Perhaps someone would say “having birth trauma is hogwash. You can’t remember that.” To that I say that I think it’s logically impossible that our bodies would not imprint somehow on trauma even at such a young age. Birth can be traumatic for the mother but also the baby.
My first labor and delivery was extremely traumatic for me. When I read the term “birth rape” during my 3rd pregnancy, I wept. In addition to being scared to death and treated like an animal during my labor, by that definition, I was repeatedly raped by the nurse that insisted on checking me every hour or so during an extremely intense contraction and without my consent. Each time she did it, she pried open my legs and checked me despite my screams and pleads for her to stop. I could go on and on to relate what else happened that night to make my experience so harrowing, but it would serve no purpose in the grand scheme. To me, it was the most terrifying and traumatic experience of my life. And sadly, my mother who was there to support me could not help me. She had had a similar experience with my birth. I decided then and there that I would not re-do that experience, and from then, my birth view changed. It wasn’t until I had my 3rd child that I realized first-hand that the birth experience may be harrowing for the baby as well.
My 3rd baby was born at home. She slipped into this world peacefully on my bed and came right to my arms. She barely cried, and I marveled how she would take a few sweet breaths and then stop breathing for a few seconds and then begin again. My midwife explained that this is normal and she was fine because she was still attached to the placenta. What a lovely transition to the outside world! That night she fell asleep snuggled into the side of her big brother who had been enamored with her since the instant he witnessed her birth. Her first 2 weeks were so peaceful. She slept through the night at my side and rarely cried. When she was 15 days old, I took her on her first long car ride about an hour away to a meeting. She slept on the way there, but on the way home, she screamed. Screamed and screamed and screamed. I had never heard her do such a thing! There was a point when her screams stopped just being a “I hate this, make it stop” to a desperate “Mama! You have abandoned me and I’m pretty sure I’m going to die!!!!” Car rides with infants stink. I realized that for the first time in her life, she felt alone and terrified. And in that same moment, I realized her cry sounded much like the cries of my two boys shortly after their births as they were whisked away from me and had all sorts of things going down their throats, and in their eyes and desperately trying to figure out how to breathe all at the same time. My daughter cried differently in that car ride home, and she actually never was the same after. (And I had a similar experience with my 2nd home birthed daughter the first time she ever felt alone.)
Who are we to be so insensitive to the smallest and most vulnerable of human souls? How dare we proclaim that just because they can’t talk that they can’t feel pain?
My oldest son struggles with a few challenges. At one point last year, I had the distinct feeling (call it inspiration or whatever) that one of his specific behaviors stemmed from a distrust of me, but I didn’t know why. I know an amazing woman that is so gifted in healing souls. I took him to her and for 2 hours, she guided us through healing his birth trauma. It was our trauma together. Because of this birth trauma, he didn’t trust me. Even though my little son was only 6, when she brought up birth trauma (he’d never heard the term), his little body curled up and his eyes became sullen and withdrawn. She guided me to express to him how I felt about his birth. How much my pain and fear had nothing to do with how much he was wanted and loved. And how sorry I was that I couldn’t protect him from that horrifying first experience on earth. He was quiet, but I knew his soul was listening. He let me hold him (which he normally didn’t do). I told him I loved him and how much I yearned to keep him safe. I promised him I’d never abandon him like that again. Well…. The change was real. Almost overnight, his relationship with me was different. He now will snuggle with me and we have a much more trusting relationship.
I feel like I am still at the beginning of understanding how all of this fits together, but one thing is for absolute certain. The birth experience is sacred. It should be untouched, untainted and completely and utterly respected. Tampering with it will result in consequences we can not predict.
This post is inspired by a post on the same subject found here:
I like this article’s discussion of the “crying in arms” method and how it could apply to helping a baby relieve stress and heal from trauma.
Though I have problems with how the study was conducted and how they applied the data, an interesting study can be found here: