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"The most rewarding aspect of my work is watching families bond and grow together. Trauma can shatter a family just as they are getting started. I can help a family with education and therapy and then they are off together into life in a big way..."

Editor’s Note: The May 2019 issue of the ZERO TO THREE Journal will focus on supporting parents and babies beginning during pregnancy. Kate’s piece describing her work and passion is the perfect “appetizer” to introduce this critical topic. Stay tuned for more next month! As a bodyworker with specialties in maternity, prenatal, and postpartum care, I often tell pregnant mothers they are the most important people on the planet: They are contributing to making another human being and the subsequent generations.

I am an advanced bodyworker and prenatal and perinatal educator in Charlottesville, VA. I serve as the Director of Education for the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health (APPPAH), and the Director for the Center for Prenatal and Perinatal Programs. I have worked with pregnancy, families, mothers, and babies since 1990, starting as an international health worker helping clinics and governments in Africa improve their maternity services before becoming a therapist in 1995. I currently direct an international online education program offering instruction in eleven competencies in birth psychology and run a center locally to support families, mothers, and babies. My professional expertise includes a variety of skills to prevent and treat trauma related to preconception, pregnancy, birth, and the first year of life. My specialties include birth preparation, pregnancy massage, Biodynamic craniosacral therapy, perinatal education, breastfeeding therapy, bodywork for babies, and trauma resolution therapies including Somatic Experiencing®.

My work in trauma resolution and pregnancy began as a Communications Officer improving maternal health in Africa. I had a front row seat to the conditions of clinics and health systems that served mothers and families. I returned to the United States in 1993 and enrolled in massage therapy school to work with mothers and their babies. Over the last 26 years, I have developed a specialty in helping mothers, babies, and their families heal from birth trauma. My passion was really sparked in 1999 when I learned that experiences we have as babies, starting in utero and even before conception, can influence our health lifelong. Over two decades of searching for ways to support families with birth trauma has led to a wide skill base of trauma prevention and treatment using touch and verbal skills. In 2003, I was lucky enough to partner with a certified nurse midwife. Together we developed an approach of preparing families for childbirth, helping them bond with their babies in utero and heal their own trauma, and then catching them afterwards if their birth was difficult. The midwife caught the baby, I caught the family. We felt that these skills helped give families the best possible start and created a clearer path for human development, one without the burden of trauma. In osteopathy, there is a saying: as the twig is bent so grows the tree. Combining the awareness that the roots of our health lie in our infancy with trauma prevention and treatment led to a health care model that likened our health to the way a tree grows. The prenatal and birth time is all in the roots and can profoundly impact who each child becomes on many levels. The Center for Prenatal and Perinatal Programs was born as a place where parents could come and get support, answers, and treatments for themselves and their babies.

Over the years of working with mothers and babies, I have seen some profound changes, including an increasing awareness that babies have experiences in utero, and that how we treat them matters starting before conception. Our bodies remember the experiences we have. Birth is one of the biggest physical life experiences. The therapies I do help heal challenges that we have in birth for mother, baby, and partner/dad. With very slow and gentle techniques, we name and normalize painful experiences and help everyone in the family heal if there has been birth trauma. I especially help the breastfeeding and bonding relationship if there are feeding challenges.

The most rewarding aspect of my work is watching families bond and grow together. Trauma can shatter a family just as they are getting started. I can help a family with education and therapy and then they are off together into life in a big way, in step with each other, not limping along. I also enjoy teaching students who want to learn about this work. It is a blended approach of science, birth practice, and therapy. The biggest challenge I have is not enough hours in the day and not enough people who truly know about this work. When I first started 20 years ago, not many people knew about epigenetics, body-oriented therapies for trauma, attachment, or the neuroscience that supports this work. Now, these ideas are plentiful, with scientific infant laboratories in many prominent universities. Harvard University is promoting innovative approaches that can really change human development based on the principles of our work: that babies’ brains and bodies are vulnerable and interventions during the earliest time can make a huge difference in the health of our people. Last year’s ZERO TO THREE conference covered these principles as well. Now is the time!

If there is one message from the work I do, it would be that babies are conscious and participating in life starting in the womb. We can start to support families before babies are conceived. There are best practices beyond standard prenatal care that are needed to promote health during children’s earliest development, including healing parental trauma, conscious conception, prenatal bonding, gentle birth practices, and more. Our culture is starting to get it. Let’s keep going!

Editor’s Note: Check out Kate’s post on Member Connect where she is offering a generous discount for members interested in the Center’s online courses in birth psychology.

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