Survivorship and Birth Work
On this night into the next day in 2007, I experienced trauma beyond what I even thought possible. I always write blog entries and never publish them, but today is a day I think it's appropriate to share a brief bit that led me into trauma-informed birth work. I am also linking below to the amazing Birth Bruja podcast on the episode where Eri so lovingly interviewed me about my survivor birth story.
In 2007, I was taken and held in the home of a man I did not know, and assaulted. I survived physically, and it left me flailing, trying to find safe ground to root again and thrive. I sunk everything I had into healing, because, for me, it was life or death. I had survived, and I was not about to hand my life over any more, or give anymore than had already been taken. I found incredible healing in yoga-- my body could do amazing things! I reclaimed it, reclaimed its power and its beauty, and began to slowly love her. I went to trauma counseling. I tried groups. I started a nonprofit to help survivors heal through creative arts and movement. All of it peeled away the trauma, and left me whole again.
When I became pregnant, I very naively expected the birth world to be trauma-informed. I expected that I would be given options for exams, and that I would be told what was going to be done to my body before it happened. This was far from the case. I always say that I am an "out loud" survivor. I am fairly comfortable sharing my survivorship. I told provider after provider that I was a survivor, and still exams were traumatic and upsetting. What was happening to all of the survivors who did not feel as comfortable sharing their survivorship with their providers? It left me with the realization that trauma-informed education needed to extend to birth work.
I began speaking at conferences and workshops with birth workers, lactation professionals, OBs, labor and delivery nurses, and midwives. Every single time I would finish, a doctor or other provider would come up to me and unload guilt for not knowing before. It is always wonderful being able to empower birth workers and others by sharing information on birth and trauma, and helping with the healing and moving forward-- when you know better, you do better. I have met amazing healthcare professionals and other birth workers through sharing what I know best in this life-- trauma and healing. It was after years of doing this type of education that I realized how much I longed to be back with clients hands on in a direct service capacity.
Being a trauma-informed doula and lactation counselor has allowed me to offer healing, empowerment and advocacy in spaces that may feel frightening or retraumatizing to survivors and others who struggle with higher anxieties. There is nothing that makes me happier than helping someone realize how amazingly strong and wonderful they are.
While my birth experience was challenging at best, it led me further down the path of post-traumatic growth, and led me further into spaces where I could help others. I learned too that my body was not my trauma, and that it could do amazing things. Experiencing this trauma anniversary in quarantine certainly is producing some challenges. Feeling "stuck" tends to be a hot button feeling for me. Not having the typical distractions of going out, spending time with friends or family, working, and generally keeping busy has left me to sit with that girl from 2007.
Today, as I sit with her, I am telling her (and maybe you) that she is lovely, and brave, and so so strong. She survived the unthinkable, and spoke it out, and healed it up, and came into her own knowing exactly her worth and her wants. She has been to hell and back, and when you touch that darkness, the light in every corner is more beautiful than you could imagine.
If you would like, please visit the link below to listen to my survivor birth story. Note that it was created gently and lovingly, and while there is mention of sexual assault, most of the story focuses on survival, thriving and growth. Thank you for bearing witness to my story.