I’ve mentioned a few times that this pregnancy with baby #2 has been emotionally challenging.
And sometime during the blur of activity since moving into our new house, the grip of fear and dread I had about this second baby all but vanished in a single day, and I’m left with a healthy sense that yes, this will be hard and also, that I can do it.
Here’s how that happened.
At a pre-natal appointment, I cried while telling one of my midwives about how hard it’s been to feel burdened and emotionally flat about being pregnant this time around. What did it mean about the baby? About me? About our future relationship? About whether this was a good decision in the first place.
My wise and wonderful midwife had this to say:
You might try connecting with and talking to the baby when you’re feeling that way. You could say, ‘I’m having a lot of difficult feelings right now. And you’re also welcome here.’
The reminder that both my crap feelings and the baby could co-exist and that they are separate entities was radically helpful, especially in battling my whole freak out about the fetal origins thing.
I also talked with my midwife about how afraid I was of those first few months with a baby—since they had been so difficult with J.
She recommended that I sign up for a post-partum/birth trauma workshop with Gena McCarthy, a local nurse and therapist who specializes in supporting women through the challenges of birth, post-partum and motherhood.
I signed myself up and a couple weeks later, spent 3 and a half hours in a room with 6 other women who had difficult birth or post-partum experiences that they wanted help working through.
I have to admit, during the workshop, I kept thinking there would be some sort of magical moment—some radical revelation that would swoop down and save me. The radical revelation never came, but I did feel relieved to know I wasn’t alone—other moms were still struggling with a difficult time in early motherhood that had long since passed.
It was helpful to hear Gena’s explanation of how these types of fears we have—the ones that feel deeply lodged and almost irrational in their strength and persistence—are often the result of trauma. And trauma lives in a part of our brain that is non-verbal. So rational and verbal approaches to healing trauma aren’t usually very effective. What is effective, she said, are approaches that tap into our limbic system—a region of our brain that we share with other mammals and reptiles that is largely concerned with things like emotion, memory and our instinctive fight or flight response.
Apparently, the workshop was supposed to help us tap into this part of our brains, where we could begin to move through some of the fears that were lodged there.
During the workshop, we talked, we did a guided visualization, we journaled, we made collages, and I walked away from the workshop thinking, “That was nice, but I doubt it helped much.”
Later that night, my partner, A asked me how it went. As I recounted what I had talked and thought about, I noticed that there was none of the background fear and anxiety lurking like it normally did. I was talking about how hard those first few months were with J, and I had this understanding of why, and this healthy compassion for myself, and I didn’t feel overcome with dread about what was coming. It was a simple and radical release.
That’s how it is now—I know I’m going to have to go through all of that post-partum time with a new baby again. And surely it will be lovely. And surely it will be hard. But I’m not irrationally afraid of it anymore. I hadn’t realized how much my fears were keeping me from settling into the whole idea of baby #2 and being pregnant, but since they lifted, I touched down. Here I am. 35 weeks pregnant. I’m tired and excited and hopeful and swollen and everything is going to be okay, except for when it’s not, and then we’ll just figure it out.
Naturally, I’ve become a big fan of Gena and her work, so I wanted to share it with you. And, ws luck would have it, she has another workshop just like the one I described coming up on April 28 in Berkeley. She also does private sessions in person or on the phone, so you can connect with her regardless of where you live.
Now that you’ve read my story of post-partum trauma triumph, I’d like a drumroll please. Because today I’m joining the ranks of bloggers everywhere who offer tantalizing giveaways!
Gena has extended the generous offer to you, fabulous readers: $15 off of her upcoming workshop or $30 off a private session, which can be in person if you live in the Bay Area or over the phone if you live anywhere! The workshop is $75 and private sessions are $130, so you’ll get a good solid discount. If you’d like to enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below and be sure to include your email address in the section of the comment form that asks for it. And for those of you that are particularly keen to win, if you’re a subscriber to the blog (just enter your email address in the handy form in the upper right hand corner of this blog page) or if you “like” my Facebook page, those actions will enter you into the drawing a second or third time! I’ll select one lucky An Honest Mom reader at random next week and then email you with the good news.
And please, share this post with anyone who you think might benefit from Gena’s stellar work. Here’s to unburdening moms of birth and post-partum trauma everywhere!