Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Birth Trauma and Birth Disappointment


I've been reading the book Birth Crisis by Sheila Kitzinger. This book deals with the subject of birth trauma and PTSD following traumatic births--recognizing it, healing from it, and preventing it. It is a great book for birth professionals to help them know how to support women--either in recovering from birth trauma or giving birth following trauma, including some non-birth trauma. A lot of what is in the book relates to this blog, in that she discusses how over-medicalization and loss of personal control in childbirth can negatively impact women. The image on the cover depicts "birth-by-machine," though here, the "machine" refers to the entire maternity system.

Interestingly, I've also seen a lot of posts on blogs about birth trauma lately. One example is this post from Descent into Motherhood. Also, this recent post from Jill at the Unnecessarean talks about how ludicrous a comment was that was made on one of her posts. I find her Glenn Beck example humerous, though I am actually a fan of Glenn Beck and tend to agree with most of what he says. As someone with an education background, I have a lot of respect for his talent as a teacher, shown in his ability to make boring, political and economic topics interesting to people like me. But Glenn Beck is so not the point. I completely agree with Jill that trying to blame birth trauma on "culture" does not make any sense. Disrespect is disrespect. Violence is violence. Violation is violation. It doesn't matter what you "expect" or "value." When women are mistreated in childbirth and don't recognize it as mistreatment, is it not still mistreatment? In cultures where spouse abuse is culturally acceptable, are the battered women not still being abused?

There is a difference between trauma and disappointment. Birth trauma refers to experiences where the woman feels degraded, disrespected, assaulted and/or very afraid, usually involving some sort of breech of trust on the part of her caregiver, but not always. Birth disappointment occurs when the experience the woman gets is different than the experience she hoped for, even if she recognizes that the change of plans was for the best. During pregnancy, I try to live by the mantra "hope for the best, prepare for the worst," but I find it is not really possible to be fully prepared for every possibility in childbirth. Its also not possible to enter childbirth with absolutely no expectations. We can be flexible, but we can't control how what happens in childbirth affects us any more than we can control what happens in childbirth. We can, however, choose to heal, whatever healing means for us.

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