Ashley Parker MA Relationship Therapy, Dip Hyp, Dip HB, MHA, MBACP
Ashley Parker Therapy Space
Off the Mount
Telephone: 07707 151 239
In my work with women, I can almost say with certainty that no one experience is ever the same and in telling my own story, I don't profess to know what you have been through or are going through, but it sets the tone for how I find myself here today. When I gave birth for the first time in 2009, I became privy to a scaresly discussed topic - one that I had heard very little about and one that sadly I would never have welcomed. Birth Trauma; very often confused and misdiagnosed as post natal depression and even sometimes 'baby blues'.
To the naked eye I was considered to be 'doing well', my baby had established feeding, we were bonding and I suppose I looked like I had it all together; And I guess I did in one sense, but I had an endless noise in the back of my mind. It was loud and imposing and was beginning to take over my every thought. As the great Sheila Kitzinger describes women who have suffered birth trauma, '...have their birth experience going around and around in their head like a video on a loop. They are constantly reliving the trauma.' and this was exactly my experience.
Sadly I had also suffered considerable physical injury and this seemed easier to focus on. I felt like I became a regular at the Dr's surgery, with each visit being solely focused on the physical injuries and being told that I just needed to give it time and I would heal. The powerlessness that I had experienced was ongoing - extending over months in to what should have been a happy time. Time wasn't a great healer in that respect and after months of being dismissed and feeling more injured than ever, I was incredibly fortunate to have family friends who took control and got me the operation I needed.
After two operations and finally some physical healing, most people assumed that the long and painful process was coming to an end...but the noise hadn't stopped for me. And the words went from 'at least you have a healthy baby' to 'at least you are better now'. Inside I was still battling with a constant feeling that I had somehow been violated. That I had had my choices taken away - and yes, I was grateful for my healthy baby, but that only added to the feeling that I was wrong to feel so injured (something I have heard over and over again from women who have experienced trauma) and that once I had been put back together, I should move on.
I did move on, but to move on was to find complete healing. I did this through education, therapy and I reclaimed my birth and my power. Had I been given the chance to work through my experience in those earlier days, I suspect it would have saved much of the sadness I carried for those years. But my story has a happy ending and I now hold a fire in my belly that I want to use for good; to empower and facilitate the healing that I eventually found myself.
Birth Trauma is often misdiagnosed as post natal depression and although the two can exist together, they are very different.
Some of the signs that you may be experiencing birth trauma:
Having flashbacks, nightmares or persistent memories about the birth
Distress over anything that reminds you of birth - including anniversaries, birthdays, other women's birth stories
Avoidance of activities - baby groups, places you might be forced to think about birth
Feeling emotionally detached from others/numb
Being hospital phobic
Difficulty remembering the birth - only fragmented memories
Fear of sex/intimacy
Fear of having anymore children
These are all symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. Post traumatic stress is not a mental illness, but a response to an abonormal event. In treating PTSD it is said that it is unhelpful to refocus on the trauma as it re-exposes the person to traumatic events. In my experience women experiencing birth trauma rarely have a day where they are not in some way reliving the traumatic event. Birth trauma is also unique in the narrative that surrounds it. The focus is very often on being 'lucky' to have a healthy baby and women are encouraged to move on and forget about it.
Being heard, unhurried and accepted can be enough for some women to begin their healing. Creating a narrative of the traumatic experience and feeling validated is powerful. Sometimes more work needs to occur and hypnotic techniques such as the rewind technique (recognised by NICE for treating trauma) are a necessary part of healing.
Birth Reflecting/Healing: 1 Hour - £50
Hypnotherapy for Trauma: 50 mins - From £50