In part 1 of the 3 keys series, I focused on the importance of choosing a care provider that shares a similar philosophy of birth with you. In this post, we discuss the second key in creating a positive birth experience.
Key 2- Doing Work Towards Personal Growth and Trauma Processing
We all bring experiences, beliefs and feelings unique to us as we start down the road to having a baby, and no one makes it through life without some hard times. What I have found is that pregnancy, birth, and parenting are some of the biggest opportunities for personal growth in this lifetime. What you have struggled with in life will show up in the birth process, usually x 100. What tends to be the issue that you have struggled with throughout your life? Is it people pleasing, feeling invisible, needing to be in control, unable to voice your needs or be heard, playing the victim, anger, feeling like everything is a struggle or fight, etc? An example would be someone who is afraid of confrontation who is put in a position where her provider promised things during prenatal visits and then changes their mind for no apparent reason and insists on doing things differently. The woman doesn't want to make anyone angry or have the nurses dislike her or think she is a troublemaker, so she doesn't ask questions or decline unnecessary procedures. She goes along because it feels safer. She may be left with lingering disappointment and guilt. Doing personal work on the behaviors that no longer serve us can be immensely important in improving the level of satisfaction women feel with their birth experience. There are ways to plan for situations in which we need support or may have a hard time making decisions. A knowledgeable, independent (not affiliated with a hospital) child birth educator or doula may be able to help with this. Discussing behavior patterns with a counselor or therapist may also be beneficial.
One in four women (possibly more) have a history of abuse or assault. For women who have experienced childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence or a traumatic previous birth (25-34 % of births), these experiences can bring up unexpected emotions and fears during pregnancy, labor, and birth. Even if you feel you have dealt with your experience, the intense physical and emotional nature of pregnancy and birth bring up memories or emotions that often present in some way. Unresolved emotions and experiences can affect the length of labor, tolerance of labor, ability to give birth vaginally, and/or the ability to comfortably breastfeed. There are ways to minimize the impact of these previous experiences, and create strategies to gain safety and control where it may feel like there isn't any.
Some ways to begin preparing for birth after abuse or trauma are:
1. Finding triggers and coming up with strategies to prevent or minimize their effects. I would highly recommend doing this with someone trained in supporting abuse survivors so that you don't go into a fear filled or triggered state without tools or support. (Someone who has taken this course may be especially helpful)
2. Finding a trauma informed care provider whose practice is based on shared decision-making
plays a vital role in healing from abuse or trauma.
3. Being able to set boundaries and have them respected. A trauma informed care provider can help with this. Also check out more about boundaries and how to set them here.
4. Consider energy work for trauma resolution. All forms of energy work can help calm the nervous system and begin to help fears rise to the surface to be released, but I have found those trained in this type of energy work specifically for birth trauma to be especially helpful.
5. Finding a professional for counseling to work through and process fears and feelings that come up during pregnancy, labor and postpartum.
6. If you have had a traumatic birth, consider finding a birth professional or counselor who is knowledgeable about birth to go over the medical records from your birth.
Having a baby is an experience that all woman and childbearing people will remember for the rest of their lives. Surrounding yourself with those who support you and the experience you desire as well as supporting your mental and emotional health is vitally important to how you will see yourself as a mother, a woman, and a partner. You deserve to enter into parenthood as the healthiest, most supported, and emotionally prepared version of yourself you can possibly be. Working through past personal behavior patterns and previous abuse and trauma is one key to improving your birth experience.
-Tiffany Hoffman is a trauma informed midwife, doula, perinatal massage therapist, and Reiki Master Teacher.