#147 | Stefanie's Birth Story: Healing Generational Birth Trauma

February 9, 2022

How do you know if you are carrying generational birth trauma? And if you identify it, what can be done about it prior to giving birth? Today we meet with  Stefanie, whose mother had a traumatic obstetrical experience while birthing to her second daughter, resulting in permanent brain damage and disability to Stefanie's little sister. Stefanie was five at the time. For nine months, she had excitedly anticipated her parents coming home with a baby, only to end up in her grandparents' care while her parents spent most of their time in the NICU. The childhood experience left a fear and trauma so deep, Stefanie always intended never to get pregnant. It was only after Stefanie fell in love and got married that she recognized she carried her mother's birth trauma with her throughout childhood and into adulthood, impacting her beliefs around the safety of childbirth. Feeling a longing to become a mother herself, she went on a courageous healing journey including therapy, reiki, and even mediumship, to confront her trauma. Once she came out the other side, her pregnancy and birth transpired as the most natural and magical experience of Stefanie's life.

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View Episode Transcript

I'm Cynthia Overgard, owner of HypnoBirthing of Connecticut, childbirth advocate and postpartum support specialist. And I'm Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and international board certified lactation consultant. And this is the Down To Birth Podcast. Childbirth is something we're made to do. But how do we have our safest and most satisfying experience in today's medical culture? Let's dispel the myths and get down to birth.

Hi, guys, I'm Stephanie Trento, I'm a licensed professional counselor and I wanted to come on the podcast today and just talk about my own generational trauma from my mom's traumatic birth that she had had with my sister and how I healed that for myself in adulthood. So that I could journey into my pregnancy and my labor without caring that trauma and really having the birth of what I feel like I manifest in my dreams. You know, I had such an amazing experience. My sister, I'm older, so my sister's birth was something that I remembered. And I remembered, you know, the complications that my mom and my sister had, they both almost died at birth, and in her labor. So that was something that really impacted me as a kid. And my parents were so amazing, they got me counseling right away, so I could process it and really talk through my own emotions. But even with that, I still always had this residual fear of what labor and birth would look like for myself. And I even remember, praying about not wanting to be pregnant as an adult, like, I was like, I really just, I would never get pregnant, which is so terrible, right? Because so many women have such complication. So I had that guilt of, I can't believe I really don't want this, but I did. And I always wanted to be a mom. So it was this like tug of war that I would battle with myself up until I got married three years ago. And like, yeah, I really, really want a baby, I really want to have a family. And I knew I had to finish healing all that trauma so that I could go into my own pregnancy journey and birth eventually, without carrying that. So I looked into life coaching and looked into mediumship. I looked into Reiki. And I think that a combination of all those things really helped me heal different parts of myself with carrying that trauma.

So how old were you when you experienced this?

I was five when my sister was born.

And do you want to briefly talk about what did happen? What was the condition? Was she in the hospital for weeks?

Yeah. So my mom actually went into labor early, about a month and a half early from her duty when my sister and my sister was completely healthy and would have been just a preterm labor had it not been this space where my mom wasn't heard by her OB. And she kept saying, you know, I need to push I'm ready to have the baby. And he was dismissing her and kept saying, No, we're going to give you medicine to stop the birth. And my mom was in great distress. The placenta ended up detaching, and my sister lost oxygen. And they ended up having to do an emergency C section. So

when they say the OB was giving her medication to stop the birth, do you mean he was trying to delay the labor because the baby was preterm? Yeah. Okay. Yeah, but she was already in labor.

She was already in labor. Yeah, she was. Yes.

So they did try to stop the labor and give steroids to the baby's lungs to buy a little bit more time, but she was already too far into labor and ended up with a placental abruption. Mm hmm.

And she had a really great relationship with some of the nurses and the pediatrician that was coming into you know, check my sister after she was eventually born and they all kept saying she is delivering this baby like there is no killing it. So there were multiple people advocating for my mom in that space, but the OB was just very adamant of, we're not delivering the baby, and then that ended up, you know, causing more damage to the situation. So my mom hemorrhaged my sister ended up having a brain bleed. So she ended up having brain surgery pretty shortly after birth. She ended up having a shunt, a VP shunt placed in she was in the NICU for almost four months. And she is multiple disabled now. So she's wheelchair bound. She's unable to verbally speak, and she's pretty much dependent on my parents for full time cared taking. So the abruption caused that, yeah. And what was the abruption caused by the fact that your mom wasn't given this freedom to birth when she needed to when they were giving her drugs instead?

Yep, so they were pushing her to not birth when she was clearly in labor. So that caused distress for her the placental abruption, the baby's loss of oxygen for that extended period of time, she did die for a period of time, you know, she didn't need to be revived. So.

