Transcript: Healing Emotionally Following Birth Trauma
This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Healing Emotionally Following Birth Trauma and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.
Helen Thompson: Last week on First Time Mum’s Chat, I had my first of two chats about healing following birth trauma, with Holistic Pelvic Care Practitioner and Restorative Pilates Instructor, Prudence Todd. During that episode, we discussed about healing your body and now in this week’s episode, Prudence and I are exploring healing emotionally after your birth when there’s been trauma.
During our chat, you’ll hear prudence talk about identifying what has been traumatic for you in your experience and not basing this on other people’s perception or experiences, the importance of going from a highly critical inner dialogue to one that is loving, compassionate, supportive, and nurturing, and why you need to learn to go within and connect with your body and build that trust.
And so, so much more.
Hi Prudence and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. It was great to speak with you last week about healing physically after birth. I’m delighted to be speaking with you today about how you help women heal emotionally after giving birth. Can you start by telling us a bit about your background and what you do?
Prudence Todd: Thank you so much for the invitation, it’s lovely to be here, Helen. So my name is Prudence Todd and I’m a mama to 4 teenage kids, a girl and 3 boys, and a wifey to a beautiful man of 23 years, and I live on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, and I’m deeply passionate about helping women through their experience of birth and understanding their womanhood and so I work as a holistic pelvic care practitioner and a restorative pilates instructor, and I help women, both online and in person to heal their heart and bodies after birth trauma.
Helen Thompson: So how do we heal ourselves emotionally after birth? I know that’s a huge thing to ask.
Prudence Todd: Yeah, that’s a really, it is a really big question…
Helen Thompson: Yes, I know it is.
Prudence Todd: I guess for me, you know I’m not saying my approach is the only approach, but it’s the one that I know. My background is in midwifery and I’m a Holistic Pelvic Care Practitioner, so what’s really evident to me is that through birth we go through so much in our bodies that we, if the birth hasn’t gone the way that we had hoped, we carry those emotions in our body if they’re not resolved and when we talk about birth trauma, it’s important that we identify birth trauma. That’s the first part, to healing emotionally after birth trauma.
Birth trauma is anything that a woman goes through that felt traumatic for her and so for one woman, a birth could be really, really intense and it could from the outside for someone looking in, look very traumatic, but it wasn’t traumatic for her. She processes it really well, she moves on with her life and there’s no great big deal. For another woman it could be something very, very small that happened for her that caused a great sense of shame, like someone spoke to her a certain way. It may not even mean that her body was physically traumatized, but maybe someone spoke to her very degradingly during the birth, or she didn’t feel like she was heard.
She goes away with that and then she’s ruminating over that and there’s a sense of shock in her body that she didn’t experience the birth that was in her heart that she wanted to, and so that is, even though people from the outside are looking in, going, oh, there was nothing wrong, everything’s great, you’ve got a healthy baby. That for that woman is traumatic, and if that goes unnoticed for her or for her partner and carries on, that can lead into other t hings like PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), depression, anxiety, if she doesn’t have anywhere to talk about that.
And some women have friends, some women have families and it might look like they have support, but they reach out perhaps and say one thing and someone will say, well, at least you have a healthy baby, or, it’s good that little one is growing well and the breastfeeding’s going well, but they’re not truly seen and heard for what their experience is. So when we look at healing after birth trauma, my sessions around this are really about having the woman sit in a safe space where no matter what happened for her, she feels validated, she feels like what happened for her was real. Women need to know that they’re not crazy and that they’re not just making up a big dramatic story in their head. Whatever was real for them was real for them. The other aspect is that these things can get trapped in our bodies and we can be actually kind of unaware of what we are carrying in our bodies.
So I also use an emotional release technique where we muscle test to actually look at what’s there because sometimes we are so in the world of being a new mama, it’s actually difficult, there’s a sense of disconnect cuz we’ve had to go into a coping mechanism. We’ve been in survival mode since that birth and possibly dropped into survival mode and fight and flight the very moment that we were disrespected or unheard or we felt unsafe.
