A fascinating article on JUNO online has reawakened many thoughts and feelings for me about the impact birth has... on the one being born.
Perhaps another reason we find it so hard to look at birth trauma is because it touches our own unresolved pain. This operates on many different levels; physical, emotional and psychological. On the physical level if we do not resolve the birth patterns, which may involve compressive and rotational forces held in the body, we grow into them. Although we adapt around these tensions to some degree, the adaptive patterns themselves introduce new strains into the body. As we grow older this interweave of birth and compensatory patterns create a myriad of health problems. The most obvious of these that crop up in my work are back problems, migraines and headaches, dental issues, muscle tensions and a myriad of organ dysfunctions. Unresolved trauma also acts within the nervous system, sensitising it to stress that evokes survival responses based on early overwhelm, rather than at a level appropriate to the present moment issue. Childbirth pioneer Dr. Michel Odent likens this to a thermostat that has been set too low so that it comes on when it is not needed. (Odent 1986) This tends to make emotional self-regulation difficult and creates ongoing problems in relationships with others. It is often at times when we are under pressure or going through a transition of some kind that these survival responses are most readily stimulated.
In our current birth climate, the emphasis is on the "safety" of the baby, and the mother. Nothing more is of any importance or relevance. We think little about the psychological, emotional or even physical impact that the act of birth has on the mother, or the child.
I was a forceps delivery. Pulled out by the head. shiny metal tongs yanking me out. I didn't want to come. I was not in control. Does this affect who I am today? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Who can tell?
But I do know that a few years back I was have a massage and cranio-sacral session with a good friend who I trust very deeply. Suddenly, in just the way he was holding my head, I was back there, being born, being pulled out by my head - I couldn't breathe, I was full of anxiety, terror, I needed to scream, but my voice would not work - and then suddenly I began to sob uncontrollably for about ten minutes.
I was not intending to be "re-birthed", just have a massage to get rid of some shoulder tension, so it was not like I was consciously planning or creating this experience. But its reality was breathtaking. I had always felt before this that how we are born matters, this experience confirmed it.
I recognise the high sensitivity, the migraines and muscle tension from the article above, the need to scream and the lack of control, the being dragged through life early, before I'm ready, feeling.
I am sure my first daughter's birth, blue and unbreathing to a depressed mama, had a huge impact on who she is now and her intense needs to be held and her need to scream and scream.
We can never know, and the last thing we need is to attach blame or guilt to births which were not as we would have planned or hoped. But this awareness can enable us to be mindful of how birth is planned, and how it occurs, and how we deal with birth trauma in the days, weeks and years afterwards. To say that it is real, and it does matter, and it can be dealt with.
To that end do take a look at this fascinating article on the JUNO website - especially if you have a baby, as the difference between needs crying and memory crying is fascinating and links in with Aletha Solter's ideas about holding a baby and allowing it to cry rather than trying to distract or soothe it.
How were you born? What effect did/ does it have on your life?
Have you noticed that different birth experiences have had different impacts on your children?