#218 | Birth Trauma Alchemy with Eyla Cuenca

June 21, 2023

Eyla Cuenca, a birth doula and birth trauma alchemist, delves into the emotional and psychological aspects of pregnancy and birth. She highlights the varying experiences pregnant women may encounter when it comes to their healthcare providers and how it can impact their journeys.

Eyla introduces the concept of birth trauma alchemy, which focuses on transforming birth traumas and wounds into opportunities for growth, self-knowledge and empowerment. We delve into the psycho-emotional work required during pregnancy and after, highlighting how a woman's birth experience profoundly shapes her memory and emotions surrounding the event. For example, giving birth can trigger past feelings of "unwanted touches" from childhood, even from seemingly mild memories of being told to hug and kiss relatives and friends of parents.

We explore the societal pressure to prioritize a healthy baby over a woman's emotional well-being and challenge the notion that a healthy baby is the only measure of a successful birth. Our conversation underscores the need for women to utilize their sense of self-worth and the ability to advocate for their birth preferences to ensure a positive and empowering birthing experience.

Eyla Cuenca Birth
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View Episode Transcript

You might get a nurse who is totally supportive, like has gotten a lot of rest, you know, before her shift, who is treating this like a sacred opportunity, who is available energetically and physically, you know all the things or you might get one who is, you know, spread really thin, working with five other women on the same floor and going to trigger your abandonment wounds. Like we could get either thing. So we talk about those realities and coming to terms and coming to peace with this decision, right? And knowing that anything is possible in this space, how do we try to know everything and then release the control over it? And that's the kind of like psycho emotional work and radical response self responsibility that has to be done in pregnancy. It's not just taking a Pilates class and a birth class and taking the right vitamins. It's like, how do we do all of this psychoemotional work to prepare and also be at peace and trust and surrender to the process.

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, I'm Eyla Cuenca. I'm a birth doula birth educator and birth trauma alchemist. I'm based in Miami, Florida. And I am here to serve families and women everywhere.

I have never heard that term before. And you just definitely highlighted the topic of this conversation, you're going to have to explain to us what it means to be a birth trauma alchemist.

Yeah, of course. I started working with this term, about three years ago when I was in a postpartum visit with one of my clients. And we were there to address breastfeeding concerns. But naturally, as you both know, when you're in the postpartum space, things arise that you didn't anticipate, and you just go with the flow and see how you can really alchemize what's coming up. Sometimes in birth, we call that reframing right or cognitive reframing maybe and so instead of helping her reframe it, or to give her a different perspective, I just allowed her to invited her to, you know, flow with what had come up. And then I just intuitively started asking her questions like, you know, why do you think you felt led to do that? Or why do you think you felt led? Or why do you feel that this arose in this way? And you know, what kind of strength you find that it gives you now? And what would you share with other women, if they were to ask you about this experience? And what kind of drive does it give you now and so we started seeing how the wound could become the gift. And then that's when I started anchoring in the birth trauma alchemy phrase. And that's how I started working with a lot of my clients postpartum. And so over the last three years, it's really involved into this framework that I offer. You know, sometimes women come 10 years after birth, and just say, I felt compelled, something doesn't feel right. But I want it to feel right. Like how can we make it feel right? And so that's the, that's the phrase I use.

I love it. I mean, if there's one, one thing that we really truly know about a woman and her birth experience, it's that she never ever forgets it for her life, like her birth experience and how she was made to feel in her birth, not necessarily the details of what happened. But how she felt through the experience, how she was treated, whether or not she felt empowered, or not respected or not, that sticks with her. And not only does it stick with her for her life, but it also informs her initiation into motherhood.

Right. I mean, I always think of what people say about kids when you want to take them to travel somewhere, and they say, why waste the energy and resources, they're not going to remember anything. And sure, they might not remember walking through the Colosseum, but they're gonna remember how they felt. And they're gonna remember the connection that they had with their family unit, and that's why you're investing that energy. So it's because the body remembers, and that's the children and women and birth and pretty much any experience. The details are almost irrelevant on a certain level. It's about how you feel.

