Biggest Barriers to Asking about Abuse?

Last week I had the privilege of presenting for the Gold Lactation Online Conference, the largest lactation and breastfeeding conference in the world. If you’ve never participated before, I strongly suggest you check out their program.

As part of my online presentation “Beyond “Screening”: Nurturing Safer Spaces to Elicit and Respond to Disclosures of Abuse”, professionals in the Perinatal Field (lactation consultants, doulas, nurses, physicians etc.) were polled.

Take a look at these results.

Slide 15
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4 Myths Destructive to Pregnant Survivors of Abuse

For many years, through my work with A Safe Passage, I’ve been training care providers (doulas, midwives, physicians, social workers) to create safer spaces to elicit and respond to disclosures of abuse. Over that period of time, I’ve come across many myths in the minds of participants. Myths about who experiences abuse, who perpetrates abuse, how people respond to being victimized; myths about the causes of abuse, the impacts of abuse, the role of care providers in responding to disclosures of abuse; and on and on…

These myths are powerful. They perpetuate dominant ideas about abuse and how the person being victimized ought to respond. They become particularly powerful when combined with cultural notions of what it means to be a “good” pregnant person. These myths permeate our culture, and inform how we, as care providers, work with pregnant people in general, but are uniquely destructive to pregnant survivors of abuse.

4 myths I would like to challenge:

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How she got through it.

She got through it by fighting.
By screaming she needed to “get the fuck outta here”.
By begging for it all to stop.
She got through it by hissing at those of us trying to help with her eyes wide and wild.
By shoving our hands and our attempted words of comfort away.

By spitting at us.

She got through it by purposely swinging her head around and vomiting all over the front of my shirt.
By screaming that she needed to go for a cigarette.
By relaxing a little only when she was finally, mercifully given an epidural.
Fentanyl infused to help with the violence of laboring.

Labouring withdrawal.

She got through it by screaming her baby out of her vagina.
By turning her head away from her newborn when he was out.
She got through it by finally ripping out frantically tubes and IVs.
By leaving the hospital against medical advice.

She got through it the only way she could.

 © Sarah Chantler Baughman, doula, 2015

Violence is pervasive across the lifespan of women, a global epidemic in fact, with pregnancy being a particularly high risk time for the impacts of historical and/or current & ongoing abuse to manifest.  However, the collective response of the *birthing community has been to remain silent, claiming for the most part, that this topic resides outside of the doula’s scope of practice. Continue reading

Mapping trauma in the lives of birth workers

“I would like to see some conversation regarding the reasons why those of us with trauma are called to this work. As well some discussion of how to ensure we are not using this work to heal our own wounds. And how to approach conversations without being triggered ourselves” – workshop participant

Time to talk about trauma in the lives of birth workers – because yes, it’s a part of many of our lives too. We’re getting better at talking about the impact of trauma in our clients’ lives and on the transitions to parenting; however, we are less able to call attention to our own. Continue reading

“It wasn’t supposed to be this way”: Birth trauma & the role of the doula

When someone shares with you they’ve had a “traumatic birth”, do you know:

  •  How to respond?
  • Where to refer?birth trauma

We’re seeing more and more clients who report their births were traumatic, but more often than not, the birth story is the window into deeper feelings of sadness, grief & loss, powerlessness and loss of trust which proceeded the birth experience, and gets entangled within the birthing narrative.

It’s important to know what the differences are between Continue reading