• Thu, Nov 28 - 1:00 pm ET

“Re”Birth Ceremonies Aren’t For Everyone, But They’re Still Beautiful

rebirth-ceremony-1

Have you ever heard of a “re”birth? It’s basically a ceremony to help a woman and family process after a birth that doesn’t go as planned. I’ve never heard of it before and as a doula, I’m pretty intrigued.

I learned of the practice after I was linked to this beautiful photography set while coasting somewhere around on the birthy web, as I do. Pictured in a set of breathtaking images is a mom in an herbal bath with her infant twins. Her doula, Nicole, explains:

A couple of months ago, I (Nicole) met Tirren and Steve in their home. They were pregnant with twin girls, and so excited and happy to be welcoming them into their home and hearts…Tirren had been told that she was best to have a caesarean birth, due to placenta previa, and so, together, we planned for a really positive, beautiful and ‘natural’ caesarean. Tirren’s twins had other plans however, and they decided that enough was enough in utero and at 32 weeks they were trying to exit! After a hectic time of hospitals, flights to Perth and trying to make sure Steve flew in on time, the babies were delivered at 32 weeks 6 days – thankfully they were perfect in every way!

I’m guessing this family was struck by the suddenness of their daughters’ birth and wanted a way to process the whole experience. Thus, a re-birth ceremony, which the doula Nicole explains as:

A rebirth ceremony is done after a mother experiences a birth that was not her original plan – whether it be an emergency caesarean, a vaginal birth with lots of intervention, or even a natural birth that just wasn’t like the mother expected it was going to be. We spend some time reminiscing about the pregnancy, and the mother’s thoughts and feelings towards her babies, and run a herbal bath with a generous amount of healing herbs and beautiful flower petals. We light candles and put on soothing music. And the mother sinks into the bath, holds her baby in her arms, and we pour blessings upon her little one, and tell the baby how loved, wanted and special she is, and how hard her mother worked to have a peaceful birth for her baby. Then the mother takes her baby down into the water (head above the water, of course!) and brings her up to her chest, like you would in a water birth. It can be a very healing and beautiful ceremony.

A re-birth is pretty out there for most people, I’d imagine, but it’s certainly cheaper than therapy! I’ve attended a few births that haven’t gone the way the mother hoped and there are often residual feelings that need to be expressed and acknowledged, even if a mother is still very happy and grateful to have a healthy baby (or, the above case, babies).

So, I’m all for re-birth ceremonies. They could be a really powerful way for a woman to process an unplanned Caesarean or really, any birth where something unexpected happens, be it a sudden episiotomy, a birth injury, or a postpartum hemorrhage. I can’t imagine that a re-birth is for everyone, but I hope these kind of rituals become more common, in a world where we’re often told to set aside our complicated feelings and smile through the raw, confusing and emotional first few weeks and months of motherhood.

Photo: Spring Photography

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  • footnotegirl

    Eh, it’s no more bizarre than a baptism, and people do that all the time. It doesn’t harm the baby, it makes mom (and dad) happier and less stressed. It’s all good.

  • Beth

    This just reminds me of the way couples these days often focus more and more on the wedding day, rather than the actual marriage …. The birthing experience is a few hours of a mother’s life – and the point of giving birth is to bear a child and be that child’s parent. Who cares how we got here? We’re here, thank God – let’s celebrate that!

    • brebay

      so true.

    • jess

      I have never thought of it that way!
      But that is spot on!
      When I got married I asked myself three very important questions.
      1. Did anyone get stabbed in the parking lot? (Old school Chinese/vIetnamese gangsters. It wasn’t the most outlandish fear) No.
      2. If they did- did I find out about it? There was a punch up but I found out months later so all good
      3. Did I get married? Yes!
      Marriage- success.
      So in that- do you have a happy healthy baby in your arms? Yes? Win – Win!

    • TeeTa!

      Good point. Life doesn’t go as its planned. We don’t all win. Some die too young. I guess this is ‘therapy’ for some, but sometimes acceptance is what we need, not a ‘do-over’. Letting go of controlling every life event is something people need to do more of!