We've also noticed that by doing birth story processing sessions with women that Sometimes, they want to book the session within a few weeks of giving birth. And when they do that, I usually encourage them to potentially wait a little bit longer, because whether they're aware of it or not, their emotions are gonna keep evolving and changing tremendously over the first six months or one year, right. So they're still in that state in the beginning of overwhelm, of trying to remember all the little details. And they will on their own process many aspects of it. And then, over the months that follow their these sticking points, they find themselves thinking about over and over in the middle of the night, when they're going about the activities of their daily lives. And we find one of the most important goals of those sessions pretty early on in the session is to start naming the emotions. And one thing that's become very apparent to me is that when women suffer birth trauma, they can experience completely different sets of uncomfortable emotions, they're not all feeling the same stuff. So for example, if you look at the category of women who don't plan at all, they're the women who say, I just trusted my doctor, I did what my sister did, I did what what my friends did. And they experienced trauma, there's a lot of guilt and self blame. But when women plan, and they read everything, and they work hard, and they take their childbirth class with the right instructor, and they do all their practice exercises and their yoga and their meditations and their chiropractic, and they hire the right provider, and then they experience a traumatic birth. They're not feeling the self blame. They're sitting with the incredible uncomfortable feeling of, of like feeling kind of like a victim feeling. Like, how did something so unfair happen? To the woman? This wasn't supposed to happen to in their mind? I did everything right. Yeah. So one thing I find just so interesting is just learning to have the respect for the fact that all of these women suffering trauma, are really feeling unique emotions, and they also are shaped by the people around them. Because some of them have families that are just trying so hard to fix their discomfort, that they just end up feeling more guilty, because they're always being reminded that they ended up with a live at the end or with a healthy baby in the end. Right, where to where to turn, right. And then they feel guilty that they're even complaining, quote, unquote, right?

Yeah, they're grateful that they, you know, why can't they be happy and grateful that they are alive and they're healthy, and the baby's healthy, and, you know, barely making it out is not really the goal.

Right? That is, the other thing that we know for certain is that women feelings about their birth are so dismissed because of this concept that at the end of it a healthy baby is the most important thing, and everything else is just sort of like a nicety. If you if you feel good about it, like Oh, great. That was great.

I see those slogans and the hospitals here in South Florida, healthy mom, healthy baby, it's almost like that that goal is like just being imprinted in the subconscious. And so it's like, whatever it takes to get there. Even if I have to self betray, or even if I have to suffer and sacrifice, I'll do it. You know, it's either or, you know, it's almost like an either or,

let's talk about that a little bit. Because that is certainly something we see in the premise of our entire work in this entire podcast is that a healthy mother and baby is not all that matters. So I want to go up to those signs in the hospital and I want to put a knot that in that slogan,

it's the most important thing, and it's not all that matters is it's just so complicated. It's like the first thing that you damn well better achieve. Right? If that's, if that's the bottom floor. It's it's the bottom line. Right? But they're like, it's like getting married and saying, like, may this partner not abuse me? And otherwise, you're good. You're in a good marriage. It's like, great, right? Right. Let's be happy for it. Just be grateful.

