The #1 Cause of Birth Trauma

birth mental health Sep 06, 2023
At this time within the birth world - there is a mass awakening to the reality that: The vast majority of birth trauma occurs because of the care practitioners themselves.
Fetal heart tones descending at labor and birth, a Mother's blood pressure rising at labor and birth, complications in general at labor and birth are often a physiological response to disharmonious external environments. The true job of a "birth attendant" is to hold a clear space for a birthing Mother and family. A clear space in regards to her or his internal environment (thoughts, beliefs, feelings). A clear space in regards to her or his external environment - understanding the physiology of birth and maintaining what is needed for that environment to exist, while Mother engages in the work of labor and birth.
It is a good thing that we, collectively, are coming into conscious awareness of the incoherence within birth practitioners and the families they "serve". AND - it is never enough to just point our fingers at the wrongs of the world. We must understand WHY things are the way that they are - so that we can turn them around - and create new realities rooted in wellness.  
I have witnessed and experienced birth trauma and obstetrical violence. I also work with women from all around the world and hear first-hand experiences and stories ALL of the time. So I speak of these things from my experience, not as something "out there."
During my midwifery apprenticeship - which spanned over 7 years, with more than 15 midwives, in both Mexico and the United States, in both home and birth center settings - I witnessed horrendous things inflicted upon Mothers, by midwives themselves. And to dispel any myths & preconceived notions that people may have - I witnessed these horrendous things *not* just at the hands of modern-day, professional midwives, but also at the hands of "traditional" midwives, both in the United States and Mexico.
I've witnessed midwives:
  • Purposefully giving women episiotomies - in order to practice 3rd and 4th degree suturing.
  • Doing finger forceps for so long that blood vessels in the vulva pop - because of the extreme level of swelling.
  • Administering pitocin during labor - to speed up the process - and so many women's cervixes prolapsing after birth because of this.
  • Immediately cutting umbilical cords after birth for cord blood banking.
  • Treating birthing women like they are straight up stupid and ignorant
And at my own birth with the midwife I hired, I experienced:
  • Extreme belittlement and my total shutdown in response.
  • Being treated aggressively.
  • Spiritual warfare.
All of these things I share above happened with HOMEBIRTH MIDWIVES. 
A caveat to all the above is: While YES, all the women in these situations were indeed victims to the abuse of the midwives - they were all (myself included) - co-creators of these experiences. The nuances of this is for another writing.   
For now, I share very briefly about the horrendous things that happen within the hospital systems, at the hands of Medical Doctors:
  • Most recently, a baby was decapitated during birth - when the M.D. pulled on the baby's head with such force, because the baby presented with shoulder dystocia (shoulder dystocia occurs when a baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone).
  • Babies are *often* pulled on so dramatically at birth, uterine prolapse is caused. 
  • Women *often* receive caesarean sections - not because they are medically necessary, but because M.D.'s have schedules they want to maintain for their personal lives.
  • Birthing women are yelled at, chastised, threatened and treated aggressively - mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually abused. 
These lists could go on and on and on and on.
I bring us back to where I began: It is not enough to point fingers and say this is horrible. It IS horrible. And / but WHY is this happening?  
>> We could start by acknowledging: This all stems from the time of the Inquisitions in indigenous Europe, when more than 9 million women were killed - including all the midwives and women healers. It is by and through the Inquisitions that Obstetrics came to be - led by men who knew nothing at all of these realms of care. And then this was exported to the world via colonization and acts of violence. Obstetrics "practiced" learned upon the most vulnerable populations.  And because of all this, there has been a great forgetting of how to BE with birth. And there is a piece of the Truth here.
>> We could also agree that: This is happening because of hospital protocols, or because of midwives who are licensed - and they uphold their license / their protocols rather than the physiologic design of birth. And there is a piece of the Truth here. 
And / but...... there is something much, much deeper here.
It begins with the understanding of: The childbearing continuum is a microcosm for the whole of human life. And what happens within this period of time - impacts an individual's life, for life.
Bringing this all back around to: WHY and HOW is it that Doctors, Nurses and Midwives can do such awful things at birth? We MUST understand how these very practitioners were BORN. What THEIR birth experiences were like. Because what happens to us at OUR birth, impacts us for the whole of OUR lives -- until we bring it into conscious awareness.  
Most humans around the world were born at home - until less than 100 years ago - when there was a slow and steady shift away from home births to hospital births. What has happened in the past 100 years since this shift, relative to birth include things such as:
- Twilight sleep - an amnesic state characterized by insensitivity to pain without loss of consciousness, induced by an injection of morphine and scopolamine, with the purpose of pain management during childbirth.Twilight sleep used through the 1940s frequently left women disillusioned and terrified, often contributing to psychiatric distress for extended periods after birth.
- Cesarean births - the surgical procedure by which one or more babies are delivered through an incision in the mother's abdomen. While we could say that approximately 5% or less of births do physiologically require cesarean, in many places in the world cesarean rates range from 30-95%.
- Separation of Mothers and babies immediately after birth and into the early postpartum time - began to be a hospital policy, when drugs were used during labor and birth, making Mothers incapable of caring for their babies after birth.  
- Hitting and aggressively suctioning babies after birth to "get them to breathe"
And on.
There is a massive impact on the Mothers during these experiences - all of which I tend to in INNATE Postpartum Care's Training.  There is a massive impact on the Fathers during these experiences. And, what I want to focus on for the time being is: The impact that these experiences have on the BABIES themselves. 
