This feels like a biggy…and it’s all about one word. Trauma.
I’m not sure I’ve got all the right words to say what I want to here, but it feels so important to try, so here goes, and I hope it helps even one lovely person make some sense of what they’re feeling and know that there really are some things that can make a difference.
It’s coming up now because the more and more I work alongside women and couples on their fertility journeys, the more I’ve realised what a big role traumatic stress is often playing in fertility.
And yet it’s something that’s so rarely mentioned, or even considered, despite the deep losses and fears that often feel like they threaten our very physical survival at times.
…Months and years of trying
…Multiple cycles of IVF
…Coping with the uncertainties and fears
…Negative pregnancy tests
…Anxieties and issues around pregnancy and birth following these experiences
…Health complications, operations and treatments that are sometimes connected
…And sometimes all of these put together
They’re some of the most stressful, overwhelming experiences that anyone can go through, and one of the biggest things they can take away is our sense of feeling in control of and feeling safe within our own bodies.
Although trauma’s often only associated with people that have been in war or other life threatening situations, truly any situation in which you perceive a threat to your safety and wellbeing and feel helpless and overwhelmed, can trigger it, which all too often fits these experiences perfectly.
It’s not relevant for everyone by any means, but what we’re understanding is that in supporting women, so often what we’re holding space for are the effects of traumatic stress and it’s truly amazing to see how acknowledging it, and understanding the link between this and your fertility now, feels like it can unlock a whole lot of potential and magic.
So how does traumatic stress show up?
What we know is that trauma tends to stay live within our bodies and be held at a cellular level which means that we’re often re-experiencing it everyday as if it’s happening anew over and over and over again.
And the thing about fertility is that the triggers for all of these feelings are every-blimmin’-where, which is why pregnancy and birth announcements, baby showers, and every other thing associated with babies, are so hard, and it’s also why it feels like suddenly once you’re in the TTC world, you’re completely and utterly surrounded by every person you’ve ever known telling you they’re pregnant.
It triggers the deepest, oldest survival part of our brain to take over control and switches on our automatic Fear system which means that so much of the time we’re living out of fight, flight and freeze mode.
Not only does that mean a lot of these kinds of things show up…
- feeling you’re ‘on guard’ or ‘red alert’ and in a hypervigilant, or stressed out state a lot of the time
- feeling like your thoughts and images around fertility issues, and anxieties and worries, are constantly on your mind, no matter how much you try to switch them off
- feeling agitated, and finding it difficult to settle or relax and having difficulties sleeping
- feeling like your moods are really changeable, and triggers send you in to full on rage, fight mode, tears or total collapse
- feeling very low and full of shame and lack of self worth
…but it also means that adrenalin and cortisol are usually running the show.
Our bodies actually have to steal from our progesterone pot in order to sustain these levels, so two things tend to happen.
One is that a message goes to your body to say it’s not a safe time for pregnancy so ‘bring down the shutters guys and let’s make sure this doesn’t happen’.
And two, it can slightly throw your hormone balance out of synch so that it can take longer or be a bit trickier to get everything lining up as you need and want it to.
For me, it’a all always, always about the little things.
My favourite quote this week has been a very lovely lady saying to me..
‘I feel like a normal person’
I know that might not seem like much to lots of people but I know you’ll get it.
I know you’ll understand just how much it means to feel good, to feel like your old self again, especially when you’re preparing for your 4th IVF cycle, or picking up the pieces of yourself after things haven’t worked out.
It makes me smile so much to see these changes coming in for women that there’s is a little dance of joy I have to stop myself from doing a lot of the time!
And they truly are the littlest things that can help.
Knowing it’s not you that’s getting this all wrong, that these responses are all totally natural, normal survival responses, lets a little more self compassion and self care sneak in.
That feeling better in yourself still comes with tears and melt downs, none of it has to be some kind of perfect, just feeling more like yourself.
Talking things through takes some of the power of trauma away and gives you back your voice. It also gives you the time to have all the conversations and reviews that need to happen to take the extra special care of what you’ve been through.
And gives you permission to find your centre again and explore what needs to happen to help you to feel safe within your body once more.
Some of our loveliest ways of doing that can be combining time to talk with hands on treatments like Reiki and reflexology that bring you safely back to yourself, back home, and help to gently put things back in the places they need to be in your life.
Nothing that needs to be minimised or let go of, or forced into some positive thinking spin, but allowed to find it’s rightful place.
The relaxation and hypnotherapy tracks are truly amazing for helping with this too and letting your body turn off the red alert sign, and switch on the big, fat YES IT’S SAFE FOR THIS TO HAPPEN neon light.
Funnily enough it’s the little things that you enjoy and find most absorbing at home too, that are so often working their magic without you even realising. So full on permission to do your thing, Lovely People, whether it’s writing, baking or gardening, dog walking, running, singing, dancing, or eating glorious things…they might be simple but they’re most definitely mighty when it comes to re-connecting and re-wiring all the healing pathways that need it.
With lots of love, and always there to help in every way we can,
Cath and Lucy x