Today’s special episode examines the often undiscussed topic of birth trauma. Our guest Teela Tomassetti, a therapist for over 15 years specializing in trauma, had decided to pursue a PhD in birth trauma in dedication to a close friend’s traumatic experience. She did not know at the time that she would be facing a birth trauma of her own. Teela generously shares her personal story with us, discusses with Dr. Sarah how birth trauma can be defined, and how you might reach out for help if you feel you may have experienced it.
What is Birth Trauma?
While there is not one specific way to define birth trauma, one prevalent characteristic is that at its root it is a form of loss. That is not to say birth trauma is only defined as a literal loss of life, but a monumental experience where a part of your life or body has been profoundly altered. We often detach from the experience out of the need to lessen the pain of that loss, and to conform with societal pressure to move on after a short amount of “socially acceptable” grieving time. This pressure is usually even greater for new mothers as they are expected to pick-up the reins of their new responsibilities and charge forward.
Birth trauma can be defined as anything from an emergency C-section, to a hemorrhage, or a stillbirth, with intrusive symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, avoidance and isolation. But as Teela shares from her own experience, the most difficult part of her experience was how she was treated, feeling invalidated and unheard, and a lack of compassion and care.
How to Get Help
If you are feeling like this experience suits your situation, then you’ve already taken the first step. Acknowledging that your experience and how you may be feeling is valid doesn’t require anyone else’s approval. Try to reach out to different supports that exist within your community. While therapy can be expensive, some therapists do offer sliding scale pricing. There are also other online resources such as Postpartum Support International (PSI) that offer online group therapy and free support. And lastly, finding connection and information through social media channels such as Teela’s can offer encouragement, well researched information, and most importantly the reminder that you’re not alone.
Taking you from anxious and overwhelmed to confident during your childbirth experience: