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Self Reflection for Birth Workers: An interview with Cheyenne Scarlett
I am so so excited to welcome Cheyenne Scarlet to the podcast
She has a particular interest on how childbirth affects the mental health of parents, and in turn their relationships with their children
Let’s talk about Baby Planner
Baby Planner came about after doing my master's research and realizing that there's a lot of gaps, some of them being on the part of the healthcare providers, and some of them being on the part of the parent
There's a go with the flow attitude towards birth, which it's good to be flexible
But often, when people say go with the flow, that means I'm not going to do any research, I'm not going to learn anything about birth, I'm just going to show up and see what happens. And I feel like that approach is particularly dangerous.
We do know that making a plan and sort of having an idea of what you want, maybe not even a strict rigid plan, but sort of preferences or an outline of what you would like, you know, can help you reach that or help you have a more positive experience
I can support pregnant people and parents.
But that is just me, you know, saying, here's the tools to protect yourself from the fire without actually putting out the fire
And at the end of the day, it is not the responsibility of the person giving birth to stand there and like, protect themselves and like be fighting off interventions and things that they don't want
I am also working with the people that are perpetuating this thing
My book for healthcare workers is called My Deep Dive: a self reflective workbook for birth workers
It was honestly created out of a place of frustration, mostly surrounding the use of inclusive language
I was really frustrated that people are feeling offended by using the term birthing people birthing person, rather than mother
I, as a black woman, belong to two groups of people who had to quite literally fight in court to prove that they were a person and should be valued in society and should have rights and should be able to vote
The workbook itself is 10 chapters. And only two of them are actually about birth, like one is your beliefs about birth, and the second one is your practice as a birth worker
But all the other eight chapters are about how you live in the world, how you feel about the world, how you learn things about the world
It's great for anyone that works with anyone who has experienced reproduction in any capacity - a lot of things are applicable for, like childcare workers or, or people who are working with young families in general,
I'll give you an example from https://www.babyplanner.ca/about (my study): a black mom had a really, really difficult birth. And the nurse asked her, Hey, do you want me to take your baby to the nursery, so you can take a nap? And her immediate thought was, Oh, my God, I can't say yes because she's going to think that I'm incapable that I'm a bad mom, you know, she's gonna want to call CPS because I am not capable of caring for my baby. And that might be if you don't know the history, in Canada, with, with cis, taking black and indigenous children more frequently than anybody else, you might think that's totally irrational, but it actually is totally rational for black woman to think that way. And if she had, you know, gotten defensive, the nurse would be like, Oh my god, this is just a difficult patient, right? And not recognizing that connection. So it's not even always about you and what you are doing, it's about the person that you're working with and how they are viewing your interaction.
It’s not your fault if you hold stereotypes or bias towards a certain group of people
But it is now your responsibility to address those things and to change them
Cheyenne (she/her) is a researcher, educator and advocate. Cheyenne has an education background in child development and has a particular interest in how childbirth affects the mental healt
Care Expectations Series: The Therapeutic Nurse-Client Relationship
This series is focused on the practice standards of nursing staff. Particularly, we will be focusing on the College of Nurses of Ontario practice standards. Download a copy to review https://www.cno.org/globalassets/docs/prac/41033_therapeutic.pdf (here). And today's episode, we'll be diving into the core standard of therapeutic nurse client relationship, which is the document that covers the heavy hitting foundational expectations that your nursing staff are already held to.
These standards are not unique to any particular area of nursing
The standards cover anyone who is a registered nurse - that includes registered practical nurses as well as registered nurses, advanced practice nurses, nurse practitioners, etc.
As I mentioned, this series will cover the practice standards and other guiding documents that are behind nursing practice, particularly in Ontario
With the very specific geographical context, keep in mind all of these documents and these governing bodies exist for your area
Nursing standards are expectations that contribute to public protection
They inform nurses of their accountabilities and the public of what to expect of nurses standards apply to all nurses regardless of their role, job description or area of practice
At the core of nursing is the therapeutic nurse client relationship - the nurse establishes and maintains this key relationship by using nursing knowledge and skills, as well as applying caring attitudes and behaviors
The nurse client relationship contains five core elements: trust, respect, professional intimacy, empathy, and power
Trust is critical, because as the client or the patient, regardless of the setting, but particularly when giving birth, you are extremely vulnerable
That is why trust tops the list, and it is important that your care providers establish this piece above all else
Respect is the recognition of the inherent dignity, worth and uniqueness of individuals
Regardless of any reason that exists that another person may judge them
So this in particular calls on nurses to address their own internal biases around any number of ways that they could be discriminating against clients, without even knowing it, as well as actively participating in damaging disrespectful actions
Professional intimacy is a concept that you may not have heard of before
You can understand and appreciate the physical closeness that nursing staff have when it comes to birth
Professional intimacy also includes the psychological aspects, spiritual and the social pieces that are part of the plan of care
Having access to such intimate information, the secrets and the darkness that people carry, comes with great responsibility
Empathy is the expression of understanding that goes a long way to validate a patient's experience
Birth is a triumphant experience - if the people around you are not treating it as such, it's going to be very difficult for you to engage with it as a triumphant experience
Nurses are the people who keep others safe - with that power comes the ability to harm them too
We need to recognize from the get go that this relationship is always one of unequal power, and that power imbalance has so many implications
We don't even collect race specific data in Canada, let alone have discussions over how we treat black indigenous people of color in this country
We can look at the data in the states and know that there are alarming discrepancies between the death rate of white and black birthing people
This is not new information - we need to start talking about it because there are rules in place to prevent this from happening, and no one's doing anything about it
This is what the care expectation series is highlighting that there are ways for you to enforce and reinforce your needs being met, and then hold people accountable for not reading that
There's no more second guessing whether or not the wa
Am I allowed to do that in birth?
Let’s talk about care expectations! You can set your own care expectations regardless of where you are on your health journey: whether you are pregnant, post-partum, planning on pregnancy or addressing any other health concern. Knowing that you have the right to set care expectations is a real game changer, so let’s dive right in!
Imagine you have spent the last several months planning a huge party
You have planned out every detail right down to your favourite restaurant and your perfect hair and shoes
You arrive at your party, and your friends and family are there, and then this person you have never met takes over everything
This person tells you “we’re not ready for you” and tells you to go “wait over there”
Next, this person tells you there is nothing left for you to eat or drink
Your friends and family are there but nobody knows what to do so you just go along with whatever is happening
You are defeated
Obviously this scenario would never be ok in the hospitality industry
Why do we not hold our birth experience to the same standard?
The profession of nursing is built on the therapeutic nurse-client relationship
The therapeutic relationship must include trust and understanding, unbiased support, belief in the individual's autonomy and providing informed options for that client to make their own decisions.
Somehow along the way, we mixed it up and in labor and delivery - the job and core value focuses on the baby instead of the birthing person
Why is the client not treated as the expert of knowledge and keeper of the answers when it comes to pregnancy and birth?
As the client going in there to give birth, you have every right to set clear expectations about how you want to be treated and how your nursing staff and the rest of the care team is to treat you based on their own practice guidelines
You are not being difficult, you are not asking for too much, you are simply highlighting that you are aware of what their professional responsibilities are
It’s not your fault that the system is broken
Establishing care expectations with the background knowledge of what your nurses should be doing creates a powerful tool to be heard and to be treated the way you deserve to be treated during your birthing journey.
Download your FREE Care Expectations PDF https://thegoodbirthco.com/careexpectations/ (here).
If you're interested in learning more about how to define your care expectations and have them met, don't miss next week's episode. I will be diving into the top three ways to ask for what you need. See you then!
PTSD from Childbirth
Welcome back to While Doing Laundry! Today we are going to talk about what birth trauma really is, and why many people have it but don’t even realize it. This may be a very emotional conversation for you, but listen to your body, trust your emotions, and see what comes to mind for you. I’m always here if you need me.
