By Barrie Rein Thunemann MA, ICCE, CD, Certified Birthing From Within Mentor, www.fullmoonbirthseattle.com
Our culture tells us that giving birth is supposed to be one of the best days of our lives, however, many mothers and parents can feel disappointed or let down after their birth experience. In fact it’s actually not all that unusual to feel that something just doesn’t sit right after giving birth. Sometimes things don’t go the way parents were hoping for, or the way they planned. Maybe something unexpected occurred like the need for a Cesarean birth, a premature birth, an induction, or a stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for the baby.
When things don’t go the way parents have hoped or planned, often times that can lead to feelings of disappointment, anger, self blame or even emotional trauma. Between 25 and 34% of parents report that their child’s birth was traumatic, according to statistics referenced by Penny Simkin, the founder of the modern doula movement. The number of parents who feel dissatisfied or disappointed with their birth experience without considering it traumatic, is much higher. Sometimes when moms or parents share their birth story with others, they can feel like they failed because their birth didn’t match the media images they had seen about birth, or they find themselves comparing themselves to others stories and deciding they don’t quite measure up to what someone else did or experienced. It’s also not usual for parents to feel that they are not being truly listened to. Common condolences in our culture such as, “at least everyone is healthy”, do very little to take away the feelings that something went awry. In fact, most parents will feel like their experience is being minimized or not listened to at all with this kind of response. We live in a culture that doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about the reality of birth. That birth can be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, that birth is something that can’t be planned for or controlled and that it’s not usual to feel other feelings besides joy at the birth of your child.
A number of years ago Pam England, midwife, author and creative director of “Birthing From Within”, created a process called Birth Story Listening to provide an avenue for parents to work through difficult feelings and beliefs surrounding their birth stories. She created a way to work with parents that differs from modern day talk therapy and doesn’t involve the recounting of the entire birth story in order to provide healing. The purpose of a birth story listening session is to assist the person telling their birth story in finding some kind of new meaning or new perspective on their birth experience. This is done by using a combination of visualization, storytelling, mindfulness, and asking questions about what they learned about themselves through the process of birth. Parents who have participated in birth story listening often report breakthroughs they couldn’t have gotten to on their own. Here’s what one mom said about her recent birth story listening experience, “Before my session I felt a lot of guilt and shame around my (birth) story. Thanks to the guidance I now feel peace and even self love around the decisions I made that day.” Another parent says, “I didn’t even realize how deeply my birth was affecting me until after my session. I felt such release and gratitude due to being heard and seen in a way I never had before.” Still another mom writes, “My session was truly awakening. I didn’t realize just how debilitating the birth of my son had been to my self-esteem.”
Pam England trains a small amount of birth professionals to conduct birth story listening sessions in their own communities through the world. We are fortunate to have a handful of trained birth story listeners in the greater Seattle area. If you are interested in trying a birth story healing session please see the list of professionals below to find a provider in your area. Some birth professionals can even offer phone sessions as well. More information about birth story healing can be found on the Birthing From Within website.
Resources – Puget Sound Area Trained Birth Story Listeners
Barrie Rein Thunemann
Snoqualmie (in person and phone sessions available)
Queen Anne (in person sessions)
Sammamish (in person sessions)
University District (in person sessions)
About the Author
Barrie Rein Thunemann MA, ICCE, CD, Certified Birthing From Within Mentor, is a wife and mother of two school aged boys. She has been a birth professional serving families in the greater Seattle area since 2006. These days she focuses her energy on helping parents heal from difficult births through her work as a birth story listener. She also teaches “Birthing From Within” childbirth preparation classes in a variety of Puget Sound locations. In her free time she likes to be outside in nature, read, make art and knit. She can be contacted through her website, www.fullmoonbirthseattle.com