In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.

Less and less is done.
Until non-action is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering.

Tao Te Ching

Friday, September 2, 2011

Healing to Maximise the Birthing Experience

Hi Everyone,

Sorry its been so long between posts. I've been extremely busy with the business of parenting and homeschooling my 3, 6 and 15 year old children and reading up on lots of fascinating birthing stuff!

The reading I've been doing specifically relates to the impact life experiences have on the mother's feeling of wellness and comfort before, during and directly after the birthing process. I have been looking in particular at birth experiences for survivors of childhood trauma and abuse, and anxiety felt by women going into second and subsequent births who have had a negative experience in the past.

Literature on these issues is relatively sparse, but I have come across a couple of sites of interest such as a doula support site which has sections for women in their childbirthing year who are survivors of abuse and professionals working in the field.
This site appealed to me for it's accessibility and non-patronising compassion for the women it's designed to assist.

The most practical/relevant book I found was written by Penny Simkin (childbirth educator, doula and author with over 30 years of experience in working with pregnancy and birth). When Survivors Give Birth: Understanding and Healing the Effects of Adult Survivors of Early Childhood Sexual Abuse on Childbearing Women is available on her (linked) website, at Book Depository and Amazon.

There are numerous complications for those survivors of childhood abuse who have not viewed and healed from their experiences of powerlessness and trauma. These issues may involve trust in medical personnel during examinations etc, lack of support/experience in setting healthy boundaries in the birthing process, a pervasive feeling of shame around their bodies and acute discomfort in discussing common symptoms of pregnancy (such as vaginal thrush, haemorrhoid's etc) with careworkers, and discomfort with the concept of breastfeeding and physical closeness.

I am aware that these issues are not limited to adult survivors, and of course all survivors of childhood trauma don't experience these symptoms, but the literature is clear that they are of heightened concern in these circumstances.

Another contributing factor to anxiety during labour that I've come across regularly in literature and interpersonally is a prior negative experience in giving birth and birth 'horror stories' told by other women which frighten expecting mothers (see my post on Birth Trauma Groups).

I know personally that after my first, highly medicalised birthgiving experience, I felt extreme trepidation when I thought about becoming pregnant again. The way I worked through my fears was by using rebirthing to relax and desensitise myself to the negative impact of my memories (psychological and cellular).

Eventually, with the help of a skilled rebirther/breathworker, I was able to embrace the experience of the birth and see the beauty in birthing the amazing baby I had delivered.
It seems incredible that something as simple as breathwork healed me and prepared me for a calm, relaxed birthing experience with my next child, yet this is what happened. My second child was born in an environment that I chose, with music, water and refreshingly free of unnecessary medical intervention (see My Waterbirth Story for Jay's birth). In short, I learned to trust my own ability to deliver my baby in the way women have been doing for thousands of years.

There are many ways to heal from these experiences, I chose rebirthing because I have seen it work many times as a client and a practitioner. Also because the nature of this therapy allows for the healing of our own birth experiences if that's what we need to do. This can have a direct physcal and emotional impact on how we birth our own children.
Danae Brooks makes this point in her book Nature Birth p105.....

Professor Elizabeth Fehr (researcher/psychiatrist at the Institute of Natal Therapy in New York, early 1970's) believed that once an area of obstruction had been pinpointed, the obstruction could be released. By using what she called 'Natal Therapy' (Rebirthing) to help people recall their birth experiences, she herself could see the area in which they became 'stuck' or obstructed during labour and delivery.......... If the rebirthing is done under affectionate relaxed circumstances, the adult is also freed from having continually to act out his/her birth traumas, because this time there is no anaesthetic, no instruments, no interference, but a loving welcome.
Writing this post, I am reminded once again why it is so important that as a society we acknowledge the impact of individual experiences of women during times of pregnancy, birth and early days after baby is born and support mothers and babies wherever we can.

Talk Soon,