Updated: Jan 23, 2021
[The only way out is through.]
[Time does NOT heal all wounds.]
Here’s how I healed from birth trauma.
In my previous article on healing from birth trauma, I shared my birth story with you. If you don’t have time to read it, here’s the short version: three day labour - feeling completely ignored in the birth room - emergency c-section - baby wasn’t breathing when he came out.
If you do have the time, please read the longer version.
In this article, I’ll take you to that journey that came after my son’s birth.
The first days postpartum
I remember the moment I was brought back to my husband and son (who was now breathing fine). We cried. So much. And right there, in that sun-filled hospital room, we know something was broken. But we didn’t have time to be broken. Our son was hungry and he latched on like he’d done it many times before, and for a moment, everything was just right.
I remember the kindest nurses, I remember the pain from the c-section, I remember we talked about the birth all the time, I remember we cried a ton, I remember I didn’t feel that love. That love that everyone talks about. It wasn’t there.
I also remember the shaking. Not just my hands. My whole body. I later learned that this is the natural response of the body after having been through trauma.
When we were released from the hospital, only three days after he was born, I knew we needed help. We invited a woman over who had given us a course during my pregnancy. She’s a lactation consultant, former midwife and in general a really awesome, super kind, amazing person. We talked about the birth, and it felt so good to cry about every step of it and to learn from her that this wasn’t right. I wasn’t treated right and mistakes were made, period.
She also recommend writing down my birth story, in my own language. In my numb state, this actually felt like a great thing to do: to sit down with my computer and just type away. Son on my lap, computer in front of me. While it started as almost a little work project, it did bring up all the emotions. I cried, I wrote, I cried, I wrote. It helped.
The following weeks postpartum
The love started growing. Every time he nursed, I would feel something in my heart space. A little flutter, like those very first baby kicks when you feel the baby move inside your womb space at only 16 weeks or so. And it grew and grew, and it still hasn’t stopped growing.
The first time back on my yoga mat was overwhelming. I rolled out the mat after my 6-week postpartum doctor’s appointment and let my body guide me. Every position, every movement, felt so incredibly foreign, but somehow it did feel like coming home again. After a short ten minutes, I lay down in savasana with my arms up over head, like a sea star, and then I cried. I felt cracked open, and knew I had to keep on rolling out that mat to process, to learn, and to come back home to myself.
The birth wasn’t so much at the forefront anymore. Sven and I went for long walks, we hang out in cafes and on couches with other mamas, we walked some more, I sang him mantras while cuddling on the couch, I watched a ton of Netflix with a sleeping baby in my arms. I held him close. I knew that’s what I needed to do. I held him so close.
And then we had to go back to the hospital to see the doctor who was responsible for the c-section. She’s not the person who made my life in the birth room a living hell. She’s my hero. She’s the one who helped me birth Sven and she’s the one who helped him come back to life. So I love her and feel a lot of gratitude for her, but that appointment in the hospital wasn’t so great. It sure didn’t help me process the trauma. It was basically a routine procedure to encourage me that my body is totally capable of having more babies and giving birth again. Okay, bye.
We were actually doing fine. The hours ploughing through the snow made me feel really good, I loved all the fresh air, I loved my social mama life, I loved seeing my husband be a dad.
The following year
But then I realized, long after the physical wounds had healed, and time had done a large part of its job, I was still hurting. The band aid approach I had been taking did get me so far. Yes, the wound had healed, the stitches were gone, and the scar had even faded a little, but the trauma was stuck inside.
Time does not heal all wounds.
Every time I talked about my birth experience, I would cry. It was still affecting me, almost every day. I cried a lot, I was angry a lot - especially at my husband, and it felt like I had more work to do.
I first started looking into therapy through our local helsestasjon. In Norway, this is where you go for baby’s check ups, but some women also go there for their pregnancy check ups and they offer services for parents too. I had two sessions with their psychologist and then she decided that she didn’t know what to do with me.
When she said she didn’t know how to help me, I broke down. I asked for help, but she couldn’t give it to me, and she didn’t know who else could. To this day, this still blows my mind.
I took a little break from my healing journey, because I didn’t know where to go. I kept rolling out my yoga mat though. My practice slowed down - from vinyasa flow to lots of restorative yoga and slow flows. Some days I would just sit and breath. Other days, my mat felt almost scary and I stayed away.
The journey came back to life again, when I read the book The Body Keeps the Score by trauma specialist Bessel van der Kolk. One of the first things the book taught me, was that talking about trauma often doesn’t help much. That made me realize that talking about my birth over and over again wasn’t going to change anything for me. The trauma was stuck in my body, and the part of my brain that helps me talk and be rational, doesn’t have access to that.
How I healed from birth trauma
This realisation kickstarted my healing. I found a Somatic Experiencing therapist here in Oslo (Helene Habberstad) and in only three sessions with her, I felt like a lighter person.
Somatic Experiencing is a super powerful technique that brought me back to different parts of the traumatic events, but in a very safe way. I felt so held during these sessions, they helped me understand what happened and how I responded, and finally, the sessions with Helene took away that emotional pain that was stored inside me since my son was born. I learned that all my anger towards the staff in the hospital was hiding behind sadness and that I was actually allowed to be so so angry. This realization alone, changed a lot.
My yoga practice has played a huge role, too. I know that I every time I step on the mat, I have work to do. It might be moving through a difficult emotion, it might simply be flowing with the breath, it might be reconnecting with the pain in the pelvic bowl through actually sitting with it and focusing on it.
I’m not so interested in yoga practices that always have the same set of poses or the ones that work towards a peak pose anymore. I now tune in, I listen, and I flow or I rest. Yoga Nidra has been very beneficial too, as well as womb-focused breathing and visualisations.
Also, I’ve only just dipped my toes into the practice of breathwork, and it’s been incredible. Every time I let myself being guided, I completely open up. I release and I cry so so so much, up to a point that it’s a bit overwhelming and that I still have to learn how to channel that energy afterwards.
I’ve been looking for the why for my birth story for the past two years, but only recently I learned, accepted and embraced, that there is no reason for why my birth experience was like this. I did nothing wrong. My body did nothing wrong. My child did nothing wrong. My body did an amazing job. I birthed a baby.
My eyes don’t well up with tears anymore when I talk about the days of my labour and birth. I can now say I healed from birth trauma and that it took me two full years. I have no regrets. I’m sad I found the right type of therapy 1.5 years after the traumatic events, but I’m happy I did find it. I will forever be grateful for therapy, for yoga, and for my own persistence. I knew I didn’t have to live with trauma. I knew there had to be a way out, and I’m so grateful I found it.