If you have experienced any kind of trauma along your parenting journey, and you feel like it might be having a negative impact on your present everyday life, know that it’s possible to free yourself from this painful pattern. A traumatic experience doesn’t have to define you, or your parenting. Here’s how I can help you to make peace with it and move on.
The 3 steps of ‘Rewind’
Telling your birth story (only if you want to) and honouring what happened in the past, free from any judgment, and without wishing you could change it, or trying to fix it.
Recognising how this difficult experience is still impacting on your present everyday life.
Imagining and experiencing a lighter and more empowered future, living your life without the trauma.
What to expect
We do the work over two (or sometimes three) sessions.
The first session takes 90mins and covers telling your birth story (if you want to), understanding its impacts and imagining a trauma free future, with a relaxation to end.
The second session is 60mins spent on ‘rewinding’ the traumatic memory in a relaxed state, working to lift the symptoms of trauma and experience healing.
Afterwards you can expect to feel significantly lighter, happier, better able to look forward to future pregnancies/births, and simply more able to enjoy your everyday family life. You’ll still be able to look back and remember the details of the birth, but with neutral feelings instead of with fear, anxiety and helplessness.
If you want to understand more about what you’re experiencing and how this work can help, read on.
You can also read my own story of birth trauma recovery here.
What is birth trauma?
A traumatic birth is one in which the mother feels out of control, devoid of choice, and unable to escape or change the course of events. She may have felt very fearful during the experience itself - perhaps she or the baby were in real danger - or perhaps the perception of life and death felt very heightened. She may have had her wishes ignored, or her personal boundaries violated, or maybe she didn’t feel listened to or heard. The current figures state that 30% of parents in the UK describe their birth as traumatic, but it’s likely that many more are suffering in silence because of the fear of stigma or feelings of perceived failure. We’ve come a long way, but the message of “a healthy baby is all that matters” still rings too loudly in our culture, and mothers and birth partners alike often feel unable to speak up about their experience as a result.
But perinatal mental health is a complex and ever-changing landscape, and a traumatic event at any stage in the perinatal period can have significant everyday impacts on the whole family. A mother’s sense of self, her ability to bond with the baby, her feelings around intimacy with her partner, and the many layers of isolation and comparison, are all too familiar challenges for many parents following a traumatic experience. Not to mention the daily anxieties, hyper-sensitivity, nightmares, flashbacks, numbing, avoidance, or feelings of somehow being unable to ‘move on’ or ‘get over it’. Parenting is hard enough without having to carry all this weight around. We need to be asking these parents “what about you? how are you doing? what do you need? and how would you like to be feeling instead?”.
In calling it ‘birth trauma’, it’s important to note that there can be a host of other traumatic experiences during the perinatal period, which could be impacting negatively on everyday life. Feeding issues, difficulty bonding, miscarriage, infertility, prematurity, or sleep deprivation, can be just as significant in shaping our everyday experience of parenthood as the birth itself. Feeling traumatised during and after these experiences is not a mental health issue - it’s a very normal and appropriate response to an overwhelming or frightening event. And contrary to what many are led to believe, recovery doesn’t have to be a long, painful and expensive process - let’s think of it instead as a psychological injury which for many people can be eased in a quick and simple way.
This process of birth trauma recovery is a quick and effective way to lift the symptoms of trauma, in a safe and supportive context. There are three steps over two (or sometimes three) sessions, and I know from both personal and professional experience that it can be transformative for the emotional wellbeing of the whole family.
How it works in the brain
The three key areas of the brain here are the amygdala, the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. The amygdala is like our internal alarm system. Its job is to keep us safe, and it’s very active when we are in a state of stress or panic. The hippocampus is involved in memory, association and pattern matching. And the prefontal cortex is responsible for the higher level functions such as rational thinking, reasoning, and creative problem solving.
The amygdala responds to danger to help us fight or flee, making sure that we can defend ourselves from an attack, or run away from danger. If we’re able to respond healthily, the rational thinking part of our brain (prefrontal cortex) will step in with perspective and either help us calmly to safety, or reassure us that there is no real danger. If we can’t escape the situation, as in birth or other perinatal traumas, the danger message carries on running in the brain, setting up a cycle of stress where our fear and anxiety states can get triggered very easily, whether there is real danger present or not. The highly aroused emotions experienced during the trauma become so strongly associated with the memory of the event, that every time this memory is replayed, or any associated thought or event triggers us, we re-experience the same fear. The neural pathways linking the memory with the emotion are so embedded that trying to ‘move on’ or ‘get over’ the event, or rationalise any associated thoughts and feelings, is extremely difficult.
‘Rewind’ works by watching and rewinding the traumatic memory in a relaxed state, which muddies up the connections between the memory and the fear so that the association is broken and the weight of the emotional memory is lifted. So you’re remembering the same event, but without the trauma.
As a result many parents feel able to embrace and experience their family lives with a much greater sense of calm, joy and acceptance.