So healing emotionally, is first of all a woman feeling safe and that is one of the biggest feedback that I have from people is that they just feel so safe in the session and having their story validated and understanding that there is hope to heal and then, and helping them move into that. So that’s all part of the process.
Helen Thompson: I think it’s interesting you come from a midwifery background because I’ve heard a lot of midwives saying that in the olden days that moms weren’t respected and midwives didn’t respect them, but now I think midwives are beginning to understand exactly what’s happening. Even if they’ve given birth themselves you’ve gotta take the experience from each person. Each mother has a different thing and it was interesting how you said that if somebody said something emotional upsetting to them whilst giving birth, they hang onto that.
I think that’s interesting that you say that cause I’ve also done Kinesiology so I know about muscle testing and finding out how to support that. I think being able to support moms and actually hear them is so important when they’re giving birth, because they have in their own mind what they want to experience and sometimes it doesn’t always work that way.
Prudence Todd: Totally.
Helen Thompson: My sister, when she had her second child, my niece was quite a big baby. She broke her pelvis when she had her, so, for her emotionally, I remember her saying to me, I’m finding it really hard because when I hear Josie crying, I can’t go to pick her up. I have to get somebody else to pick her up and bring her to me and she found that so hard, and I remember her saying that to me.
Prudence Todd: Yeah, totally and I think it’s so important that women understand that birth trauma doesn’t look a certain way and it doesn’t happen in a certain place. I talk to women that have birthed in hospital, I talk to women that have had natural births, I’ve talked to women that have complicated births, I talk to women that have had home births and some of them will say a similar thing, even though the context is different they will say, you know, it was all beautiful. You know, I should be thankful, but this is what happened and it seems to be, it doesn’t matter where it is, it can even happen in home birth. It can happen in a trusting relationship where a woman just doesn’t feel like she was heard. And so as she moves away from that experience, we are as humans, we’re meaning making machines. It’s how we make sense of things in the world, and so women will make meaning and try to make sense of what happened in that birth and what they take away from that experience about who they are as a woman, it’s so powerful and when it’s not loving to themselves, it’s also very powerful and in not a very healing way. And so part of working with a woman is helping her to see what did she make that mean about herself and, and how do we change that? And another thing that I also notice with women is that there’s so much hurt or sadness or sorrow or grief about the loss.
Maybe it is the loss of a child, maybe it’s a miscarriage, maybe it’s a stillbirth, but for some women, it’s also just the loss of an experience of birth that they really were hoping for in their hearts and so processing that grief and getting to the other side where they can start to realize that firstly they have medicine in their body to process that grief. There’s so much medicine in our body, but we’re not taught how to access it, so that’s part of the process. And secondly, there’s wisdom in that experience. There’s wisdom resting in your body, waiting for you to access, but we can’t access it if we’re feeling really crap about ourselves. It’s nearly like we’re repulsed by ourself that we didn’t live up to the experience that we were hoping for or we’re angry and upset with somebody else, and it’s causing such a ruckus within our own body that we’re still carrying this and that impacts our experience of motherhood. And that’s what I’m really passionate about helping women is that motherhood is difficult, it’s not just supposed to be a walk in the park. It’s a personal development program in itself. But it is supposed to have moments of joy and pleasure and to lay in bed at night and feel exhausted, but feel joyous in ourselves as a mother is a great gift that I think many women are not experiencing because they’re carrying regret or sadness or sorrow from their experience of birth. So that’s why I’m really passionate about helping women heal emotionally from birth because that can also lead to physical symptoms in their body.
We mentioned in the other episode about anxiety. So anxiety can show up in our body as, pelvic symptoms, but it can also show up in our body as feeling a sense of numbness, feeling a sense of disconnect, constantly worrying that there’s something wrong with our baby, constantly checking on the baby, worrying that we haven’t closed up the house properly, going back to constantly check that we’ve shut the fridge door or we’ve turned the iron off. Just all these funny little things that perhaps weren’t who we were before. And I know this to be true because I’ve experienced trauma in my body. It may manifest as waking up through the night when our baby’s not waking us and just reliving events in our mind and ruminating over what could have happened, what should have happened, what didn’t happen, what we wanted to happen and that stress just reliving like a fight or flight response over and over and again. So whether it’s actually happening or we are just thinking about it and how it happened, our body is in this constant state of stress and that’s not a nice way to experience motherhood for the first time.
