Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sexual assault, the mind-body connection and birth.

I'm picking this up again because I find myself posting much to Facebook, it not being quite as gratifying as I wish it were, and I have lots more to say these days than that space allows.

Back to back births this week and I have yet to debrief with another doula- I will resist the urge to do it here.  I will say, however, that for the first time I saw the powerful grip that sexual trauma can hold on a woman's body and learned how essential it is to address that deep shit in pregnancy.  I'm finding that my work in the future is in creating deeper safe spaces with women, addressing our relationships with our pelvises, genitalia, getting to know our cervixes, and letting go when we are surrounded by love.  Creating spaces of safety and love for women.  Healing universal and personal trauma.  Opening our hips.  Letting go.  

I need to get a copy of Penny Simkin's "When Survivors Give Birth: Understanding and Healing the Effects of Early Sexual Abuse on Childbearing Women"  I'll review it once I do.  There have been hints lately that this is where my work will take me- I want to bridge gaps between disaster relief, emergency medicine, midwifery, sexuality education and sexual assault awareness.  I've been asked by a few women this week if I have been sexually assaulted and I've admitted that I have not.  (I should count the time I woke up with a man's hands down my pants.. and all the times my step dad hit on me or told me about how much sex he wasn't having with my mom..)  I do however feel highly tuned in to institutional baggage and the rape of the Earth.  I believe in a past life I was persecuted and murdered for being a healer (were my breasts cut off of me?  dragged through the streets and killed in front of my family?)  I feel these things, but I know I am safe now and that nobody can do that to me here.  Perhaps it's my job to let all of these other women know that it's safe here for them, too.  And that nobody can hurt them here, right now, in this space.  That their labor is not the enemy.  That their bodies are not the enemy.  


The pain of birth, of change, is safe.


So what does it look like?  This woman was crawling out of her contractions.  She looked like she was in transition so we checked her and she was dilated to 3 centimeters.  And I think it was at that point when her confidence melted away.  After that, she was completely frustrated with her body, angry actually.  Later she described feeling her body pull up every time she tried moving her energy down, as I suggested she do.  I kept saying, "Don't crawl out of it, sink into it."  She would move the energy down, feel baby move down, but her pelvic floor (and her cervix) tightened up in complete resistance.  Truly, this woman suffered.  At one point, we had her running the hospital halls during her contractions to try and open her cervix.  I pulled her aside to tell her, "I don't know what you've been through, but moving through this will make you a stronger mother."  She just looked back at me and said, "I don't know what I'm doing wrong."  At one point, only I could be near her.  She paced a part of the hall, gripping the hand rail- literally crawling it, battling her contractions.  She said at one point, "I wasn't prepared for this."


And it was partly my fault.  This woman did everything right- worked out 4-5 times a week, did acupuncture and massage, yoga, and ate great.  I took for granted that her lifestyle meant she would have a peaceful, lovely natural birth.  Before labor starts, I tell all of my clients that it's impossible for their contractions to be bigger than them because they are them.  Something bigger than her got in her way, took her strength and sent her on a ride.  


It's amazing what comes up during birth.  You find out what you think you've let go in your mind but your body has held onto.  Isn't it incredible the power our bodies have despite our minds, and our minds over our bodies?

3 comments:

MegJ said...

Stephanie you are amazing!! I hope you don't think I'm a stalker, but I really love reading your stuff. You are really on to "it". This almost brought tears to my eyes " Creating spaces of safety and love for women. Healing universal and personal trauma. Opening our hips. Letting go." I have not been sexually assaulted but have my "issues". I too feel the pain of women in past and present, I feel like there must be a better way to live gender in this world. !! thanks for sharing!

MegJ said...

oh yeah & I met a new really hot male this week, and it sort of is a close to my heart topic right now : )

Stephanie said...

Megan! Thank you so much for reading. I think all these things are universal truths for so many women, and I'm interested in exploring the stuff that gets so rarely talked about amongst us. Keep reading, would you? :)

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