Supporting Sufferers of Birth Trauma: A Pitfall to Avoid

I recently saw a fellow doula share a post targeted toward folks suffering from birth trauma that said, “When you replace ‘Why is this happening to me?’ with ‘What is this trying to teach me?’ EVERYTHING SHIFTS.”  

I would like to respectfully offer an alternate view on this.

I am a doula, someone who experienced birth trauma myself, and someone who now co-leads an ICAN chapter and offers birth trauma support as a postpartum doula service.

I find this well-meaning idea to be similar to ‘a health baby is all that matters.’  Trauma sufferers can find it dismissive of where they are in their grieving, and feel the underlying suggestion is that if they just look harder, and change their attitude, there will be some ‘reason’ for their trauma, and a life lesson for personal growth that they should be thankful for.

I also feel this can truncate true healing by causing the person to accept a superficial narrative that then prevents them from going deeper, such as, “Maybe I just need to learn to let go of control in my life?”

In my experience, many trauma sufferers, if fully supported in moving through the grieving process in their own way and time, will eventually come to the conclusion on their own that there was an important life lesson embedded in their experience. But this suggestion should not ever come from an outside source, in my opinion. It has to be organic and non-rushed.

As doulas, our role when supporting a birth trauma sufferer is not to encourage re-framing or ‘learning’ from the experience before the person has arrived at that place themselves, but rather to ask questions and offer non-directive support so that the person can engage in their own meaning-making and weave their own path to healing.  This is far more meaningful, and more likely to promote true healing, than offering a platitude that can function to rush the person toward a narrative they are not yet ready to embrace.


About Diana Snyder

A former attorney at top New York and Boston law firms with seven years of birth advocacy experience, Diana is the founder of Matrescence, a private doula service serving women and families in the Twin Cities and Wisconsin's Chippewa Valley. She is the architect of the landmark California lawsuit, Turbin v. Abbassi, in which mother and rape survivor Kimberly Turbin sued her obstetrician for battery following a 12-cut episiotomy performed after he berated her for saying, "No". Diana previously served as outside counsel to the Bay State Birth Coalition, a consumer organization advocating for legal recognition of certified professional midwives in Massachusetts, and helped author proposed legislation for CPM licensure in the Commonwealth. Today, she resides in Western Wisconsin with her husband Mike, son Bennett and beloved vizsla, Rocky.

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