Helen Thompson: No and I think it’s important to be able to release all that and to be able to talk to somebody who totally understands. Every woman goes through birth in a different way. You said the word should before and I think that’s really interesting because we all think that we should do something or we should do that and we should be feeling this, but everybody’s different and every woman feels different emotion and there’s nothing wrong with feeling that and I think it’s important to be able to express that and be able to talk to somebody about your emotions, about how you’re feeling.
You mentioned family and wisdom. I think that’s also good too but some people just don’t know how to give that wisdom. They don’t know how to support them. They can say, look, I understand how you’re feeling but they don’t really fully understand how they’re feeling and having somebody like you who can actually talk to them and express to them, look, it’s okay to feel that way, or It’s okay not to feel, whatever it is. Having somebody supportive is is also very powerful for a woman.
Prudence Todd: And I’ve experienced trauma in my body, and I’ve experienced many years of depression as a young mom and one of the key aspects of healing that for myself was learning compassionate dialogue with my own self and so one of the alarm bells for me as a mom is when I start either blaming people around me or blaming myself for things. You know, my baby won’t settle, what am I doing wrong? All of those things that we start to look for fault. That’s one of my alarm bells now, even with my teenagers. When I start going off at my teenagers and I feel like it’s their fault that I’m unhappy, it’s an alarm bell for me now that my dialogue in my body has changed.
So I learnt, and this is something that I teach women now, to go from a very critical inner dialogue, that I was never ever enough. I was never good enough as a mother to a very loving dialogue and so to lay down in bed at night and hear the voice inside my body say, you did real good today. That’s my desire for moms is to know that you did everything that you could in that birth, you’re doing everything you can as a mom, but I can’t give that to them. I have to show them how to develop that loving relationship with themselves, where they have their own back and that’s part of the process is learning that deep, compassionate dialogue with ourselves. Yeah.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, they have to find it for themselves. It’s easy to talk about it, but if you are going through it, you’ve gotta be able to feel that for yourself, like hearing yourself saying, you did real good today. You’ve gotta hear that in your own voice, lying in bed. You’ve actually got to hear that deep down in your own voice. Not somebody dictating it to you. You’ve gotta lie there and feel it in yourself.
Prudence Todd: Totally that does start from having a safe place where someone is telling you that. We have to feel safe to heal, it cannot happen any other way so having a safe place where you can actually share your story is key to that and then learning how to do that yourself and for that to happen there has to also be a willingness and a surrender into wanting to heal. If we want to live in our experience and keep living that, it’s very difficult to heal. We have to want to step into a new possibility to have our experience acknowledged, to understand that that is a part of us that’s not who we are and to then want to step into healing and that’s a journey that needs support and it needs facilitating, it needs love and nurture and that’s what I offer women when I’m with them.
Helen Thompson: I think it also needs a trust in yourself as well, trusting yourself that you can heal and you can do it and believing in yourself. Believing that you are a good mom or that your experience may not have been a great experience, but you believe that you can heal yourself from that experience then move on from that experience and trusting and supporting yourself as well, and giving yourself the opportunity to support yourself and let yourself be emotional if that’s what you need to do, to release what’s going on.
Prudence Todd: Totally, you’re so right. That trust is huge and I think this starts even before birth with women. A lot of what I do with women is really helping women to trust their intuition and to not have external support be our first port of call. It doesn’t mean that we don’t seek external support, but helping women to actually understand that they can trust themselves, because that’s not something we are taught in our culture, to trust yourself. I think women believing even before they go into birthing their babies, that their body is wise, they can trust themselves and if we have experienced birth trauma, it is very difficult to rebuild that trust.
