If giving birth was a bad experience for you, know that you’re not alone.
While childbirth is meant to be this magical, amazing experience in a mother’s life, many of us don’t come away feeling that way about it. In fact, the Australasian Birth Trauma Association notes that 1 in 3 women describe their birth as ‘traumatic’. Huge!
With so little research and awareness available about how to deal with the shattering blow of birth related trauma, many women are left carrying it around unacknowledged. But Nadine Richardson – childbirth educator, doula, and creator of the She Births program – believes that sharing our birth stories may be one way to help.
“It’s so common to hear the words ‘my birth was traumatic’,” she says. “Why? Because it is f*cking intense! You come out of it feeling shell shocked. But over time that does start to dissipate.”
Stories open our hearts
Nadine advocates for listening to positive birth stories in the lead-up to labor. Hearing about positive experiences of birth – even ones where the birth didn’t go to plan – allows the brain to rewire any automatic fear responses to the thought of labor and birth.
Post-birth, it’s equally important to share our stories – as much to encourage other moms as to ‘unburden ourselves’.
“Stories open our hearts,” says Nadine. “It’s the most ancient way to learn.”
If you feel like you can’t share your birth story, perhaps it’s because there’s a lot of emotion attached. Sharing traumatic experiences may make you feel rage, fear, sadness, disappointment – anything. It’s real, raw, and sometimes scary reflecting on these things.
But acknowledging those feelings is a good first step towards recovering from birth trauma.
Sharing our experiences helps us process
Nadine notes the importance of the postpartum period in coming to terms with your new role as a mom. The weeks after birth provide space to debrief, ideally within an understanding community. And while you’re probably still in a daze in the weeks following birth, trying to figure out WTF just happened, she shares that “most women need to tell their story eight times before they start to create a consistent narrative”.
Sharing your story (over and over) allows you to process what you’ve been through. When people tell you their (very unhelpful and often quite alarming) birth horror stories, Nadine suggests that “they’re just projecting and debriefing themselves”.
So what if you can’t seem to process it? What do you do if your trauma doesn’t start to dissipate over time?
If you find yourself increasingly distressed talking about your birth or even thinking about it, Nadine suggests bringing in a psychologist or doula to do a proper birth debrief. They’ll be able to ask you the right questions and help you move through your traumatic experience, so you can accept what’s happened and celebrate what your magnificent body has just done.
Storytelling plays a role in healing from trauma
Clinicians often use storytelling to assist with healing from trauma. It’s a powerful way to help you come to terms with things – for yourself, your partner, and anyone else who’s been impacted by a birth.
There’s got to be something powerful in talking about our birth and motherhood experiences. Think about how many books there are on the subject! Writing your story may help you heal, as it’s done for so many other women.
On the other hand, Nadine loves when new moms talk in person. It’s why She Births offers a 6-week ‘Matrescence Embodiment Program‘ which provides “ample time to process your birth, talk about your baby and share deeply about the things that really matter”.
New parent groups, which are organized by many local councils, were designed for the same reason. And they can be a great place to score some new mom friends too.
We’re forever learning from our birth stories
Can we ever really be fully healed from birth trauma?
It probably depends on what your definition of ‘healing’ is.
Will you be the exact same person you were before giving birth? Probably not. But giving birth and awakening into motherhood is such a significant life shift that this is expected.
Physical and emotional healing may be achieved by working with your healthcare team. But your birth story will probably stay in your mind forever. Not necessarily in a bad way, though.
Nadine says, “I don’t know if you ever process your birth. 20 years on, I’m still learning from mine. But it doesn’t have to be ‘perfect’ to be beautiful. Sharing your birth story is a process of awakening. We’re all on the road together.”
So hear this, beautiful mama:
If you’re walking around with that deep, heavy weight of trauma inside of you, sharing your story may help you move through some of that. You don’t need to deal with this alone. Your village is here for you. To listen and hold space for you. A lot of us can relate to where you’re at, too.
Just be mindful that this article shouldn’t replace good advice from your doctor or psychologist on how to deal with trauma or psychological issues. Get some professional help if you need it. It’s such a brave and awesome thing to do.
If you’re up for sharing your birth story – comment below. Or better yet, share this article on your socials, talk about your experience with birth and tag us @mumliapp
Expert contributor: Nadine Richardson
Nadine is the creator of She Births® – the World’s only scientifically verified antenatal course. She has shared the unique methodology, where science + soul come together, with over 6000 families. Nadine is a mother and has been a childbirth educator, labor assistant (doula), and prenatal yoga teacher for over 20 years. She lectures and runs workshops for midwives, doctors, and health professionals. Get your Free She Births® Pregnancy Guide at shebirths.com