February 17, 2015

Advice for new Moms on Healing from Birth Trauma.

Kirsten Hedden Snow Scarf Yoga Warrior


Five years ago my body was injured, slashed through with a surgical knife.

My abdominal walls were severed in two by a bulging baby boy in a torso too short to properly accommodate him.

These battle scars the belly carries are from war zones called C-Section and Diastasis Recti. I have the unfortunate appearance of someone still pregnant (which sometimes people ask!) and as a yoga teacher, it is highly unlikely that I will ever be mistaken for having “nice abs.” To have people judge me for it still hurts because I thought yoga was about acceptance, not appearance.

It’s all well-meaning what people say after such a battle of pregnancy and labor and hospital stays. “Be thankful—that’s proof you had a baby.” Thank you, but my son is actually proof that I had a baby. I can be thankful for him without loving scars and muscle weakness.

People placate a new mother with platitudes like, “thank goodness for modern medicine,” and “your child’s smile is all you need.”

They don’t know. They don’t live in this body, they don’t have to look at themselves naked with these sobering reminders of a traumatic experience, albeit one with a beautiful ending. They don’t understand the toll it takes on a wife and a marriage when you don’t love your body. They can’t comprehend what it’s like when your husband says you are beautiful and you still cry because you can’t feel your own beauty.

I didn’t even accept that I had trauma. I covered and hid feelings because I am grateful and I wasn’t one of the moms forced to a C-Section. I wasn’t put on the clock.

After 54 hours of trying natural labor, 24 hours of trying an epidural and medications, sifting, showers, puking, crying, I decided to agree and tell the doctor I’d had enough. Then in a mere 20 minutes, he had arrived, the light of my world, the soul of my soul.

This was my whole new purpose for even being alive.

I can remember the exact moment before we went to surgery. I asked my wonderful midwife, who I will love until my dying day, what would have happened to us in the “days of old” (seriously, laboring mothers say weird things!)?

Honestly, she told me that I would have died. Logically, I totally know that I did every single thing possible to have that natural experience. But somehow I had failed and here is this damn belly with a C-Section shelf staring at me in the mirror reminding me that I couldn’t open enough to allow my son to live.

What on earth is wrong with me? I thought. I mean, I did yoga, I did breathing, I did organic, I had a doula!

I pushed the physical and emotional pain away because that is what a new mom does—blinders on, full focus on new life.

I made every effort to positive spin my C-Section story, how I had the freedom of choice and didn’t have that trauma that other moms have—they needed the group support, they deserved the kind words. I didn’t even deserve to be comforted because, after all, it wasn’t that bad and other people have it worse.

I live in the now, not the past, I thought.

I closed down completely on a physical level. That emotion lived in my very hormones. My body knew there was a trauma. My desire knew there was a trauma. My fertility knew there was a trauma. My core knew and there is no denial of weakness in an asana.

Still, I clung to the denial of a happy emotion of acceptance and non-attachment. After all, I’m a yogi. I’m supposed to practice letting go, letting be, and becoming free.

I just celebrated the five glorious years of my own motherhood and my son’s beautiful life. The time is right to forgive my body. I’ve been working up to this for a while and sharing is a catharsis, I can’t possibly be the only woman with a story like this and just maybe this reaches a woman with this issue and she knows that she is not alone.

I have my yoga practice to thank for this realization. Something happens when you sink into your practice; all that time on the mat evolves into something. It’s a spark of awareness; you begin to reveal your truth. Yogis say it’s like shining up a cloudy glass so that you remove the residue of experience from the window of your soul.

After all, I’m a yogi. I’m supposed to practice letting go, letting be, and becoming free.

If you feel this way, if you are hurting, if you find it hard to admit, forgive, and accept your own birth story—try these affirmations. They helped me and maybe could help you too.

Body, I’m sorry I blamed you for not being enough.

Body, I’m sorry that I didn’t recognize that you were hurting.

Body, I’m sorry that I ignored your messages and didn’t listen to your pain.

Body, I’m sorry that I made you carry this burden of emotion for so long.

Body, I forgive you for not opening up.

Body, Thank you for carrying my child.

Body, Thank you for birthing this new understanding.

Body, Do you think maybe you can forgive me too?

Body, I love you. Thank you for being the home of my soul.

I would love to hear your birth story and your journey to healing.  We mamas with trauma need to lean on one another and share, because too often we are made to suffer in silence with no one to listen.

I’m listening. I see you.





3 Natural Ancient Remedies for New Moms. 


Author: Kirsten Hedden

Editor: Renee Picard 

Photo: via the author, copyright Gena Appleby

Reply to Laura cancel

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

Ash Sep 30, 2015 12:56pm

Wow, thanks so much for posting this. I had a traumatic birth experience with my son nearly 4 years ago. He was born in December and every winter since I get recurring dreams, thoughts and feelings of the birth and the time after when I struggled so much. I've chosen not to have any more children, I'm happy with where I'm at but I still feel like there's trauma in my body not letting me move on. The affirmations made me cry so I think they should really help if i start using them! Thanks again for sharing, it means a lot to read about similar experiences other women have had.

Laura Feb 19, 2015 10:59pm

I'm an Ashtangi struggling to regain my practice after a c-section and traumatic birth. My practice is surely healing me, but it is hard, at least for me, not to be disappointed in your body. I had postpartum depression for a year after my birth, and the only thing that saved me was hypnotherapy and returning to my practice. I am hoping my soul and body continue to heal as I practice and that I will feel whole again to have another child. Right now, I would rather not have any more children than to go through another traumatic birth. Thank you for bringing this to light in the yoga world.

kirstenheddenyoga Feb 18, 2015 9:59pm

Crying happens when we are gifted with something that helps us process our unresolved emotions. In yoga, BKS Iyengar said that Crying was the epitome of Yoga, the most true expression of feeling a human can have. I'm so glad you were able to see understanding reflected in this post Sara. My intention truly is to allow women to open the conversation. I know in this era of "we can do it all," it feels like we need to keep quiet about our pain and our experience, so we don't "scare" others or so we don't seem ungrateful. It is very valid to have grief live right beside joy, to have sadness even while experiencing happiness.

Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.

Kirsten Hedden

Kirsten Hedden is a E-RTY 200, Midwest Yogi living in the Heartland, which somehow the trendy yoga scene forgot existed. She tries to do it all (Virgo with a Pitta Imbalance) and sometimes fails with anger or with laughter, depends on if Mercury is in Retrograde or not. She’s super good at telling others how to love themselves and super bad at taking her own advice (sometimes). Practice your potential, perfection isn’t perfect.