Alright, so you had parents who were traumatized? Is that how you acquired your trauma?

Yeah, so my mom definitely carried a lot of trauma, my dad carried a lot of trauma from it, because he was, I need to take care of my wife, and I need to take care of this baby. And I'm not being heard as well. And I'm trying to advocate for two humans now. So he was under, you know, that stress of trying to protect and caretaker, like, his role that he felt should be in that moment, and it wasn't. So they both definitely carried their own sense of trauma from that space. But I was so five years old, I was able to understand, you know, I was able to understand that my mom's not coming home, the baby with the baby, my mom was, you know, in the hospital for a little bit longer, right. So she ended up coming home, and needed to heal, and I wasn't able to, you know, hang out with her as much and be on top of her and snuggle as much. And I remember all those things, and not really not having my sister there was the most impactful, like, why do we have to go to the hospital to see her? Why are we at the hospital all the time. And even in that timeframe, she was having so many, you know, health complications with the surgeries and everything that my parents were pretty much in the hospital with her for almost four months. So I was really, completely detached from them with being taken care of by my grandmother, my maternal grandmother, so I really was in a state of my own trauma of almost feeling abandoned, you know, not in the sense that they were they meant to by any means they had this baby that they needed to take care of and advocate for. But I was so detached from that whole sense of family and connection at the time that that was really impactful for me.

And I imagine your idea of birth was that birth is scary and dangerous.

Yeah, so my parents ended up going into a lawsuit with the OB, and they were in this lawsuit for almost nine and a half years. So that was definitely again, I was almost 15 By the time that lawsuit ended. And there was nothing that came of it, you know, there was no accountability, there was no compensation, it was really much very dropped. And this OB actually went on to do it to multiple other children in the same format that he did to my mom and my sister. So this is like a multiple offended Doctor Who should have had his license revoked, if not in jail for the things that he was doing, you know, so that that was very traumatic just to see my mom and my dad really play this trauma over and over again, in such a legal setting, and then there'd be nothing done about it, you know, and it wasn't about the finances or anything like that, because no money could ever take away that trauma and no money could ever put my sister in a better health position, you know, but it's the it's the principle it's being taken seriously. It's known that you could have made the world better if there had been accountability. It's the satisfaction. It's all it's that finances are the farthest thing from exam my mind when I'm hearing any of this be right because it wouldn't it but being acknowledged for what happened is what has to happen. Right? Yeah, so that was definitely a no their lair to the trauma, you know. And my sister's amazing like she's the biggest light in all of our lives, I always say that she's my biggest teacher. And we were really involved in her schooling and involved in, you know, disability awareness and cerebral palsy awareness and advocating for her. And my parents and I are just like, really, really big supporters and everything she does. But that also made me very hyper aware of all the people who had complications at birth. And all the people who had such traumas at birth, that resulted in these disabilities are resulted in these impairments that they have to carry now throughout life. So it's not everywhere, it was just consciousness all the time.

Yeah, so I didn't see birth that safe. I didn't see. Labor and Delivery is something that could be blissful. Or it could be anything other than traumatic. And that also made me really question doctors and I have always had somewhat of a white coat syndrome. You know, the minute I see a doctor, I'm like, Ah, they're not gonna listen to me, I can't trust them, I need to go guns blazing into every situation with them. Because they're not to be trusted. Because I need to be on the defense always.

So at what point did you begin to feel like you might actually want to become pregnant yourself and have a baby? And how did you work through that?

So I definitely focused on my career right out of grad school and college, I was very hyper focused on my career, I started dating my husband when I was 21. And he was very much focused on his career as well. And then when we got engaged, I was like, Okay, I definitely can see having a family with him. But I still was looking at alternate ideas, you know, adoption, or fostering and different ways to start a family, you know, I wasn't totally 100% In on pregnancy and broke for myself. And then when we got married, that was when I really sat back and said, I really want to experience pregnancy. And I really want to have our child to this is now a journey that I have to work on healing for myself. I felt very alone in that sense, because so I feel like so many of my friends and family just automatically say, Oh, you get married, and you have a baby. But I knew I had a lot of inner work to do before I even got to that space. So how did you go about that?

