant and they’re unspeakable because people don’t want us to tell them. But in order to move from a place of shame, we need to tell our stories — first to ourselves, and then to other people who care for us and have earned our trust. Again, the books and courses are great resources to begin this process — they have questions for you to think about, they have exercises to help you. But they don’t “hold the space” for this — there is no space to write within these books, particularly if you’ve bought them electronically. (And I love to buy electronically because I want to start addressing my problems with reading right away).
We also need to be able to tell our birth stories to a wider society, so that the context of birth changes. If we are able to speak about the horribleness of our stories with the conviction that we are not the sole cause of our own pain, then we can make strides to change the system. This is why I included these advocacy groups — they are absolutely essential to our healing, to know that the suffering we’ve experienced has made a difference somehow. But the advocacy organizations aren’t necessarily providing emotional help for women who have experienced trauma (though they are providing important context, as well as legal redress and policy advocacy). Women who have experienced trauma want to prevent other women from experiencing trauma — I know I do, that’s why I wrote my book and why I’m blogging now. Women need a path to advocacy.
So, what’s missing? All of these elements in a single place.
Transforming Birth Trauma Will Be Launched March 22, 2016
On March 22, you’ll have access to my book, in PDF format — delivered nearly instantaneously — which will:
- Provide a context for your birth trauma, so that you know that you’re not alone
- Allow you to feel your emotions and process them safely, both on the page…
- AND in the secret Facebook group that will be created for readers to allow them to interact with others who are on the same journey
- as well as coach you through your own role in being part of the change in the birthing system — with small, yet powerful actions
All in one place.
If you’re interested in an excerpt from Transforming Birth Trauma, to start getting a taste of all of this in one place, I invite you to click below. This PDF contains two tests to determine if you’ve experienced trauma, and the most important next step. AND you’ll be among the first to know when the whole book is available for purchase.
Click below to receive The Transforming Birth Trauma Excerpt and start reframing your pain into something positive today.