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The Journal for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health
A Unique Approach to Healing After Birth: Blending the Worlds of Birth and Perinatal Mental Health - Interview conducted by Anita Harvath, MS, MFT
I had the pleasure to have an honest and in-depth conversation with Anita Harvath, who works for (volunteers I believe) the Journal for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health. After attending a webinar I had hosted for perinatal mental health professionals, Anita reached out to inquire about conducting an interview. I was grateful to learn that my point of view resonated with Anita, and we had a lovely long-form conversation that digs into my past and how I came to blend both the world of birth and the world of mental health. Of course, a point of view is one of many. Therefore, by no means am I suggesting that the point of view I share throughout this article, and throughout my work, aligns with everyone. However, I am passionate about supporting the neurophysiology of birth and healing, in hopes that more humans can thrive on this planet and raise healthy families.
You can read the interview HERE (Begins on page 33)
Here are some snippets to peak your curiosity…
“What Jennifer shared seemed spiritual, scientific, deep, and comprehensive, leaving me intrigued and inspired to learn more. Jennifer embodies a rich, unique experience that includes many years of practice as a birth worker and therapist. This interview allowed me to learn more about Jennifer, how she merges the worlds of birth and therapy, and the training program she is developing.” - Anita
And the following:
H: The preparation is useful regardless of the way you choose to give birth.
S: Right. Labor is a journey of initiation. It is a rite of passage into parenthood or into motherhood. In the Western dominant culture, we have neglected that. We have removed that from the preparation and conversation around what it means to become a parent. We get totally blown open, become completely discombobulated, and then we are left alone in the postpartum. We give birth from an altered state of consciousness in which we are not in everyday thinking, rational brainwave states. In Stan Grof’s work, we call that non-ordinary states of consciousness.
So much of the birth culture interrupts the mom’s experience of that and keeps them in this everyday thinking reality, making it impossible to enter into that physiological instinctive birthing plane that I was talking about earlier. What happens is we still get blown open. There’s still a discombobulation of ourselves that is happening. Whether we are in that huge, expanded state of non-ordinary states of consciousness, or whether or not many interventions are being done to us at such a fast rate and our system is now in a state of survival, stress and shock - we are still being discombobulated. The result is our baby is being born. In that process, we are left to pick up these pieces.
So, you asked me the question, why did I switch gears? Well, because my third birth experience was met with both - this moment of ecstasy, huge awakening, and knowing - I had what they would call a transpersonal experience - and it was also met with terror and trauma. I didn’t think you could have a freebirth, which would be met with terror and trauma. Those two paradigms didn’t come together before. The belief was that if you wanted to prevent medical intervention or trauma, you would have a freebirth. It was an awakening moment for me. That’s what got me deeply passionate about healing after birth. I was on my own healing journey, which got me into this world of trauma recovery, neurophysiology, and attachment theory. So much of what’s being taught in the neurobiological field around trauma recovery is the same recipe as what we need for instinctive birth. I’m talking about the work of people like Peter Levine, Dan Siegel, Bessel van der Kolk, Bonnie Badenoch, and later Steven Porges and Deb Dana—all of these foundational folk who brought to the forefront what we need neurophysiologically for well-being and mental health.
So, I linked these two worlds and was, like, “Whoa! This is powerful!” We now have research and evidence in the field of psychology that confirms the need to support the neurophysiology of a mom in labor, not just the physiology. My big dream is to bring the conversation around what it means to support the neurophysiology of the mom in labor and why that’s important in the postpartum, long-term health and well-being of that family unit over into the field of birth, obstetrics, and midwifery.