In 2011 I gave birth to my first child. The experience was long, exhausting, shocking and physically as well as emotionally destructive as I was left with severe perineal damage.
The birth was the start of what would be years of difficulty as I navigated motherhood without any regular external support apart from my partner, who was also traumatised by our birth.
Like many women who have had difficult experiences I was riddled with feelings of guilt and shame, around birth but also breastfeeding, bonding with my baby and my own abilities in motherhood. I was determined to keep going and make it right, even though I did not know what was wrong.
In 2013 when pregnant with my second child I realised I needed more help and I went to GP and asked for talking therapies. I had tried CBT once before and found it useful. I was referred via IAPT to a 6 week course of CBT which straddled the birth and was diagnosed with PTSD. What became apparent was that the birth trauma had also triggered a previous trauma. Realising this a year later I requested medium term CBT and later, online CBT, both through IAPT.
The CBT after birth was useful as it allowed my to start to re-establish the thoughts in my mind and take back some control in my life which had felt lost. I had become so lost in the trauma and put coping mechanisms in place that were denying my own needs.
Small steps such as giving myself the hour for therapy, looking for a part-time job after leaving acting, having kind and assertive conversations with those around me, so I could ask for help. Noticing my feelings and thoughts that were not useful for me.
The practical aspect of CBT was useful for me, having tasks to think through gave me something to do, which was empowering and thinking about what was going on for me allowed my awareness of what was coming up emotionally and why.
In the short-medium term CBT was useful, my feelings seemed more manageable and I felt like I was starting to sit back in the driving seat of my life.
However I found that the emotional charge around birth and difficult feelings of guilt and regret were still coming up in uncontrollable ways. I had mastery of my thoughts but not my feelings and memories which were keeping me in my past trauma. I as stuck with challenging feelings that were present each day as I parented my son and subconsciously I was acting the out through overcompensation.
I thought I would never feel well.
I came across Rewind Technique through a few different sources and felt it was a worth ago. From my limited understanding of neurology and my own observations of my reactions, it made sense in how it works to help process trauma.
I used this for my birth trauma and previous trauma when seeing a Human Givens Psychotherapist.
I was amazed at the difference it made, I felt like I was myself again and have control of my emotions, rather than them flaring up and leaving me with more negative feelings in the aftermath.
One of the biggest differences was it lifted the cloud that had shrouded my relationship with my first son. I could suddenly see him without the feelings of birth and those early months being in the way and I could enjoy motherhood without the sense of failure and pain I had carried around from my birth experience.
It also improved my relationship with my husband which had felt strained and tense as difficulties progressed after birth.
The combined result of CBT with good therapists (who also used other techniques) and the Rewind within a therapeutic setting was incredibly useful in healing the emotional scar of birth.
Women’s Health Physio
The birth trauma I experienced was physical as well as emotional. Directly after birth, I had lost most muscle control.
Physical healing took a long time but with various professionals and persistent physio I was able to start running again and regain much of the lost pelvic floor support.
Other things I tried
Re-birthing (Breathing) - this was so useful in connecting me to the emotions that were stuck in my body and releasing them through regulated breathing.
Hypnobirthing – This changed my experience and sense of birth when I gave birth a second time. Also relaxed my anxieties.
Yoga – I have been practising yoga for around 15 years and have always found it beneficial in gently connecting me to my body and self. The physical release and self-regulating nature of yoga was gentle and profound in helping me release my difficult emotions and take care of myself of a daily basis.
Reiki – gentle and non-contact
Sakina Ballard is a Hypnobirthing teacher, Birth Trauma Resolution Practitioner and facilitates Positive Birth Movement & Birth Reflections groups www.tranquilbirth.co.uk