Surrender – Pregnancy & Trauma
Yesterday I had the wonderful (and exhausting 😂) opportunity to introduce my business and services to LaunchPad Members x3 times.
The experience brought some beautiful connections and some triggering “marketing suggestions” from a woman who seemed very interested in my work and mentioned that she really would have wanted something like the postnatal/ Mom focused birth processing workshops/ coaching that I offer. “You should tell their stories and get them to share their experience with you!”
The women I work with have experienced abuse, been demoralised, pushed into medical procedures they did not want and in many cases being told that how they feel and what they went through doesn’t matter because they have a healthy baby.
The idea that these women, my clients, should publicly talk about a taboo subject that is still vastly downplayed and denied is heartless, unreasonable and repulsive to me. Women who find their way to me are looking for space and support in exploring the depths of the sadness and grief that this experience has caused them. They are processing the change in how they see themselves, the medical community, their relationship with their spouse (“He just stood there.” “He wasn’t even there.”). And I am not going to turn their pain and process into a marketing ploy to sell you or anyone my support or as more oddly suggested, give people an idea of how I work. I have thought about it though and will share some stories that are more than 7 years old from my time in Stuttgart…
Every client is different.
A very wound up Italian Mama with a strong devotion to the Hare Krishna Movement was being scheduled for a second unwanted c-section due to breech presentation. I spoke to her about Krishna. I quoted the Bhagavad Gita and spoke of letting all attachment go, that she is being divinely guided and that there are many techniques for flipping a breech baby. This greatly calmed her and made her feel more connected to herself and spirituality. For the next two weeks she routinely did the exercises, her baby flipped and she sent me glowing messages after that she had had a healing “normal” delivery.
Ignored and Shamed
I did not speak to my Colombian Mama about Krishna… She went to the hospital in labor but they refused to admit her as she was not “far enough” dilated. One thing you must know is that birth is unpredictable, labor can pause at any time and all of a sudden race forward. In many cases, it is directly linked to how a mother feels (perceived threats and fear can stall the birth process as the body is getting the message that she may need to flee or fight, and giving birth now is not safe). Anyway, she knew she was in labour and stayed in the hospital waiting room for hours, quietly labouring. “In my country, if women are loud when they are in pain, they are thought to be dramatic and are ignored.” So she laboured alone in silence. At one point she went up to reception unable to cope with the pain any longer “I cannot take it anymore and would prefer a C-section at this point.” The nurse chastised her and called her husband, who had gone home, to mock her publicly. “Your wife says she is ready for a c-section!” He said, “Well have you examined her at all?” When they did, they could see the baby’s hair and he was born minutes after.
With her I walked. We would walk through the woods, to the playground and we were mostly quiet. There were things she didn’t need to say…that she wished her family would come, that her husband wouldn’t need to be at work all day and could keep her company, that the people in our town were friendlier… We sat under trees and breathed through the sadness, the loneliness and walked, walked, walked. It is a horrible feeling to sit home alone, missing people, longing for them. Nature is a loving presence and sometimes it feels better to be moving, than sitting alone in an empty house. She knew she didn’t want anymore children – and somehow, life does that to us…to try again. It was hard for her to process that she will be going through this again, that her husband was accusing her of infidelity as she found out while he was away, that she was alone again. Sometimes, we need to just be allowed to let go of what we are holding onto – knowing that the person we tell will never mention it to someone we know. There is so much pressure to be happy and judgment when we are not…
I have taught prenatal yoga for many years. In Germany, where 1-2 children is the norm, many women were in class during their first pregnancy. One of the Mamas there was pregnant with a Rainbow Baby. Her last pregnancy had ended at 7 months, when the baby had died without any identifiable reason. In that case, the mother still needs to labor and birth this baby and support during this time so important. The rest of the women in the group were clearly triggered by this story, worrying about their unborn babies. Being spiritual, I brought the focus back to everything being a journey and that we don’t know how long or short it will be. We always have right now, and right now everything is good, calm and as it should be. Breathe into that.
Healing from infant loss becomes harder when people in our lives judge, blame or in some way punish the mother for not delivering a healthy child (or male child, especially in Asia). The woman’s feelings are all over the place “Who am I now? I was going to be a mother, is that what I am now? My body failed my child…” Her self-image needs to be recreated anew, ideally with support.
A different German mother was aggressively cut during an otherwise uncomplicated birth, causing severe nerve damage to her entire pelvic floor. She lost all control of her bladder and bowels. The pelvic floor clinic instructed her to “tense the pelvic floor muscles.” “I cannot feel my pelvic floor, it is not possible for me to tense those muscles.” None of the women in the clinic had given birth before… In the end she took a lot of their literature and came to see me. We worked with synergistic muscles – there are muscle groups that activate the pelvic floor at the same time, so regardless if you can feel it or not, you are working your pelvis floor even without Kegel’s. She was able to regain full control over her bladder and bowels through daily exercise. The body is amazing and constantly looking to heal itself.
These are obviously some of the worst cases and these clients I only see 1 on 1, as in a group setting telling these sad and traumatic stories can trigger anxiety and post traumatic stress symptoms (mentally and emotionally checking out & reliving your trauma) in other women in the group. Their stories and feeling need to be heard and honoured though which is why private sessions are available.
In postpartum group workshops to integrate the birth experience, we use techniques from art therapy, self-massage, journaling, singing/ chanting, Family Constellation meditations (especially in the case of infant loss), relaxation techniques, Life Story re-writing, and whatever else the group is open to as there is a lot I have explored on my healing journey(s).
The prenatal and postnatal classes are movement based classes with a few relaxation based exercises. We do a brief check-in circle and anyone can make a request to work on certain area of the body or more/ less intense poses today, etc. We are a flexible group.
- Birth does not need to include violence or abuse for it to be traumatic. There is a lot going on, fluids, pain, sounds, lots of people, possibly lots of interventions (which are sometimes necessary). Feeling out of control and not knowing how to help can cause an experience to feel traumatic.
- Medical intervention is necessary in rare cases. Ultimately women’s rights, desires and requests should be respected. The maternity ward is the most profitable ward of the hospital – you are not sick in need of treatment, you are having an experience and would like self-directed professional assistance.
- Birth very often is a wonderful and transformative experience. I just happen to work on the darker side, helping women move back towards their light and joy.
- Everything in this post is my personal experience and opinion. It does not constitute medical advice.
- I do not judge how you choose to birth your child. What is important to me is that you felt empowered and supported in making your own informed decisions and that they were honoured.
- Labor and Delivery Care in any setting is a Service. As such you, the client, should have the right to choose and decline whatever is available from their menu of offerings.
- Lastly, I am not a medical professional or licensed therapist. In the case of severe symptoms please seek the support of professionals who also have the ability to prescribe (temporary) medication and will be covered by your healthcare provider. I am just a wise woman.
💖 Find my Current Yoga Schedule and Real Time Updates on my IG @susan.mcginney. Send me a message via DM or through this site to schedule your FREE Connection Check Call ☎️ 💖
🌟Spinning Babies – Resources for turning a Breech Baby
Midwifery Today Articles (Trigger Warning)
🌟Birth Rape: Another Midwife’s Story by Shea Richland
🌟Trauma in Birth by Jan Tritten
🌟Tools for Easing Grief and Birth Trauma by Beth S. Barbeau
🌟Birth Trauma Association UK
P.S. I have seen a few women benefit from EMDR. It wasn’t for me so I can’t say much about it, but it does get good reviews from those who went through it.