Rebirth after Childbirth
Labor and delivery is an amazing natural process that can also be a testing time for mothers, especially for those who experience postpartum depression (PPD). Very few people are ready to make themselves available to help mothers during these hardships. More often than not, those who help are those who also experienced difficulty in pregnancy, birth, or depression.
Alessia Chizzoniti and her husband Luigi moved to Beijing from their home country Italy seven years ago for work. A few years later, the couple welcomed their first son. Though she had a healthy and happy pregnancy, Chizzoniti experienced a terrible delivery that was the exact opposite of what she wanted. Chizzoniti had an emergency Caesarean section, which resulted in psychological trauma. “It felt I was treated like a piece of meat. But even after I was driven out of the surgery room, I wanted another child,” she said.
However, that feeling changed all of a sudden as she found herself crying every day in the hospital and not successfully breastfeeding her firstborn. The new mother felt that something was wrong, and that she needed help even though her baby was healthy and completely fine. At this testing time, only her husband was taking care of her. Soon after, Luigi soon realized that his wife had been experiencing PPD.
Chizzoniti decided to get breastfeeding help and mental health support. She found an Italy-based association named Innecesareo, an Italian word that means “unnecessary.” It focuses on informing women about the unnecessary procedures in pregnancy and birth and supports women who experience PPD. Currently, she volunteers for the organization, helping others when in Italy or online by collecting complaints and information for the website.
In Beijing, Chizzoniti joined playgroups where she started to realize that she was not the only mother who experienced a traumatizing delivery. That was when she started to meet some doulas, saying that she “felt passionate about becoming a doula” herself.
Doulas are experienced women who make sure that childbirth for mothers is a pleasant experience, and that the birth plan is honored. They also give advice to mothers about positioning and natural pain management, and also making the father part of the birthing process. Doulas also take care of the hospital paperwork.
Chizzoniti said that she had taken an online course by Childbirth International Training and Certification to become a doula and also as a special therapy to deal with her first traumatized childbirth. Along the way of studying the course, she got pregnant. This time she felt not only happiness but also a sense of rebirth.
The couple had a very clear birth plan and created a safe space for Chizzonti to have a vaginal birth after caesarean. “I had the rebirth I wished for, healing from my former birth experience,” she said. Her husband acted as her doula when birthing her second child. “Everything made sense to me after having that second birth. My second postpartum period was the opposite of my first,” revealing that she felt empowered by her newfound knowledge of being a doula herself.
The family went back to Italy three weeks after Chizzoniti gave birth to their second baby. Her breastfeeding was successful and baby wearing had given her free hands to run after her firstborn. The vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) gave the couple the confidence to have more kids, as they always wanted a big family.
Chizzoniti was elated to tell beijingkids she had finished the doula course just after her second delivery. That allowed her to attend births in Beijing and Italy, as well as to deliver postpartum assistance wherever she can. “Being a doula,” she said, “requires me to read the birthing mother during her intense moments. I know it’s painful for many mothers, but I believe being there to help them is the most beautiful part of helping with birth.”
The passion Chizzoniti has to help pregnant and postpartum mothers just radiated while she shared her experience. “Since I was a child, I had always wanted to help the people surrounding me. It is my nature to be very empathetic,” said Chizzoniti, explaining that it is by becoming that someone for mothers who need emotional and psychological support that she provides a sense of rebirth in their most testing times.
Photos: Courtesy of Alessia Chizzoniti
Meet Other Beijing Community Pillars
Old Clothes, New Clothes: A movement that links expat women
“It is the thought of women feeling disconnected that drives me. To be lonely in a place far from home is not a feeling I like to have…”
Inspirational Talk: The vibrant volunteering life in Beijing that brings communities together
“And it’s such a desire to help others especially with so many things going on in the world at the moment.”
A Life of Love for Education: Spreading knowledge and building community through WeChat
“It’s only until you defy expectations that the status quo is changed.”
Home of Strays: A community that finds solutions for animal welfare
“Just seeing rescued animals in their new home makes me say, ‘I’m proud to have been a part.’”
The Ecology of Functional Society: Valuing life systems in a polluted world
“When you increase ecological function, the community becomes robust and resilient.”