For a long time I could feel the scar in me, on me, but could not touch it. It’s not that it was painful, but more numb – masking a memory that ran too deep. Deep in the tissue…resonating from beneath.
In Australia, 1 in 3 women experience some form of birth trauma either psychological, physical or both. The birth journey, complete with ‘healthy new born child’ is often taken for granted, because in many people’s mind, once baby is born it is time to move on. This often detracts from acknowledging the process, the story, the meaning, that birthed that child into this world.
Unfortunately for many women (and men – I would like to investigate this one further in the future), the journey doesn’t just stop there, but can begin to Unravel with the memory of the experience, the story un-predicted, the events not gone to plan. I hear stories too often of powerlessness – being whisked away in an experience that couldn’t wait for thought or care, not knowing there was another way – something that couldn’t be helped or could it?
The questions begin to beat to a stronger rhythm as the story Unravels.
I recently watched floodwaters gather in a nearby dry creek bed. The waters emerged in a front that was slow moving, a shallow, slow moving body of water that would gather momentum in different places as there were depressions, small contours, tree roots and rock. The waters took form and shape around all in its path – moulding to what it needed to be. Heralding the journey out in front was a myriad of creatures – insects, fish, eels frantically suspended in the opposing forces – the micro breath between wet and dry. The momentum picked up as waves moved upon the top layers, creating undercurrents and whirlpools. The waters began to rise and soon the flood was moving with a primal power. Unpredictable, ever-changing, a new force for all in its path – flowing…Unravelling.
What so many forget to recognise, as we unravel subconsciously our stories, is that there is an effect and this seems to seep through into the life we have created. It changes the relationships with our child – the sacred bonding that is up for grabs; our relationships with our partners – unresolved anger, fear, frustration, regret, hurt, lost connection, from the scars that are numb below. It changes our relationship with ourselves – I wasn’t good enough, I could have done something differently, Why didn’t my body do what it needed to, What was standing in my way, What was my block, What didn’t I learn before that I should have, What is wrong with me, Did I just birth or was it taken from me? I didn’t get to feel the power, I didn’t get to touch the ecstasy, I didn’t get to be the mother…and yet there is this perfect baby in my arms – I am so lucky, so fortunate, so blessed…now I must feel guilt as well…Unravelling.
The Australian Birth Trauma Association defines Birth Trauma as:
A physically damaging birth processe which then results in life-changing psychological and social difficulties; psychological problems arising from the circumstances of the delivery (e.g. “wrong” location; pre-term; support people not present) or the process (e.g. labour too quick, prolonged, inadequate pain relief; feeling of loss of control; emergency caesarean section; concerns about survival of baby or self) including an ‘uneventful’ or satisfactory delivery from the professional point of view (mother and baby well; no physical complications), but traumatising for the woman as she feels unsupported or even misunderstood by the health professionals.
It is important to note here (as mentioned earlier) that Birth Trauma can be physical, psychological or both. Some women may experience trauma even though no physical bodily damage is present.
Also worth noting is that there are a number of risk factors that can contribute to the incidences of birth trauma if not worked through accordingly prior too, during and recently after the birth experience as outline below by PANDA, such as:
- Poor support from partner, family and/or health professionals during labour
- Previous stillbirth – we know that women with a history of stillbirth can be at higher risk of being anxious about the next pregnancy
- Previous sexual abuse – some aspects of labour or giving birth might be traumatic for survivors
- Natural tendency towards anxiety
- Perceptions of not being in control during labour and not knowing what’s going on
- Inadequate pain relief.
Issues arising from birth experiences can go on to embed themselves in a women’s psyche and indeed their physical body, creating trauma that begins to be attached to a woman holistically post birth – effecting consciously and unconsciously areas within her and her family’s life. Women are often left feeling confused and isolated around their birth trauma – added to this is a cultural stigma that appears to be held in terms of a healthy, happy baby – or an ‘alive’ baby, should mean we just get on with it and move forward.
What can you do?
Everyone needs to work through their own trauma in their own way. Grief and experiences need to be acknowledged and allowed for positive outcomes. There are certainly tools that can help this process and support one on their journey of Unravelling their stories. I have watched many women work through these stories and recreate their own meaning by finding meaning in the experience. This will be unique to each individual, but begins by first sharing our stories and knowing that the experience, although unique, is one that resonates with many others. By sharing our stories we can begin to Unravel them and make sense of them in the present, whether they are stories we have carried for years or stories that are new.
Birthing a child is a life changing experience, a rite which when marked and honoured in its uniqueness, can bring about a positive sense of power that women can tap into for strength, courage and resilience in future life events. Where this does not occur, then Unravelling can take place to support this connection/ reconnection to power for women.
Where do I go from here?
Bloom Wellness and Creation offers counselling face-to-face on the Mid North Coast of NSW and Nationally online via Telephone or Webconferencing. Get in touch to find out more information or to start a conversation.
…Creating Holistic Wellness
Ph: 0473 061 743