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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Elizabeth Kubler Ross-Using a model to work through birth trauma

A recent VBAC I just attended ended up in another c-section.  While there are so many what if's in these kinds of scenarios I don't feel like it's my place to tell the mother what she should or should not have done.  The choices made were all her's and I feel comfortable about that.  That said, she is struggling with dealing with it all , and I'm not sure she would have chosen to attempt a VBAC had she known how it would have ended up.  On the other hand ,she is mourning her loss of a vaginal birth.

So, as her doula, I'm working on the best way to help her work through her loss, and I remember a model to help people understand and work through traumatic experiences.

This particular model was thought up by Elizabeth Kubler Ross ,a doctor that pioneered the work of grief and is best known for her five stage model of grief.  She applied this to death and dying , but it can easily be applied to any sort of traumatic or difficult situation we face in life.

Here's a good description of why this applies to birth trauma.


"This makes the model worthy of study and reference far outside of death and bereavement. The 'grief cycle' is actually a 'change model' for helping to understand and deal with (and counsel) personal reaction to trauma. It's not just for death and dying.
This is because trauma and emotional shock are relative in terms of effect on people. While death and dying are for many people the ultimate trauma, people can experience similar emotional upsets when dealing with many of life's challenges, especially if confronting something difficult for the first time, and/or if the challenge happens to threaten an area of psychological weakness, which we all possess in different ways. One person's despair (a job-change, or exposure to risk or phobia, etc) is to another person not threatening at all. Some people love snakes and climbing mountains, whereas to others these are intensely scary things. Emotional response, and trauma, must be seen in relative not absolute terms. The model helps remind us that the other person's perspective is different to our own, whether we are the one in shock, or the one helping another to deal with their upset."http://www.businessballs.com/elisabeth_kubler_ross_five_stages_of_grief.htm

The five stages she talks about are denial , anger , bargaining , depression and acceptance.  I'm going to do a more thorough look at each of these in other posts as well as how they apply to birth and ways to work through our own grief work that we experience in our childbirth experiences.

3 comments:

Carolyn Hastie said...

Using Elizabeth Kubler Ross's grief and loss model is a very appropriate way to seek to understand and work through birth trauma. The process is not linear either, it goes forward and backward, jumps steps and retraces them, spirals up and down. Your blog is a delight and I look forward to reading your 'take' on the stages of grief and loss applied to birth as you have a very fresh and interesting approach. Thank you.

Enjoy Birth said...

I am sorry for your client. Your post reminded me of a piece I wrote about healing from birth trauma. I too talked about the stages of grief, though I think I had a few more stages in there. I will have to find that and post it.

I think it is so important to let moms grieve a birth. To allow them that time if needed.

Rachel said...

If you ever want to post your link her, I would love that. And Carolyn, thanks for your comments. Again, any take on this from you is appreciated.

Birth is a Journey: Does it have to be life changing?


  • One woman might have to climb on an overfilled boat, risking her life and nearly dying as she escapes over the ocean to come to this land. This experience could certainly be life altering. It may very well color the rest of her life, positively or negatively. (I overcame this amazing struggle and here I am triumphant! OR Holy crap, that was SO hard I don’t know if I can go on! By the way, neither response is “right”. No one would judge the woman with the 2nd response.)
  • One woman may buy an airplane ticket, sit on a comfortable 747 and fly to America with a nice smooth flight and landing. She is happy to be in America. Those welcoming her are glad she is here safe and sound. She may only travel by plane 2-4 times in her life, so it is pretty memorable. But the journey itself probably wouldn’t be life changing; it would simply be a journey.
  • One woman may learn to fly an ultra-light plane to lead a flock of geese into America teaching them to migrate. This experience could certainly be empowering and life altering.