This week is birth trauma awareness week.
Women and men carrying burdens from your experiences, this week is a time for you to know you are not alone. I say women and men because there was plenty of trauma experienced by both myself and my husband during the labour and birth of our daughter, Macy. We know there are other couples struggling with different aspects of your beautiful child’s birth and we are here to say, we see you.
My birth story is really extreme. I still struggle to wrap my head around the entire experience nine months postpartum. There is trauma associated with every single aspect.
My labour was a total of 15 days and 20 hours.
My baby’s birth was by cesarean.
The OB who performed my surgery physically assaulted me.
It was tragic.
It is tragic that a woman could violate another woman in such a harmful, horrific way. She violently cleaned the inside of my vagina with a long pair of surgical thongs and a piece of gauze soaked in what I can only imagine was iodine. My only warning was “you’re going to feel a lot of pressure” but what I saw and what I felt was not a lot of pressure. It was violent. I was so shocked that days later while having my staples removed by my midwife I asked Colin to leave the room so I could make sure I hadn’t dreamt up what happened in that OR. She confirmed. I sobbed. She held me.
Recently, I was reading a book called Healing Trauma by Peter A. Levine, and he describes trauma symptoms and one of them jumped off the page at me. (We bought our copy from amazon, here.)
The feelings that overcome my body if I allow even the briefest second of a flashback is horrific. Immediately my vagina tenses, I feel nauseated and the hair stands up on the back of my neck. It has been nine months and a brief second is still all I am able to handle. I would also say that I am not handling it, really, but it happened to me and healing my body, my heart and my mind from this trauma is very important.
This might be shocking to hear, but I am grateful I saw what she did to me because I know that the body holds onto trauma. I honestly wouldn’t have been able to understood what my body was trying to tell me if I didn’t know what happened.
And I watched it all because I could see my reflection in the lights above me. Terrified, I asked for those lights to be moved a dozen times. Maybe more. The fear of witnessing my own surgery was enough to traumatize me. The lights were moved, but they were always moved back and now I know that I was meant to see.
I asked a lot of questions because I was very confused, and did not receive answers. Never was I warned or told what was going to happen to me during my prep in the OR.
I’ll never forget the day my daughter was born but it certainly isn’t the romantic story we’re used to hearing. This is one of dozens of mis-steps from our nurses, doctors, the OB who performed my cesarean and violated my body, lack of warning and education for my husband to prepare him for my epidural or for what he would walk into in the operating room, the pediatrician and her nurses overlooking all of Macy’s symptoms and blaming my worry on being a “first time mom”, listening to her cough and gasp for air for a full 24 hours before our midwife saved her life, watching my daughter being poked and prodded with constant needles and IV’s while she screamed in the NICU for five days.
My birth story is extreme.
It’s sometimes really hard to think about. It’s fresh. It’s still raw. There is so much we didn’t talk about - but for now, it is birth trauma awareness week, and that story is the important one to tell here.
I would have blamed my body’s reactions on postpartum if I didn’t know the truth. The truth is that the thought of having sex with my husband, the thought of him touching me sexually or even intimately, can be shocking and me feel physically sick. We have a beautiful and intimate sex life - so for me, this is extremely difficult. Thank god I know what happened to me or else I can’t imagine what shame I would be feeling for not wanting this beautiful and intimate part of my relationship with my loving and sweet husband.
Even if he touches my belly, my whole body tightens.
This is trauma.
And the most miraculous thing about trauma is our ability to heal. I am so grateful I know this truth. This one is going to take time and slowly there has already been some beautiful progress. Recently, I created a community of people who have suffered from trauma - any trauma - who are ready to make changes towards healing. It isn’t necessary to accept this as my reality forever and I know there are other people out there ready to do the work and not feel so alone. Trauma can be lonely.
The Good Healing Habit was creating in service of others, but, you guys, it is absolutely serving to be a saving grace and gift to myself as I navigate the details of Macy’s birth. With only a few months to go before her first birthday, I’m sure emotions I haven’t dealt with yet will surface and I am grateful to have a platform to learn and grow in real time with this incredible community.
Most of all I am grateful for a healthy, happy baby and a compassionate, loyal and loving husband. Healing happens best with a support system and that starts for me, at home.
Happy Healing to you.
Rather than take away from our chance to talk about healing in our community group, I wanted to take an opportunity to tell a little bit more about my story, by request, actually! One of our members asked me this week in the comments of one of our posts if I would share how I went from freelance writing to leading groups like The Good Healing Habit, and I thought that this was such an important question to answer.
You guys, this really is my life’s work. Not my chosen work, necessarily, but likely the most important work I will ever do. Everything good in my life now is because of the work and commitment to my healing journey. Who else can relate to that? You know, when we close doors behind us that steal our time and energy in ways that consume us, we create space and time to open new doors full of potential. That’s an amazing little nugget to carry around with us as we go, because healing does ebb and flow, and at times, we regress.
My friend, even in a regression, we make progress. Never forget that.
I didn’t ever imagine a career move where I would spend my time talking about trauma. Truthfully, even a handful of months ago, this would have terrified me. And yet, in my business and branding coaching with some really great and qualified leaders, the message always came back to what we have to offer in service to others. And every time, it was too obvious.
It dawned on me in one very important meeting this spring that this was part of my calling. I didn’t know what it would look like, but I knew that healing trauma was my answer to my age old question: what do I want to do when I grow up?
Through navigating healing in my own personal life, and through finding and working towards being courageous enough to use my experiences to help serve others, I started writing again.
In my post last week in The Good Healing Habit about connection I shared how my first love of writing was distinguished by my freelance work. It wasn’t in alignment with who I was at all, and so rather than catapult me into complete freedom, writing felt like restraint and I quickly grew bitter. Resentful. It was shocking And really sad.
While I have not woken up with words flowing through me that require immediate pen to paper in, admittedly, more than a decade, my ability, my skill, has never left me. That’s truly what I am grateful for, but I do mourn the days where I could easily find myself lost in creating.
Instead, I use that skill in order to share my stories, to help put the good word out to other people in the form of blogging. Each time I write an important piece about pain, struggle, trauma… I am met with messages from numerous people who thank me for sharing, inspiring, encouraging, empowering… and then there it was right in front of me.
I have so much experience in experiencing trauma and grief. What am I doing not sharing what I know the most about? How can I sit here and continue to search blindly for my call to service? It’s been right here all along.
I know trauma. I know healing trauma. I know suffering. I know healing. I know connection. I know perseverance. I know that I did it alone and no one else should ever feel the loneliness and heartache that can cause.
And then there I was, writing a status in the name of my late brother’s birthday this past July 8th when all of a sudden my introduction to The Good Healing Habit fell out of me as if I’d planned it, and my goodness, my friends - I had not. I hadn’t planned anything. It was just plain as day and it was time.
No one else should have to spend precious years dedicating themselves to loneliness. I want to help others build connection, to breed love and connectedness in a time when learning vulnerability can make or break your healing journey. Sometimes web view vulnerability as weakness and we would be wrong. Vulnerability is courage. That is what lights my soul on fire. So I share my stories in the hopes that hope, action, confidence, courage and big love is created instead of more fear, confusion and sadness. It is too easy to spend time in fear, so I’ll spend my time instead bringing light.
I walked this earth for many years wondering what I wanted to do when I grew up. Never did I ever think the answer would Be leading a magnificent community of beautiful humans into and through their authentic healing journeys.
And here we are. I am loving on you so much right now.
What a ride.
Guys. Get in there - this community is the real deal and we are waiting for you.
We have important work to do.