Yeah. Yeah, well, a lot of women will say that, like, you know, my marriage is intact, have a beautiful baby. No, wasn't able to breastfeed, but at least my baby took the bottle. And, you know, I have, you know, a family that supports me and I just don't know why I feel this void, or I feel like I keep repeating or replaying the events of my birth. And I love that term you use Cynthia, like the stuck points that when you do process with your clients, you kind of hear repeat stuck points, or maybe phrases. And so we go a little bit deeper, right into like, Oh, what do you you know, if you didn't really feel aligned with your medical provider? What kept you there? That's like, well, you know, he was nice enough like he would he would be supportive. The visits weren't very visits weren't very long, but you know, he he said he would help me get to my goals and it was such a pain to change and my friend were with that doctor and my sister also birth without doctor. So what I start to notice is that there's like this Good girl complex that's starting to reveal itself to me, which obviously, it's not a judgment, it's just what it is like most of us have a dimension of that. And you know, we're all girls in this societies that we were all girls in this society at one point. And so we start to unpack that a little bit. And what I start to see is that the source of the self betrayal of staying with a medical provider that really wasn't aligned with that woman was because she never learned how to ask for what she wanted. And going even further, she never really had a solid sense of self worth to begin with, right? Like at the core of her being, she didn't really believe that she was worthy of having everything that she's ever wanted. Well, whatever reason, and also, there's the category of women who really trusted their doctors, they do have good self worth. And they ended up feeling totally duped back betrayed. The last woman I spoke with going over her birth story, those were all the emotions, she felt she just felt like cheated betrayed. This wasn't at all what you told me, would it be happening? You know, it started with when she went into labor. She was working with a couple of midwives she loved from a birthing center. And when she went into labor, she called them and they were like, Oh, right. Well, neither of us is on call this weekend. So there's actually a third backup midwife. And she was just like, what, like, I grew so close to both of you, you never told me there was ever, ever going to be someone else. So it began that way. And her whole birth was just a series of just like, what, and she had beautiful self worth and to beautiful care of herself and went through the effort of leaving her obstetrician and hiring these women. You can this is what's so uncomfortable about it when when you care about women, it's just, you can't you can't preempt everything. I knew a woman I've told this story a few times. But I had a woman who went into a hospital in Connecticut years ago. And she she she too, was prepared. She was doing great, everything was fine. Her husband was racing to get there. And he never made it. She ended up having a quick natural birth. But when she arrived, there was a guy literally, like mopping or polishing the floors in the lobby when she was checking in. And he glanced over and said out loud, somebody needs an epidural. And she said her entire labor these words were just playing over in her head needs an epidural needs an epidural. So in the like it this is where it's just unfair, she did everything right. And it doesn't even matter in a way that she quote, ended up with the birth she plan on having her whole story now was this guy, this random, just as as unimportant as a soul can be in your life? He made the comment that became the one comment that sustained throughout her whole birth. Just Right, right. And this is one of the elements that I always discuss with my clients, or my students who are trying to figure out where you know how to map out their birth and how to select a birthplace and how to select a birth team. And I really emphasize the importance of who's present, what's the story they're bringing, and what's the story, they could project into your birth space. And so we're dealing with that with people we know. So when we go into an environment of a lot of unknowns in public, right, a hospital lobbies a public place, generally speaking, it's private property, but it's open to the public. And so you're going to encounter things like that. And so it's like it's it's a shame that we have to think so much and strategize so much to figure out where we're going to have the conditions that are going to support us in the best way. And even though she did have the the birth she wanted, she put herself in a situation of unknowns just by leaving her house.

We all do even when we don't leave our homes. There's always a category, Trisha was an unknown at my birth. Right. And I had never met her before. When she were Trisha, were you a backup midwife?

I was the assistant midwife, but yeah, I think I don't remember if I was like a backup for somebody that night or not. But yeah, I don't recall.

If her t shirt hadn't said yell midwifery at your cervix. When I first glanced at her. I'm not sure what I would have thought of her when she was in. She was just wearing the perfect t shirt. That's amazing.

That that that one all worked out. But it's so so then. So then is it a question of women? You know, how do women learn to take such radical responsibility for themselves and their experience and their minds in birth that that none of this can faze them? Like? What about the woman who has to walk into her local hospital and give birth because she lives somewhere where there are no other options? There's no midwives in the area, there's no lovely birth senator, there's not a selection of a dozen midwives to choose from. She's got the local hospital OB and like she wants the birth that she wants, and how can she take such responsibility for herself? And her experience that she can potentially achieve that?

Yeah, so I had a client who I like to share stories, because that's kind of how I answer these questions. But I did have a client who was in a similar situation, and Canada was her only option was to go to the local hospital. And so what we talked about a lot was the reality of the environment. And it's not like, we're looking at the worst case scenario, so that you can start to manifest the worst case scenario, and we look at the realities of that environment, right, it's 5050, you might get a nurse who is totally supportive, like, has gotten a lot of rest the, you know, before her shift, who is treating this like a sacred opportunity, who is available energetically and physically, you know, all the things. Or you might get one who is, you know, spread really thin, working with five other women on the same floor, and going to trigger your abandonment wounds, right, like, we could get either thing. So we talk about those realities, and coming to terms and coming to peace with this decision, right, and knowing that anything is possible in this space. And so I think that's where, if you feel like you're limited in your birth options for whatever reason, like geographically, financially, whatever it is, how do we try to know everything and then release the control over it. And that's the kind of like psycho emotional work and radical response, self responsibility that has to be done in pregnancy. It's not just taking a Pilates class and a birth class and taking the right vitamins. It's like, how do we do all of this psychoemotional work to prepare and also be at peace and trust and surrender to the process. And sometimes it can help to have a doula or a birth attendant or husband who is very present, because they can also validate that things are changing in the birth, but that you still have the same consistent support, even though things are changing. And oh, this is what we talked about with ala Oh, yeah, see, now we're seeing this, and now we're gonna flow that. So it's like, having that support person is also valuable, you know, and, and that's where I come into some friction with the free birth movement is because women historically, were not birthing alone in this way, intentionally. And there is something to be said, and really valuable about having consistent a consistent support person or, or containment throughout your process. Because when things do change, when when memories come up, when past traumas come up, which they do during the labor process very often, to have that grounding containing factor like an educated supportive partner or a doula can make or break the whole thing sometimes. So yeah, I would say it's about just getting the lay of the land and then coming to terms and peace with the option that is the only option you feel you have.

Do you think that women are setting their expectations too high for childbirth today? Like is there's this idea that, you know, every birth, or a woman's expectation is that her birth should be this incredibly quiet, peaceful, undisturbed? I mean, I agree with all of these things, that these are the things that we want our birth to be. But is there a balance between having these very high expectations that birth is going to be this perfect experience? versus reality of what birth sometimes is?

I think that's a really good question. And I think it's the difference between birth is going to be the perfect projection that I have, or birth is going to be perfect for me. Right? You know,

I ponder this a lot too, because in HypnoBirthing, which I've been teaching for years, but I've never stopped challenging, questioning and at times, disagreeing with certain little tenants involved in it, this little minor thing sometimes, and I'm free to it, I freely talk about those things with my clients. In HypnoBirthing, you only visualize the birth you want, I mean, religiously, you only visualize the birth you want. And I had a client once we ended up with a C section, and was very grateful she took the course because she still felt very prepared because a C section you still use all the techniques, you still visualize, you still breathe, you still relax your physiology, you still then put your emphasis on bonding, you know, but she did feel like I didn't. I don't know if it would have been better for me to also prepare to have a C section because it was so unknown. So I'm always grappling with that myself. I mean, I Do think just when I study anything spiritual, I do know that we're more likely to achieve the outcome we visualize. So I do think I lean much more toward visualizing that birth we want, then well, I don't want to be more disappointed later. So let me just even think about if everything goes to hell, you know, I don't think that serves as a survival mechanism that traumatized.

But I still can appreciate the question that Trisha posed, and I have grappled with it. What do you think, Trisha? What are Yeah, I don't think we I don't think we necessarily have to envision the outcome that we don't want, I think we have to know that, you know, there is an element, as we always talk about in birth, there is an element of unknown, there's an element of there, we can't control every aspect of birth, we can do our best to prepare, but we have, it's sort of like, going on the path of focusing on the birth exactly the way we want, but also not being too attached to all the details along the way. Like we, you know, for example, the woman who had the comment about the epidural like, can we find a way to be so committed to our birth that a comment like that just goes in one ear and out the other are the 10 people walking in the room in the hospital don't, they don't really get you out of your birthstone. Whereas if we're so held tightly, so attached to this candle lit room with absolute peace and quiet, and we can't control all those other variables, you know, that are going to that are going to inevitably come into our space. And we can control that a little bit more at home. But still not 100%. Just like Cynthia said, I could have been a loud, noisy birth assistant. But, ya know, it's a great point. And I think the mantra is, I'm going to have the birth that is perfect for me, I'm going to like that.

That's hard to swallow for a lot of women, though, as you know, right. And, and when they feel like they didn't, it might be, you know, they might get to a point of failed, they'll get to a point of acceptance. But it's, it still feels so unfair, it feels so painful. And what I do believe, is, when we look back on our own painful life experiences, for me, they often become my absolute favorite life stories. I don't know why. But like, I think because we change so much after our painful life experiences. And it's very little consolation to say to a woman who's sitting in her trauma, well, this is going to enrich you and, and expand you the rest of your life. Later, she will experience that and appreciate it. But it's something she's just not able to hear now or appreciate now. It's like gee grade, like I, you know, I took one for the team spiritually just so I can end up a little wiser, I'd rather have the good birth is I'm always grappling with every aspect of our conversation. Yeah, we all are, right. Yeah. And I don't think women reach out to process the birth until, like, their higher self or their soul, or their subconscious is, you know, screaming and ready for the alchemy. And so someone who is really deep in the grief, like is not at that point yet to have the conversation where radical responsibility is claimed, and I really, I can't subscribe to like, this is happening to me, I that's just not my life. Philosophy. You know, and so, I ask, I asked women like what you know, because our consciousness and our mantras that we're speaking are just 1% of our actual body and our actual consciousness, like the subconscious is really who's at the driver's seat. And so what is the subconscious belief? You know, what is going on under all of this? Is there is are you actually focusing in the subconscious on your fear of the C section? You know, and is that what's actually manifesting not the, like, 10 word mantra, you've been repeating over and over again, you know, hoping that it just takes.

