July 25, 2017

The Survivor's Road to Parenthood - Part 4

We conclude our series this week with Anita Butler. In this post, she explores what comes up for survivors now that their baby has arrived.

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Postpartum and Breastfeeding



We’ve all heard the stories, whether from friends, personal acquaintances, or on the news:  A postpartum woman has done the unthinkable, whether to her baby or to herself, leaving her loved ones and so many others in unimaginable shock and grief.  Seldom are we ever told her history: what were the dynamics of her marriage/relationship, what kind of religious background or dogma she may have adopted, whether she was physically or sexually abused as a child, what kind of trauma she experienced during the birth, or any number of other possibilities that may have served to fracture her mental or emotional stability, leading to a psychotic break.

Much more common - and commonly accepted - is “baby blues,” the milder form of postpartum depression, which most often calls for intervention, which may include individual therapy, support group participation, or medication.

The early days and weeks after giving birth are a highly sensitive time for EVERY woman.  Every woman experiences enormous changes in her body:  hormones are “shifting” - to put it mildly; her body has changed, and will continue to change in the coming weeks and months; becoming a new mother, or expanding her family with a new member, will bring changes to her day, the loss of control over which will almost certainly surprise; and perhaps the biggest surprises of all may show up in her closest relationships and in her new identity.  These changes can test the self-confidence of even the surest, most capable woman.

Add to that the relatively short “recovery time” expected of women in our day and time, and the general lack of postpartum support available to even the most resourced, and the gap between a woman’s expectations and the reality of her experience can shake her to her core.

Labor, birth and postpartum are a unique and sacred time in every woman’s life.  There is no other time when she will be more intensely in need of mothering than when she herself is bringing forth new life.  If her own needs for emotional and physical safety and loving touch were not met, it would be no surprise that her challenges in meeting the needs of her own baby would be greater than those of a woman without a history of abuse, both in number and intensity.

Specifically, in addition to the “usual” challenges, a survivor may be haunted by self-doubt about her ability to keep her baby safe.  She may be afraid to leave the baby with any caregiver - even the baby’s father, who may be confused or understandably hurt over her lack of trust in him.  Sexual difficulties may develop between them.  She may also have much greater difficulty breastfeeding, especially if her breasts were the focus of some of her prior abuse, experiencing flashbacks and/or disturbing emotions, causing her to confuse what should be the pleasurable sensations of breastfeeding with the incest she experienced in the past. 

Add to all the above the fact that as many as 11% of women report some level of birth related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (11%! and based on my own “up close and personal” contact with many hundreds of postpartum women, I believe this number to be under-reported), it becomes easy to see the importance of raising awareness and the right therapy and/or support for these moms, their babies and their partners.

The good news is, simply being aware how her history may affect her postpartum and breastfeeding experience can be the start of taking back her power, enabling her to set a plan for the support she’ll need.  This may include a postpartum support group, postpartum doula, lactation consultant (IBCLC), and possibly a counselor or therapist who specializes in women’s issues in the childbearing season.  Getting help sooner rather than later is important.  Talking over her concerns, preferably during pregnancy, in and of itself, reduces tension. With the right education and support during pregnancy, she can be guided into identifying her personal triggers, and planning strategies to see to needs for comfort and emotional safety, both during birth and during the postpartum period.

The BEST news is, the entire process of conceiving, carrying, giving birth and breastfeeding can be the most healing experience of a woman’s life!  It can be a time of awe, as her body grows a new human being - and perhaps for the first time, she feels pride in her body.  Giving birth can be an all new experience of taking back the power that was wrongfully taken from her, as she pushes her own baby out of her own body - or alternatively, being prepared to make choices for appropriate medical intervention.    Breastfeeding, aside from the pride and confidence that comes from providing her baby’s nutritional and emotional needs, can bring the mother to new levels of healing - restoring her self-respect - even self-admiration - and strengthening her ability to bond securely to her new baby.  And THIS is a gift that will last for a lifetime.





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Anita has been serving women in the greater Sacramento area, from pregnancy through birth and breastfeeding for over twenty years as a birth and postpartum doula, HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (BA-IBCLC), and Clinical Hypnotherapist.  Her passion is to empower women, wherever in their journey they are, at a time in their lives when self-doubt and disempowerment are the most common experience.  She also believes that the way babies are conceived, carried and brought into the world MATTERS:  to the mothers, the fathers, and most of all, to the babies.  It is this passion that drives her to continue studying the science and refining her skills to her clients’ benefit.


