My Birth Story
Even though the birth of my first child was 11 years ago, I still remember the shame I felt when I was not able to follow my “birth plan” as expected. I felt paralyzed with fear from each step that was progressing before my eyes…Pitocin, epidural, he’s turning sideways, C-section, feeling the pain of the incisions. I didn’t understand why staff were coming into the room and whispering to each other or “dealing” with me from a place of frustration. I wish someone would have just been honest and told me, “Hey this is what we need and you’re going to be okay.”
My birth story is mild compared to others. And yes, we now know that “birth plans” are not always a helpful tool for new moms. During that 36-hour event, I felt I didn’t have a right to be upset that everything opposite that I wanted to happen, was happening. I admit that I was uneducated and unprepared for the turn of events, but it is difficult to prepare for something as unpredictable as giving birth.
Even after my son was born healthy, which I am so grateful for, I felt that describing his birth as “stressful” or “traumatic” was not appropriate. The antiquated way of thinking is often still felt in delivery rooms and within our culture, “It’s just childbirth; it’s supposed to be hard…get over it.”
Your Birth Story
What is your birth story? It is a question that mothers discuss once they are at the other side of their experience. For so many of you as mothers the “perfect” birth experience often appears much differently than what is depicted on tv—a woman screaming and pushing, while her husband is by her side and a team of smiling medical professionals surround her. Often surgical interventions and unsupportive, overstressed staff are highlights of many women’s stories.
Studies show when women with preexisting psychiatric conditions are actually supported by staff during labor, their birth experience can be less traumatizing. These studies also show that if woman had prior histories of trauma, especially childhood abuse, they would view their birth experience as more traumatic. Findings indicate that even if “plans” go astray, women are much more likely to view their births as positive if they felt supported by staff (Elizabeth Ford 2019).
How to Deal with an Unpredictable Birth
As a therapist that focuses on perinatal mental health, I see so many women blame themselves and feel guilty because the experience didn’t go as they had hoped. They often tell me that they feel like “failures” or they let their babies and husbands down. I wonder what it would be like if our society embraced the warriors they are--women out there right now in delivery rooms, fighting to make a better life for their children. With outdated thinking about childbirth, it is no wonder why women feel a sense of overwhelming guilt and remorse when societal expectations imposed on them are not met.
You are a warrior! I understand that talking to a therapist during your adjustment back home with a new baby can seem overwhelming, but support can be your oxygen. Therapists can help you process and understand your birth experience. We need more compassion for ourselves. We need support to heal. We need to share our experience and grieve together. We need to be understood and listened to, not judged. We can help.
How Trauma Treatment for your Birth Trauma Can Help
Processing your traumatic birth event with EMDR can be helpful by feeling relief from symptoms. Common symptoms could be: increased anxiety, periods of panic, ruminating thoughts, intense crying episodes, feelings of guilt and shame, all of which feel impossible to redirect.
What is EMDR? It stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Basically, it is a trauma reprocessing therapy that uses a fast back and forth movement of your eyes to allow adaptive information into neural networks that hold trauma. Using EMDR with recent trauma can provide faster relief because the recent trauma is not consolidated with past traumas. It desensitizes the disturbing memories of your birth experience and allows you to see the episode without the lens of blame, shame, guilt or distortion.
If you have questions, we can help. We offer a Postpartum Support Group and have therapists who specialize in perinatal support. Together we can rise above the silence and shame that is your birth stories. We can find courage together to support and change old-fashioned views. It all starts with your warrior self. I witness such resilience, strength, and courage in all the woman that I work with. I feel fortunate that my training can provide some relief, so you can rise above, accept, and recognize your strengths. It is time to find support and stand together.
How We Can Help
We are currently enrolling for our postpartum support group.
Explore your emotions, share daily challenges and feel less alone in motherhood.
For moms up to 1 year postpartum who are ready to go from feeling lonely and overwhelmed to connected and understood.
If you are looking for general support, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how we can help you, follow these simple steps:
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Other Therapy Services Available at Catalyss Counseling:
Here at Catalyss Counseling, we want to meet all of your counseling needs in the Denver area. Our supportive therapists provide depression counseling, therapy for caregiver stress, grief and loss therapy, stress management counseling and more. We also have specialists in trauma and PTSD, women's issues, pregnancy and postpartum depression or anxiety, pregnancy loss and miscarriage, and birth trauma. For therapists, we can also provide clinical supervision! We look forward to connecting with you to help support your journey today.
Kristen Dammer believes in addressing the whole health needs of you as a person, and her dedication, creativity, and flexibility as a therapist are her greatest strengths. Her holistic approach to anxiety, grief and trauma helps you feel in control and creates a welcoming environment for you to share your vulnerabilities, fears, and experiences. She is trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and uses it to treat anxiety and trauma. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.