MB Antevasin is an amazing woman who is bringing awareness to the topic of childhood and sexual abuse and its effect on childbirth. She has a Masters in Public Health and a background in Education and Science. She began her doula career eight years ago and has since made many transitions. She generously agreed to sit with me for an interview.
Sun State Doulas- Good morning! Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I’m excited to get to know you better and to tell our readers about what you do. Let’s start there. What do you do?
MB Antevasin- Good morning! Thank you for asking me. What do I do? I am an author. I facilitate educational workshops for birth professionals to recognize signs of abuse and how to best support those clients who exhibit those signs. I facilitate workshops for professionals to process traumatic births. I advocate for women and for survivors.
SSD- That’s fantastic! I know one out of four women experience sexual abuse. That means, as professionals, it’s not a matter of if, but when we will serve a survivor.
MB Antevasin- That number is actually low. New research has shown that inter-generational trauma can show up in the DNA and psychological structure of women decades after the actual abuse occurred.
SSD- That’s interesting. Tell me a bit about your book. Why you wrote it? What is the significance for you?
MB Antevasin- The Birth of Magdalena is really special to me. As I grew up, I realized I did not have a safe place to tell my story. To tell my secrets. I had three pregnancies and each birth triggered memories. I didn’t know how to deal with them. I needed an outlet, so I wrote my story. It’s a memoir of my story. It is written in nine chapters (like the length of pregnancy) and is divided into three segments (to go with my three pregnancies). The second book will cover my process of healing.
SSD- What are some ways you have seen childhood abuse affect birth?
MB Antevasin- I’ve noticed there are triggers: smells, expressions, how the client is spoken to. It can take her back. The loss of control during transition. The physical remembrance when the baby comes through the canal. All those things can trigger panic attacks.
SSD- That’s a lot. So, it really could trigger at any point with no warning. How can a doula help a woman walk through that?
MB Antevasin- There are several things doulas can do.
1. Raise awareness that these triggers can come up with no notice and to watch for the woman’s reactions.
2. Talk to their clients about how they handle intense stress.
Implementing their techniques for handling intense stress inside the labor room will help bring them back into the moment.
3. Talk about things that will help bring her back to the present.
Ask what things the doula can do to make the woman feel safe. Reminding her what she’s going through is not the previous trauma.
4. Regular doula tools.
Refocusing, helping alleviate the discomfort, changing positions, helping her find her voice so she can be in control.
5. Recognize there are energetic and spiritual components to birth.
Utilize energy and spiritual tools as appropriate.
SSD- Thank you! What about women who either don’t have abuse or can’t recall those memories?
MB Antevasin- There are so many women who don’t realize their stories hold tales of abuse. Body-shaming, verbal abuse, being told what we’re feeling is insignificant all these things are abuse. As humans, we have a mind/body connection. Psychological issues can cause body issues, and thus, can cause issues during birth.
SSD- What about postpartum? Say something happens during birth that causes trauma, what then?
MB Antevasin- Labor is supposed to be a bonding time. It needs feelings of safety and security. Nurses are so busy they can no longer stay and help mom bond. Doulas are now filling that gap. However, there are times where the woman’s autonomy is not respected and trauma occurs. For example, the attitude that cesareans aren’t that big a deal, verbal abuse (telling the woman she isn’t trying hard enough, telling her that her birth choices aren’t intelligent, scare tactics, etc), and not allowing the woman to eat or rest.
There are things the doula can do postpartum to help with that healing.
1. Encourage the bonding time.
2. Help them process the touched-out feeling.
Helping them recognize that it is both ok and normal for them to feel that way.
3. Scar therapy for cesareans.
Therapists can teach them how to heal the scar.
4. Let her process her story.
We are a species of storytellers who learn from our histories. We still learn from each other’s stories of how to survive and how to thrive. We have to keep telling our stories because they keep us moving, growing, and evolving. Help her to piece together the pieces. Remind her to resist comparing her story to others’. Her story is her story. It is uniquely hers.
Be the one person she feels safe talking and opening up to. Show her you are a safe place for her to let out her emotions. Sometimes it helps to have her hold her baby and tell the baby the story of his/her birth.
5. Be present.
SSD- Those are some great tips. Thank you! What about doulas who attend these traumatic births?
MB Antevasin- Doulas need a safe place to tell their stories. So many times, doulas will try to vent in doula groups and be accused of being non-supportive and or of trying to take on the birth as their own. We offer workshops for doulas to process those births. Safe places to feel, process, and understand the breadth of the issue. A place to utilize the tools with hands-on practice. I like to say we doula the doula.
SSD- Thank you! Is there a place where professional can contact you or where they can set up a workshop for their area?
MB Antevasin- Yes! They can connect with me through Facebook, through my website, or through email (email@example.com).
SSD- Hopefully we will be able to host one here soon. Thank you again for letting me interview you. It was highly informative.
MB Antevasin- You are most welcome!