Birth Trauma Ontario was birthed in Waterloo Region, Ontario in 2013 in response to the experiences of birthing families. Parents were struggling with the memories and the effects of their traumatic birth experience and were looking for connection, validation, and a way forward. This organisation was created to help traumatised mothers connect with one another so that their journey to wellness wasn’t so lonely. It was an opportunity for mothers to gain insight into their circumstances and learn new options for wellness and for birthing after trauma. These mothers asked for an advocate to help raise awareness regarding the issue of disrespectful care in maternity services and the lack of postpartum support for struggling parents.
Quickly thereafter, our focus turned to the research about birth trauma, obstetric violence, and postpartum PTSD. This included awareness campaigns and education for maternity service providers. After a decade of advocating for change in how maternity services are delivered and offering exceptionally comprehensive education in trauma-informed care, we know that there will be no change in how this industry operates for the foreseeable future. It's up to us now. We can restore common wisdom to common families and re-learn the skills of safe and gentle birth. We can connect as women on a path to reclaiming our sovereignty over our bodies, births, and our babies as we grow in knowledge and wellness. And we can selectively access these services when needed.
No one is coming to save us from the true pandemic of obstetric violence and birth trauma. We can do better ourselves. And we are doing better.
Birth and Beyond: Preventing and healing from trauma. 2020
Billie Harrigan is the founding director and owner of Birth Trauma Ontario.
She has been serving birthing families for almost 40 years. She’s the mother of 7 adults and 5 grandchildren. Her journey began with the birth of her first baby that was a medical mess, landing her baby in the NICU with a prognosis of likely death or severe disability, and herself with some epic PTSD. The baby survived and eventually thrived. The OB said it was her faulty body as a woman that caused the dire outcome. After some time spent investigating this situation, it became ridiculously clear it was merely the induction and the medicalisation of a healthy pregnancy and birth that created this havoc.
And so, it began.
Billie has primarily served families as a traditional birth companion (what Canadians used to call the "the neighbour") throughout her long career. She certified as a birth and postpartum doula, a childbirth educator, and a lactation counsellor and briefly tried to companion with families within the medicalised birth services industry, to a quick and disappointing end. Her years serving as a lay pastoral counsellor laid the foundation for her work as a trauma-informed specialist knowing how easily our technocratic medicalised birth services industry wounds and cripples healthy families.
She is the former Director of Education for Childbirth International where she supervised the education of over 7000 students in over 130 countries, as well as training and mentoring their elite team of trainers. She is the author of the world’s first and only comprehensive online course for becoming trained in the skills of trauma-informed care specific to the perinatal client and has authored and edited accredited (ANCC) continuing education for maternity service providers, nurses, midwives, physicians, doulas, lactation counsellors and more.
Billie has taught midwives in 125 countries in the skills of physiological birth and trauma-informed care and is well-versed in the policy and politics of midwifery around the world. Billie is a subject matter expert on obstetric violence and birth-related trauma along with their causes, consequences, and solutions. She has served on the PhD committee for a perinatal therapist and was a critical reviewer for Rachel Reed’s extraordinary book ‘Reclaiming Childbirth as a Rite of Passage’.
Billie is the Founder and Director of Birth Trauma Ontario, an agency that advocates for the restoration of common wisdom to common families so that more babies arrive safely and gently from healthy, empowered, and non-traumatised mothers. It provides education in Becoming Trauma Informed through an exceptionally comprehensive course for understanding the causes, the effects, and the solutions for birth-related trauma. This course has been taken by students on four continents (so far) to universal praise.
She is the Founder of The Hive Collective - a Private Member Association that brings together women and men who are on a journey to reclaiming their sovereignty over their bodies, births, babies, families, finances, and future. In this private association, members care for one another and serve each other with kindness and compassion as we create safer, saner, and healthier alternatives for pregnancy and birth.
After a long career of attending births as a traditional birth companion, an academic, and an educator, Billie has now turned her attention to training new traditional birth companions to provide parents with an alternative to today's maternity system and its shocking rates of abuse and trauma.
Billie Harrigan has been awarded the highest designation offered through Canada Health Alliance. Her work, accomplishments, and impact on maternal health and the maternity services industry have been evaluated through a 3rd party verification process and have met the highest standards of achievement in trauma-informed care, education, and holistic care for the childbearing client.
Canada Health Alliance Verified Integrative Health Consultant