A Powerful Guide to Coping, Healing, and Finding Strength in Your New Normal

Birth is transformative, beautiful, awe inspiring, empowering, HEALING… euphoric. The process of birth has the ability to heal a mother on a very deep level. But for many strong women, giving birth isn’t one of her greatest achievements, it’s an experience that leaves her feeling… traumatized.

The word “trauma” has become overused in our culture and is not something many women want to associate with their own experience. But the reality of the situation is that giving birth affects you (and your baby) on a profound level. The act of giving birth, whether empowering or not, disrupts the entire body, its functions, and requires months of healing. It’s a transitional time in your life that you will never forget, and when this life transition is worse than expected, it can leave lasting negative impressions on you and your child forever.

For most women, you have been made to believe that the only thing that matters in the way of birth is that your baby is healthy. But guess what? YOU ARE IMPORTANT TOO. You have a right to feel. You have a right to be angry, sad, burdened, or whatever it is that may be running through your veins. And even more, you deserve to heal from the event, no matter what you experienced.

I’ve put together a PDF downloadable list of the 8 Ways to Heal from a Difficult Birth, including my most favorite trusted techniques I use for my birth trauma clients. It also includes bonus information on how to support healing your baby after a challenging welcome to the world. Download here.

Whether you feel you are experiencing trauma, birth grief, or feelings of dissatisfaction with your birth experience, you aren’t alone. One study found that over 20% of women meet the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD after birth. Women are consistently being misdiagnosed with postpartum depression or anxiety when really, they are experiencing symptoms of trauma after having a baby (and thus requiring a completely different approach to healing). 

How can trauma effect a mother and child, you ask?

  • Lack of bonding and detachment from baby, which is associated with future childhood anger, aggressiveness, and anxiety
  • Difficulties breastfeeding
  • Irritability, fussiness, excessive crying in baby, which leads to stress response in mother and a continual spiral
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Flashbacks, nightmares
  • Avoiding anything that’s associated with the birth
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Partner/Marriage conflicts
  • Intrusive and scary thoughts
  • Feelings of loneliness, anxiety, shame, guilt, sadness, frustration, anger, failure, powerlessness… and so many more

Although this list isn’t all-inclusive or all-required, the outcomes are not to be underestimated.

Birth trauma greatly impacts postpartum. Both labor and life after baby become difficult, overwhelming, and feel impossible to navigate alone. Oftentimes in my work as a Postpartum Bliss Coach, I see women who have compartmentalized their experience and have learned to live with the effects of their trauma. Although this is a coping strategy that gets you through the days, it isn’t a strategy to heal. The need to dive deep into healing is critical, no matter how you’ve been able to cope (or not).

Experiencing trauma or being unable to cope isn’t a sign of weakness. To give birth is to be vulnerable and requires the utmost trust and support from providers and people you love. Most birth traumas stem from loss: loss of baby or baby’s health, loss of security and safety, loss of confidence in your body, loss of important people (maybe your midwife didn’t make it), loss of confidence in others, and loss of experience. When you have something taken away from you, in a time of natural openness and susceptibility, it’s well within reason to express your emotion and your truth.

Giving birth changes who you are on a fundamental level. Much of postpartum is spent healing your body and learning who you are as a mother. Who you are shifts; your definitions of love adjust; what’s truly important in life is questioned; and what it means to be a woman, parent, and partner transform. Life in postpartum is spent with the core of your very being exposed and adding new layers to the definition of who you are. When birth is traumatic, all of these changes become viewed through a dark lens. The tasks of healing, bonding with your baby, and changing feel ugly, horrible, and even impossible.

And as the weeks and months go on with trauma left unhealed, and as the lack of sleep and imbalances take a toll, you get lost in the shuffle. And the work to dig yourself back out and rediscover the REAL you takes great effort and sometimes even additional support. Although counseling and therapy are always options, there are other ways to heal and move on in peace.

Thankfully, there are more ways out than one.

1.      Tell your story.

Story telling is a form of ancient medicine. Although it can be difficult to open up and share the details of how labor and birth happened to you, the effects can be incredibly empowering. Tell your story to someone who is open to listening fully. Someone who can ask questions like “What else do you remember?” and “What do you wish you could have said to (your partner, medical provider, baby) in that moment?” After you’ve told your story, find something positive and empowering within your narrative that will allow you to reclaim it and take back some of your power. It can be something small or something you think is minute now. Add as many details as you can to that one thing. Then retell your story with it. This isn’t something you do back to back. Allow yourself to process the first, raw version of what happened to you and tell that version again if you feel you need to. Eventually though, the goal is not to live in this place but to move into a more empowered place.

