Sometimes unexpected events during childbirth can wound a new mother. The physical scars fade, but the emotional trauma can produce feelings of helplessness, shame and defeat. How can a mother process these emotions and even embrace them as moments of courage and strength, rather than weakness? And how can loved ones support mom during this important transition?
Healing from Birth Trauma
Please be advised, this transcription was performed from a company independent of New Mommy Media, LLC. As such, translation was required which may alter the accuracy of the transcription.
SHELLEY RAHIM: The birth of your baby is the beginning of your journey as a mother; an event that remains one of the most significant in your life. With each and every woman’s birth story, there are surprises. Moments those perplex a mother as she reflects back. Sometimes unexpected events of the birth can leave trauma, a feeling of helplessness or shame lingers. How can a mother learn to process these difficult moments? How can she learn to embrace these moments as acts of courage and strength rather than weakness? I am Shelley Rahim, and I am here to talk to you about the importance of birth story healing and birth story listening. This is Newbies.
KRISTEN STRATTON: Welcome to Newbies broadcasting from the Birth Education Center of San Diego. Newbies is your online, on-the-go Support group, guiding new mothers through their baby's first year. I'm your host, Kristen Stratton. I'm also a certified birth doula, postpartum doula and owner of In Due Season Doula Services.
If you haven't already, please be sure to visit our website at www.newmommymedia.com and subscribe to our weekly newsletter. You can also subscribe to our show through iTunes so you will automatically get new episodes when they are released. We also just released the Newbies app available on iOS, Android and Google play so you can listen to our shows wherever you go. Sunny’s here to tell us about other ways you can participate in our new show.
SUNNY GAULT: Alright, hi everybody, so we love hearing from our listeners. So if you guys want to send us any ideas for the show or want to comment on any of the episodes, you can do that. We love to get mail, also known as an e-mail from you guys. And then we read some of those comments on the show. And we have a couple of other segments that I want to tell you about. So we have a new one called the five-minute birth stories. We know new mommas out there love to share their birth stories. If it is something that you want to share with the world, we would love to hear about that. And so other moms can listen and benefit from that as well. As you can imagine, we have limited time to do that. So it’s something that you can do in five minutes, you can submit it to our website or through our voicemail, which I will tell you about in just a second.
And another one is called Baby Oops. So as new moms we go through and sometimes we do stuff that are kind of funny as we are taking care of our new babies. Sometimes daddy does it or mummy does it. But if you have a funny story regarding your baby that you want to share with our audience, you can submit for that as well. Go to our website www.newmommymedia.com and there is a contact link. So if you just want to e-mail us you can do that there. And I was telling you about our voicemail. No one’s going to pick up that phone, and it will go straight to voicemail. That number is 619-866-4775, if you actually want to share your story yourself with your own voice. So there are a couple of ways you can get involved.
KRISTEN STRATTON: Alright let us introduce our panelists.
SARA WHITE: My name is Sara White. I am 28 years old and I have two children. A son who is three and a half, and a little girl who just turned one. I am also a stay at home mom and a military wife.
ALISON GREG: My name is Alison Greg. I am 25 years old. I am a birth doula currently on maternity leave. I have a two-year-old son at home and another baby boy due in January.
CARA FURIO: My name is Cara Furio. I am 57 years old. I am a postpartum doula and a certified lactation counselor. I have two daughters, one 32 and another one 23. And I have three grandchildren from my older daughter. I have Atlas who is eight, Vera who is six and Clara who is 20 months.
KRISTEN STRATTON: Welcome to the show.
SUNNY GAULT: Alright so before we begin our show today, we have a news headline that I’m sure a lot of people are going to have some thoughts on. So here is the headline. China abandons one-child policy. So if you guys didn’t know, China was putting a limit on families, and basically said you can only have one baby.
This is a 35-year-old policy, and obviously very controversial as here in the United States, I’m sure most people think it is kind of crazy. I have got four kids, Kristen you have got three. I don’t know how you can stop at just one. But now they are talking about raising this ban. So just to give you an idea, China has 1.37 billion people in China. It is the biggest country in the world, which is why they wanted to put some restrictions on it so they could try to “take care of their people”. They aren’t saying when they are actually going to lift this ban. This is very ambiguous of them. But the reason they are doing it simply is it is part of their economic and social plan for the next five years. So basically they were strategizing and say, “Hey, we have far too many older people and not enough younger people to take care of our older people.” Not sure why they are just now figuring this out! But anyways I wanted to get you guys this input. They haven’t really laid out how they are going to unveil this. They don’t want everyone to take advantage of it. They don’t want this huge surge because you can imagine that could cause other problems. So in my head, I am thinking who do you tell, “You can have a second child now.”
CARA FURIO: It’s like potluck. The last names A through W. You may procreate other babies you may wait.
SUNNY GAULT: So what do you guys think about this?
KRISTEN STRATTON: Oh my goodness. There are so many, so many things that I could say about this. I mean, on the lighter side of things I would be thinking congrats everyone who is going to be allowed to expand on their family. But I mean this has been around since I think it was the late 70’s this has been implemented. So there a lot of really heavy things that were associated with this including abortions for sterilizations, abandoned babies. This is not a small problem that they created. It is not going to be a small easy clean up either. And that is an entire generation that was not produced. Of course, they are going to have a larger elderly population without a younger population to sustain and care for them. So I don’t think there are easy effects for this one. And I think this is going to be causing a lot of pain to the people that had to go either without having children or had to undergo medical procedures that they didn’t necessarily consent to. Or who had to do some pretty terrible things to not get into trouble. Sorry to be the downer. But it is a pretty heavy topic.
SARA WHITE: They say today’s problems are yesterday’s solutions. So they came put with these ideas in the 70’s and now they are saying that didn’t work out and now we have all these new problems. So they are going to change it like the way you said that they were going to have new problems. The first thing that I thought of was what this will do for dating. All of a sudden there is going to be men and women coming of age and more options because marriages have suffered a lot in China over the years because there are more men than women. And there are so many people and people aren’t getting married. They are just trying to get a house. And there is no place to live. And so it is going to change a lot in that country.
SUNNY GAULT: By the way 1980 is when they implemented this.
KRISTEN STRATTON: I was thinking 79.
SUNNY GAULT: You are close.
KRISTEN STRATTON: I am close. Ok.
CARA FURIO:: I am actually excited for the lifting of the policy. I have known many people from China. And in fact, I have several families that I have worked with that are from China. And I think the people there would be very happy. One of my thoughts is that this will probably be offered to the educated populists first, because, they are probably trying to raise the education level. And who knows, maybe they are running out of farm workers too. As more people have flocked to the cities to work at the factories. I’ve known people though that did have two children in China. And the way they did is that they paid the officials. If you had money, you could have two kids. Other people had their children and sent them to the United States to relatives. So there were ways people were getting around but it typically had to be somebody of wealth to get around the issue. So I think it is phenomenal that they are lifting it. And now that they are trying to become more modernized too, they have realized they have to come out of the dark ages. And in order for the other countries in the world to want to deal with them, they have to lift the oppression on the people.
SUNNY GAULT: Hope for the future. Alright, Thanks for sharing everyone.
KRISTEN STRATTON: Today on Newbies we were discussing birth trauma and what can we do to begin our journey to healing from it. Our expert Shelly Rahim is a doula and Birthing From Within Mentor and birth story listener. Thank you so much for joining us Shelley and welcome to the show.
SHELLEY RAHIM: Thank you for having me.
KRISTEN STRATTON: Shelley, what is trauma? And how are women experiencing trauma during childbirth
SHELLEY RAHIM: Well, there is physical trauma and there is emotional trauma. And the type of trauma that I am trained to address is the emotional trauma. So I basically took the definition from Pam England. Pam England is the author for Birthing From Within. She trains childbirth educators and also she trains us to help women to heal from birth trauma.
And what she says is anyone who gives birth or witnesses a birth, this could be the birthing mother, the father or the birth attendant can experience emotional birth trauma. They may feel deep sadness, regret, anger, shame, grief, blame, numbness or disappointment about events that happened surrounding the birth. And while some people avoid thinking about some parts of the birth, others mentally replay moments over and over again wondering what should have been done differently. They may try to sort it out on their own or just brush it off. And while talking about it and swapping stories or venting with similarly wounded moms may provide temporary relief, these approaches do not bring lasting resolution or healing.
KRISTEN STRATTON: And can women experience trauma only if she has had a much-medicalized birth or can home birth and low intervention birth moms also experience the same degree of trauma?
SHELLEY RAHIM: Well it is really not about the outcome of the birth. It is not about whether you have a natural birth, an un-medicated birth or a cesarean birth. What really makes a birth have those elements of trauma are those lingering moments of disappointment are really the story that the mom is telling herself about herself because of those moments are happening.
For example, a woman who really wanted an unmedicated birth but because of unforeseen circumstances decides to get the epidural could look back on her birth and feel like that was the traumatic moment she considers herself weak for. Whereas a woman who really went into her birth experience not wanting to experience a whole lot of pain or maybe she was in a lot of pain and she was actually suffering. She was really suffering in that pain and she gets that epidural. And then she is able to embrace the experience and really release and rest and enjoy the rest.
Then that epidural for her is the most peaceful moment. That’s her moment of joy. That she is so proud that she made that decision so that she could enjoy her birth. So it is so individual for each woman. I was reading something else that I read from Pam England, and she that for women who have cesareans, a lot of times repeat cesareans, they have had a cesarean before and they are really hoping to avoid that again. Often times the trauma that woman experiences is already happening even before the birth because what it is. So Pam England says a woman was traumatized before the cesarean because she had a set of beliefs about who she would be if she had that cesarean. So she was really trying to avoid that and it happens again. She already set herself up hoping to avoid that again. Does that make sense?
KRISTEN STRATTON: So why is birth trauma such a well-kept secret in our society?
SHELLEY RAHIM: Because a lot of mothers they themselves don’t really know. So women in general or people in general and the public care providers, even doctors, we go to our doctors or midwife postpartum. It is really hard for people to sit and just to witness someone’s pain. To listen to their pain, to listen to their story, we want to fix it. We want to make them feel better we aren’t comfortable just listening to people in their pain. And we don’t know how to listen. So we really aren’t trained on how to listen. We haven’t learned from our elders. Lot of times our parents and our grandparents maybe they aren’t the greatest listeners. They didn’t learn how to listen. So how to listen and how to validate something that is we are lacking in our society?
In order to not go there, we will instead try to offer quick advice. Well at least have a healthy baby. And we are not intended to mean with well-meaning. The intention is really good. But what it does is it kind of undermines the woman and she is like, “How selfish of me to think about my emotional state at least I have a healthy baby. So it is hard. So the reason why it is swept under the rug is, I think is a systemic problem. We don’t know how to really sit with our own pain. When we have wounds, we don’t like it or it does not feel good. We don’t know how to heal our self. So how are we going to sit with somebody else who is wounded and offer them medicine? We can’t because we haven’t found it for our self yet. And I feel that comes from; a lot of times we don’t have good mentors or elders in our life to show us how to heal.
KRISTEN STRATTON: So how does it affect our ability to mother our children?
SHELLEY RAHIM: What I mentioned before is how you give birth if you have a lot of expectations on yourself before giving birth and you come out of that experience not meeting all of your expectations. Others have not met them. Then you can often time come away with guilt and shame. And if a woman has guilt and shame about her birth experience that can naturally flow over into how she… this is her entrance into motherhood so how she parents or how she mothers. Or she might overcompensate feeling that she did not offer the baby the right entrance in the world and had to make that up somehow. So it can really affect how we parent and how we mother.
KRISTEN STRATTON: And to our panelists. When did you realize that you had experienced some trauma in your birth? Did you know right away or did someone else see a change in you?
ALISON GREG: I knew immediately that something wasn’t right. I was planning on natural un-medicated birth, took the childbirth education classes, and I was ready to go. And the moment the when the anesthetist walked into the room and told the nurse instead of telling me that I needed a cesarean, that was when I knew that something was going to be wrong that point on.