So how do you access that? Like, how do you get to that? Because that's, of course, you know, most people are thinking that if they're doing good subconscious work, they're repeating their mantras, they're posting their What do you call those?

affirmations? And they do work too, because you can change beliefs, you know, that's help smokers quit smoking. I mean, we can change beliefs with effort. But yeah, the subconscious is driven. You have it's called the law of attraction, like you deeply are pulled toward what you're seeking. And sometimes what we consciously believe we're seeking isn't what we're unconsciously. Exactly.

So like, I've been deep into Abraham Hicks for so long, and sometimes I share it with my clients, and they'll say, I'm really having a hard time saying that thing, like I just don't believe it. And I'm like, Okay, so let's look at why that's so hard. And the concept

there is that you have to that it comes from the feeling right, it's not the family it's it's has starred in the feeling and then the thought changes, right? So we go to what's the real feeling when you say that thing that you're don't actually believe or like, this is BS? What's the feeling that's coming up? Well, the feeling is that everyone's going to disappoint me. And so how what I'm saying there I'm here to support me I am loved and support it, it feels like BS, because I believe everyone has is going to disappoint me because they always have, I've always had to do everything myself for myself since I'm a little girl. And so it's interesting. I had a client a few months ago. And the phrase that kept coming up was, yeah, and the nurse was incompetent. And then the doctor the backup doctor came in, they didn't know what they were doing. And I had to go in and I had to stand up and I had, so her belief, her entire pregnancy was that people were going to disappoint her because everybody has her whole life. So there is an opportunity to repattern these kind of like, open loops of traumatic beliefs, right? In the pregnancy. If you want to really prepare yourself, you can go to that feeling right? When you're trying to say that mantra and it doesn't feel aligned. Because there's this other feeling. Let's do a deepest fear inventory, let's just go to the fears. And let's deal with those first before we try, you know, putting the the powdered sugar on top, what's like the stuff inside. And so when we look at the fear, I have a fear that that no one's really gonna show up for me at my birth. And so we somehow we sometimes have to go to that kind of like ugly place, you know, where we have to revisit with the parts of ourselves that are wounded, mistrusting, feeling abandoned, feeling dropped, feeling lack of connection? How do we restore that before we then start, you know, going into these words that are meant to change our beliefs, we have to go into those feelings and actually expose them first.

Is there a most most common most frequent theme that you see in your birth trauma processing sessions amongst women? Yeah, actually, I was just talking to someone about this yesterday. The most common theme that I've seen, when we start to dig in to like when we we do this, like reverse engineering of the birth when we do the the birth trauma processing sessions, and what it mostly comes back to is unwanted touch from an early age. And that could be like having to, you know, hug and kiss family members, when you say hello at a gathering and you didn't want to but you were told you had to in order to be accepted and liked and that you were rude if you didn't, or, Oh, she's shy, and then she's forced to give a hug, you know, to grandma when she didn't want to, to something more, you know, seemingly intense, like actual sexual violation or molestation, right when one in three children are molested.

So one in three children.

Yeah, I picked up that stat in 2020. It was like,

inside of the US or globally in the US. Oh, my God.

So I used to be a guardian at litem for the 11th Judicial Circuit in Florida. So I, I managed a lot of foster cases. And this is like where I this is really where like the advocacy for for children came alive for me that just transferred into advocacy for birth because I was like, I can't walk into these homes and write reports and give them to a judge. Like, where does this begin? Like I need to go back more because like I'm not making change here are all human rights violations. That's I agree with you so much. My heart isn't exactly the same place with these abuses have happening to kids. Yeah. And yet, when we ask ourselves why it's like, because this is all a matter of human rights. It's all a matter of, of personal safety and personal freedom and, and autonomy. It's all the same thing.