-If you Google birth trauma, you will likely find references to physical birth trauma
-Emotional and mental birth trauma is often overlooked
-The Birth Trauma Association in the UK is closer to the mark
-They define birth trauma as a post-traumatic disorder (PTSD) following birth
-I use the term PTSD with caution, as many new parents feel like their symptoms are not “bad enough” to be classified as PTSD
-If you broaden your definition of PTSD, it is simply a traumatic event or events where an individual feels their life is being threatened, or someone else around them is in danger, or if there is a threat to their dignity or person
-My point is that even if you don’t have diagnosed PTSD after birth, you still may be suffering from birth trauma
-I approach birth trauma as an overarching umbrella term that can capture anything as minute as disappointments, or mild frustration
-In your experience, it could be as simple as a beautiful birth experience with one tiny, nagging memory that just doesn't sit well with you
-That falls under this umbrella, just as much as the stereotypical very dramatic, traumatic life or death situation that some people bring with their stories that some people have shared
-These stories carry as much value as do the stories of absolute heartbreak and stereotypical drama, and excitement, and overwhelm that come with many other birth stories
-The common thread of birth trauma is the sensation, the experience of being silenced, and ignored even though you are the person who should be at the center of every decision, when you are pushed to the side, or whether you're just ignored and denied completely
-When we enter the healthcare system, we want support, we want guidance, and we want to be led to good outcomes
-Just the same as presenting to the ER with a broken ankle, we hope that would lead to a treatment plan that fits our needs
-Diagnosis, treatment, and recovery are all key when repairing a broken ankle
-Health care providers need to know about your life, your needs and how to help you get back to that
-They need to be able to treat your ankle so you can get back to running up and down the stairs with a basket of laundry with a baby on your back
-Childbirth should be the same, it should be based around the needs of the individual
-Many healthcare providers don’t acknowledge the complex needs of birthing mothers
-Birthing mothers exit the system traumatized and without any words to explain what they went through any without means of healing
-This creates isolation for new parents and rifts in families
-Many women feel forced to swallow their indignation and to “just keep smiling” as society dictates
-You have a newborn baby, you don't want to miss out on making memories, dammit, put on some mascara, and force a smile for those newborn pictures
-Condense that horrific story you just endured to the version that everyone else feels comfortable with
- Because you get tired of hearing the people you trust and expect to keep you safe telling you just to be happy with your healthy baby.
-They don't understand or don't have the skill set to support you with the trauma you experienced
-Trauma does not go anywhere and it prevents you from transitioning into the next phase of life
-If you don't work through what happens, you cannot bury a traumatic birth experience and expect to move through parenthood with joy and with absolute ownership
The healthcare system doesn’t want to touch this topic because it would mean acknowledging the fact that these traumatic birth experiences
What is birth trauma?
Did your birth mess you up?
If you feel like answering yes, then I would consider that to be some sort of birth trauma. Birth trauma is under-reported and when it is reported, it is often not taken seriously.
Trauma changes us forever. In order to move on in your life, your trauma needs to be acknowledged and addressed.
In today’s episode, we are looking at an overview of birth trauma and touching on some key points.
When I worked in long-term care, I became familiar with a term called lived experience
This is a term that describes an individual’s take on their own life story
Their lived experience includes their profession, their habits, but most importantly their trauma, since trauma changes how we evolve as human beings
As a care provider, you can ALWAYS benefit from knowing the lived experience of the individuals in your care
So why in long-term care, but not in perinatal care?
The perinatal period (the time around pregnancy, birth and babyhood) has a profound experience on us as individuals
Lived experience needs to be applied to the birth experience, especially when trauma is involved
25-34% of women report birth trauma, but there are many more women who do not report their trauma
Birth trauma doesn’t have to be physical
Any threat to your emotional integrity in the birthing process is also birth trauma
Common examples: care providers teasing you, mocking you, rolling their eyes, or pressuring you into choosing birthing interventions such as inductions or requiring certain birthing positions
Birthing women often feel out of control and lost, and health care providers may take advantage of that
Health care providers tend to focus on routine policies and procedures
You are allowed to redefine the procedure by coming in with very clear expectations
You will need to lead your healthcare providers instead of being led by them
There are many transitions in birth: the labour process itself, from one environment to another and from one healthcare provider to another
The transitions are the places where trauma is more likely to occur
In order to get through those transitions safely, you need to have a plan
Healthcare providers can and should help you through the transitions by understanding your lived experience and by giving you the space to do your thing while advocating for your plan
Your birth experience really happened. And it was a really big deal.