Then to touch on what Shelley had mentioned earlier on mothering I do feel I carried over postpartum as well. And I knew when I go home from the hospital that this isn’t how it was supposed to be. I knew it was going to be hard, it was going to be rough, lack of sleep but I didn’t expect it to be as hard as it was. And I feel like that it had stemmed from feeling like I had failed myself, I had failed my husband, I had failed my unborn child by forcing him into the world earlier than he was ready.
SARA WHITE: For me it was really several months later when the other people who were attendants of my first child’s birth, my parents and my birth coach, my husband, when we were swapping stories about that night a lot of them said there were probably things that happened we won’t tell you about, because it would be too traumatic. And I thought, well I was there, I know what happened and I wanted a natural birth and we ended up using forceps and vacuum and that’s not what I wanted but I had told myself I had had a healthy baby so it’s ok. And everything is fine and here we are all happy. But other people seemed to think that it was a really traumatic experience. And two years later preparing for the birth of my second child was when I really became aware of the trauma that I had been experiencing and had not at all dealt with. When I was preparing for the birth of my second child and thinking about how the first one went, and just telling myself over and over again that it was wrong and everything went wrong. Nothing went how it was supposed to go. I didn’t do anything right. I didn’t stand up for myself, I did everything wrong. And then preparing for this next baby wasn’t going to go that way. I was going to do things right this time. And then this tremendous guilt that oh sure this baby is going to have a great birth experience and that I want to remember and treasure it like mothers are supposed to. But my son’s birth I don’t want to talk about. I don’t want to think about it, I don’t want to bring that up again. And I felt guilty that; that’s how I remembered about my son’s birth when I was going to have a better birth this time. That is when I realized that I must have experienced some trauma that needs to be dealt with before this baby comes along.
SHELLEY RAHIM: So it’s really amazing how the trauma is stored in our body in a self-preservation type way. Pam England talks on her blog about ‘The nine birth story gaits’. Basically, we go into these different phases in order to just cope with the distress of a being a new mom with the baby and figuring it all out. We have moments of the birth that was just too much to handle. It kind of just goes dormant for a while so that we can stay focused on the task at hand. Like caring for the baby and healing. So that is one of the natural phases of understanding the emotional aspect of our birth experience. A lot of times but it would resurface just like what you said when the body started to approach that again. It is stored in the cells of the body and it comes up again and that’s when we need birth story listeners. That is when you want somebody to go, “Why am I thinking all these about myself.” Having all these feelings and blaming myself and feeling so much guilt, and that’s your own healer and you seeking how to figure this out before the next birth. That’s what I was saying; we need birth people who could listen and help women shift when they are at that juncture where they are ready for deeper understanding.
KRISTEN STRATTON: What is the common connection between the cesarean and vaginal birth mothers? What connects them with regards to their difficult birth stories?
SHELLEY RAHIM: The common connection between any kinds of birth, whether it is home birth, un-medicated hospital, medicated hospital birth or a cesarean birth is what the mother tells herself about herself after she comes out of this experience. It’s the self-belief. So she could either come and say, “I am weak, I failed.” Like Alison said, “I failed myself. I failed my baby.” Or she could go, “Wow! I really am strong. I am amazing under all the circumstances that I went through. I am a birth warrior.”
KRISTEN STRATTON: When we come back we will continue our discussion about healing from birth trauma. We will be right back.
KRISTEN STRATTON: Welcome back to the show. We are talking to Shelley Rahim about healing from birth trauma. How can women find safe and supportive places to share their stories; maybe someone just to listen and willing to share so that they do not feel alone?
SHELLEY RAHIM: This is a really big question and I kind of have a two-part answer. The very first tool that I would love for women to have going into the birth experience is understanding that they are their own best healer. But they need a good support person who could help guide them back into their own inner healer. So one of the most important aspects of giving birth and getting through that whole ordeal is being able to integrate and process that birth afterward. But like I said, we don’t have our elders, we don’t have the strong men and women in the tribe anymore that know how to walk with the woman through that experience and help her to find the medicine inside of herself. So, first of all, she understands that when she gives birth, there is going to be surprises, there is going to be unexpected moments and Alison said that she knew it is going to be difficult and challenging. But for real, and, when you come out of this, it is absolutely imperative for you to journal, to process, to write this out and get it out on paper, maybe when your baby is taking a nap, just steal away for an hour and write. And when you write you need to have questions that are going to guide you into the medicine, into the soul lessons. Because a lot of times when women write down their birth stories, they are like first the water broke, and then this happened and then that happened. And that’s ok, that’s good to document the linear details of the events of the birth. It’s usually the safest place to start.