It's all the same thing, and so prevalent. And all the births look different when we talk about their births. However, when we get to the core of why I stayed with a medical provider that I didn't really trust or why let them do this, why didn't speak up Why didn't honor my birth plan, why I chose to birth here and not at home. You know, my family thought I was crazy for doing home births. So I went to the hospital. So like when we start to trace it back, we usually end up accessing unwanted touch at the origin of their story.

Well, even in the last one you mentioned, it was like you trust you're trusting your family's judgment more than your own. Yeah. I've often said to clients of mine, and I've observed that we often don't really become adults or stand in our adulthood until we go through birth and become parents ourselves. So you often have pregnant expecting women and their partners who aren't really quite arrived yet as being men and women, you know, they still might raise their voice at the end of sentences and have that that tentative tone. And we must go through these life experiences to really stand in it. They're not they're not the person they will be 10 years later able to go speak to a school principal about some kind of something they object to right to be their child's advocate. They're still feeling psychologically and emotionally under their parents range. somehow by trusting their parents more than themselves. So I think that that's sometimes where it is for people, because a lot of a lot of homebirth is have that their families aren't comfortable with it, you have the PDF, you have the women who say, well, then we're not telling our family, oh, my God, I have a lot of those. And then you have those who just don't have the homebirth because of it.

Well, so what the child so this is, this is where it comes down to right, where you defer to your family's judgment over your own or over yours and your husband's judgment. Again, the unwanted touch, well, I'm having this feeling I'm I'm drawing a boundary and I look at mom or dad, and they tell me no, it's okay, make the contact. Okay, so I have to self betray, because they're telling me it's safe. And then I don't feel safe. And so it's very confusing. And so that starts to compound over time and to our preteens teenagers and of course, into early adulthood. You know, and so I'm not saying this is the at the root cause of all birth trauma. But for me, in my little small petri dish of people, this is the most common origin story that I see. When we when we when we process birth, and are those women actually saying the to you? They're like, reporting to you that in their birth, they were just uncomfortable with the doulas touch or their partner's touch, or a vaginal exam? Or is it coming up in other ways,

is coming up in other ways? It's not so obvious. It's not so literal. It's not like, oh, you know, they touched me and I didn't like it. And then I'm like, oh, it's because there was unwanted touch at age eight. It's like, well, you know, I didn't really get I didn't really have the connection I wanted with my midwife, but I kept going. And then she didn't, she wasn't even the one who came, it was the backup, and then I felt really betrayed. And then, so for me, there is an opportunity there to look at. Okay, why did you self betraying the prenatals? Why didn't you say, Hey, I'm not feeling this connection. Let me go find another midwife who I feel more of a heart connection with who I feel more containment insecurity with. So that's why I say there's an element of lack of self worth asking, expressing what you feel you're worthy of what you need. And then there's also this feeling like my instinct is telling me one thing, but I'm just gonna stay quiet. Because I don't want to be a bother to everybody. I don't want to switch care and 30 weeks, like, I don't want to annoy my husband. I don't want you know, so people, people don't know how to leave their providers. They they feel that, you know, it's rude. It's impolite. It's asking for my records is going to upset somebody, how do I explain while I'm leaving, I can't help but to keep thinking of the providers who really seduced her though, like she really did was willing to leave if she had to, Trisha And I hear from countless women on Instagram. You know, I don't know how many it is. But it's often hundreds in a day, or God knows how many in a week, but we heard a story from someone recently, I don't even remember who but the story stayed with me where she said she had this wonderful homebirth midwife. And 12 hours in the midwife started getting irritable. And she made the comment and said, Well, my other my other moms give birth a lot quicker than you. So I think we need to give, I know, I can't believe it either. Honestly, it's an unbelievable, and it's so upsetting. I can't even imagine if I had been in labor in my manuals, bait and switch. I mean, yeah, that that's what I'm talking about. So many women didn't betray themselves, they really hired well, and they still you. And the thing is, and I'm always saying this, above all, you have to hire someone yes, that you trust. And second, someone who has a high emotional intelligence, and no one with a high emotional intelligence, would would make some of these comments. And then it's like, I didn't see this coming. Like, whoa, I can't believe they just said that, to me and labor, like you're thinking is this I'm really putting, I'm putting myself in this person's hands. And you didn't quite see it at the prenatal, because birth is such a longer and more intense and more intimate experience with the person.

