“…if a woman PERCEIVES that she or her baby is threatened with damage; or FEELS horror, fear and helplessness at a procedure…even if this procedure is ROUTINE to medical staff; she can experience that as a traumatic event.
This is REGARDLESS of her level of pain relief at the time.
It is REGARDLESS of the fact that she and her baby leave the hospital alive and physically healthy.”
©Birthtalk.org, Melissa Bruijn & Debby Gould
It is real. It is happening. It is very, very powerful.
A recent Australian study shows that one in three women are reporting a traumatic birth.
One in three. Astonishing, no?
There is a much bigger picture here at play as to why these women are suffering so much as a result of their births- a picture that I’m not here to go into today. Instead I want to tell, and show you, a story of hope.
A dear friend and photography colleague, Anna Todd, and I recently had the honour of holding a birth release ceremony for a very special woman. Just to keep you on your toes, her name is Anna too.
Anna is a single mum to two beautiful boys- Alexander 3yrs, and Mikhail, 3 months. Without going into too many details- Alexander’s birth was a traumatic event for Anna. For Mikhail’s birth she was hoping for a healing experience- ideally, a waterbirth. But Anna ended up with a Caesarean birth under general anaesthetic with Mikhail at 35 weeks, resulting in Mikhail spending time in the special care nursery.
Three months on, Anna was struggling to move on from her birth experiences. She read online about a Birth Release Ceremony and knew this was something that would help her to move forward. She reached out to Anna Todd to ask if this was something she could help with, and Anna asked me, as a doula, to come on board. To hold the ceremony whilst she photographed it.
I love ritual and ceremony. One of my dearest friends, Elizabeth Trevan, is a wedding, baby naming and funeral celebrant and we have an ongoing, endless discussion about about the power of ritual and ceremony. I consulted her about the essential elements of creating this ceremony for Anna and she reminded me that the most important element, is setting a clear intention.
The day of Anna’s ceremony arrived… ahead of time I asked Anna to set her intention for the ceremony (as had i), and to create an altar- similar to a birth altar- with significant and powerful items from her childhood and her mother, from both of her boys births and newborn days, and anything else that she felt especially connected to.
When we arrived I cleansed the space (a sprinkling of witchcraft), and sat down with Anna as she told me her birth stories. What had happened, how she felt, the effect it had on her. Every last detail she wished to share. She told us about her mother, parts of her childhood, her family.
Then we prepared a warm, healing herbal bath and immersed Anna in it to begin the ceremony of release.
I want to let these incredible photographs below by Anna Todd Photography tell you the rest of this story- my words would not be enough.
How very blessed I am to have women like Anna Todd that I work alongside. Women feel very safe and comfortable having Anna in their birthing space, and likewise Anna (mama Anna) felt very comfortable and supported in having Anna Todd capture her Birth Release Ceremony. For her- having the photos to look back on were an important part of the journey.
In the days following the ceremony- the most special thing that Anna reported back to us was that she felt her bonds were stronger not only with baby Mikhail, but with Alexander as well. She was amazed at how powerful the effect of the ceremony was- and of the strong feelings of relief that followed. I put this down to the fact that she was READY to let go of those experiences as she knew they were no longer serving her. She had set the intention and was ready to heal.
If you have experienced a traumatic birth, there are networks out there to help you. You don’t have to carry the burden alone. Talk to a midwife, doula, counsellor, therapist. Check out www.birthtalk.org and their blog, Birth Trauma Truths. Reach out. You too can heal.
I would like to send a huge thanks to mama Anna for giving us her blessing to share her story with you. As with birth photography, these are very special, private and emotional moments. I know she wishes for other mothers to begin their journey of healing, just as she has.
If you feel a Birth Release Ceremony would help you, or someone you know, feel free to contact Anna Todd or myself.
You can see more of Anna Todd’s divine work here.
Looking for organic herbal remedies? The herbal bath remedy we used was from Blissful Herbs. It was truly divine.