Then you go deeper. Then it’s like the emotional stuff comes out. And that’s where it needs to just stream your conscious writing. But then just go back to the list of questions. Again these questions such as questions I took from Birthing From Within type of training. Questions such as, what did you do that was amazing, or how did you get through that most difficult moment, what was your favorite moment at that whole birth experience, how has giving birth and becoming a mother changed you. So these really deep thought-provoking questions will guide a woman into her own healing. And then the second part of the best way to help a woman heal after her birth, whether it is even, it is not just the women who have really difficult births, but women who even had a really good birth. There are soul lessons in there that needs to be extracted so that we can become the wise mothers for our children. And so finding somebody who knows how to listen. So the way I have been trained with Birthing From Within, is like a one-hour session that you do that helps we help you go to that place within you. There are people in our community who do that. The other thing that is good to do is, if a woman has a lot of like post-traumatic stress syndrome like she has really got a lot of stuff, you can go to Postpartum Health Alliance, in San Diego, and they have actual therapists too. Also, there are for the woman who has cesareans the ICANs the International Cesarean Awareness Network is a good support group. And then there are also resources, such as Pam England has a blog, where she talks about the nine birth story gaits. So you understand what you are going through a little bit more deeply. And then the other thing is there is a book called the ‘Labyrinth of Birth’ by Pam England, where she has a process to help women integrate their birth story in that book.
KRISTEN STRATTON: And panelists, when were first able to feel safe enough to share your story?
ALISON GREG: For me, it wasn’t whether or not I felt safe but it was how I was processing my birth story. I did write down my birth story after it happened but like a choice that was very linear, like this happened and this happened and this happened. So I felt I understood my birth story to a certain extent in chronologically how it happened. I didn’t really get to the point where I realized I needed to process it emotionally until I went through the “to labor doula training”. It was a whole weekend and it just made me realize that there was so much emotionally that I hadn’t processed. And so after that training that is what triggered for me to, start seeking the emotional support that I needed. In my doula training, I actually met Shelley. It was so coincidental I guess. A couple of weeks later, I took a workshop with Shelley, I spoke with her afterward and I did wind up taking a birth medicine class with Shelley. And it was a start for me for really be able to process emotionally and really and get to the core of what hurt, what was wrong, what needed to be fixed. And it was amazing moving forward from there. I just feel it's a step forward from there since then.
SARA WHITE: Again for me, it was a lot longer after my son’s birth. At first, there really wasn’t anyone to talk with and the people who were closest to me, my husband, my birth coach who is my good friend, my mom and dad were both in the room. When my son was born, they all absolutely experienced trauma from that birth. And those were the people I would have turned to, and they were unable to be there. They were all experiencing their own trauma. And most of them were really-really angry about the way the birth went. So I didn’t want to bring it out because it made people angry.
And at that point, I was still at that place where I was still taking care of my baby and going, “Wow he was healthy, everything is ok.” And so I didn’t want to bring it out and upset people. And it was really when I was preparing for the birth of my second child, my daughter, we knew my husband was going to be deployed and not there for the birth. So I wanted to hire a doula. I wanted someone who is there for me, kind of being that standing dad for me. And when I met with Christian, who was my birth doula that was when I really said I am going to take this opportunity to talk about what happened last time. Because I didn’t want it to happen again and it was through interviewing her and our prenatal appointments that I was really able to have someone who could listen and understood births, had seen birth trauma and could help me prepare for my next birth by dealing with some of that anxiety and that fear that was absolutely coming in from the memory of the first birth.