I see you fighting back tears when you hear a good birth story or passionately protecting others on any social media thread you can.
I get it. The guilt and a sense of failures still grips you. And very your birth is here to make you feel radically seen and invalidate your birth experience.
And I've got. you the signature Unbury Your Birth process frees you from the heaviness that you may not even know exists, that is preventing you from enjoying parenthood fully.
You can really unbury your birth and take back the power you deserve. You may not know where to begin, but I do. I've developed a clear simple, repeatable process to deconstruct your birth story and give you back the power hidden within it.
Join me for a transformative six week program designed to give you the clarity, validation and freedom from the day you gave birth, to be able to move on to the rest of your life. Unbury Your Birth was created just for you.
If you've ever felt:
like you did something wrong
angry about something that happened to you that day
as if you didn't do your best
isolated because you tried to seek help, but felt like no one actually gets it
Your birth story is worthy of being heard. Join a group of people just like you to process and redefine your birth experience. Unbury Your Birth is currently open for enrollment. We get started on June 17 at 12:30pm. So make sure that you book your enrolling call now. Space is limited.
If you want to get in on this
Was your birth a letdown?
Pregnancy and birth is an exciting time...
...but sometimes we avoid telling the stories of those who did not have a positive birth experience.
Sometimes these people do not feel like there is a safe place to tell their stories.
It’s time to remedy that.
If you were broken by your birth experience: I am sorry.
Your story deserves to be told.
You can come to a place of peace and understanding of the day you gave birth.
That is what I'm here to do. Now. I'm here to help you learn that it is not your fault.
Are you ready to start healing the trauma of your birth story?
Come and join me on this week's episode of While Doing Laundry.
Pregnancy is an exciting time
Sometimes we avoid telling the stories of those who did not have a positive pregnancy/birth experience
Sometimes these people do not feel like there is a safe place to tell their stories
It’s time to remedy that
This is why and how I developed my birth processing approach
Caveat: I am not a counselor or therapist, so my approach may not be for everyone
I want to address the fact that sometimes birth trauma is completely dismissed by other mental health professions
Birth processing is here to show you that you did not fail - you were failed.
Birth processing replaces the rhetoric of “You have a healthy baby, you SHOULD be happy about that”
Mothers are not given the opportunity to ask the question, “What about me?”
No one wants to talk about this - family members often do not know how to help and care providers quickly dismiss concerns about birthing interventions and trauma
Mothers are made to feel out of line for questioning anything
And so mothers bury their pain and trauma - but their bodies do not forget - and the trauma continues to have power over their minds, emotions and tasks of daily living
If you were broken by your birth experience - I am sorry
Your story deserves to be told
You can come to a place of peace and understanding of the day you gave birth
I remember being completely oblivious to how damaging my birth experience was. For years. I was treated for serious mental health conditions. I was advised that if I lost weight, maybe I would feel better about things.
I stayed angry and my attachment and bonding experience as a new parent was severely stunted by the trauma that happened to me and the inability to articulate or identify it.
It wasn't until I met some very, very, very passionate people who challenged me on every aspect of my birth that I thought I knew that I began to see that it wasn't my fault.
That is what I'm here to do. Now. I'm here to help you learn that it is not your fault.
I take you through a very, very structured approach
We start with an objective bird's eye view of what happened
We then move from uncovering and unburying your feelings and emotions regarding that day to understanding what actually happened and what should have actually happened
Finally, we redefine that story - that is when the whole entire experience comes together
That story is yours to keep forever
It may be a bulleted list, a beautiful narrative, or just a small phrase that you repeat to yourself whenever you think of that day
Birth processing is here to free you from the guilt, the shame, the hurt, that happened the day you gave birth