There’s like a real breakdown in, my body knows how to do this. So whether it’s preparing for a second child or wanting to even fall pregnant again, there can be some big blocks there around trusting that my body is wise. And that’s why it’s so important for women to understand that even though the trust, there may be a breakdown there. There is wisdom in that, for you to access when you slowly start to turn inwards and look at what your body has to talk to you and to tell you about what she’s experienced. If you listen to her, she’s got so much wisdom and so much medicine resting there, but it’s about turning inward and listening to those cues and I think when it comes to nurturing, that’s where we are very intuitive when we tune into it and we’re very good at nurturing others to the point of complete depletion of ourselves, but it’s really listening to those intuitive cues of turning that nurturing inwards and and loving ourselves so that we can keep nurturing others and that’s a lot of what holistic pelvic care is about, is understanding that we are creative beings as women and when we start to learn how to receive, that receiving is then created into nurturing and so there’s this beautiful flow of energy in and out of our bodies instead of a constant pouring out and we need to learn for ourselves what brings that, what enables us to receive so that we actually have strength to emotionally and physically care for the little people around us or the big people around us.
Helen Thompson: And what fills up our cup to be able to replenish ourselves as well.
Prudence Todd: I think one of the biggest things I come across is women carrying grief around, the birth not being the way that they had hoped, or a sense of loss that they didn’t have the experience that they were hoping for and grief can be a very heavy burden to carry, and it manifests as sorrow and also manifests as pain in our bodies and one of the things that I’ve learnt in my own experience is that when I learn how to care for the pain and the sorrow, I don’t experience suffering so much, and I think too many women are experiencing suffering in their body because they’re not sure how to carry the grief that they’re experiencing.
So a lot of what I do is really just helping women have that realization that grief and loss just doesn’t go away. I’m not here to say that, I can heal and fix your experience just by working with me. It’s not gonna go away but through learning how to take care of the experience in our body, decreases the sense of suffering for us, and actually we can transform that experience into so much of a learning experience that actually brings joy and nourishment to our life and it helps us to then help other women. And women have so much wisdom and medicine to share. We just don’t know how to do it. Like we don’t know how to bring that to other women because we don’t know how to connect to it in ourselves and so, that is a message that I really want get to any woman that has experienced birth trauma, is that if you are in suffering, you don’t need to continue to be in suffering for years on end.
I’ve been there and I know what it’s like and there is support and we can learn how to carry it so that we can actually heal and it’s not such a heavy burden for us.
Helen Thompson: Wow, I can tell from your voice how passionate you are about that and I think experiencing it yourself because you’ve gone through it and you’ve healed it yourself, so that’s powerful in itself.
Prudence Todd: Totally. Thank you for acknowledging that.
Helen Thompson: I can sense it and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to talk to you on the podcast because I realized how passionate you actually are about what you do. if somebody wanted to find out about you or how to get in touch with you, how would they go about doing that?
Prudence Todd: Yeah, there’s a few ways. I’m on Facebook as Prudence Todd, also on Instagram as Your Womanhood. I also have a free Facebook group called Heal Your Body and Heart After Birth Trauma, and I’m in there every other day having a little chat about different things that women can have going on for them and how to help that and if anyone wants to reach out to me, I’ll just connect with them and send them a link to have a free 30 minute chat with me before we go ahead with anything. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share what I’m so passionate about. I really appreciate it.
Helen Thompson: Thank you for being on the podcast
Prudence Todd: Thank you so much, Helen. It’s been lovely to share with you again.
Helen Thompson: Prudence shared some great tips during our chat and I learnt a lot from her. I highly recommend checking out her social media and her offer of a free 30 minute connect call to find out more how she can help you. I’ve included links to Prudence’s Facebook group and other social media in the show notes, which can be found at MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/117. I’ve included links to some other previous podcast episodes which may be of interest relating to healing after birth.
Next week I’ll be sharing my pearls of wisdom on play from a childcare educator’s and a baby massage instructor’s point of view. I will be sharing why play is a feeling for your child and why it is so important and what you and your baby can learn from play and how it can help your toddler and growing child.
Be sure to listen to this episode when it comes out next week, and please subscribe to First Time Mum’s Chat via your favorite platform so that you get quick and easy access to all our episodes when they are live.