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Birth Debriefing

"As many as 200,000 UK women may feel traumatised by childbirth and develop some of the symptoms of PTSD. Many fathers and babies also experience birth trauma often with long lasting impact on families. " The Birth Trauma Association

Samantha Cambray states that Birth trauma can have far reaching and often unexpected effects. Sometimes the relationship between the parents of the baby can be challenging, not only due to the new pressures of caring for a child, but the myriad of feelings towards each other that may ensue after a traumatic labour and birth'.

The effects of preventing or healing birth trauma can be profound, not just for the immediate health, happiness of families right now but also for future generations to come..

"I did spend a lot of time preparing for my birth, attending classes, reading and putting lots of thought into who I would like to be part of my birth team. Despite all this prepping I was quite unsettled by my actual birth (a caesarean rather than the peaceful home birth I had envisioned) and as the first couple of weeks passed I still felt really anxious and confused. I realised that I needed to work through the trauma that had taken place and that it was not enough to talk about it briefly with family and friends. These conversations helped to some extent for sure, especially with my partner and doula who were present throughout the labour, so we had some shared experiences. But I knew that there was something unconscious in me that needed to come to the surface and be seen, which could only be done through focused counselling. 

It definitely felt like a big step to book in 3 sessions with Olivia. Getting myself to Dartington and taking over an hour for myself each week, with a 5 week old baby, did take some organisation and trust. 
I was also wondering wether all these big emotions and trauma could even begin to be explored in as little as 3 sessions! 

I am so glad that I did have the courage to email Olivia in-between tending to my newborn, trusting that somehow things could be worked out to get this time for myself. 

Olivia shared a range of tools with me, we opened each session with a grounding exercise, followed by listening in to what moments of my birth had strong emotions attached. In the first session Olivia also introduced me to Havening, a technique that included self-touch, eye movements and distractions used at different points of the session to avoid re-traumatising myself whilst reliving specific moments. 

Rather than telling my whole birth story beginning to end I realised that there were specific, fully-charged moments that I needed to work through. Olivia really listened to my experiences, unpacked them with me and was able add some context to the situations from her long experience in birth work. Her empathy, combination of knowledge about trauma and birth allowed me to feel safe and heard. This, combined with the havening technique, unlocked and de-charged  moments of my birth that left me with a lot of anxiety and that I had been experiencing in flash backs on repeat for weeks. I was able to leave even the first session feeling lighter, and after the third left feeling at peace and empowered by my experiences.


I now have a much greater understanding of myself, the reasoning for how my trauma came about and what I will do differently at my next birth. I now strongly believe that my birth was transformational, even if it was not the birth I had hoped for. I can see the good moments and have compassion for the traumatic ones. In fact, the traumatic moments that brought me to these sessions don’t feel traumatic anymore after working through them with Olivia. I’m still amazed that so much of my experience as a new mom has been enhanced after only 3 sessions. Yes, in order to get the help so needed I might have had to “leave” my baby for a few hours with trusted loved ones, which was hard at the beginning of my motherhood journey, but now I can be fully present and more emotionally stable for my baby. Most importantly I am now proud of our birth story."

~ Viktoria 

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