  • Evelyn

    I can understand that if things went bad then some kind of ceremony like this might help some people deal with it but this really isn’t for me. When my eldest child’s birth went wrong the last thing I wanted to do was relive it or any of the plans we had for it. I came to terms with it without that sort of thing well enough to have no problems with having two more kids and to insist on trying without a caesarean first for both. Obviously everyone deals with things in different ways so while a rebirth would have made me feel worse I can understand that it would make some women feel better.

  • Beth

    Who the hell down-voted my comment? What’s so bad about what I said?

    • brebay

      It’s the internet, you’re either a sycophant or a hater. Any critique, no matter how well-reasoned or gentle is HATING!!!!

  • EmmaFromÉire

    I have to be honest,i don’t understand the hang up on giving birth. The actual heaving sweating pushing part. I feel like it’s just the means to the end.

    • brebay

      This right here. If I could have ended up with the same kid by being knocked out and waking up with him clean, bundled and in my arms, I would have been down with that.

    • Edify

      That’s what happened in my first birth. It’s not as great as it sounds. To be in that position you are facing some traumatic events and truthfully, it’s fucking scary. The emotional scars have taken a lot longer to heel than the physical scars and I went into my second pregnancy dealing with PTSD. My doctor saw a lot of tears from me as I tried to face another delivery.

      By saying people are too focused on the birth and not the parenting, doesn’t really take into account of the fact that every situation is incredibly nuanced and under represents the impact that unexpected trauma has on a persons emotional and physical well being. Yes, my first child is awesome. No, the birth didn’t make me love her any less (though traumatic delivery is a common cause of PND) but yes, I personally struggled with it for a long time.

    • brebay

      For me, traumatic is when you don’t leave with a baby, which I’ve seen a close friend through twice. Any birth where mom and baby leave together and healthy is a huge success in my book. It’s about what happens when you leave the hospital that I focus on. I only remember bits and pieces of giving birth, nbd in my book. Healthy baby, good to go.

    • Edify

      As I said, it’s an incredibly nuanced conversation because everyone has a different perspective and experience.
      I’d say in response to your comments, that yes, losing the baby is at the very end of the trauma scale and I’m thankful that didn’t happen but that doesn’t mean that the birth wasn’t traumatic. It’s like saying that the only kind of car accident that is traumatic is a fatal one.
      Secondly, yes. We left physically healthy but health also encompasses your mental health. I didn’t leave healthy, I had PTSD and bordered on PND and my baby displayed a few issues that are common as a result of a traumatic birth.
      It’s too simplistic to say that everyone should get over it if birth didn’t go well. To me, it’s basically saying it doesn’t matter what happened to you, now you have a baby, your physical and emotional well being don’t matter so much.
      Have a look back a few weeks to the Friday session on sex. There were stories of women going through immense pain and sorrow after their births impacting their lives in different ways.
      It’s just too nuanced to say if you have your baby, you should be happy so get over it.

    • brebay

      @edify – No one said if YOU have YOUR baby YOU should be happy so get over it. I said, due to MY experiences, that I consider leaving with MY healthy baby a successful birth for ME. You guys are personalizing this too much. You stated your reasons for your view on it, I stated mine. I never told anyone else what to do. Sometimes emotion prevents people from reading the words without interjecting into them something that’s not there.

    • Edify

      Actually, read back. You said ANY birth where mom and baby leave together and healthy is a huge success in your books. That seems pretty general rather specific to your birth only.

    • Preggo

      What were your baby’s issues due to the birth? Medical or emotional? I was just curious if they were emotional as I have not heard of that.

    • Edify

      We had problems with reflux and a lot of issues with settling and sleep. We went to a session ran by community nurses on sleep and pretty much everyone in that room had a birth involving high levels of intervention and trauma. Apparently, babies with a straight forward vaginal birth are significantly less likely to experience these issues.

      Before people rush in to correct me – yes, babies with a straight forward vaginal birth can experience this but it is more likely in babies that had high intervention and trauma.

    • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

      How about if your birth forces you to relive feelings of sexual assault? Or if it was lengthy and you feared for your life or your baby’s? What if your caregivers were dismissive of you and felt alone and scared?
      Trauma comes in many forms, and people’s reactions are varied. Birth is natural, but that doesn’t mean it can’t scare the crap out of you and linger in your mind. It creates a memory. Some memories are painful. I don’t think this is so hard to understand or empathize with, just because some birth experiences have the ultimate bad ending. Life is not win or lose like that. There are spectrums of suffering. You forgot most of your birth. Consider that your birth is not a universal experience.
      This is harmless. If someone finds this useful, what’s the problem? You don’t have to do it.

    • brebay

      @jendra- I don’t recall saying it was a problem. I know I don’t have to do it. I expressed that conclusion along with my reasoning. You’re obviously emotional about this issue and you’re viewing a differing viewpoint as an attack. It’s not. Nowhere did I say no one should do this. I can express my feelings based on my experiences just as you have.

    • Psych Student

      It is of note that experiences are individual and just because one person reacts one way to something doesn’t mean another person will react the same way. In addition, feelings come up and they may not be logical or rational but they can’t be controlled. Plus with all the pressure to have a particular type of birth experience, it can be traumatizing to not “live up” to that.

    • Amanda

      YES! Thank you. I just wrote a similar comment. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • pixie

    If it makes the mother feel better or thinks it will be positive for her well-being, then that’s cool. No judgement.

    One strange thing that bugs me about what the doula said, though, is, “tell the baby how loved, wanted and special she is, and how hard her mother worked to have a peaceful birth”. I know the babies that were born were twin girls, but at this point I thought she was talking more in general, and for some reason, saying “she” and “her” feels limiting, the same way as if she had used male pronouns. Oh well.

    • TeeTa!

      Ha-your quote made me re-read it. That quote made me think that if you have a baby in a car on the way to the hospital, your baby won’t know how loved she is. Or that she’ll be scarred from a lack of peaceful birth. Just a random thought.

    • Anon

      I actually had my baby in the car on the way to the hospital. And, we ended up doing a rebirthing ceremony for that reason. I was unable to hold her and tell her how happy I was she was born during the panic in the parking lot. I don’t know if it helped her but I found some healing from it. I figured her first interaction with me was overwhelmed by fear rather than joy and it wouldn’t hurt to snuggle her when we were both feeling calm.

    • TeeTa!

      Well, there ya go! More added to my random thought. :). Honest question, not trying to be rude, but did you feel uncomfortable or silly during the re-enactment? Re-inacting alone with baby is one thing, but having a doula hanging with me in the tub postpardom would make me feel uncomfortable. But I am also pretty private, I can only relax 75% during a massage because its strange that some random person is rubbing me.

    • Anon

      My doula told me about it, but wasn’t present! She gave me a lot of information about the emotional life of a newborn, based on her experiences with babes that were resuscitated. I figured it isn’t only mothers who are less than thrilled with birth. I skipped the candles and whatnot. Just dipped her to her chin and held her on my chest in the water. I also talked to her about how I was scared when she was born but I am so happy she’s here. At the very least, it was positive for bonding and helpful for me to work through the myriad of emotions I had following the experience.

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    I’ve been trying hard to work through my birth experience. I’ve come a long way, and I don’t think a rebirth is for me, but if it’ll help other women move on then I can support that.

    • monalisavito

      Wow, you’re really working hard to make this whole “life” thing a lot harder than it needs to be…

    • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

      Good heavens, I don’t even know what to do with such unwarranted rudeness. Good luck with being you.

    • iamtheshoshie

      Medical trauma from birth is still trauma. Don’t be a jerk.

    • Edify

      I hope you find peace with your situation. X

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      you mean you being born or you giving birth?

    • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

      *Snort* Heh.

    • http://carrie-murphy.com/ Carrie Murphy

      Wishing you much <3

    • Julia Sonenshein

      <3.

  • Dee

    What a lovely idea for the people who need it. For those saying “who cares what the birth is like as long as you get a healthy baby” you need to understand that for some women, a difficult birth has long-lasting consequences and can lead to post-natal depression or PTSD. Telling such a woman they shouldn’t worry about their traumatic birth experience is a little bit like telling a soldier with PTSD they shouldn’t have it because they survived the war (a LITTLE BIT LIKE, not EXACTLY LIKE, please don’t jump down my throat). It’s really unhelpful. Some people come through difficult experiences (like losing a loved one, or being in a horrible accident) without long-lasting effects, but other people need more help. Mental health is not a competition.