CARA FURIO:: Absolutely, as the postpartum doula when I meet with families even during the interview phase, I have asked them about their birth experience. And lots of women are hesitant to talk about it as they have been told to stuff those feelings down. You have a healthy baby that’s all that matters. And so over time, I encourage them to talk about their story. I encourage them to let the emotions out and process. And it frustrates me that our society that the society tells people to stuff their emotions down. As a doula and as a person I am one of the first people when I know people have suffered trauma, go over them and hug them and allow them to grief. I think that is really important.
I addressed this issue actually on my Facebook page just this past week and I know some of you may have seen it. Where I had read somewhere in our community and I won’t mention it. They were looking for only positive birth stories for people to share. And that really annoyed me. I mean it is wonderful to have the positive birth stories because we need to know that positive birth experience can happen. However, what about all these women who have suffered the trauma of difficult birth experiences. I mean I know I hurt myself personally 32 years ago I hemorrhaged as a result of the Dr’s mistake. And I was angry and with my second birth that didn’t go the way I wanted it too either and she is 23. And I desperately wanted to have a third child so I could birth my way.
It never happened so I still walk around with a chip on my shoulder that it never happened. But one of the ways I heal is by helping others mothers heal. And I have taken some of Shelley’s workshops. And they are phenomenal. But to really learn how to listen, it’s a real task and I myself need more training because my own traumas sometimes come out when I am working with other moms.
SARA WHITE: Yeah, it’s really interesting you shared because now that I am in birth work, I asked my mom about her birth stories. And I just think about my grandma who had seven children back when they were doing their twilight sleep. And I just think like Shelley was saying, we don’t have others to because they are traumatized. They have birth trauma. So we just really as a culture need to listen more.
CARA FURIO:: I can’t imagine what it must have felt for my mother to be knocked out when she gave birth to all five of her children, and not even see them till the next day.
SARA WHITE: And then raise them.
CARA FURIO:: Yeah.
SHELLEY RAHIM: And here is a little tip about how to listen from Pam England and Virginia Bobro again, my mentors and greatest teachers in life. So in Birthing From Within we learned to listen with our five ears. Actually, we turned it into six here in San Diego.
CARA FURIO:: It’s good, it’s extra special. Special here in Birthing From Within in San Diego.
SHELLEY RAHIM: First we have the ear in our mind. That’s the first ear in our mind, which listens to the details such as, the linear details. Then we have the two ears in the side of our head, which can take in the word, content, more of the details. The mind is processing in a linear way. Then we have the ear in our heart that listens and hears the feeling behind the words. Then we have the ear in our belly, and that ear is kind of like that wise woman ear. That can hear; that grandmother, that great-grandmother beneath those words of suffering can hear the past, can hear the future, can really have a bigger picture of what’s really happening in this woman’s life when she is talking, where she is coming from. So that’s that gut ear.
So and then we have what we call here in San Diego, the bone ear. Like this ear in our bones that we can listen and we can hear the woman’s her own medicine that she has inside of her when she is speaking and asks the rights questions to direct her to that. Listening with the six ears is a good skill to develop.
KRISTEN STRATTON: Shelley, how should moms react to loved ones, friends or strangers who may see her hurtful things even unknowingly, which may be a trigger?
SHELLEY RAHIM: Well the first thing is to remember that the positive intention of the person who said the words. Remember that most people aren’t comfortable with their own pain. And so they can’t sit with other people’s pain. They just ask, how was the birth, and they can see in your face, and in your voice, they can hear that this isn’t going to be good. I shouldn’t have asked whatever they are thinking, right. And then they start to get uncomfortable. And so we can remember that what they are saying is they are trying to help or they don’t know how to respond or they just say whatever they can. But what we can do instead of saying, “Well at least you have a healthy baby.” And the problem with that is that unknowingly it negates the emotional journey. And the emotional journey is really is equally as important as the physical journey, so that yes the baby is alive.
But if the mother is emotionally devoid, then it is going to cause long-term problems for that family and even in our culture. So there is a really good quote, again, I am referencing “Birthing From Within”, Pam England says “when a storyteller comes to sort out their story, she is in a problem-focused mindset. Of course, if she could hear her story in a new way, and find new meaning and build her own solutions, she wouldn’t need to come talk to somebody with six ears. And so when the storyteller and the story listener are in problem-focused mindsets, no healing or change can come from the story session. Only commiseration about the problems.”