So yeah, there's like a question of like, how to further that. Someone in the prenatals. How to ask questions. You know, working under pressure, you know, there's there's a print ification that happens with our medical providers, whether it's a midwife or a doctor or nurse, like anyone who has really keen expert authority on a subject where we where we need them, there's a print application that happens naturally. And so if we come from emotionally immature parents who do not have emotional intelligence, how, as a woman can we really read when this parental FIDE figure is emotionally intelligent or not?

That's true, it might just fit smoothly with what they're comfortable. Like, the devil I know.

Exactly. I don't even realize it consciously. It's really obvious and easy to pick up on some of the major big red flags that we talked about. You know, if you get a take a childbirth education course and you learn that if your OB says starts talking about induction at 37 weeks, 38 weeks, you know, early in the pregnancy, like, there's some really identifiable obvious red flags that might push people to change providers. But we're talking about these more subtle little feelings of just like, just lack of connection, that's a really subtle feeling that most people wouldn't take seriously enough to change providers, they would just, that's just kind of how they feel in relation to new people. So sure, and that's, that's the child who who was the caretaker, right? Who, in order to get connection with a volatile parent, or you know, a parent who would withhold love based on performance, the child would have to kind of caretake and perform. And so the midwife just showing interest, for example, in her experience feels like connection, when it's really not authentic connection with integrity that lasts. So there just might be a perception. So this is where women are invited to visit with the parts of themselves. And you might not even know what those parts are, you might be like, I feel whole, complete and healthy and happy. I'm content with my life. And so you could use these prenatals as an opportunity to see like, Okay, how does my body feel when I'm in the presence of this midwife or this doctor? Is there? If I have an impulse to say something? Do I say it or do I withhold because I'm trying to manage and strategize with this person so that I don't upset them? Oh, okay. You're caretaking. Okay. So there's an opportunity here where we can unpack the caretaker. And then maybe once we do a little bit of that work, because then we can revisit finding a medical provider.

It's so much, it's almost so much more simple than we make it. It's well, perfect. Yeah, yeah, we also have to remember, we're all from metropolitan areas, and we have choices. And we live in an enormous country with, with millions of acres of farmland, and for the women who live on the periphery of those areas and states, they sometimes have no option, one option, and we've met those women too. And boy would they must be listening to this thinking must be nice to live in a big city with all your options. I'll go with this provider over that one. It's such a big country, you know, it's so it's such a vast audience.

I live in Miami, and when I was pregnant, I felt like I didn't have very many options for free care. I mean, ob care is like there's two OBS, I would say are amazing. And I've met a lot of OBS. Sorry, guys. But the the midwives here, I really felt like I only had three choices.

And three days decent, right? And the first one to one, two, the first one. Now I'm down to two.

Well, now I'm down to do the second one. And I remember, I was seven months pregnant and in a prenatal. I was asking some questions. And she said, You should ask a lot of questions. She's like, how's your husband feel about that? And I was like, what? You're fired? Wow.

Yeah, I just know, I just I called that night, you must be an annoying wife. That's totally, totally. And I was like, Alright, we're done. Like I don't, you know, and then I was like, I'm down to the last one. So I switched character, her and it to this midwife. And it was like, you know, it was fine. It checked the boxes. And that's when I said, Well, this is where my husband becomes the connection that I need. This is where I really view this woman as just a gatekeeper who is providing the safety that I perceive that I need. And I am not relying on her to hold the space, I'm not relying on her. And she was also pregnant and had morning sickness at my birth. And so she kind of naturally phased out of the physical space and energetic space. And it was really just down to my husband and I but I had the assurance that I needed at the time that there was someone with medical expertise in my home. So I had to rearrange my expectations. There's a lot of management of expectations that can happen. But what I did is that I recruited my husband, as the person that was going to walk with me, you know, and in birth, you really are walking alone. You just have the support. No one's gonna do it for you. But I recruited him to to meet the needs that I felt that I had at the time.

