by Erin Newton, LCPC
Last spring, I ran the first of what I hope to be many birth trauma therapy groups here at Wellness & Company. It was a great success, with four ladies taking a huge risk in being real and vulnerable and sharing not only their birth stories, but also their fears, worries, and feelings of anger, guilt and shame. It was a humbling experience for me, watching these women come together to share and lean on each other to do the hard work of processing their traumatic birth stories.
When we were advertising the group, I spoke with many women who were interested. One of them contacted me to discuss if it was the right fit for her. During our conversation, she said, “I think I’m doing ok. I mean, I still cry everyday and I have flashbacks sometimes – moments where I feel like the birth is happening all over again – but I really think I’m ok.” This was a huge red flag for me! This mama thought that her reaction was normal!
And why would she? Birth in our culture has become something that is supposed to be scary, right? Attend any baby shower and you will find lots of women more than willing to share horror stories of their own birth. When I was pregnant with my first child, I had many women offer the same advice of, “don’t be a hero – get the epidural,” along with stories of tearing, emergency c-sections, partners passing out in the delivery room, and of course, the horrors of breastfeeding.
So when moms come home after being traumatized by their birth and they can’t stop crying or thinking about what happened to them, why would they think of it as anything but normal?
The thing is, it isn’t normal. That isn’t to say that it isn’t common – 1 in 3 women (up to 34%!) report feeling traumatized following their birth experience. That rate is higher than that of men and women who return home from war. You read that right –
So why aren’t we talking about it? Why aren’t we screaming about it? Well, because we don’t know what we don’t know.
So besides crying frequently and feeling as if the experience is happening all over again, what are other signs of birth trauma that moms and their loved ones around them don’t recognize?
One that I feel is often overlooked is “checking.” Some moms with birth trauma find themselves checking on their baby obsessively or even waking their baby when he or she is sleeping to check that they are “ok.” They may be afraid to do other things while their baby sleeps, feeling instead like they need to stare at them to make sure they’re still breathing. They may have other irrational fears about their baby’s safety, such as them getting sick or swaddled in a way that could cause harm. They may feel so jumpy that sitting still is next to impossible or they may startle at small noises.
We call this symptom “hyper-vigilance” and it means that you are on edge, easily startled and often so worried about your baby to the point of having trouble functioning in your everyday life.
Worrying about your child can be normal (every parent does, especially new ones!) but worry that severely interferes with your life could be a sign that more is going on. Oftentimes, this fear comes from enduring a traumatic experience where you felt like you couldn’t keep your baby safe. If you felt afraid for your life or the life of your baby during your birth experience, this pull to protect your child now that you have more control can be very strong and oftentimes, lead to irrational thinking.
What are the other possible signs of birth trauma? To read the complete list, sign up for our newsletter and receive “The Top 10 Signs of Birth Trauma” for FREE! Our newsletter is also the best way to get updates from our practice … because we’re also very excited to announce that a REBIRTH e-course and a REBIRTH e-book for practitioners will both launch this year.
If any of this sounds like you, you are not alone. You could be suffering in a very real and important way and you deserve to get the help and support that you did not have before. The Rebirth therapy group might be the right place for you! If you’re still not sure, sign up for the newsletter, look through the other signs that you may have experienced birth trauma and see if any of them fit.
We also welcome your calls and questions to determine if the Rebirth group is a good fit! Come join us at the Rebirth group and start to heal!
With hope for healing,
**Rebirth is a birth trauma therapy group designed to help facilitate a conversation about birth trauma, postpartum depression (PPD), and postpartum anxiety by exploring topics such as anger, depression, isolation, guilt, and shame. The ideal audience for this group includes mothers who feel they have experienced trauma and/or who feel that they exhibit signs of PPD or postpartum anxiety as a result of their birth experience. Through a blend of psychoeduation, mindfullness exercises, journaling, experiential exercises and talk therapy within the group, group members can begin the healing process of their birth experiences.
The REBIRTH group is lead by Erin Newton, a licensed clinical counselor, a survivor of birth trauma, and a candidate for PMH-C certification, a standardization of training and experience for perinatal mental health specialists. The group meets on Thursdays from 6:00-7:30 and begins April 2nd. The group will run for ten weeks (skipping Thursday, April 9th), and will end on Thursday, June 11th. Contact Erin at email@example.com or call 570-689-8130 to register.