So when a woman starts to say, “Oh Gosh, you know then that doctor was just speaking to me so rudely. And I felt completely demoralized.” She is looking at that problem. And in if respond and say, “Yeah God, they are such jerks the doctors are.” You know whatever we want of it . . . We are trying to kind of validate her but were really kind of joining in a non-solution type of a mindset. So if we can instead if we listen to a woman and she starts talking about her birth and we can sense oh this is kind of going somewhere that I am not really comfortable with, the best thing that she can do is just listen with compassion in eyes. Look her in the eyes, and look at her with compassion and love. And just listen.
And then, if you want to do more than just listen then all you have to say is, “Wow.” And then if you really want to do more than that, just say, just validate her and say, “You went through a lot. That’s a lot.” And if you want to go farther than that, if you can handle it, then try to ask the solution-focused question. When she was talking about the doctor who was verbally abusive, “Wow, what did you do? How did you get through that moment? What did you do to survive that? That is really intense.” And that gets her thinking what did I do! I mean I survived. It was hard but what did I do. And then she thinks well I closed my eyes and I just breathed and I sent love to my baby and she figures out, like, oh my God, I did something. And what she did is absolutely heroic. So those are just a couple of things that we can do when we notice a woman is sharing her story and we start to go oh! This is kind of intense.
KRISTEN STRATTON: Panelists have helped you cope and begin to heal from your births.
ALLISON KOENIG: I feel like my coping was really getting out there and trying to find the support that I really felt like I needed. So I reached out to, the ICAN, I reached out to Shelley after I met Shelley to really start working on that emotional aspect in really beginning to heal. It was really just a lot of focusing on, myself and this isn’t how I wanted to be feeling. This isn’t the kind of mom that I want to be, and this is not what it should be like and just trying to kind of go within myself and see what I could do to make it better. So I am in therapy now, talking to a therapist and especially with number two on the way, maybe number two on the way. It’s been a lot of going back and focusing on the birth experience again and kind of moving forward saying, now with the second baby what are we going to cope and to heal. And be ready for the second baby. And I feel like a lot of that comes from just talking about my last birth experience and knowing that I have supportive women in my community that are going to listen. And instead of giving those least kind of solutions, they are going to say, Wow. I’m sorry that has happened to you, but thank you for sharing that story because that’s what you want to hear. That is exactly what you want to hear to cope and to start healing.
SARA WHITE: Yeah absolutely great! For me, I’m a big talker. I like to talk and I like to be heard. And that’s what really helped me to cope because so much of my birth was not what I wanted and out of my control. I didn’t get what I wanted and I hemorrhaged and I wasn’t able to nurse. After only a few weeks, I can remember, crying on the phone to my mom. Six weeks postpartum my husband and my mom said, well we can give him formula, he is healthy, it is going to be fine, and I said that is not the point. It is not what I want. It doesn’t matter that he is healthy. This moment to me all that matters is I am not getting what I want. I want to nurse and I’m not getting what I want. So when I talked about my birth story, when I started to heal from it, just getting to speak my piece was a big part of taking back my power from me. With saying I am going to tell my birth story, I’m going to tell it the way I believe that had happened, the way that it feels that it happened to me. I am going to say what went wrong and I am going to say what I can do differently next time because that helped me to feel in control again and to reframe the telling of the story in my mind.
Because like Shelley was saying the trauma is the story you tell yourself. And you have plenty of time to play it over and over again in your mind. Especially when you are up all night with that new baby, and you can really get it cemented in there in a really nasty negative way. So being able to tell the whole story and look at it. And say, yeah this is what went wrong and that sucks but we can do things differently this time and that’s okay. And it has changed me but it doesn’t have to define how I move forward. So being able to speak my piece about it and say I didn’t get to control it but I can get to have my say about it, I get to have my feelings about it and I get to be heard about it was what really helped me to move forward.
