“When traumas, be they extreme or mild, are not resolved they leave behind a slew of painful, unprocessed feelings in the unconscious. These feelings are never content to remain silent and instead clamor for release. When they express themselves openly and without disguise this activates the healing process.” -Daniel Mackler
For the past year and a half, I have been struggling with an inner demon. An inner birth trauma demon. This demon made me full of sadness, anger, guilt, fear, depression, and anxiety. I felt like I was a ticking bomb just waiting for a single word, person, or image that would set off me off and the flood of emotions would follow. I have been told that the day your child is born is suppose to be the happiest day of your life. However, I could not correlate happiness to his birth. For that, I hated myself. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just accept my son’s birth story and move on? Through all the crying, panic attacks, and flashbacks, I searched for anything that would help make me feel better. I knew that my husband and I would start trying again for a another child soon and I didn’t want to go into that pregnancy full of fear and anxiety. With time, I was getting better but my heart still felt heavy and anytime I talked about my son’s birth I was always overcome with intense emotions. I wanted to heal. I needed to heal. I was done feeling crappy for something that was in the past that I no longer had any control over. That is when I came across a birth reclaiming ceremony.
What is a birth reclaiming ceremony? It is the process of healing for a woman who feel indifferent about their child’s birth. It allows the mom to release any negative and heavy feelings she may have in her heart about the birth of her child. There is really no set definition on how the ceremony should go. Every mother wants/needs something different to heal so it can be changed and altered to each individual’s need. They normally take place in a peaceful environment similar to what the mom would have wanted for their labor/birth. When I came across the birth reclaiming ceremony information, I knew in my heart that this is what I needed to do for myself. I needed a way to replace my bad memories with good ones. Memories that looked like what I wanted to have. I reached out to a couple of my doula friends to help me conduct the ceremony and they graciously accepted. So I started planning and thinking of what I wanted to do during the ceremony to heal.
I had planned a home birth with my son. I had to be induced in a hospital due to pregnancy induced hypertension, however my blood pressure was never high enough to be put on Magnesium. I had every intervention under the sun and after the birth, I was left feeling defeated, disappointed, and overwhelmed. Going home to where I was suppose to give birth was just as destroying. Everything reminded me of what I didn’t get to have. My mother went to my house and took down all my affirmations and light I had set up so there were not up taunting me when I came through the door but their ghosts still haunted my memories. I knew they were there and it slowly drove me mad. I hated being at the house. But with a newborn, I really didn’t have an option so I was trapped in my own torture house. For the ceremony, I wanted to change the energy of my house to how it was before I came home from the hospital. It was peaceful, warm, full of hope and peace. A year and a half had gone by since my son was born and I finally felt semi ready to do the ceremony so I set the date of April 23rd which was the 2nd anniversary of when I found out I was pregnant. That day was full of so much joy and love and it felt fitting to have the ceremony on that day.
The week leading up to the ceremony I started getting really nervous and having a lot anxiety. What if I didn’t feel better after I did all of this? Would I forever feel broken? I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle the feeling of “failing” something again. I contemplated calling the whole thing off but I pushed through those emotions. I needed to at least try. I began to set up my birthing space, again, just like I did in December of 2014. I hung up my bright white lights and one by one I took out my hand written affirmations to hang them on the wall. At this point, I was starting to feel really upset. I remembered writing those when I was pregnant. I remembered being so excited for my birth. If only I knew then what I know now. I wept when I read my affirmation, “It is almost over. You can hold your baby soon.” I felt naive and stupid. I put so much pressure on myself for everything to be perfect that my world turned upside down when that didn’t happen. I blew up my birth pool and I sat in my living room looking around wishing that I felt the same as I did the very first time I set it up. There wasn’t relief of finally having everything ready only saddness of what could have been.
The 23rd approached and I braced myself for the emotional day ahead. The morning went smoothly, I texted my friends to give them the run down on how the afternoon would go and to make sure everything was in place. I had my three doula friends coming, each had a specific role as my “Guardians of Grief”. “T” was my photographer. I so longed to have beautiful pictures of my birth and it definitely upsets me that I have nothing to look back on so I wanted to make sure this day was well documented. “S” was my spiritual director. We share the same religion so I knew she would be able to open the ceremony with what would comfort me the most. “A” was my peace bringer. She was going to be my voice of forgiviness, hope, and healing when I wouldn’t be able to speak. All three together had a beautiful energy that they brought to the ceremony and I was so blessed to have each of them “doulaing” me through the process. I played my birthing playlist while I made my son’s BIRTHday cake. I wanted to add little elements that were suppose to happen at his original birth and one of those things was a cake for when he arrived earthside. I wasn’t exactly sure how I would react at the ceremony. I had cried alot the past couple of days and I wasn’t sure if I had anymore tears to cry or if I would feel too embarrassed to really let go of my emotions.
