One third of women will describe their births as being traumatic. This is a startling statistic that you shouldn’t be okay with.
A freshly born mother, getting acquainted with her newborn, learning breastfeeding through sleepless nights has enough “newness” to be leaning into. Throw in the happenings of a traumatic birth and that’s a whole lot more that mumma and birthing companion have to contend with. Sadly, up to 1 in 10 women will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
We mustn’t be fooled, birth trauma doesn’t just affect mothers. In fact, it does impact on birth companions and dads.
Let’s get really clear. Birth Trauma is defined by whatever the mother or birth companion defines it as. There is no “threshold” or “scaling” system to define what birth trauma is. Why? Because we are all unique individuals experiencing completely unique births. What may be defined as completely okay by one mother, may also be defined as traumatic to the next.
We mustn’t be fooled, birth trauma doesn’t just affect mothers. In fact, it does impact on birth companions and fathers as well. One in seven mothers and one in ten fathers will experience Postnatal Depression. Does this surprise you? It should shock all of us.
The ranging factors of what can lead to the identification of a traumatic birth are so wide and varied. This is what can make it difficult for a mother or birth companion to express exactly what went on. Sometimes, on a conscious level they don’t even know. However, on a subconscious the body always knows.
I came across Birth Story Medicine back in 2017 (feels like a lifetime ago). I had just begun a new group of HypnoBirthing couples. It wasn’t uncommon for me to have at least one couple who had experienced a previous traumatic birth and who were seeking the tools to move into their next pregnancy and birth with more ease.
However, on this one occasion I found myself completely lost for words when I was told of the previous traumatic experience. With tears and many sobs from this mumma, I found it hard to put to words what I really wanted to say.
I began researching my options. How could I be a better educator? What is the appropriate thing to say when someone has experienced trauma? How do I make things better rather than worse? All these questions and so much more. Perhaps you have asked these questions before as well.
I came across Birth Story Medicine. A non-invasive approach to beginning the healing process following a traumatic birth experience. I was in.
The training was in the United States, so each week, bleary eyed me would awake at 2am(ish) in the morning to attend the zoom learnings. In the weeks and months to follow I worked with many women including countless follow up sessions using the process as I learned the varying levels of trauma.
In the end what this gave me, was the tools to work with others, to know that it’s not what you say to either make something better or worse but rather, how you hold the space for the expression of disappointments, angers, frustrations and sadness to come forward. I learned it was more about being present than what not to say.
With tears and many sobs from this mumma, I found it hard to put to words what I really wanted to say.
What is Birth Story Medicine?
It sounds a little bit like something you might take, like a tablet or tincture. This isn’t the case. Instead, it is a beautiful process in which the person who has experienced the trauma can begin to put the pieces back to together.
Birth Story Medicine utilizes the traditional method of Kintsugi from Japan.
This is where they will take a vase that has been broken and instead of throwing it away and disregarding it, they put the pieces back together. Piece by piece, gently, precisely and slowly a new vase begins to emerge. Better than the one before.
The beautiful thing about Kintsugi, is the glue used to piece back the vase. Ordinarily you would think to use a clear glue, something that won’t be seen and hidden. In Kintsugi a beautiful gold glue is used, so you can see exactly where the cracks and crevices are.
I absolutely adore this analogy.
Kintsugi and Healing
To put the above in perspective, when undergoing a Birth Story Medicine session, you will begin to pick up the pieces of your story, one by one and examine them. See how they have shaped your thinking, how they have affected your life and how you want to be living. Then slowly but surely those pieces get put back together. Not to be hidden, but highlighted as part of that journey.
During a one hour (face-to-face or online) Birth Story Medicine Session, you can expect to be heard, truly heard. You can expect to have the space held for you while you express what you need and while problem solving through the process.
I have immense respect for this process and those who wish to dive in deep and look at the unknown, scary and underlying traumas that led you to read this.
For those of you who are experiencing the tumultuous aftereffects of a traumatic birth, I am sending you loads of loving energy and support. If this blog has triggered you in any way, please reach out and seek support. If it isn’t through this process or you require immediate support, the Lifeline Hotline is open on 13 11 14.
You can expect to be heard, truly heard.
Where did Birth Story Medicine come from?
Pam England lives in the United States and is a midwife, author and artist. Pam developed Birth Story Medicine as a way to help so many who have experienced Birth Trauma.