    • Edify

      Thank you.

    • brebay

      If you’re including my comment in that, the word YOU is no where in my post. I stated my personal reasons for my take on this.

    • PennyCentury

      It sucks to have your birth not go the way you want it, it can be really scary and disempowring, but it’s nothing like being a soldier in wartime.

  • Abcd

    I was quite sick with pre-eclampsia during and for days after the birth of my first child. I had wanted a natural birth and ended up with a c/s and a baby in the NICU (fortunately for just a short time). The physical effects of the pre-e and the psychological effects of an unplanned c/s were tough for me to process. For a long time after, I felt like I had failed at giving birth. I would have loved a rebirth! Definitely not for everyone, but I would have liked it as a way to have the birth experience I had hoped for.

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      awwww honey you did not fail at all :( I hate the idea you felt this way

  • Teleute

    Really, wtf is wrong with people? LOL

  • FF4life

    It’s cute until a therapist tries to do it to a six year old. They say it’s helpful in reestablishing bonds for children with emotional problems but really it’s dangerous and would be considered child abuse under any other circumstances.

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      I want more info on this! How does one do this ceremony with an older kid?

    • FF4life

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1174742/

      I think if they used the ideas mothers use as a healing ceremony instead of doing this crazy intense therapy it might actually be helpful for some of these kids… But as always people take a nice idea and take things too far.

    • AmazingE

      Ugh, I remember hearing about this when it happened. So awful.

    • Young CC Prof

      That IS child abuse. They do things like wrap the kid in blankets and squeeze HARD. At least one child was beaten or smothered to death in the course of such a “ceremony.”

      This, it sounds like the baby isn’t being put in any danger, as the most physical part of the ceremony is cuddling in a bathtub. Doesn’t sound like something I’d want to do, but I can’t see any reason to object to someone else doing it.

  • AmazingE

    I honestly thought that re-birthing was something that was only used for slightly older children with emotional/attachment issues, and even in those situations it sometimes goes horribly horribly wrong. As a result it’s something i’ve mostly dismissed as being kind of “out there” and a little too weird, even for me.

    That being said, in a situation like the one outlined in the original article, it seems mostly harmless and I can even see where it might be helpful in certain circumstances where the birth doesn’t quite go as planned. It’s not a thing I would choose most likely, but as long as no one is getting hurt, then who am I to judge?

  • Meowza

    Arg! Maybe the problem isn’t a ‘peaceful’ birth experience, or one that you can control but that the pressure to ‘go natural’ or ‘have a perfect birth experience’ needs to stop! We can’t control everything! Sometimes our bodies or our babies don’t follow the plan. We are so self-absorbed in this day and age. I highly doubt that my grandma needed a ‘reenactment’ of her twelve births. …. And she is one of the strongest, happiest, and most positive people I know. But I think there is so much focus on having this ideal ‘experience’ it sets up the average joe up for failure. I know both my little ones came when they wanted, and I, nor a doula, or doctor could have changed most of the ‘experience’. It’s life!

  • Amanda

    A birth that does not go as planned is a birth that threatens the baby or mothers life…or a birth that ends in the baby’s death. As someone who has experienced a stillbirth…this whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Let’s remember the people who have left the hospital with empty arms- THOSE are births that have “gone wrong.” Any kind of birth that ended in a healthy baby would have been good enough for me.

  • Rachael

    Both of my births involved things being done to me that I didn’t ok and felt pressured to do. I was left with a terrible guilt – not that things didn’t go as planned, but that I was unable to stand up for myself and my baby while I was in that vulnerable state. My son was born over 2 years ago and now that I’m pregnant again, it’s bringing all of those feelings back. I can’t say that I need a re-birth, though. But that’s just not my thing. My re-birth is to go with a care-provider that will respect me. My firm belief is that no matter how you deliver, it’s important to go in feeling informed and leave feeling respected. Many moms don’t get that kind of care.