Have you had a birth experience that you wish had gone a little (or a lot) differently? You are not alone.
We know that many women experience trauma during their pregnancy and birth due to the way they are treated by those around them. One way to process some of the things that may have happened during birth is to have a ‘rebirth ceremony‘. This can look however you wish, below is an example from one woman’s experience – she would like to remain anonymous but we are incredibly grateful for her allowing us to share her story and wise words with you.
“I heard about rebirthing being a thing, possibly in one of GMD online groups, after I had my second baby and it appealed to me.
My births had been one traumatic hospital birth and one much better, transformative home birth supported by the GMDs. Even though the second one was so great in so many ways, I still actually had regrets that haunted me about both births. They were all basically about letting health staff interfere and impose and talk me into things that weren’t right and that had caused damage, stress or other negative effects.
Talking these regrets through with the doulas and having rewind therapy helped, but when I heard about rebirthing and saw a description of someone else’s I knew I wanted to do it.
There is no fixed way to do it, so I really just had to take inspiration from whatever I found online, think about what I wanted and create my own ceremony. It was during lockdown when restrictions were high so having the doulas over didn’t seem like an option but I did manage to have them involved online and I hired a birth pool from them for the ceremony too.
I reflected in the lead up on what was good and bad about the birth and how I would change it if I could. I planned to set that scene as best I could and have a fun and meaningful ceremony based around that.
Basically, on reflection, I felt that I should not have involved health staff in my births and if I had my time again I would have given birth at home without them but with doula support. I would have made it more beautiful downstairs and with a bit of luck, because my husband wouldnt have been busy dealing with the midwives, he would have had the time and focus to fill the pool in time.
It was a quick labour during my second birth at home and it didnt take long before I didn’t want to move. So between that and my husband being distracted by the midwives, I missed the birth pool window. I had set up a nice nest for early labour in an upstairs bedroom so that was fine, but part of the reason I did that was because I wanted to feel safe and private and have somewhere to hide. This wouldn’t have been as much of a concern without the midwives there. So I reasoned that I would make it to the pool in my ideal scenario.
Being in the pool would have been a nice experience but it would also have helped relieve pain and minimise tearing, as would not having midwives there telling me to change position and coaching me to push the second time or inducing me before baby and I were ready the first time.
On the day I got into what I would have worn if I was giving birth and sat quietly where I probably would have been in early labour and where I was the second time. I reflected and listened to music and relaxed alone like I would have done in early labour, like I did the second time. I think I listened to my hypnobirthing CD too.
I had an online holding space session with the GMDs then, which helped to make it feel more important and momentous and gave me a bit of TLC and support. I talked through with them what I regretted and what I would do differently and how my ideal births would have been, and also the positives of the births and becoming a Mum.
Then eventually I made my way down. My husband and eldest had filled up the pool and things were set up how I’d have wanted them for both my births with pool, music, lights, floaty things in water, food, drinks, towels, etc.
After spending some time alone in the pool imagining what labour would have been like in there, the baby was handed to me who was dying to get in! She was 1 by then, just about to have her birthday, so not a baby in arms. I had read about trying to simulate birth (without risking drowning baby obvs) – holding them safely to float around gently in the water near you and then bringing baby up to your chest and cuddling and feeding as if you had just birthed – so I did that as best I could.
Baby didn’t want to feed yet and was quite wriggly as she was so excited to be in the water. So I let her play around in the water. Eventually she calmed and wanted to feed and I was able to bring her up for a feed and that felt like the rounding off of the main rebirthing ceremony of my youngest.
My eldest got in then and we talked about how I’d have done this with both of them if I knew then what I knew now and why I thought it was the best way. We had a nice cuddle too.
Some things I’ve read talk about talking through what happened at the birth and what went wrong and apologising to the baby if you feel bad. I may have quietly done that a bit with baby I can’t remember but I kept it mainly positive with my eldest who was 6, emphasising what a good memory it was of them both coming into the world and our lives.
Then husband got in and It was a family celebration then and we had food like it would have been in my ideal births. No midwives! And my placenta would have come out of its own accord at some point of course during that time. And there would be no unnecessary transferring to hospital, just staying home.
I bought a special fancy two piece swimming costume that would have been good to birth in and flowery head dresses to make it more special and fancy costumes for the kids, though baby was naked for the ceremony. I had pretend leaves and floaty lotus flower lights to decorate the water and waterproof fairy lights around it. There were candles and fairy lights elsewhere. I just tried to play music I would have played for the different stages.
It was pretty chilled. Photos were taken but I didn’t want it to just be a photo shoot. I wanted it to feel like a meaningful experience and ritual and a celebration too. So I did what I could to achieve that.
It was really nice and special. I think it did help me to set things right in my head, heart and body and symbolically reclaim my births.
There seems to be good evidence that re-enacting and rewriting traumatic experiences can help healing, even if it is just done in your imagination. People feel that replaying birth physically with babies, sometimes just in the bath, helps mother and baby get over trauma and reset. I don’t know about evidence for that but I’ve read that it can help to establish feeding better in early days. As oxytocin helps with all that it makes sense on that level alone if you set things up nicely and have a nice cuddly time.
For me it was a year later for one birth and six for the other but it still felt healing and empowering and I hope it may even have been healing and resolving on some level for my husband and the kids too. Another year on, I don’t tend to feel haunted by painful regrets much now. I’ve done various things to process it all including talking, writing and the rewind therapy for my first birth, but I’m sure the rebirthing was a significant part of my healing and recovery.
The Greater Manchester Doulas really helped to make it feel special and important and helped me to have the courage and make the effort to do it. If it wasn’t for them I might have felt too silly or shy or decided that it was probably too much of a self-indulgent palaver and thought better of it. Their validation and encouragement helped me to hold on to the value of it, not lose my nerve and see it through. I’d recommend considering a rebirthing ceremony to anyone with niggling regrets and I’d recommend the support of the GMD if you do it.”