Anita recently left Sacramento to join the Birth Education Center of San Diego, and is thrilled to now call San Diego “home!”






July 19, 2017

The Survivor's Road to Parenthood - Part 3

We continue our series this week with Anita Butler. In this post, she explores the journey of pregnancy and birth for survivors of abuse.

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Pregnancy and Birth:  The Survivor’s Journey



In last week’s post, we considered possible challenges around fertility, conception, and the prospect of parenthood for those with a history of sexual abuse.  For some, this is where you may encounter your first challenge of the journey. For others, conception comes easy and is greeted with joy - or can even come as a surprise, possibly even in spite of careful measures to avoid it.

Similarly, there is a very wide variety of ways a survivor’s pregnancy and birth can be experienced.

In her book, “When Survivors Give Birth,” Penny Simkin writes,

“Pregnancy is a time of monumental change for women - a time when the past, present, and future all come together, a time of openness, a time of vulnerability.  Being pregnant causes memories of one’s own childhood to surface.  Past events are stirred up.  The present evokes the paradox of excitement over the baby on the one hand, and fears and anxiety on the other.  Thoughts of the future bring hopes of dreams fulfilled and eager anticipation of joy and love, along with apprehension over the demands of parenting and the effort it will take to keep the child safe and happy.”

Your experience can fall anywhere on the spectrum - from intense anxiety around the inevitable physical sensations and changes of pregnancy to an equally intense feeling of validation and joy, experiencing those same sensations as “proof” that your body isn’t broken, but normal - and wonderfully capable of growing a new human being.

Unresolved childhood abuse can be a significant factor in complications of pregnancy, such as intense “morning sickness,” pregnancy-induced hypertension, unexplained bleeding and pre- or post-maturity.  During labor and birth, it can result in prodromal labor (long, drawn out, slowly or non-progressing), increased physical pain and/or emotional trauma as certain exams or procedures may trigger flashbacks of abuse or feelings of being out of control or helpless.

Pregnancy-and-laborland is a veritable minefield of potential triggers for the survivor.  Some are just natural to the process of the spontaneous, uncontrollable unfolding of labor and birth:  nausea and vomiting, bloody excretions, moaning, grunting, crying out and feeling a baby in her vagina.  Some positions of labor can make any woman feel vulnerable - and especially one who may have experienced some form of powerlessness or humiliation in those positions.

Other triggers might be related to the hospital and/or medical procedures or equipment:  vaginal exams, IV’s, catheters, needles, and possibly the feeling of numbness from anesthesia that may add to the feeling of being out of control, even though the pain relief was requested.

Also, some commonly used phrases a labouring woman is likely to hear can stimulate surprising reactions.  Phrases such as “relax and it won’t hurt so much,” “open your legs,” “relax your bottom,” etc., can bring long-suppressed memories into the present moment.  Even phrases intended to be encouraging, such as “trust your body,” or “do what your body tells you to do,” can be unwelcome words to a woman who has felt betrayed by her body, or has embodied experiences of shame or anguish.

So…all that is the bad news.

The good news is, with the right support and preparation, your experience of pregnancy, labor and birth can be the next step to deeper healing and empowerment than you ever imagined possible!  And this is true for EVERY woman, whether or not she experienced sexual abuse.

It DOES require the right support and preparation - not merely an understanding of the potential, or wishful thinking.  And the usual preparation - books, hospital classes and short appointments with their obstetrician - falls far short of meeting the needs of a woman with a high level of anxiety or fear around pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.

The right support can include private counseling and/or hypnotherapy; guidance on how to communicate effectively with doctors, midwives and other medical staff; finding a mother-centered childbirth education series, such as HypnoBirthing or The Bradley Method, where you’ll find a safe environment where you can learn your options - and there are more than you might imagine - for giving birth in a way you’ll actually love to remember!

You can’t change the past.  What happened, happened.  It may feel like you just can’t overcome it.  But what if you absolutely CAN heal your present, and change your future - and that of your children?  What if carrying and giving birth to your own baby can give you back the power that was wrongfully taken from you?  It can restore your faith and confidence in your body.  It can transform your self-doubt - even self-loathing - into self-acceptance, pride, and self-love, as you experience the creation of life itself in your beautiful, amazing body. 