2.      Join a support group.

Listening to other women who share experiences related to birth trauma can bring a sense of hope and understanding that you aren’t alone in the journey to healing. It can also be a place to share your story and learn hands-on coping skills (not to mention the potential for friendships!). However, not all support groups are equal. The goal of a group should be to support you in healing and when you walk away after a meeting, you should feel relieved and maybe even inspired. If you find that it’s a bitch session, run for the hills. There will not be any healing or support from a group like that. 

3.      Learn the details.

Request the medical records from the birth. Ask questions from those who were there. Call your provider after and ask any questions that may be lingering for you. Re-learning what happened to you in detail might allow you to gain knowledge about the facts, and leave space for moving forward.

4.      Write.

One of the most healing acts we can engage in is the act of writing with pen and paper. When done in this way, you are able to access both hemispheres of your brain, promoting healing on a very deep level. Even if writing doesn’t feel like your thing, the act of doing it, especially when given the right prompts for healing, can have immediate effects. You can write a letter to the birth team or whomever. Or write specifically for yourself, telling your story and exploring how you relate to it. I’ve worked hand-in-hand with author Amie McCracken on the topic of writing your birth story and have developed writing prompts with her that fuel healing from a traumatic birth. You can learn more here.

5.      Learn relaxation techniques that help you reprogram your thought patterns.

Learning to breath and calm your body when you feel triggered or begin experiencing a panic attack or wave of negative thoughts. This is the first step to adjusting these patterns. But the objective will be to use them to your advantage in making them go away for good. When used in conjunction with other techniques listed here, learning specific relaxation techniques will eventually help you stop those negative responses to your trauma so that you don’t experience them again.

6.      Allow your body to go through the physical symptoms of trauma,

including shaking (which can be induced), crying, and allowing yourself to feel the emotions that have been welling up within you. The physical body holds on to trauma and nearly all experts in the field agree that movement is necessary to healing. Many times, these things NEED a physical way out of your body. Otherwise, they grow stale and stagnant and fester deeper within you. In postpartum, this can be exceptionally challenging as most exercise is off limits. But induced shaking, crying, and feeling your emotions are amazing ways to begin the process.

7.      Seek pelvic floor therapy for physical trauma

If any sort of physical trauma was part of your experience, such as an episiotomy, developed scar tissue, or the occurrence of urinary incontinence, it’s important to seek treatment. Although you can emotionally heal from an experience and still remain with physical symptoms, it makes the process that much easier when you seek support on all levels.

8.      Use art to heal

Art as a healing mechanism is a passionate topic of mine. Much like writing, art allows you to access all areas of the brain, bringing about a more whole-body approach to healing from trauma. When I teach art as a tool for healing in birth and postpartum, it brings a sense of awareness to the mother creating, and when led in a specific way, has the ability to access the subconscious thoughts that help dictate many of the trauma responses. If you want to learn more about how to use art to heal your body after a difficult birth, you can click here.

Other facts about difficult birth and trauma:

  • Trauma doesn’t happen just in labor and birth. It can also arise from a difficult pregnancy or postpartum.
  • Difficult births and trauma can affect partners at the same level or worse than that of mom.
  • Birth trauma can bring up older trauma, especially those that are painful or sexual in nature.
  • However common a difficult birth is, it isn’t “normal.”
  • Baby also needs healing.

I’ve put together a PDF downloadable list of the 8 Ways to Heal from a Difficult Birth, including my most favorite trusted techniques I use for my birth trauma clients. It also includes bonus information on how to support healing your baby after a challenging welcome to the world. Download here.

If you’d like to dive deeper, I will be hosting a 3-day video series on Healing from a Difficult Birth and sharing everything I know on how to find peace in the midst of challenge, even in postpartum. Much like everything I share, it will be drastically different than what you already hear. Want to watch? Click here.

Join the Mindful Postpartum Mamas group for the birth trauma video series! Click here to join.

If you are wanting support in healing from birth, or are wanting to significantly lessen your chances of experiencing trauma in birth, you can apply to work with me one-on-one. Here, I address your specific and personal needs within birth and postpartum and give you the tools and resources to make it happen. You can apply to work with me here.