Sexual abuse impacts pregnancy and birth. Each person experiences the aftermath uniquely. There is one common thread, though: the nervous system.
I experienced sexual abuse from ages 4–7 by a family friend during church services at our homes. I told no one. Recurring nightmares helped me process the trauma. In stillness my subconscious mind was anything but, and I had emotional pain to swim through alone, finding the fortitude to keep on, seized with shame.
It appeared I remained asymptomatic of trauma for many years, including during my first pregnancy and birth. Only looking back do I recognize its impact on my nervous system.
I showed up at the birth center in labor, believing that birth would happen as I wished. But each contraction pushed me deeper into a freeze state. My birth team had employed a wait-and-see approach, and my birthing body contorted into the shape of shame. Going into my third night of labor, a miraculous stillness, and the map of my subconscious mind, the same one pushing me through each nightmare – appeared as an intuitive nudge to get to a hospital. Suddenly I simply knew. The birth wasn’t happening there.
The nurse assisting me at the hospital helped me achieve a flow state. She had a compassion I can’t explain. The doctor ordered an emergency C-section. My core wound of shame kept me quiet. It was, and still is, a babycentered system of care.
We need to place the birther’s holistic health in a primary role, alongside the health of the baby. Address the nervous system as early on in pregnancy as possible, excavating any trauma that could impact flow state at birth. I was a yoga teacher with beautiful techniques for giving birth. But no breath technique could contain the hyperarousal of my nervous system. With no room to recover between contractions, it was hard to recognize the issue.
After all, I was asymptomatic. I had dealt with, and overcome, my sexual abuse through talk therapy in college, or so I thought. I only became symptomatic with trauma again when my children neared the ages of 4 and 7. What a window in.
If you wish to transcend lingering effects of sexual trauma and recognize the birth experience you desire, even the birth experience you desired, it is this intimate relationship with yourself that heals. Today, there are multiple, specific resources to help with trauma.
Still, I envision a birther/baby dyad that will overcome a fractured system.
Maria Savvenas — Movement Educator, certified Body Ready Method™ Pro, Restore Your Core®️, Yoga Teacher, Writer, Editor, MA. I teach mindful movement medicine. For core and pelvic health, ideally, we begin as early in pregnancy as possible to balance the body for an efficient birth and recovery. Movement classes are core and pelvic floor safe, meaning we spend time learning strategies for a reflexive and responsive core. All in all, you become fluid and resilient with movement. www.mariasavvenas.com