CARA FURIO: Oh! I’m blown away. My comment is I just want to scoop both of you up in my arms and hold you and let you just cry on my shoulder and tell me your story and hold this space for you. I do. Your stories bring out the nurturer in me and thank you for sharing.
KRISTEN STRATTON: Thank you for sharing.
SHELLEY RAHIM: Can I read a quote another one by Pam England. And this is actually from her book ‘Labyrinth of Birth’ – “Self-love and forgiveness are keys to healing. At the time an unwished-for event happened, you were already immersed in it. You may have been exhausted, afraid and overwhelmed by having to make decisions. You wanted to do the right thing, the best thing. Or perhaps you just wanted to end the intense experience. Consider this that on the day you gave birth, at the moment this unwished for event happened, you did the best you could be based on everything you knew at that moment. Based on everything life had taught you up to that moment, you did the best you could. And the only thing you could do at the time based on who you were in that moment. The profound mystery of birth, including how your birth unfolded as it did can never be completely understood by the mind. The mind can come up with theories but it can never fully explain why anything happens.”
KRISTEN STRATTON: Wow!
CARA FURIO: Profound!
KRISTEN STRATTON: Thank you so much Shelley and our lovely panelists for speaking with us today about healing from birth trauma. And for our Newbies club members, our conversation will continue after the end of this show. Shelley will share some of her favorite ideas for birth story art. For more information about the Newbies club, please visit our website www.newmommymedia.com
SUNNY GAULT: Alright so we have a new segment here on Newbies, and this was actually inspired by something that we read on Facebook. And it is a great story that I am going to share with you guys in this second. We are calling this segment ‘Helping Hands’, because so many times we as new moms, we take our babies out in public and you know we are just so nervous about everything that could happen, that people are going to give us those crazy dagger eyes the moment our baby cries or does something that isn’t appropriate. And we have been noticing there have been more positive stories coming out of people who are overlooking that or doing something to really help new moms in the transitional period. So this story, we found on Facebook and Heather posted it and this is something involving Southwest Airlines. This is a really good experience she had. So this is what she says,
“Dear Southwest, I am hoping you can share this post so that I can be sure that it finds its way to a very special Southwest flight attendant. All I know about her is that her name is Anisse. My husband and nine-month old son were flying from Fort Lauderdale back home to New York. And this was my son’s first trip. So we weren’t sure how things would go. Anisse went above and beyond to make sure that the trip went smoothly as possible. I have never had a flight attendant as kind and as helpful as she was. My son adored her and kept looking to her as she passed by. At one point she saw that he was looking for her and getting ancy so she came and picked him up and walked him up and down the aisle with him while my husband and I ate our lunch. Although this may not be a story that stands out from the rest, I want to thank her and let her know how appreciated she is. We so often hear about the negative things going on so I wanted to share this story of someone who made my trip a little brighter. Please help this get to her!
So not sure if Anisse is listening but Heather we really do appreciate you posting this. There are some really good stories out there. So if you have been part of an experience where someone really lent a helping hand to you when you were out with your baby, we would love to hear about that. We need to hear more stories like this, right? So if you want to submit for that, you can go to our website. And there is a grey button on this side of our website. And that is the way you can submit your voicemail directly through the computer. Just use the mike on your computer. So click that little grey button and it will walk you through a couple of quick steps on how you can do that and then we will share those stories on our future episodes. So Heather, again thanks for that and thanks for giving us permission to use it. We hope to hear more stories like this in the future.
KRISTEN STRATTON: That wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to Newbies.
Don’t forget to check out our sister show:
• Preggie Pals for expecting parents
• Parent Savers for moms and dads with infants and toddlers
• The Boob Group for moms who breastfeed and
• Twin Talks for parents with multiples.
Thanks for listening to Newbies. Your go-to source for new moms and new babies.
This has been a New Mommy Media production. The information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. While such information and materials are believed to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, medical advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified healthcare provider.
SUNNY GAULT: How would you like to have your own show on the New Mommy Media Network? We are expanding our line-up and looking for great content. If you are a business, or organization interested in learning more about our co-branded podcast, visit our website at www.NewMommyMedia.com.
[End of Audio]