COVID was probably a blessing in disguise in that sense, right? Because we were all home and we all had time to self reflect. So being a therapist, I said, Okay, what can I work on on myself? And that's when I really sat down. I said, this is my goal. I want to have a baby, I want to be pregnant by this time next year. So what do I need to do to heal that and I processed it with my therapist, and she was my first person that I really touched on with it and work through a ton of my own. You know, first layer fears will say, right, but I'm very spiritual. I'm very connected to my meditation practice and gratitude practice and yoga and Reiki so I wanted to kind of cover all layers of that healing, right? But that's when I looked into processing with my medium who I adored and we really talked through a lot of my trauma and my Reiki master, so I was doing I am Reiki trainings, and I was doing more consistent Reiki sessions with her to work on, you know, balancing my chakras and really connecting to my higher self of how I could heal this generational trauma because it wasn't my trauma to carry you know, like my mom and I are deeply, deeply close. My sister and I are deeply, deeply post same thing with my dad. So these were their traumas, and I had my own trauma from it, essentially, right, but it was really my mom's trauma that I was carrying, how did using a medium help you process that?

So she offered this space of support that I felt was really really helpful and connecting to you know, my guardian angels and you know, my family members who have passed that I look to for support and one of them actually being my great grandmother and she birthed 14 kids. So my grandmother is One of the 14, nine of them being women. So we have a very female dominant family structure. And I needed to connect to that feminine power I needed to connect to the idea that she could birth 14 Kids in Italy without assistance, you know, out a doctor in a bar, and do it all on her own and do it so beautifully and have 14 healthy babies and have that image of it. So it was really connecting to her in that way that I couldn't do in the physical world. So would it take how much time did it take with all this body work and spiritual work to come to the place where you were ready?

I would say so March 2020. I definitely like dove in both feet first, by November 2020. That's when I really said I could be pregnant, I could totally feel confident and comfortable and without any anxiety about the idea of having a baby and being pregnant and conceiving. And my husband and I actually conceived that following January, so January 2021. And we conceived on the first try, which I totally feel like divine intervention. It was perfect timing. I healed everything I needed to process everything I needed to and my daughter was ready to come down, you know, she mother girl. Yep, another girl. Exactly. I needed that. And I think that's why the feminine energy, like I needed to connect to that with my great grandmother to heal my mom's trauma and that generational trauma between the two of us because we come from a very long line of these very strong women who had great births and no medical interventions, and they did it on their own. And I needed to have that and stand in that conviction more so than standing in my trauma.

So when you got pregnant, how did you feel about doctors?

I did not want to go to my first ultrasound. I was very apprehensive. But part of my journey, you know, from March to November, I was finding an OB who I trusted, I was in this gray area, right? Because I wanted to have no GI and have a traditional medical birth because I could I did see the medical traumas that could happen. So I wanted somebody in the medical field to support me, but I also wanted to let them know and have the awareness of I'm coming in with a trauma from my mom's experience. And I need somebody who's going to be, you know, very supportive and hand holding me not so much, you know, a blunt bedside manner. So one of the things that I did very early on, we hired my doula who is actually on your podcast, Jamie Davidson Ortiz. She is my doula. And she had a free birth with twins. I can't believe small world said, Okay.

So she actually, my husband and I hired her at 13 weeks, I want to say so very early on, because I knew I wanted somebody who was going to be that grounding person for me when I couldn't turn to my OB, if I felt like I couldn't. She was somebody who was supporting from day one, she would be the perfect counterbalance. Because with the way you feel torto bees and still your choice to give birth with one. She's a voice a rare voice in the world that says we don't need anybody just have your baby at home without even Yeah, yeah. You had to find your place between two absolute extremes.

Yeah. And it was really ironic too, because I think I would definitely be, I can have my baby at home by myself in the dark. And I'll come out and we'll be fine. But then I had my husband too, who, again, he's so hyper aware of everything that has happened in my family. And when my mom and my sister that he also wanted that medical side supported because he's aware of the things that could go wrong essentially too, right? So he was carrying that worry too and he felt I really want to have some medical support. You know, we can absolutely have a doula and absolutely do everything as natural as possible with the least medical interventions, but I would prefer hospital birth.

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So I actually had the best birth I was actually having prodromal labor for four days prior to my active labor. So that was kind of prepping me for it, which was, in hindsight really great because I think that it took away a lot of my fears of contractions and what it was going to feel like I started having more intense contractions at one of the morning. Took a shower. You know, Steve in the shower, like alright, they're getting stronger. So I finally woke up my husband at 3am. I was like, I think today's it. We contacted Jamie and she was over at our house right away. So from 4am to 8am, I was laboring at home and she was putting me in you know, headstands and knobbies yoga poses to help progress labor, and that's at that point, you were decided to go to the hospital. And my total labor was 22 hours and then I only push for 20 minutes. She came very fast. I had no medicinal interventions. No Pitocin no epidural. Completely natural birth and she is the best baby she was born seven pounds, six ounces. 19 inches long.

