The Myth of A Natural Birth

canada-goose-216003_1280As I counsellor I do some voluntary work for a Birth Trauma Association. My job consists of giving email advice to new mums on how to deal with the consequences of traumatic birth experience, helping them to find a counsellor etc. More often than not I help mothers to start processing the birth experience itself– confirming that what happened was, indeed, quite traumatic and it is hardly surprising that a new mother is presently feeling low, anxious or depressed.
I am talking here of a physical trauma – something went wrong, there were complications, medical support was inadequate, baby or mother’s life was in danger and so on. What is surprising, though, that very often I get emails from mothers who have delivered healthy babies and are feeling physically ok, yet emotionally they are in a complete turmoil. I am not talking about post-natal depression, which may be caused by hormones, lack of sleep, complete change of lifestyle etc. These are the cases when emotional distress is caused by a wide gap between mother’s expectation of birth and an actual birth experience.
More often than not, these women had an idealized picture of birth – completely “natural”, almost pain free, no medication or drugs involved. Which is a fantastic idea in itself and it is great when birth goes as planned. Unfortunately, it is not often the case. Thousands of things can go and do go wrong and medical help is required. As a result, instead of feeling exhilarated and proud after giving birth to a healthy baby, new mothers feel like failures. This feeling of inadequacy and failure can sometimes develop into depression.
In their antenatal groups expectant mothers are commonly given a picture of a “natural” birth as an only “right” option, making it sound easy and achievable for everyone. Birth is, indeed, a natural process, but it is also quite natural for it to go wrong. Many women through the history have died in the process and it is still happening in many countries today. Advocating the “natural” birth as an only option should always include mentioning the risks associated with it. Expectant mothers should be offered different options and the choice should be theirs, depending on the circumstances, health risks etc. Rather than bullying women into one “right” way of giving birth, antenatal groups should be explaining pluses and minuses of various options and providing women with information. What works for one mother could be completely wrong for another and there is no need to make a failure from what should be a celebration.
Having met plenty of women who have opted for a natural birth, I have yet to meet a person who has asked to see a “natural dentist

Babies benefit from having several carers apart from one main carer

happychildrenbytheseaAnthropological research has challenged the assumption that it is good for a baby to be solely cared for by mother in the first years of life. In fact, it appears to be unnatural. Professor of Anthropology Sarah Hrdy argues, that humans have evolved as co-operative breeders. Apparently we developed as humans partly thanks to our ability to trust others to look after our young.
“We were meant to be raised by the village”, said Dr Daniel Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine. He emphasises that baby’s mental and emotional behaviour is greatly improved by having several carers, apart from one main carer.

THE MYTH OF A “NATURAL BIRTH”

WMC:sea
As I counsellor I do some voluntary work for a Birth Trauma Association. My job consists of giving email advice to new mums on how to deal with the consequences of traumatic birth experience, helping them to find a counsellor etc. More often than not I help mothers to start processing the birth experience itself– confirming that what happened was, indeed, quite traumatic and it is hardly surprising that a new mother is feeling low, anxious or depressed.
I am talking here of a physical trauma – something went wrong, there were complications, medical support was inadequate, baby or mother’s life was in danger and so on. What is surprising, though, that very often I get emails from mothers who have delivered healthy babies and are feeling physically ok, yet emotionally they are in a complete turmoil. I am not talking here about post-natal depression, which may be caused by hormones, lack of sleep, complete change of lifestyle etc. These are the cases when emotional distress is caused by a wide gap between mother’s expectation of birth and an actual birth experience.
More often than not, these women had an idealized picture of birth – completely “natural”, almost pain free, no medication or drugs involved. Which is a fantastic idea in itself and it is great when birth goes as planned. Unfortunately, it is not often the case. Thousands of things can go and do go wrong and medical help is required. As a result, instead of feeling exhilarated and proud after giving birth to a healthy baby, new mothers feel like failures. This feeling of inadequacy and failure can sometimes develop into depression.
In their antenatal groups expectant mothers are commonly given a picture of a “natural” birth as an only “right” option, making it sound easy and achievable for everyone. Birth is, indeed, a natural process, but it is also quite natural for it to go wrong. Many women through the history have died in the process and it is still happening in many countries today. Advocating the “natural” birth as an only option should always include mentioning the risks associated with it. Expectant mothers should be offered different options and the choice should be theirs, depending on the circumstances, health risks etc. Rather than bullying women into one “right” way of giving birth, antenatal groups should be explaining pluses and minuses of various options and providing women with information. What works for one mother could be completely wrong for another and there is no need to make a failure from what should be a celebration.
Having met plenty of women who have opted for a natural birth, I have yet to meet a person who has asked to see a “natural dentist”…

Is your behaviour Obsessive-Compulsive?

