String together the words home and birth around a group of people and you’re likely to receive some intense reactions.
In a perfect world, all mothers would be able to birth where they feel the most comfortable and safe – freely and without judgment.
Skylar Ibarra is a licensed psychotherapist with an emphasis in perinatal trauma and a home birth mama of 2. She joins us today to speak on the trauma that too often controls this narrative, and the mental and emotional challenges that arise when making the choice to birth at home.
She walks us through setting boundaries, determining our needs, navigating societal judgments, and so much more. This is a conversation you do not want to miss.
Where to find Skylar Ibarra:
In this episode, we are sharing:
- Skylar’s early introduction to home birth
- Birthing where you feel the most safe
- Mental and emotional challenges of home births
- Critical societal and family judgements
- Ways trauma can control the narrative
- Needs vs wants vs preferences
- Getting a reluctant partner on board
- Using your own values to determine the path forward
Welcome to the Postpartum University podcast, where we support you and your provider in understanding the science, the art, and the sacredness of healing after birth. I’m Maranda Bower, your host, your Postpartum Nutrition Specialist, and homesteading mom with four wild kids. It’s time to get you the holistic whole body healing that works. Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Postpartum University podcast. Of course, I’m Maranda Bower, and I have a phenomenal guest. And we are going to be talking today about home birth and the mental and emotional health of home birth moms. And I’m gonna tell you, we’re gonna get a little deep in this conversation. It’s almost a controversial conversation, but I promise you it’s going to be well worth the listen. So everyone, I have Skylar Ibarra here. She is a licensed psychotherapist and private practice in Southern California. And she’s a certified perinatal mental health specialist and EMDR practitioner and an emphasis in perinatal trauma and home birth mama of two. I’m so excited you are here.
Skylar: Thank you so much. I am thrilled to be able to speak with you and all of your listeners.
Maranda: Yeah, so tell us a little bit about your experience and how you got into this field and the specialization of working with women who’ve had home birth.
Skylar: Yeah, so like many people with a traumatic birth, my mother would always frame my child birth, me as a baby within her trauma context. And one of the things that she always said was I wish I had you at home. And so I think that from the 80s on, I had this idea that home birth was safer. And then I went on to be in a very hippie community where most of my friends, little siblings were born at home. A lot of them unassisted before that was even a thing. And so when it was time to birth my first child, it really wasn’t a question in my mind that I was going to have a home birth. And it just felt the safest for me. I had some negative medical experiences in the past that I did not feel safe in the hospital. And then, yeah, so I found a midwife and I took that route. And then I realized afterwards that no one was talking about it. And as a therapist, I realized that I was really in the perfect position to be able to start to support other home birth parents.
Maranda: This is a huge topic here because I am also a home birth mama. I have four kids all born at home. And I’m a major advocate of birthing where you feel safest, whatever that means for you. So for me, it was at home. And I know that’s not, for some people, it’s not an option. Some people don’t have the support systems for that or they risk out or they plan a home birth and end up in a hospital transfer. I mean, lots of things happen, right? We know statistically that home birth is by far one of the safest modes of birth for healthy pregnancies, hands down, not a question. But we also need to acknowledge some of the challenges as well, especially mentally and emotionally. I know that for my own experience, after when I was pregnant with my first, if I said that I was having a home birth for my first baby, people thought that I was absolutely insane. And they would tell me so, right? You are crazy. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. What in the world are you doing from my parents? My partner was shaking his head, but he was like, “Okay, we’ll kind of do whatever you want.” And then complete strangers, right? If it was ever mentioned what I was going to do, I was going to put myself in at risk. I was putting my baby at risk. My baby was gonna die. Surgery is something that they are actively trying to turn away from, but they’re also accepting other risks. Because of the fact of matters, things do go wrong. And the idea of, okay, I’m going to educate myself, I’m going to find support professionals in my home or in a birth center that maybe I don’t have a surgical suite next door, but also I have all these other things that will hopefully prevent that, it just really changes everything. And in taking on these non-societally sanctioned risks, we then also have to unfortunately take on the judgment of people who just go with what they’re told.