My life-calling is to do all I can to bring transformation to women’s and babies’ experiences of pregnancy, labor, birth and breastfeeding.  Because when women are healed and empowered, we can change the world - whether we do it by mothering our own children in confidence and love, or if we express our creative powers in another way.  And when a baby’s prenatal and early experiences are of love and peace rather than fear, they will be a beautiful manifestation of that change!



Read Part 4: Postpartum & Breastfeeding



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Anita has been serving women in the greater Sacramento area, from pregnancy through birth and breastfeeding for over twenty years as a birth and postpartum doula, HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (BA-IBCLC), and Clinical Hypnotherapist.  Her passion is to empower women, wherever in their journey they are, at a time in their lives when self-doubt and disempowerment are the most common experience.  She also believes that the way babies are conceived, carried and brought into the world MATTERS:  to the mothers, the fathers, and most of all, to the babies.  It is this passion that drives her to continue studying the science and refining her skills to her clients’ benefit.


Anita recently left Sacramento to join the Birth Education Center of San Diego, and is thrilled to now call San Diego “home!”





July 11, 2017

The Survivor’s Road to Parenthood - Part 2

We continue our series this week with Anita Butler. In this post, she shares some of the common reasons survivors of trauma struggle with conceiving.

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The First Stretch of the Road to Parenthood:  Fertility/Conception
How sexual abuse might affect this stage of the journey


You very well may have “worked through” a substantial amount of your wounds from the sexual abuse of your past.  Or, maybe it’s tucked so far away from your conscious awareness, you hardly think of it any more, even though you might have puzzling difficulties in your relationship emotionally and sexually - and it simply doesn’t occur to you how the dots connect between the abuse you experienced then, and the issues you’re dealing with now.  Your issues may be only emotional - or they may be physical, as well, with scar tissue from injuries or prior infections forming blocks to conception. 

The farther in the past your abuse and the work you’ve done, the more likely you’ll feel that you’re ready to move on with your life.  The good news is, that very well may be true!  And you may now be in a wonderful relationship, and have decided to start a family.  Or, you may be struggling with the thought of pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding, with your non-abused partner expressing his/her desire - and there’s now an awkwardness in your relationship that’s disturbing to you both.

Whatever the cause is for you, the result of it, so far, is what you don’t want:  reduced fertility or infertility. You may have been diagnosed by physical exam, which is actually the “best” news - because many of these conditions are correctible with today’s medical technology. The most frustrating diagnosis is
“unexplained infertility.”  What do you do with that??  If the cause is unexplained, how can you begin to take appropriate action?  You might jump right in to any number of fertility treatment options.  But if the answer were that simple, you could just go with IVF (in vitro fertilization), and be “one and done,” right?  But a quick look at the statistics will show that it just doesn’t work that way.

What are some possible explanations for unexplained fertility? 

Fertility is usually a function of overall health - mental/emotional AND physical.  Of course, the two are inextricably linked, with one’s mental and emotional states having physical effects, and physical conditions affecting one’s mental and emotional state.

Let’s take them one at a time:

In her article, “Psychological Trauma and Physical Health: A Psychoneuroimmunology Approach to Etiology of Negative Health Effects and Possible Interventions,” (whew!  That’s a mouthful, right??), Kathleen Kendal-Tackett describes the research on the effects of trauma on health.  The research affirms my personal and professional experience working with women who have survived childhood abuse, whether sexual or not:  There is a strong correlation between “Adverse Childhood Experiences” (ACEs) and a host of medical problems in adulthood, much of it related to systemic inflammation.  

Inflammation itself has a very important function, with pro-inflammatory cytokines sent to the site of a wound (for instance), serving the adaptive purpose of helping the body heal wounds and fight infection.  Many abuse survivors are in a heightened state of stress most, if not all the time. With the “fight or flight” hormones constantly elevated, the level of pro-inflammatory cytokines increases dramatically - but there’s no physical wound to heal. 

So you end up with “systemic inflammation” - which leads to such conditions as coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, chronic pain syndromes, premature ageing, Alzheimer’s disease, impaired immune function, and impaired wound healing - makes sense, right?  All those cytokines are circulating through the body instead of doing their job at the wound site. 

