Creating a safe place for a new mother: Preparing for a trauma-informed birth and post-partum recovery

Birth and Trauma

Giving birth, whether it is your first, third, or beyond, can be a time of renewal, growth, and joy. Though it can also be a time of dread, angst, and fear when past trauma experiences creep up on you.

Depending on the care you receive from your selected health professionals, past trauma experiences can rear their ugly heads as there is a certain level of unpredictability when it comes to giving birth.
Even the idea of being naked in front of others can be enough to trigger an over-active defence mechanism to protect yourself and your unborn baby, which is often doing too good of a job in keeping you safe, it can be exhausting on top of the natural stress involved in giving birth.

While we can’t change the past, as much as we would love to sometimes, we can take steps to brace ourselves for the challenges coming up.

There is a lot of talk about birth plans, many people don’t see the point or need to use them, however, this is a really helpful tool if you have experienced huge trauma in your life. By creating a birth plan informing your health professionals of what you experienced (without going into too much detail), you can express what your needs are and why.

For instance, if being naked in an environment where you don’t feel in control of creates distress for you, then the health professionals can plan to limit the number of people in the room or make discerning decisions as to who is allowed in (particularly for hospital births). If you have chosen for a birthing doula to be with you, then a birth plan is a great way to advocate for your wishes without you needing to worry about enforcing them, as well as identify if the hospital requires anything from your doula to ensure they aren’t prevented from being by your side.

There may be family members who create a lot of stress for you, if they try to be present at the time of your labour, then you can use your birthing plan to request that they not be allowed in the room. Hospitals can use their authority to deny access very easily and they can avoid having you in the firing line of why they couldn’t be present.

You get to choose who is with you in the birthing room

Perhaps the birthing side of things is not an issue for you, though you may find post-birth to be the most challenging part, especially if you have experienced the loss of a child in whatever circumstances that might be. By informing the health professionals of your concerns and wishes (especially when it comes to your choice/need of feeding & sleeping methods), they can be aware through your notes of the circumstances surrounding those decisions.

Studies have also shown that Pitocin (the synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin) can trigger PND/A. This isn’t to say that it should be avoided at all costs, sometimes there is a very real need to use it, I have used it myself with my second child. Please do follow the advice of your health professional. Though be aware that this can increase your chances of developing these conditions means that through proactive planning you can take the edge off how intense they may feel. In fact, Post-natal depression and anxiety can begin soon after giving birth, right through to bub’s 1st birthday – which can be confusing, to say the least as generally, we expect it to be much sooner.

Having a pre-chosen counsellor to work with can allow you to work through the changes in your body and the responses to changing hormone levels and adapting to all the other changes that come in this season of life can really lessen the impact and severity of what could be experienced.

Bringing a new life into the world is not as straight-forward as we’d like it to be. It’s painful and amazing, wonderous and onerous, stressful and blissful and so much more in between. By getting the right support around you during this time of change is so important.

Seeking support from a counsellor or post-partum/birth doula specialised in trauma is a great way to lessen the impact of past stresses and to create a way forward that allows you to experience more joy when your little one arrives.

Do you have any tips to share from your own experience? Please share as you feel lead in the comments for the benefit of others preparing for their upcoming birth and beyond.

For more information and support services, visit PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) https://www.panda.org.au/ or give their helpline a call on 1300 726 306.

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The window to the soul – or is it?

unrecognisableselfieday1

Selfies are the way of life.

I am constantly finding new apps and filters to embellish, decorate, or even distort the picture entirely.

There is nothing inherently wrong with them; sometimes it is the only way a mum can get a photo with her kids!

The only problem with selfies, is that it takes so many attempts to get the best picture! Holding the camera at the right angle, lighting needs to be just right, background needs to be checked – quite a bit goes into the best selfie. Though to the untrained eye, they appear to be spur of the moment photos, quite misleading to what is actually happening.

A carefully constructed window into a disguised life.

What selfies fail to show are the tears, the weary eyes, the frail body, the chaotic home, the cracks of a natural life (I don’t even look like me in this one!!).

How does this help our friends and family to know we need help?

How does this help someone else reach out for help?

Psychotherapy uses insight to gain awareness and knowledge into our past, giving us direction on how to use our present to build a better future.

