The 6 Words That Helped Prevent Trauma in My Subsequent Labour & Delivery

The 6 Words That Helped Prevent Trauma in My Subsequent Labour & Delivery

My first birthing experience was traumatic for me. While, to an outsider, it may have seemed like a straight-forward, “normal” labor and vaginal delivery, with no threat to my life or the life of my child, to me it was far from what I had hoped and planned for.

We’d transferred to the hospital because the midwife didn’t think things were moving along fast enough. After I’d been poked, prodded and wired up, the cocky resident had roughly inserted an internal monitor. I’d cried. Yes, it had been painful. But it was the words running through my mind in that moment that were at the heart of my sobs:

“This isn’t how it was supposed to be. This isn’t how it was supposed to be…”

During that first pregnancy I’d created a clear vision in my mind and heart of what my ideal birthing experience would be like and what I felt would be the most gentle and peaceful entrance for my child. And I held tight to that vision.

While I acknowledged that birth sometimes didn’t go as planned, I refused to acknowledge that I could end up adding to those statistics. I chose to fill my mind with birth stories that were empowering, blissful, that went according to plan. I chose to not visit the hospital that housed the midwife’s backup doctor, because, after all, I wouldn’t be going there anyway; why waste the good part of a day driving an hour and a half to and from, and meeting someone whom I didn’t need to know anyway?

Part of the trauma for me after my first birth, was the loss of that ideal vision. The loss of our hopes and plans. The loss of our Dream.

This isn’t how it was supposed to be. This isn’t how it was supposed to be…

Fast-forward 20 months.

We’d gone in for a late-afternoon ultrasound at 38w4d with our second child. They’d been concerned about amniotic fluid levels. It had otherwise been a healthy, enjoyable pregnancy (with some post-traumatic fear sprinkled in here and there, but I’d felt strong and ready, and had chosen a team I trusted). Our wee one had been head-down for months. And then the rug was pulled from beneath our feet.

Babe had flipped and was now feet-first, with cord wrapped a couple times around the neck.

Suddenly the team was in near-crisis mode. This was not a wait-and-see type situation, they said. No questions asked, we were to show up at the hospital at the crack of dawn to prep for surgery.

After some fervent discussion, the OB did agree to attempt to turn our child manually—external cephalic version (ECV). If that was successful, they’d bind my belly, break my waters, and induce. No moving around during labor. No laboring in the tub. No Dream birth. Again.

At one point that night, I was lying in bed wide awake, grieving for yet another round of lost hopes, plans and dreams.

Then I flashed back to the sentence that had gone through my mind when I was in labor with my first: “This isn’t how it was supposed to be…” and how that thought had played a role in my sense of trauma.

And then I remembered the song that had come to me in the wee hours of a different night, about halfway through the pregnancy with our second:

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in again… Even though I don’t know what lies ahead, and doubts arise, I will follow one step at a time… Step by step and breath by breath.   Here I am, I surrender….” Whatever journey I was called to walk, as this new life came into being, my answer was ‘yes’. If I experienced trauma again, I would heal again, too.

And a new thought filled my mind and heart. A peaceful thought:

helping prevent birth traumaNow let me be very clear: I don’t believe in being flippant about our convictions, in giving up—without very good reason—what we feel strongly about when it comes to our bodies and the birth of our children, or in acquiescing in childbirth to the way someone else thinks it should be done. What I’m saying—the realization I had come to—was that I could no longer hold so tightly to the way I thought it should be. I could not control the outcome—or even the process. I had to let go. I had to surrender to what I couldn’t change. I had to accept what was.

The ECV was successful. My belly was bound. My waters were broken. The drip was started.

Through it all, those 6 simple words. “I greet with Love, what is…”

And 12 hours later, nothing. No progress. No dilation beyond 1 or 2 cm. No babe in my arms.

I was given the news that they would be prepping me for surgery. Babe’s heart rate was starting to drop and to take longer to bounce back between contractions.

I wept.

Then I took a deep breath. “I greet with Love, what is. I greet with Love, what is…” and to the operating room we went.

During the delivery we were able to bring in our speakers and listen to Breathe. As I breathed in and out, my mind was filled with those 6 words. “I greet with Love, what is…”

And within minutes, I finally had the honor of greeting my daughter. My daughter with her strong voice, tiny nose and long fingers. My daughter who, when my husband held her to me, began suckling my cheek. Gracelyn Mae was greeted with so. much. Love.

Healing Birth Trauma

Greeting Gracie

Although the circumstances surrounding my second birthing experience were even further from what I’d felt was “ideal” than the circumstances of my first birth, I wasn’t traumatized. Even though my daughter’s well-being was potentially in the balance and even though they’d needed to cut me open to get her safely out, I was ok.

Throughout my second pregnancy, labor and delivery, it’s true that Trauma was a presence of possibility that lurked in the shadows, in hopes of setting up camp again. For me, the shift from “This isn’t how it was supposed to be” to…“I greet with Love, what is…” was profound. I truly believe those 6 words helped stave off a sense of trauma that second time around.

What I’m getting at—what my experience was—is summed up quite beautifully in these simple lines:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.*

And for me, it did make a difference.



Here’s the song that helped get me through the pregnancy, labor & delivery. Sometimes all that we can do, is breathe

*The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr

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Jen Hannah

Jen Hannah is a Birth Trauma Speaker and Musician who is fiercely committed to the reclamation of childbirth. After healing from a traumatic experience giving birth, she is now passionate about bringing this cultural epidemic to the light. Her award-winning music serves as powerful medicine in her mission to empower and encourage women, and to offer continuing education to maternity care providers. Her work fosters the openness and mutual respect that is imperative to the return to mother- and child-centered birth. Jen is the grateful mama of 2 kiddos, and wife of inspirational speaker and Bubble Man, Geoff Akins Hannah. http://yoursquarebubble.com/