I mean, back to birth trauma, I just want to I want to mention one more thing that I want listeners to be aware of and think about. We were doing a session with a woman a couple of months ago, and she was processing her story with us. And I don't realize we say we don't remember the details. We remember the emotions. I remember feeling for her. She was crying. She was processing a lot, feeling a lot of regret and self blame, but she really did a lot of things she intended to do. She really advocated for the bonding that she wanted. She really asserted herself a couple of times, but people kept betraying her letting her down and she had to do more fighting and defending than she anticipated. When we were when she was like coming toward the end of her story, or toward the end of the session, I remember she said, Well, this baby, really, this birth really kicked my ass. And I remember I said to her, hang on a second, you're gonna tell this story your whole life. And the way you frame it, and the words you use are going to become the story. I'm sitting here listening to every detail of your story. And I never thought, this birth or this baby kicked her ass, I'm thinking, Oh, my gosh, she asserted herself more than she ever thought she would have to. And she still did it anyway, she's aware of these emotions, she's feeling kind of you know, she's had that well of emotion crack open as it does for us after giving birth. I had, I was feeling so much respect for her. But she described it like, well, this kicked my ass. And I said, Hang on, let's not put a title to it. Let's not label it, just sit in it, just become still with it get to the point, maybe months out of acceptance, just let it be, let's not look for how to how to describe this whole thing. And if you do look to as to how you're going to describe this story the rest of your life, choose those words really carefully. You can you can, you can position it however you want. You can say I had no idea. Like, you can look at your little baby and say, look at how we persevered through that. Look at how we did that. That could be another choice than saying boy that really kicked our ass. So I think that women have to be very aware of language. Yeah. As they start to distill their story into words, words are spells for sure. You know, and what I would have said, I mean, just from the little you've told me that moment is like, we I experienced, probably the most significant reclamation of my voice that I ever have, you know, in this birth, like, I reclaimed something that I didn't even know I had, you know, thank God that I can I have this capacity to use my voice because what if I didn't, then they would have taken baby and done that, you know, like, there is a way to reframe that and to use and so that's why it's, it's helpful to have a mirror right, like the way that you do in these sessions with your clients. It's almost like a mirror where you can say, well, that's not what I see, actually, what I see, what I'm reflecting back, is that you reclaimed a part of yourself that you might have never been acclaimed, had you not had some of this tension and intensity in your birth? Um, you know, there's, there's women who have no fighting, no, nothing, no points of contention, no struggle in their birth, you know, they got their epidural baby came out 10 hours later, you know, baby was separated, because maybe there was something they had to do didn't see maybe for an hour, then, you know, breastfed for a little bit, but then baby needed bottle. And everything seemed like, you know, the the woman's like, I didn't really feel like there was anything wrong, but I just feel very disconnected, you know, and she's trying to figure out, like, what is this inside of me, that doesn't feel like it's connected to this experience, everything was fine. My doctor treated me with respect the nurses was, you know, there were. So it's like, in those situations, I'll just say like, I feel disconnected. So sometimes we don't have to go through. It's not until later after the birth itself that we start to see where we didn't show up for ourselves. We reclaim ourselves in postpartum sometimes, you know, maybe a year later where we say, like, I was checked out for that experience. And then I became this like, really, Mama Bear mother, who, you know, started showing up differently for my baby who got reconnected with my baby and my body. And so sometimes a really passive, innocuous birth, can actually dredge up some stuff that we didn't know was there too. I'm not saying every woman is traumatized after birth, but I'm saying Every woman has an opportunity to take whatever birth event occurred, and use it to create something new for herself as a woman as a mother in the aftermath, and the postpartum in the years later. And so, even I mean, for me, I had a pretty awesome birth, you know, at home with my husband and I still pull from that experience a lot. There's like, you know, there's there's things that came up my unwanted touches as a girl, you know, came up where my labor stalled, and I was like, I don't feel you know, and it was still a great birth. So there's always an opportunity is the point for us to get a lot of Reclamation and you know, beautiful juiciness for life alchemy.

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.

Yeah, that was exactly what I was referencing about, like maybe you know, our expectations are just in the wrong place for birth, maybe they're not your high, maybe it's that they're just in the wrong place. They're in the wrong place to make it look like an Instagram post, and then they're in the wrong place when we think it's women screaming in the hospital in Hollywood is like those are the two wrong places. So I was like, let's like figure out how to get women somewhere in the spectrum here.

And what I'm taking away from this conversation is that how critically important it is for every woman, not just the woman, not just the 30% of women who have birth trauma, you know, like identifiable birth trauma, but really for every single woman to continue on the journey postpartum in processing her birth, because it is a growing transformational experience.

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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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