Maranda: And I think that that mental strain can be a lot, especially for first-time birthers, when we are questioning ourselves, we are questioning who are we going to be as parents? And how do I show my love to my child? And so having to navigate all that plus this extra responsibility can be a lot. And even more so when it’s the judgment of people really close to us, like our partners and our families. And I know that for me, while my family on my side was very supportive, my husband’s family had had so many negative birth experiences that they were all very convinced that they would have been extremely harmed and maybe wouldn’t have made it out of their birthing experience had it not been for them in the hospital setting. And so they took my autonomous choice of how I felt safest to birth my child as a direct challenge to how they chose to then birth theirs. And so that was really tricky to navigate with all my pregnancy hormones that made everything 12 times worse. And so I know I needed a lot of personal support just how to navigate that so that we did have a cohesive family unit at the end of it. Because that’s a major goal and value of mine is that family is first and that is everyone. And so how do I navigate the difference between going along with what my family wants for me versus negotiating a healthy relationship with healthy boundaries, making sure that I’m doing what’s best for me and my individual family unit.
Skylar: If you’re a birth and postpartum professional who wants to give the families you serve some solid holistic evidence-based information regarding nutrition, repletion, and nourishing your body after baby, this is for you. I have 18 beautiful pages in a handout form that is completely free, a free full guide to nutrition, completion, common misconceptions, supplement support, favorite recipes, 30 healthy and quick snacks, and so many more. You can download your free collection with handouts at postpartumU, that’s the letter u .com/handouts. I appreciate you having this conversation and opening up because so often, I mean our family, the people who are closest to us, they mean the world to us and they’re not here to make us suffer or they’re here and saying these negative things because they want the best for us and for our babies, right? But often, this pregnancy experience, we are really raw and vulnerable, right? This is a new thing for us, no matter if it’s your first child or your 10th child, right? This is a new experience and the emotional components of having a baby and carrying a child within. And then there’s so many different places that we need to consider support. And when we don’t get that support from the people we love and care for, it can be really difficult. But what I often see, and I’m so glad that you mentioned, is that there’s a lot of trauma in the birth space and oftentimes when we say something that goes against somebody else’s experiences, it triggers their trauma. And then we are so raw and vulnerable in pregnancy that we take that on an emotional level more so than we would have if we were not pregnant.
Skylar: Oh, 100%. The idea that I think no matter what we do, we are always going to have doubt. And so when somebody puts their trauma narrative on our choices, that doubt is just, it explodes in us. And all of the what ifs come in. And I think that’s where I work a lot with my pregnant clients about how do we recognize when somebody goes into trauma mode, and how are we able to create gentle, firm boundaries around that as well. Because if somebody starts going with what if, or I had this experience or whatever it is, and being able to have a script in your head immediately going, I hear that your birth experience was really hard for you. I’m not at a place right now to listen to that, but I do care so deeply about you or something similar to that where we’re able to reach out with our humanity without engaging in the narrative is one of our most powerful tools, because being aware of the risks is important. That’s part of informed consent. Listening to someone else’s traumatic experience is not part of informed consent. That is separate and being able to start to be able to navigate between the two is really critical and I think it’s such an important skill to have as we go into parenthood as well. Nothing prepares us for a healthy parenthood like a healthy pregnancy.
Maranda: I love how you’re talking about boundaries and creating a script that works really well. What are some other ways in which we can create boundaries to protect our emotional and our mental health, yet still understand the risks, the benefits, and be fully informed in the birth experience?
Skylar: So I, boundaries are my favorite subject. And I work with my clients all the time about being able to determine needs, wants, and preferences. And so when we’re able to identify what my need is, so I always use going out to dinner, our need is we’re hungry. Our want is Thai food, our preference is this really great Thai place, right? And so if we know my need and what I need to protect is that I’m hungry, then we can start to flex and negotiate that want and that preference. So that way we know that our need is being met while we still also can take in others. And so in pregnancy, the need can be, like my need specifically when I was doing this exercise for myself was, my need is to be centered in my own birth experience. My want was that to be a home birth. My preference was to be completely left alone and I would call people in when I needed them. And by being able to then make decisions based in this model, I was able then to make sure that no matter the choice and no matter what came up, I made sure that I was being centered. And when I wasn’t being centered, I could be really strong and I had the emotional bandwidth to do that. And then when I was in labor, it turned out I needed people with me all the time. I was like, don’t leave me. I had a 53-hour labor. And so my best friend, she was also my doula and my husband were playing tag team and sleeping, but I was like, don’t leave me alone. And so at that point, I was able to flex because I had already recognized that leave me alone was a preference. And it was a preference that I was able to change. And so when we don’t do the work to separate our needs, wants, and preferences, everything starts to flatten. And so we’ll go to the mat for a preference. And then we’re so emotionally exhausted that we completely roll over on a need. And so we feel like our cup can never be filled. And yet we are completely drained. And it just becomes a cycle. And so being able to really center ourselves in our needs, then provides us so much flexibility in creating boundaries that aren’t punishment and aren’t binary, but instead really allowing us to consistently get our needs met.
