A few months after my delivery, when I was trying to get my working life back in order, I started researching birth trauma and recovery from birth trauma. My investigation led me to Sharon Storton and Solace for Mothers.
Sharon, who lives in California's Bay Area, has supported mothers for over twenty years as a mental health professional, lactation consultant, doula, and childbirth educator. She helped found Solace because she heard from too many women like me, women who had these awesome babies but birth experiences that left them feeling grief, confusion, anger, and/or traumatized. And then they felt silenced when they tried to talk about it. "Culturally, women are told, 'hey! You have a healthy baby!' [Birth trauma] is really something we're not 'allowed' to talk about if the baby lived," she says. "It's so hard on moms."
The solution Sharon (along with Jenne Alderks and Jennifer Zimmerman) built was an online, mother-to-mother support group for women who have survived traumatic childbirth: Solace for Mothers. Nobody in there will tell a mom to just be grateful for her healthy baby. What I found so comforting about this resource was that the online community was ONLY for mothers who had survived birth trauma. There was a separate forum for supporters (loved ones, friends) and health professionals, but the online group was purely for women like me.
According to Sharon, Solace sprang from a need she noticed in her office. Women, she noticed, felt unheard and unlistened-to. "Birth is saturated in fear," she told me, "Fear with tests, providers have fear of being sued." She described a scenario I've seen again and again, where women are lead to believe they are in life threatening situations (which they may or may not have been) and the fear builds and builds until the birth experience becomes terrifying for many mothers.
Afterward, women seek someplace safe where they can express their feelings, their fears, where someone will listen. In my experience, Solace is definitely this place. I was welcome to just read the experiences of others until I felt ready to share. I had a place where other mothers would validate and affirm my experiences.
Why is this so helpful and effective? Sharon tells me, "healing comes from repairing identity, which means being able to have a range of emotions and not being told there is a deficit in you for having these emotions." In other words, on Solace, there is no blame.
In a world where even our language blames mothers (whose failure to progress? Whose pelvis is dis-proportioned for the baby's head?), Solace has mothers reminding other mothers that their bodies did not fail them,the work they're doing is hard, and that no matter what, somebody out there has truly heard them.
If you experienced your childbirth as traumatic (and only you can define whether your experience traumatized you!), please consider Solace for Mothers, or suggest the site to a friend who might be struggling to cope with a birth experience. Through solace comes strength, and that's something every mother needs!