How to heal from or avoid birth trauma: interview with therapist Sarah Picken from Sacred Healing
I learned so much from this interview with Sarah Picken, a therapist and healer based in Canada. She specializes in birth trauma, and also helps families in their journeys around infertility and conception.
I found Sarah when I was looking for someone talk to after my son Steven’s birth. I wasn’t sure if I was traumatized, but I knew that I couldn’t stop thinking about his birth and it was interfering with my life. Sarah is such a calm and soothing soul with a lot of wisdom to share.
Here is the recording of our conversation, and if you have a baby sleeping next to you and don’t want to wake her, or if you’d prefer to listen to only certain parts of the conversation, scroll down for an outline of the recording so you can skip ahead to the parts that interest you.
Sarah's introduction (minute 1)
Sarah has 20 years of experience in the social services field and holds a masters degree in marriage and family therapy. She combines this more mainstream training with her energy healing training which includes reiki, angelic realm practitioner, and thetahealer in her work. Visit her website
Trauma lives in our bodies and talk therapy alone doesn’t always work (minute 4)
Sarah became interested in helping families heal from traumatic birth after her own experience. She realized that there was no one in Canada specializing in healing after birth. Only when she discovered energy healing was when she was able to get relief, and that is why Sarah now incorporates all sorts of healing modalities into her therapy. Her goal is to “find where the trauma energy is stored and break it up.” She uses touch and even sound therapy (sounds are vibrations, so they very effectively break up the energy and are able to release it.)
The lion and the gazelle – why gazelles don’t need therapy after escaping an attack (minute 9)
Many times when humans experience trauma, we make it a priority to continue on with our lives. For the sake of social acceptance, keeping our jobs, and getting stuff done, we suppress and move forward. And the traumatic energy remains in our body.
What does a gazelle do, though, after escaping an attack? He shakes. He shakes the trauma out of his body.
We can shake, too. Smile and shake. You should try it some time!
How to prepare for birth (minute 11)
1. Connect to your intuition. How are you feeling? Do your clothes feel good? What do you need in this moment? Sit with those feelings. Go into your birth knowing that if something doesn’t feel right, you’ll be able to recognize that something is off. If everything is feeling right, coming from a place of trust is key: you feel everything is right because IT IS.
2. Learn how to connect to your baby’s wisdom. Take the time to imagine what he must be thinking. It requires some quiet time, but you may be able to feel signs or feelings or even messages from your baby.
3. Gather information. Knowledge can help you feel empowered. Sarah recommends Gentle Birth Gentle Mothering by Sarah Buckley, Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, Hypnobirthing, and Sacred Birthing.
4. Surround yourself with people who trust birth
How do you know if you have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? (minute 23)
Sarah explains how the nervous system is like a cup, and how every experience that we go through fills our cup. When our cup is full, we are more susceptible to trauma. The diagnostic criteria for PTSD is
- Avoidance (you can't stand the thought of going back to where you gave birth)
- Hypervigilance (always on guard and easily startled)
- Flashbacks (reliving the events and it feels so real)
- Symptoms persist for more than one month
Why many women don’t seek help in processing and releasing trauma (minute 27)
Sarah and I talked about how many women go into birth assuming that it will be painful, a negative experience, and even traumatic. So if they do experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, they think it’s normal.
But even if you don’t technically have PTSD, if you are sad or upset, it deserves attention. Don’t let your system get overloaded. Process and release. Process and release. Like the gazelle. Movement is key.
Special message for birthworkers (minute 33)
Everyone in the room is an intervention. Your energy affects the birthing person’s space and process. Clear your energy before going into a birth so that you can serve from a space of trust. If you were born in a traumatic way, or if your mom was, that is passed down and you can be triggered. Just be aware of this and learn how to separate your triggers from your clients’.
Trauma can be passed down from generation to generation if it is not healed, but wisdom can also be passed down. Let’s tap into our ancestors’ wisdom. (minute 35)
How to “shake off” experiences that fill our sensory cup (minute 38).
Sarah and I agreed that the "shake and smile" method works for toddlers after BIG emotional moments and outbursts.
How and why birth workers should create their own personal rituals around birth (minute 39)
It's easy to forget to process emotional experiences. We are busy. We know we are moved but we push it aside in order to continue on. Sarah explains how birth workers can create a routine or a ritual for processing and releasing traumatic energy.