Most of the time birth happens in a way that leaves a new mom feeling empowered and joyous. Although for some of us, the birth of our babies can leave more complicated feelings in its wake.
Childbirth trauma is something I and many of my clients have experienced after more challenging deliveries. Processing the birth in a healthy way, is an important step in working through the event.
Hypnosis is something wildly popular in childbirth preparation and less well known as an option to treat trauma after birth. I discovered Jessica Porter years ago through her book “The Hip Chicks Guide to Macrobiotics.”
Here she shares how HRCT hypnosis can release and shift emotions and move postpartum mothers towards emotional healing.
What is Hypnosis
Most people have this idea of hypnosis being “look into my crystal ball,” what is hypnosis for the uninitiated?
Hypnosis is a totally natural state of mind, in which we focus and reflect deeply. All of us go in and out of hypnosis several (if not hundreds) of times a day: When we daydream, space out, drive somewhere we know the route to, listen to music, dance, have sex, watch TV, or relate to our inner worlds and imaginations in any other way. We go into these little trances–as we contact our subconscious minds–and they are totally normal and healthy.
Hypnotherapy is simply using this state of mind therapeutically–and in a sustained way–because we are more open and suggestible when functioning from the subconscious. So hypnosis is not the entering of some mysterious Pandora’s box, locked away at normal times, or full of scary secrets. The subconscious is just a layer of one’s mind that we don’t normally lead with in our lives, but we do have contact with it.
The reason hypnosis is so helpful with releasing birth trauma is that trauma exists on a subconscious level. It’s a type of tension and wounding that gets deep into the mind. We can talk all we want about it, analyze the situation, go over it again and again, but until we address the trauma from the subconscious mind–where it lives–it doesn’t budge. And that can be very frustrating for people.
One more thing: It’s a myth that a hypnotist can control a client’s mind–a persistent myth, that’s been perpetuated through movies, TV and theater, because it makes for great entertainment. But it’s simply not true. We will only take suggestions that we like, that don’t hurt us, or that we consent to, on some level. Imagine if hypnotists could simply change minds, willy-nilly! I’D BE RICH!!
HRCT – Hypnosis for Releasing Childbirth Trauma
How does HRCT differ from traditional hypnosis?
Hypnosis for Releasing Childbirth Trauma falls into the category of hypnotherapy, and like most types of hypnotherapy, it’s aiming at a specific goal–in this case, releasing pent up feelings, energy and trauma that have gotten “stuck” in a woman’s body from a childbirth experience. Hypnotherapy for quitting smoking, or losing weight, address the mind slightly differently, but the practice of it–taking the client into hypnosis, asking questions that help her to connect with old experiences, helping to facilitate healing–all of those techniques are used regularly in a hypnotherapy practice.
Signs of Emotional Residue
What are some ways you help a mom figure out if she’s experiencing emotional residue from a childbirth experience?
There are some signs:
1) If a woman just can’t “drop” the childbirth, or feel at peace about it, from her deepest self.
2) When a woman can’t talk about the experience without crying, feeling bad, or conflicted. If she obsesses about her birth experience, in an effort to makes sense of it.
3) If she feels the birth experience inhibited her ability to bond with her baby. Those are signs there may be subconscious material that needs to be resolved.
You see, many women are encouraged to think about their birth experiences through the lens of having a healthy baby, and to “GET OVER” that it may not have been positive for her. But birth experiences can be traumatic; there may have been moments when the woman fears her baby will not survive, moments when she’s pressured into doing things she doesn’t want to do, feelings of anger, grief and even betrayal that are never fully expressed in the moment. Not to mention pain. Those experiences basically get trapped in the subconscious mind, and in the tissue of the body. And when they are trapped, they start to repeat in the mind and body of the woman, as they pushed to be resolved.
Obstacles to Resolution
But there are two big obstacles to their resolution:
First, she is now at home, getting little rest, breastfeeding, and moving into an entirely new chapter of her life, organized entirely around the life of another human. There’s little time, or psychic space, to process this enormous, full-body, life-altering event.
Second, she doesn’t know that she must go to the subconscious level (through hypnosis) in order to heal subconscious wounding. That’s just not a thing most people realize.
So many women feel guilty, or even crazy, that they can’t effectively process, or drop, or enjoy their experience of childbirth. And after a while, many start shaming themselves about it, echoing what the world is saying: “You’ve got a beautiful baby… GET OVER IT!”. That, sadly, just makes it worse.
Other women have so-so experiences, meaning some parts of childbirth were traumatic, while other parts were satisfying. This can lead to a conflict on the subconscious level, and she can’t really “choose”, on an deep energy level, how she feels about the birth. This conflict can be as painful as an obviously traumatic experience.
Is childbirth trauma specific to the mom’s experience of her birth regardless of the type of delivery?
In my experience, trauma begins in the mind of the traumatized person, regardless of the circumstances. Generally, the more tense and fearful the mind is, the more likely it is to experience wounding.
And pregnant women are ripe for this fear and tension because our society basically trains them, on every single level–through TV, movies, well-intentioned friends, many medical professionals, and even their own previous experiences–to be afraid. And if they’re not actively afraid, they’re at least tense. Add to that a noisy, bright hospital room, an over-caffeinated nurse, a terse doctor, a frightened partner, annoying in-laws, pressure to dilate, physical discomfort, fatigue, medical interventions, and the very real maternal concern for her baby… and we have a mind that is very vulnerable to being wounded.
And it’s not her fault. Most of us don’t know how to train our minds for this kind of experience. Some prenatal classes may speak to the issue, but I’ve only seen the deep and sustained practice of hypnosis prepare normal women, mentally, for this experience. There may be exceptions, women who just naturally handle the experience fearlessly, but that’s rare, in our culture.
So back to your question: I have seen women who felt traumatized by what appeared to be fantastic births (physically), and women who felt very settled and satisfied with C-sections. It depends on the mind.
On average, how many sessions of HRCT does a mother need to start feeling more peace around a birth experience?
In general, one. The session requires that I do a thorough explanation of hypnosis, and that she and I talk, in depth, about her previous childbirth experience… so the session might be 2 hours… but we can clear her of that birth trauma in one session. And it’s gone, forever. The subconscious mind always accepts the new, and better, experience over a traumatic one. For women who have multiple past experiences, we might need more time, but not much.
And just to be clear: The memory of the birth remains. We aren’t inducing amnesia here. We are simply smoothing out the terrain, retroactively. Allowing her to have all the feelings she had to repress that day, to speak her mind, and to release all the tension her body has held onto. What remains is a more integrated, peaceful and settled relationship to her birth experience. It also makes room for more love and forgiveness, for herself and others.
When a mother has completed her hypnosis sessions with you, does she need to see you intermittently for maintenance?
No. You see, the nice thing about birth is that you only ever birth a particular child once. You can’t actually go back and do it again. Once the trauma of the birth of little Sarah is released, it’s released. I actually speak to women about this, while they are in hypnosis, asking them very specifically “Is there any reason why you need to carry around this tension we’ve dropped today?” Do you need it for any reason? Is Sarah now a gorgeous 2-year old, toddling around the house? Is there any reason to hang on?” And my clients answer, 100% of the time, “NO!”, with great relief. Their subconscious minds have been aching to drop this stuff for months, if not years, and now that it’s gone, the body won’t re-configure the trauma. That’s not how we are wired, as humans.
Visit Jessica’s website for more information about hypnosis for releasing childbirth trauma.
Photo courtesy of Jessica Porter