Though we need the real picture – not the carefully constructed image presented in a selfie.

For Psychotherapy Day, 25th September, I challenge you all to a first take, spur of the moment, real selfie.

Here is one to kick things off!

selfieday1

 

Perfection: How is it destroying your life? and what can you do about it!

perfection

Is it better to be loved because you are perfect? Or loved despite your imperfections?

So often I feel the pressure to be perfect:

  • Perfect mother;
  • Perfect wife;
  • Perfect friend;
  • Perfect employee, and the list goes on!

It’s tiring and absolutely exhausting. Not only this, it is also incredibly distracting which does not help my efforts to be perfect, I stumble and fall whenever I strive to move forward while constantly looking in the rear-view mirror. Even in Scripture we are told that “no-one is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). That’s right, not even Mary Poppins!

If no-one can be perfect – what makes me think that I can be perfect?

Through thinking over the stresses that seeking perfection causes, I wonder if it is worth the cost?

Perfection seeking can lead to:

  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Addictions;
  • Failed relationships – personal and work related;
  • Utter despair which can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.

So it is not achievable and comes at a high cost – not a wise investment if you ask me!

So what gives me hope despite not being perfect?

Romans 5:8 sums it up nicely. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

It means much more to me that I am loved despite my flaws, as that shows I am a real person of value. This also means that you are too.

I am still loved despite my flaws; and you know what? 

  • My daughter still loves me;
  • As does my husband;
  • I still have friends and family in relationship with me;
  • I love my field of employment;
  • And I have an identity that I continue to desire to grow and nurture into a person of excellence.

Looking at these points, I can see that I have everything perfectionism promises, though never delivers. What’s more, I can breathe, relax, and enjoy this life on earth.

It means much more to me that I am loved despite my flaws, as that shows I am a real person of value. This also means that you are too.

Do yourself a favour and stop seeking perfectionism, rather strive for excellence.

What areas do you find yourself seeking perfectionism? Share in the comments your plans to change direction!

Addiction proof your child

Habits

This may be a shock to you, though 37.3% of Australians aged 14 years and over consume alcohol on a weekly basis; 7.7% of Australians aged 14 and over have used analgesics for non-medical purposes once or more in their life; 4.5% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills (including benzodiazepines) for non-medical purposes one or more times in their life; 34.8% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cannabis one or more times in their life; 8.1% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cocaine one or more times in their life; Ice (crystal methamphetamine) is the 4th most common drug involved in ambulance attendances, following alcohol, benziodiazapines and non-opioid analgesics (such as paracetamol).

As you can see, substance abuse is up and running in Australia, these stats aren’t even addressing all substances that are often abused and it isn’t addressing other areas of addiction such as pornography/sex addiction, gambling, technology/internet, co-dependency, and the list goes on.

I mentioned in a previous blog, that addictions are defence mechanisms used to protect oneself from the real world. Unfortunately, addictions tend to have an alluring persona to begin with. People seek out different areas in their life, waiting for the hit of ecstasy (either the drug or the emotion), to help them to get through the moment – though not always considering the life long consequences.

There are many things we can do to prevent addictions from developing, though when someone is determined that life will be better with just one more hit, then we need to recognise we don’t have the control we desire to have to save our loved ones.

Consider this thought – that your child is not under your complete control as they age.

How does that feel?

Personally I feel very insecure and worried about my child’s future.

Will she make the right decisions?

Will she consider the needs of others in these deliberations?

Does she understand how important she is to so many around her?

I don’t know yet, she is only 5 and as far as I am concerned, she is actually under my control. I say when bed time starts and screen time ends, when it’s time to eat and time to sleep, time to wash and a time to play.

How long this will last for, I am yet to find out.

Though what can I do in the meantime, while she is under my control, while she remains a captive audience to my every statement and observation?

As much as I would like to give you all the answers now, I can’t.

This is such a complex and far-reaching issue that to give 5 steps to avoiding addictions will simply just not give it the justice it needs, much less deserves. Instead I would like to invite you to join me on a journey to discover a world that so far has remained elusive and transparent; intriguing and beguiling to the unarmed wanderer.

Through this journey, let us work together to work towards ending the life of addictions, releasing one person at a time.