Within the collective, babies are still believed to be "unconscious." Within allopathic medicine, the truth that babies are born with 25% adult brain volume - is distorted and manipulated - to explain and justify "why babies don't feel pain" or "why babies pain is merely reflexive." Surgeries and circumcisions are still done on babies without any anesthetic under this false belief.   
Babies, however, are not at all unconscious. And while many different peoples - from many different places can debate: When is human consciousness born? For the purpose of this article, I will say that: Babies are fully and completely conscious beginning in utero. Babies experience the world entirely through their embodied experience. Babies live in brain-wave states that most of us as adults only achieve through dedicated spiritual practices. 
And so then what happens, when BABIES themselves, are experiencing the births that they are / that WE have been over the past 100 years? What happens when we as babies experience this level of trauma, right at the beginning of our lives? 
This trauma governs our lives - for the entirety of our lives - until we bring it into conscious awareness to heal. 
We can say that the vast majority of people in the modern world - are living with these unconscious wounds from birth. And / but - what happens when those of us who carry these wounds - decide to become Midwives? Doulas? Obstetric Doctors and Nurses? 
Peter Levine, the creator of Somatic Experiencing, says in his book Waking the Tiger, Healing Trauma: "The drive to complete and heal trauma is as powerful and tenacious as the symptoms it creates. The urge to resolve trauma through RE-ENACTMENT, can be severe and compulsive. We are inextricably drawn into situations that replicate the original trauma in both obvious and unobvious ways." 
Birthworkers are often drawn to birth work - to heal their own / our own birth trauma. This is OK and beautiful by design if we are conscious of this, and committed to doing the inner work this entails. This is highly problematic when this is unconscious - because WE end up inflicting harm on others, by replicating our original trauma (our birth trauma) in both obvious and unobvious ways. 
>> This is the midwife who, when she was being born - her Mother received extreme fundal pressure (when midwives or doctors push hard, in a downward motion on the uterus) - and there was extreme panic in the room to "get her out".... and every time she is at a birth, she panics during the pushing stage of a woman's labor - and that panic takes over the space of the birthing woman and family.
>> This is the doctor who, when he was born, had a hard time breathing. And was separated from his Mother and intubated. When he attends births, he panics inside each and every time a baby is born - rubbing the baby hard to "get them to breathe," "erring on the side of caution," and frequently sending babies to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), as opposed to waiting for the baby to take his or her first breath, in their own timing.
>> This is the doula who was born by cesarean section - whose Mother never even labored. Who comes into birthwork unconsciously, to have an embodied experience of what birth is like. But every time she is at a labor and birth, she freezes and "doesn't know what to do." 
Re-enactment refers to the fact that: When we are in situations where we can not successfully defend ourselves (such as when we are being born, as newborn babies), we then act out that trauma in repeated, unsuccessful attempts throughout life - to reestablish a sense of empowerment. Peter Levine says "In re-enactmants, the human organism is not fully aware of the drives and motivations of its behavior, and consequently, it operates in a mode that is like that of the reptilian brain. It simply does what it does. Re-enactment represents the organisms attempt to complete the natural cycle of activation and deactivation...."
The number one cause of birth trauma - are birth practitioners themselves. And what causes birth trauma, is birth trauma. 
The genocides of indigenous European midwives and healers; the movement of birth out of the hands of women and into the hands of the hospital system; and the demonization of midwifery to date - are all not accidental nor coincidental. Birth trauma is the easiest most effective way, to traumatize the masses. When the masses are traumatized, the masses are easy to control. 
Where do we go from here from these understandings? Renegotiation versus Re-enactment.
From Peter Levine's body of work again "Because we are human, we are vulnerable to traumatization in a way that animals are not. The key to exit from this seemingly unsolvable predicament lies in the characteristic that most clearly distinguishes us from animals - our ability to be consciously aware of our inner experiences. When we are able to slow down and experience all the elements of sensation and feeling that accompany our traumatic patterns, allowing them to complete themselves before we move on, we begin to access and transform the drives and motivations that otherwise compel us to re-enact traumatic events. Conscious awareness accessed through the felt sense provides us with a gentle energetic discharge just as effective as that which the animal accesses through action. This is RENEGOTIATION."
We must understand that we are often drawn to the work that we are drawn to - YES because we have innate gifts to offer to the world, and / but ALSO because we have healing work to tend to on our human journey - relative to the work that calls us.
If we can understand this, then we can understand that: Within any outer world work we engage in, we have inner world work to tend to. This is especially true and pertinent for birth and healthcare practitioners.
In order for us to provide "healthcare" as birth and healthcare practitioners, we must understand: What is required to create an environment of WELLNESS. What is required to create an environment of WELLNESS is a FIELD OF SAFETY. A field of safety is not contingent upon anything external to us. A field of safety exists within us - when we are actively, consciously engaged in our own, ongoing healing work.

Without this ongoing commitment to Self - we can not offer "healthcare" to others. But rather we offer "sickness perpetuation" or "deathcare" - if we name it appropriately.
I invite you to watch my FREE CLASS,  where myself, along with the 4 Assistant Teachers of INNATE Postpartum Care's Training, will be speaking to all that I shared in this writing. Click HERE to watch the recording. 
Rachelle Garcia Seliga ©

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