OCDWhen I used to work with mothers suffering with post-natal depression, one of the common features of my clients was an overwhelming drive to be perfect – perfect mother, perfect home maker, perfect wife etc. Such client would be unable to stop and sit down until the house was absolutely tidy, which, considering small children, almost never happened. There was always more ironing to do, more bathrooms to clean, more toys to tidy. One client ended up ironing until 3 o’clock at night when she realized that something is not right and decided to seek help. Compulsive neatness, desire to control everything and to be perfect are common feature of the Obsessive-Compulsive Personality disorder.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder. The ‘Obsessive’ part of OCD is characterized by persistent thoughts that cause the sufferer distress and from which there is little relief. There is usually a feeling that if compulsive behavior (for example tidying) will stop, something really dreadful is going to happen.
These thoughts and feelings then lead to compulsive actions, which have to be performed again and again. These actions or rituals can involve checking, washing, cleaning, (there can be an overwhelming fear of germs and contamination) touching objects a number of times, counting “magic” numbers or performing certain rituals. Even getting out of the house becomes a lengthy ritual, as all the lights have to be checked, things tidied up, shoes lined up together etc etc.
OCD sufferer has an overwhelming desire to control everything around him or her, so endless checks are performed to make sure things are under control.
Someone with OCD often has a compulsive desire to be perfect in everything. I have seen many mums whose children were always perfectly dressed, who baked the best muffins and whose houses were impeccable. Yet they were often too exhausted to play with their children or do something fun together. People in this situation put enormous pressure on their children and their families, but most of all on themselves. The result is usually exhaustion and often depression, when a person can’t be perfect anymore and just gives up.
So what can you do if you find yourself engaging in some OCD behavior? I will talk about it in my next post.

What is Transactional Analysis and how it can help?

PND Transactional Analysis was founded by Eric Berne, who sought to demystify psychotherapy and developed concepts, language and methods which were understandable to everyone.
Transactional Analysis believes that we are all living according to our script – a life plan, that is formed at about the age of 6 under the influence of the authority figures.
From this early age we see the world through the prism of our life script and either ignore the facts that don’t fit in or notice only the matching episodes.
Obviously, our “script vision” does not allow us to see all the variety of choices that life has to offer. As a result, we keep moving in circles, sometimes wondering why same things keep happening to us again and again.
For example, the person with a “Work Hard” script, will keep working overtime despite the signs of deteriorating health. The thought of stopping and having a holiday would not even occur to him. Or the woman with Don’t be important script message might marry several times to the men who make her feel unimportant, therefore reinforcing her script beliefs.

Having a baby is a highly emotional time for anyone. When we are tired and under stress, that is the time when our Script directives become most powerful.
For example, somebody with a “Be Perfect” script type may feel that his or her perfect world is blown to pieces with the arrival of a little baby and nothing will ever be perfect again.
On the other hand, a person with a “Work Hard” script theme will understand motherhood as yet another hard task, that has to be worked on, and just get on with it.
If a mother grew up in a household where loud expression of emotions was taboo, she might find dealing with a colicky baby overwhelming. She might experience a sense of total helplessness, feelings of guilt or anger, or even get seriously depressed.

So how can Transactional Analysis help?
TA believes that our scripts can be changed and that we can live the life we choose, not the one we were programmed to live. After acknowledging your script beliefs you can then challenge them and replace them with the new ones.

Here is how it worked for some of my previous clients:

My first client, Laura, was a mother of 2, 5 year old and 1 year old twins. A successful business woman in the past, Laura was getting depressed staying at home with small children and relying on her husband to earn a living. Her husband was very supportive of her going back into business again, but she was torn between the desire to be a “perfect mother” and re-claim her “former life”. In a course of several sessions we explored Laura’s feelings about working and her feelings about being a mother, which revealed complicated relationship between her “inner child” and “inner parent”. What we achieved was Laura’s new ability to rid herself of adopted feelings and prejudices, which did not belong to her, and discover the feelings and desires of her own. With that new skill acquired Laura was able to build a new life, which included her children and her work, the way she wanted it, not the way she was “meant” to live.

Maria, mother of a three months old baby, felt overwhelmed by motherhood and new responsibilities. Always a perfectionist, she took her baby crying as a sign that she was not a good enough mother and was getting more and more depressed. Together we worked at detecting Maria’s inner critical voice and changing it to a voice of support and encouragement. Maria then learned to enjoy being a mum, rather than trying to Be a Perfect Mother.