Similarly, people with PTSD who were studied (also, logically, would have systemic inflammation), were found to also have, in addition to the list above, gastrointestinal illnesses, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple-chemical sensitivity.  Why would it be surprising that a woman’s body would lack the “bandwidth” to conceive and carry a baby with all of that going on?

The other main component is the emotional blocks you might have.  Negative emotions can be widely diverse, ranging from depression to anxiety to hostility.  All of these states will increase systemic inflammation and reduce the strength and vitality of the immune system.  Again, the good news is that with competent, caring guidance, these troubling emotions and blocks can be discovered (yes, often there is a discovery process that yields surprising revelations about “what’s going on in there”) and released.

Then, there’s the baby that wants to come to you.  Don’t laugh!  Energetically, the embodiment of a soul is really a thing.  So imagine if you were a “future embryo” wanting to “land” in your mom’s body.  What would you want?  A body full of stress and pro-inflammatory cytokines? (I’m thinking not)  What would you be looking for?  A happy mom, with no greater desire than to snuggle with you, sing to you and play with you? Mmmm, yeah.  That’s what babies want.

In my work with women struggling to conceive, I’ve found such an inspiring level of commitment - physically and financially - to whatever they have to do to realize their dream of conceiving, carrying, giving birth and mothering.  I’ve also found lack of awareness around the importance of systemic inflammation and emotional blocks.  Once you know the roles they play in your fertility - not to mention your overall health and happiness - the “work/play” can begin! This work/play, done in a very safe “container,” may include any combination of health coaching, visualization, hypnotherapy, cognitive work, and various exercises to discover and release those blocks. And when blocks are released, miracles happen!

My loving wish for you is that you will be supported on your journey into motherhood, with all its potential challenges and frustrations. And may the growth and deep healing you experience be the foundation of many joyful, fulfilling mothering years.




Read Part 3: Pregnancy & Birth




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Anita has been serving women in the greater Sacramento area, from pregnancy through birth and breastfeeding for over twenty years as a birth and postpartum doula, HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (BA-IBCLC), and Clinical Hypnotherapist.  Her passion is to empower women, wherever in their journey they are, at a time in their lives when self-doubt and disempowerment are the most common experience.  She also believes that the way babies are conceived, carried and brought into the world MATTERS:  to the mothers, the fathers, and most of all, to the babies.  It is this passion that drives her to continue studying the science and refining her skills to her clients’ benefit.


Anita recently left Sacramento to join the Birth Education Center of San Diego, and is thrilled to now call San Diego “home!”




July 4, 2017

The Survivor’s Road to Parenthood - Part 1

Okay parents - I am so thrilled to introduce you to Anita Butler. She is a passionate about helping moms (and moms-to-be) heal from past traumas and work through all of the layers that arise being a survivor of abuse and a parent. I know this series is going to be of great support to you!

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The road to parenthood is a sacred life passage for all to go through it, filled with unforgettable joys, intense trials, and so many surprises!  The need for support along the journey is often under-acknowledged in our culture, and therefore largely unmet.  The messages expectant and new parents receive have the potential to lead to a happy, empowering journey, or one where their fears and negative images can overtake a time that should be full of love and wonder. 

For the survivor of sexual abuse, any number of physical sensations, social interactions or emotional experiences could come as a sudden shock.  Or maybe they could serve to “validate” the painful, damaging messages you’ve received over the years, which may have even morphed into your own critical, self-loathing voice.  

It could come at any stage:  anywhere from pre-conception, through pregnancy, birth and/or breastfeeding.  And it could manifest in any number of ways, as the many physical sensations, emotions and interactions with medical professionals (“authority figures”) raise ghosts from the past, or even trigger anxiety or panic attacks.

And too often, the needs of survivors go unrecognized, leaving them without support when they’re likely to need it most.  In this series of blogs posts, we’ll be delving into how the road to parenthood can be affected by a woman’s history of abuse, and how she may experience: 

          *Pre-conception, as fertility challenges that may result from prior infection or scarring, or maybe even worse, “unexplained” infertility that leaves you confused, even less trusting of your body’s wisdom - and that critical, self-loathing voice?  Oh my - it’s even meaner and louder than ever;

          *Pregnancy, as any number of physical symptoms and sensations can trigger anxiety or panic associated with being “out of control”;

          *Labor and birth, when that “out of control” anxiety ramps up to a whole new level as the power of labor and birth takes on a life of its own - a challenge for ALL women - but for survivors of sexual abuse, can take you to unhealed places you may have thought you’d worked through, or maybe you’d even “forgotten” about…but your body tells a different story.