It just all went so smoothly after all your work. Yeah, feel do you feel in your bones in yourself? Do you feel that the work you did was necessary and critical

1,000% 1,000% I really believe in divine actions. So everything I did just felt right. It didn't make sense. Like there was no logical process. Everything I was doing just felt like my higher self was kind of guiding me through it from literally our conception D up until our birth. So my husband and I can see her in Turks and Caicos. And we were on vacation, I had said, I'm going to bring down like a little sign and hats that we can wear so we can make a birth announcement in Turks and Caicos. And he's like, Oh, that's a great idea. Like what a pretty background, like the island and the water. And this was even prior to knowing that we were going to conceive for there, you know, so I was already doing these actions as if I was pregnant. And that was the same thing with my birth journey. You know, I was doing these things knowing I was going to birth her without an epidural, I was going to be fine without Pitocin to you know, speed up my contractions. And that was something that I had multiple residents come in and say, you know, Pitocin is really gonna help and we really recommend it, especially for first time moms. And I said, No, I'm progressing completely fine. My body's doing what it needs to be doing. And you know, Jamie and my husband are in the background cheering. Supporting every decision I was making, but I had no logical decision making behind it. It just felt right to do these things. It just felt right to say no to the Pitocin it just felt right to say no to the epidural. And my healing process postpartum was amazing. I truly feel like that was another layer of healing that trauma because if you remember I was saying I remembered my mom not being able to be hugged or cuddled me to have such a blissful postpartum experience to was so nice and such an amazing closure journey to my birth experience.

So hopefully now the generational trauma is severed, right? And move forward with a new pattern. Yeah. So what advice might you have for other women out there who think that they could have some generational birth trauma? Or how would they even know to look for that?

So I would definitely see what connection, what words come to mind when you think of birth, I would say that my initial words were unsafe, traumatic. And now I see it as empowering and strength, and it can be blissful, you know, and I think looking at that is something that every woman should do, especially before conceiving, because you don't want to go into this space, you know, especially with creating a new human in you and giving life to that person, you don't want to carry any trauma and that you want it to be such a safe space for both of you. So I would do that fear inventory. And then if there is any fears there, do the work. Like you need to be diligent and do the work and rip off the band aid of healing that trauma, no process of healing traumas, fun, it was dirty and gritty and really tough at times. And there were many times where I was hysterical crying, journaling, you know, or in a therapy session, or in a Reiki session beside myself about healing this, but I needed to do this, I needed to do it for myself, I needed to do it for my family, I need to do it for my daughter so that when I talk about birth, and I talk about her birth, it is an entirely different experience than what my mom had with my sister and the way that my mom felt about her birth with her.

For women listening and wondering if they have trauma based on how they came into the world, or whether it was passed on to them from negative beliefs that they heard growing up. It's scary. It's really scary to face these things. Yeah. Can you encourage them? Like what can they look forward to if they do this work?

Such a clear mindset and peace, you have so much more space to have more positivity and more gratitude for the things that will bring them ultimate joy,

right, living in a state of anxiety and fear is very stressful. Yeah, it's wearing and it's stressful, and you're in a constant con internal conflict between what I want and what I feel. Mm hmm. And that is a hard place to be. So the reward is that you no longer have to be in that hard place that you can actually be authentic. And it feels better, a lot better like that. Yeah,


You really had to marry the right man. I mean, it really does say a lot about him that you were able to go this deep and spiritually in this journey, and that he was the person by your side. Would it have been a very different experience if you didn't have that kind of support? Or that kind of husband at your side?

Oh, yeah. I mean, I, I'm sure there's a lot of people out there who would have thought I was crazy. And I wanted to do mediumship and Reiki and all of these more spiritual modalities,

even getting somebody to buy into the idea that you are suffering from generational trauma and that it can impact your birth is a hard go for a lot of people out people just write that off. It's not you. Why would it matter for you? That was somebody else?

Yeah. And I think he sees my sister and I have such an amazing bond. And we are so close and I absolutely adore her like she is truly I believe we can have multiple soulmates. She's definitely mine.

Thank you for joining us at the Down To Birth Show. You can reach us @downtobirthshow on Instagram or email us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com. All of Cynthia’s classes and Trisha’s breastfeeding services are offered live online, serving women and couples everywhere. Please remember this information is made available to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is in no way a substitute for medical advice. For our full disclaimer visit downtobirthshow.com/disclaimer. Thanks for tuning in, and as always, hear everyone and listen to yourself.

How old is your daughter now? She just turned two months on Sunday, two months. Wow. Well Your sister is an aunt. Yeah, yeah,

We call her so we're Italian. So her name Xia Mia. They adore each other. So sweet.

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About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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