4pm rolled around and all my candles were lit. The birth pool was filled with water, an herbal bath mixture that I was suppose to do after I had my son, and some flowers that I thought would look pretty on camera. I had my playlist playing, lights turned off, cake cooling, and I sat waiting for everyone to arrive. I was full of anxiety but knew there was no way to back out now. “T” arrived first and I showed her into my home, into my “birthing space”. She gave me a hug after she put down her things and I immediately started crying. She told me how strong I was for doing this. I didn’t really have the words to say but I think she knew that. “S” arrived next and I met her at the door. She greeted me with a hug while saying, “Happy Birthing day, mama.” Cue more tears. I was trying to be strong but this day was long overdue and I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist my emotions. “T” started taking picture of my affirmations and my space. “S” was reading them all and “A” arrived and joined her in soaking in the enviroment.
After a little bit, I told “S” I was ready to beginning. She had several prayers picked out and they were beautiful.
Next, we lit incense because I told them in the bible it says to let your prayer rise like incense and it was important to me to have that symbolism. We took turns saying uplifting words and releasing those positive feelings into the atmosphere. We said words like; healing, strength, love, acceptance, peace, forgiveness, hope, ect. It was a great start to the ceremony before we headed into the heavier stuff.
Next, we all sat down and I told them I wanted to recreate my birth story. I wanted a new story, one that would reflect what I originally wanted. My “Guardians” went above and beyond what I expected and actually helped me act out several things that would have happened had I been in real labor. They treated me just like how they would have if I was having my baby right then and there. We wrote a new story for myself. One where my water broke during the night, where I could walk around my neighborhood during contractions, I could sit on a birthing ball, I could get on my hands and knees to help with all the back labor I was having, I could get in the pool to birth my baby. They encouraged me to breathe and make low moaning noises just like I would have done if I was in labor. By this point, I could hardly control my tears. I broke down several times. Everytime, all that I could think of was, “This is how it should have been.” I stayed on my hands and knees for awhile leaning on the birthing ball. My son was positioned weird and I had major back labor the entire time I labored and I always said that if I could have gotten on my hands and knees it would have made everything so much easier. I stayed in this position, imaging my back labor away. “S” used a rebozo, applied counter pressure, and did some hip squeezes. Everything that could have been done had things gone as planned. Everyone took turns reading my birth affirmations out loud. It was perfect. I started feeling a little lighter. They didn’t rush me into the pool, they knew that would be my last step and “T” encouraged me to take my time to make sure I was ready.
A calm rushed over me and I felt ready to get in the pool. By that time the water was freezing cold and I wasn’t sure if I would actually be able to stay in for very long but I had to finish this part of the ceremony. This part was the most important part. I got in and I just sat there. I didn’t feel an overwhelming sadness like I did with the birthing ball. I honestly can’t explain how I felt. It was almost as if I was wondering in the woods not knowing where to go. This was the end of my journey. I was almost done. Slowly everything that had happened started seeming so small to me. I told “A” I was ready for her to read the letter I had written to myself. She began to read,
I know you. You are the girl that hates disappointing people. You are the girl that wants everyone to like her. You are the girl that says yes rather than no. You are the girl that wants everything to be planned and perfect. You are the girl that dwells. I know you. I hear you inside of me, crying, bearing the weight of the world. You put so much pressure on yourself and when you break, it is hard to put the pieces back together again. For the past year and a half, you have been broken. Right now, we will heal. We will stop obsessing and dwelling. We will let go and let the light of peace in. We had that light once. We were unafraid and ready to conquer the world. We can get that Sabrina back. It is time to heal. I won’t tell you that nothing you could have done would have changed what happened. That is most likely not true. You know that. However, I will tell you that nothing you do, no matter how many times you cry, no matter how many times you replay your story, will change the events that happened during those days. They happened. Your tears happened. Decisions were made. Whether or not they were the best options, they happened. Orin happened. Orin was born into this world on Dec.19th, 2014. You did that. He happened. Hypertension, induction, cervidil, external monitors, artificial rupture of membranes, Pitocin, confinement to the bed, internal monitors, epidural, foley catheter, fever, shortness of breath, an oxygen mask, purple pushing, 30 min time frame to push baby out before C-section threats, no immediate skin to skin, a kidney infection, and breathing treatments happened. All these things happened to you during the first 2 and half days of your hospital stay. You were disappointed, overwhelmed, sad, mad, and afraid. Afraid. You weren’t afraid of labor. You were afraid of disappointment. You were afraid of being judged. You were afraid of not being perfect. Everything you had planned, everything you prepared yourself for, was slowly slipping out of your grasp. You were afraid of not only failing yourself but the whole world as a birthing statistic.
