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Healing Cesarean Birth

Posted on January 23rd, 2013 by | 0 views
by Shelley Rahim

Birth is one of the most transformational moments in a woman’s life (physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually).  Sometimes, the unexpected turn of events during labor and birth create an experience far from what the birthing mother envisioned during her pregnancy, leading to questions about the event or even birth trauma. A woman left to process this trauma on her own may feel overwhelmed or confusion and in some cases, guilt may arise associated with the experience. A new mother's busy lifestyle may cause her to sweep these emotions aside, leaving them to linger. Often, these emotions resurface while a mother prepares for the birth of her next baby.

As women, our birth stories are an integral part of who we are and thus, the trauma associated with a difficult birth may never dissipate. We carry our stories with us throughout our life and if the stories go unhealed, they influence and shape the next pregnancy and birth.  On a larger scale, our birth stories, healed or wounded--and how we share them--affect birth in our culture. Healing a birth story can also lead to healing birth in our community and the future generations of our birthing daughters.

A Cesarean Birth is often the farthest thing from a mama’s “birth plan.” But, when the course of events leads a woman down that path, often times she will feel a sense of defeat and even grieve the loss of the natural birth she was hoping for. It is very common to replay the event in her mind over and over, trying to make sense of it all…..often times looking for answers. Seeking understanding can sometimes lead to blame. Women often blame themselves, thinking, “I should have….” Or “If I would have just [fill in the blank] I could have avoided it.” Or, it can lead to the blaming of others, “Because the doctor said this, he made me feel scared and so I really had no choice” etc. When we blame ourselves and/or others, the mind is searching for an answer so that we don’t repeat the problem again, or to make sense out of it all. But, when we blame we don’t solve the problem at its core. So, how can we find peace of mind? How do we really move forward and heal from the trauma?

The human mind has a tendency to focus on the problem or problems within the event. But, any great ordeal in life, huge transformations, will have problems and challenges. Major awakenings in a female psyche are not work-free…. if great life ordeals were easy…..then women would not be the wise healers that we are. Women have to be tested, we have to go into the underworld, to go to places that we fear the most in order to learn self-love and self-acceptance, in order to deeply know our selves and live a more authentic life. As women put the pieces of their lives back together after a difficult birth is painful and can feel very isolating. How does a mama courageously step on that path of self-forgiveness and self-love after giving birth via cesarean? The following suggestions are adapted from Pam England’s book, Labyrinth of Birth. By integrating your experience in this way you will start to find new meaning and move towards self-love.  Give yourself about an hour to do this activity.

1.       Journal about your pre-birth fantasy or expectations of what labor and birth would be like. About what you, your partner, birth attendants would behave like, greet baby, etc. Let this be stream-of-conscience writing, uncensored….letting it all out on paper.

2.       Next, close your eyes and take a moment to let your actual birth story play like an internal video in your mind, starting from when you knew you were in labor, or before, all the way to birth or postpartum. Pay close attention to the parts of the story that stir up emotion, create tension in your body or where the volume speaks louder than other times. Just make a note of those  pivotal, charged moments. Jot them down with a few brief words. Maybe even make a list.

3.       After writing down one or many memories that sting a bit, choose ONE moment that speaks loudly that you would like to understand in a new way, find new meaning for.

4.       Once you know what this moment is, write this question down, allow yourself to go into stream-of-conscience journaling to answer the question. “What are you telling yourself about what happened? What do you believe it means about you because it happened?” Example…”Because this happened, I am [fill in the blank].” I am weak, I am a bad mother, I am powerless, etc. Jot down this negative belief, statement or judgment.

5.       Pam England states, “Self-love and forgiveness are the keys to healing. At the time this un-wished for event happened, you were utterly immersed in it. You may have been exhausted, afraid, and overwhelmed while having to make decisions. You wanted to do the right thing, the best thing, or perhaps you just wanted to end the intense experience. Consider this: That on the day you gave birth, at the moment this un-wished for event happened, you did the best you could base on everything you knew at that moment, based on everything life had taught you up to that moment—You did the best you could, and the only thing you could do at the time based on who you were in that moment….The profound mystery of birth, including how your birth unfolded as it did, can never be completely understood with the mind. Your mind can come up with theories, but it can never fully explain why anything happens.

With forgiveness we can look our enemy in the eyes and shake their hand and thank them for making us stronger.”  --Lewis Mehl-Madrona

6.       After letting these words of wisdom from Pam England sink in, close your eyes and rewind your internal birth video again, and as you play it again, notice what has changed about your story.  Notice how you feel differently about it and what you are beginning to tell yourself about what happened.

7.        Now, write a new self-belief, a belief that is truer about you. Write your new positive self-belief  in a visible place where seeing it will help you remember it and reinforce it in your daily life.

8.       Now that you know this, you have this new belief about yourself, this light has been shined on this situation…what’s one small way you can bring this new belief into the NOW, into how you prepare for the birth of the next baby.

9.       In your day-to-day life, look for small moments that might otherwise go unnoticed when your old negative self-belief crumbles a bit more and the new, self-accepting and more truthful mindset expresses and strengthens the Nurturing Mother qualities within you.

This activity is adapted from Pam England’s book, Labyrinth of Birth. For a more in-depth healing experience and to learn how to use the labyrinth to heal birth trauma, I recommend buying the book and doing the activity on page 104.


Shelley Rahim is a Prenatal Yoga Instructor, Birthing From Within Mentor and Birth Story Listener. You can read more about Shelley at her personal website, or at the website of the yoga studio where she teaches.

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