          *Postpartum and breastfeeding, a time that can be challenging for any woman - and for the sexual abuse survivor, it can result in intense, even dangerous, postpartum mood disorders, flashbacks, paranoia and hyper-vigilance for your baby’s safety.

“It” could be any or all of the above:  Unwelcome intrusions, ALL, into the most sacred season of a woman’s or couple’s life.

OR…with awareness, compassion, competence, and the right support, this sacred season can serve as a powerfully healing time, when a woman reclaims her bodily sovereignty, personal power, and her right to experience the full range of power and pleasure inherent in conceiving, gestating, giving birth and feeding her precious baby at her own breast.

I’m Anita Butler, owner of Sacred Season MotherCare.  I’ve been working with women in the childbearing season since 1992, having attended over 250 births, prepared many hundreds to give birth calmly, safely and gently with HypnoBirthing, served scores of families as a postpartum doula, and consulted with thousands as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). 

Working so “up close and personal” with so many women brings the horrifying statistics to life:  Somewhere between 25% and 40% - some even claim 60% - of adult women have been sexually abused some time during childhood or more recently.  Most of the time, the abuser was someone she should have been able to trust (father or father figure, brother, cousin, neighbor, etc.), who taught her so many cruel “life lessons:”  that she can’t trust her own perceptions, because someone she knew - maybe loved and trusted - violated that love and trust, and may have even threatened her or someone else she loved if she “talked;” she may have learned to expect physical and/or emotional pain with intimacy; her power to establish her own personal boundaries was likely decimated; she may have learned that her emotional and physical survival depend on her acquiescence - or any number of other, equally damaging “life lessons.”  She very well may have painfully ambiguous feelings about motherhood, part of herself deeply desiring to be a mother, while at the same time terrified at the thought, doubting her ability to raise a child or keep a child safe.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

My calling and passion - the thing I cannot NOT do - is to empower women during this transformational time in their life, so their journey into motherhood is characterized by confidence, wisdom and grace.

My mission in this series of blog posts is to preemptively diffuse a potentially anxiety-provoking experience, if you haven’t yet gotten to the point in your life where you want to start a family.  And if you HAVE already entered this season of life, and were shocked or dismayed to find that the experience you dreamed of was hijacked by your body’s cellular memories or your own unhealed emotions, you’ll find validation here:  that there’s nothing “wrong” with you.  And that your journey into motherhood is calling you into deeper healing, stronger intuition, and renewed (or possibly “brand new”) self-compassion and unconditional love.

I’m a seasoned teacher, doula, hypnotherapist and lactation consultant.  But even though I’ve worked with hundreds of abuse survivors in real life, I still learn from these amazing women, who continue to inspire and humble me!  My “mission” in these blog posts is to share what I’ve learned so far in a way that honors the journey of so many, and that by doing so, you will benefit.

I do hope you’ll come along, as we delve - however imperfectly - into the various ways a survivor might experience conception/fertility challenges, pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding:  the possible triggers and the physical and emotional scars or unhealed wounds.  Most importantly, I want you to see…no, I want you to KNOW IN YOUR BONES how this life journey can serve your highest good - and that of your family.  I want you to see how you can take the healing work you’ve done in your head and in your heart, bring it into your body, and back again, coming full circle, making you even stronger, more confident, more joyful, and more loving than ever before.

I can’t wait till we’re together again.


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Anita has been serving women in the greater Sacramento area, from pregnancy through birth and breastfeeding for over twenty years as a birth and postpartum doula, HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (BA-IBCLC), and Clinical Hypnotherapist.  Her passion is to empower women, wherever in their journey they are, at a time in their lives when self-doubt and disempowerment are the most common experience.  She also believes that the way babies are conceived, carried and brought into the world MATTERS:  to the mothers, the fathers, and most of all, to the babies.  It is this passion that drives her to continue studying the science and refining her skills to her clients’ benefit.


Anita recently left Sacramento to join the Birth Education Center of San Diego, and is thrilled to now call San Diego “home!”



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