Cheryl Beck (2018) shares that up to 45% of new mothers have reported experiencing birth trauma and adds that “birth trauma is in the eye of the beholder.” Indeed, if a birthing person experiences or perceives that they and/or their baby were in danger of injury or death during childbirth, their birth can be defined as traumatic–psychologically, physically, or both (even if others present may have perceived it as routine.) Common themes present in those who have shared traumatic birth narratives include:
Art-making and creative processing can provide a symbolic container of overwhelming experiences, helping with the reconstruction of fragmented memories and emotional responses. Wolf & King (2020) summarize how art therapy “facilitates the organization and integration of traumatic memories, reactivates positive emotions, serves as a vehicle for exposure and externalization of difficult content, and reduces heightened arousal responses.” Art therapist Swan-Foster (2020) poignantly asks, “What if we viewed pregnancy and birth through a lens of cultural humility and feminism that honors a woman’s desire to have control of herself throughout pregnancy and birth while holding the knowledge that these experiences may be out of control and traumatic?” As trauma is so often stored in the body or in the mind as imagery, art therapy helps to navigate between these polarities and honors the “gray” area of personal experience. Learn more and experience how intuitive artmaking and creative processing can help perinatal professionals and birthing folk creatively cope with trauma experiences at the upcoming virtual conference "Healing Traumatic Birth: Tools and Techniques from Psychodrama, Dance, and the Expressive Arts" via PATTCH.
Post by Sharon Itkoff Nacache ATR-BC LCAT LPAT PMH-C
Original photo by Patricia Prudente via Unsplash