Maranda: This is a huge life skill right here. Because if you’re listening in, like we can apply what Skyler is saying to a multitude of things that happen within our lives, right? Like this is life skills 101. Why don’t they teach this in school? This is incredible. And so if you’re out there listening, make yourself a list, right? Just sit down with a pen and paper and discover whatever what it is that your needs, wants, and desires are. And that in itself can help you create that strong boundaries along with a script for that, you know, stranger that you meet who, you know, overhears a conversation and has something negative to say, or your friend who has something negative or your family members, so that you can say, you know what, I love you, often hearing horror stories about their friends and how they were gonna die. And it just becomes, it’s such a place of fear and helplessness that this idea of, oh, I’ll have an expert there, I’ll have a whole hospital there. So I’m not as helpless, right? It’s a lot of times what it boils down to. And so I see so often that the temptation is for then in this, we’re already pregnant, all the hormones are going, and now we wanna share everything that we know. Let me show you all the research I did. Let me tell you, let me do all this and trying to kind of force feed what we may have taken years to develop on our own.
Maranda: And now all of a sudden we’re trying to get this all done in like six weeks so we can hire a midwife. And so what I really encourage people to do is this is also on the partner to take on their own research. So go ahead and do the deep dive on the safety of home birth. Go and really reflect on your own personal biases against home birth and what you think birth is and what your values are and what do you want the outcome to be. And then from there, instead of putting that on the birthing person, putting that on the midwife. So when you’re interviewing midwives, ask having a really detailed list of questions so that you can then listen, not just like, oh, this is what my wife’s saying. So I guess like, but what does she know? All of a sudden you’re asking the professional and then you also can start to build trust with that midwife or other birthing professional.
Skylar: I know personally my husband because of all the experience and that he had on his side of the family, he went through and wrote down every complication that he knew of. And he was able to ask our midwife every single question and she took the time to really answer it. And she was so in depth, she was able to go through it. And obviously this isn’t in any way trying to Monday morning quarterback our friends and families births but instead try to prepare for ours and from there my husband was able to trust that my midwife knew what she was doing and he was able to start to trust the process and so he went from a completely reluctant home birth dad to when I was at 40 weeks going oh my gosh I’m so glad for having a home birth and people come to us can you imagine having to like worry about when to go to the hospital and even though it was I had a very long home birth experience that ended with a postpartum hospital transfer even with all that there was no question when I got pregnant the second time that we were gonna have another home birth because if he had ownership of it it wasn’t something that he was forced to do I was lucky some partners are not that open but I think the idea of creating autonomy both for ourselves and our partners and coming to it together is what is so much more successful than just trying to force our ethics values and knowledge on to someone else who isn’t at a place to be receptive yet.
Maranda: This is gold. So if you are listening – and I hope this has been incredibly helpful for you – and Skyler is not done you’re a wealth of information. We could probably have this conversation I know that we were talking before that we even started recording and we could probably have another episode on so many other things especially like birth trauma and we can go deep but I know that you also have some other resources and things for people listening. And where can where can people find you?
Skylar: Yes, so I post most on my Instagram at home birth therapist. I am terrible at blogging, but eventually on my website, Lenaratherapy.com. If people are interested in working with me. I have in person sessions in my office in Brea, California, and I can also work with people anywhere who are currently in the state of California. And they again can reach out at Lenaratherapy.com or Skylar@Lenaratherapy.com and we can set up a 15 minute consult session to see if we’re a good fit.
Maranda: And of course we have all of those links in the show notes because you absolutely need to take a look at the information that she has. And we are so grateful that you are here. Thank you so much for your wisdom. We really appreciate it.
Skylar: Thank you for letting me speak about my passion.
Maranda: Love this episode. Let us know by leaving an amazing review. Your support is everything. Want more? Head over to postpartum you dot com. That’s postpartum, the letter you dot com and explore how we support moms like you and holistic whole body healing that’s specific for the unique needs of mamas in the years postpartum. See you there.
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