For the past year and half you have felt like one big birthing failure. You have tried to compare yourself to other birthing moms and you have tried to think of other things you could have said or done so as to have a different outcome than what you got. You don’t need to, Sabrina. This birth doesn’t define you. You are so much more than that labor. You did deserve the birth you wanted. You deserved evidenced based care and time to birth, not interventions especially when you and your baby were not at risk. I’m sorry you didn’t get what you wanted. I’m sorry you couldn’t bring Orin into this world filled with peace and on his own time. I’m sorry that you feel like you failed yourself and Orin. You didn’t. You did not fail. To every place in life, there are different paths and you just happened to end up on the bumpy, crazy path. Your end destination would have been the same but the difference was the path you had to take left you drained, worn, and torn emotionally. It is time to get on a new path. Don’t look behind you. Leave that journey in the dust. Yes, you still had to walk it and it will forever be a part of you but you do not have to continue to stay on that path. Let it go. Let go of all the fear, anger, sadness, disgust, and disappointment. Be at peace knowing that you didn’t get what you wanted but you now know better and you are going to rise as a stronger mother, doula, and woman because of it. Don’t let your heart stay burdened with this negativity. It’s ok to not love your son’s birthing story but it is not ok to hate yourself because of it. You cannot control what happened in the past but you can try to help prevent that event from happening again. Your next birth will be different. No two births are the same. I can’t promise it will be picture perfect but it will be different. And this time you will be prepared for whatever life throws at you.
Forgive yourself. Forgive your doctors. Forgive anyone who ever had anything negative to say. Start fresh. Remember this day. Remember the emotions. Look around and take it in, replace your sad memories with new ones. Let this day define you, as a mother who is taking charge of her birth and emotions and healing. You are stronger than you know and you will not allow yourself to be controlled by the past anymore. Breathe in peace and exhale anxiety. You are amazing. You are brave. You are strong. Reclaim your birthing power. This is what you were supposed to have, own this moment. Let everything go and open your heart to love and light. Place all your sufferings at the foot of Jesus and let him carry you. You can do all things through him. You are enough and deserve to be happy. Let it all go and move on. Orin loves you. Rory loves you. Love yourself. Breathe in peace, exhale anxiety. Reclaim Orin’s birth. Reclaim yourself. Reclaim your confidence. Be still and be at peace. ”
“You did deserve the birth you wanted” I broke down. I wept. I let everything that had been held inside me for the past year and a half out and when I was done I felt like whatever had it’s hold on me had let go. I felt like all the bricks laying on my chest had been lifted off. I felt lighter. I felt peace. I let it all go. I replaced every single bad memory with a memory that was peaceful and full of love. I felt new and relieved. I was ready for them to bring my baby in. I felt like the mother he deserved when he was born. He came in and I was full of love and happiness. We did symbolic cord burning which was what we would have done at his birth. We burned away any other negative emotion that might have been and we burned away the ties to his past birth that had held me down. I accepted what I couldn’t change and I vowed to look brightly on the future and future births. We got out of the water and we ate his BIRTHday cake. I didn’t want to have a formal end because I didn’t feel like it needed an ending. The healing, acceptance, and relief was enough and I always want that to continue.
I love my son. I am so happy he is here. Now, I can be at peace with how he arrived. I will never fully be healed and that is ok, but at least I can say I found some peace to be able to move on from all my negative feelings and anxiety that was caused by his birth. I started this journey terrified for my next birth and I am now ready to try again. I believe that if you are feeling down about your birth I would strongly urge you to consider a birth reclaiming ceremony. It doesn’t have to be exactly like mine. You know what you need to do to heal, if only a little bit. Some progress is still progress. Please reach out to your local doula and let them help you try to find some peace. I know how dark and lonely birth trauma can leave you. You are not alone. Reach out to me and I will personally help, no matter the distance. Everyone should have the right to be heard and try to heal. It worked for me, it might be able to work for you. Time plays no part. Trauma memories feel like events that recently happened so it is never too late! There is a whole community out there wanting to help you. Find your peace. Sometimes birthing without fear looks like birthing with fear but later coming back to fight those fears off and rise as a stronger, more peaceful person. I gave birth, not how I wanted too but without all those trials I wouldn’t be the same person I am now. I am thankful for the opportunity to grow and learn. “Out of suffering have emerged the stongest souls.” Those who feel as I did, I wish you nothing but peace and the strength to heal. Don’t rush yourself. In time, you will be ready and when that day comes, I hope you can find your inner peace again. Love and light to all.