Birth trauma is the person who begged not to get an episiotomy but the doctor did it anyway.
Birth trauma is the person who spent months and months planning a beautiful home birth only to have to throw it all away in an instant, because they could not find the baby’s heart beat.
Birth trauma is the person who had the perfect birth they always wanted only to find the baby wasn’t breathing after.
Birth trauma is the couple who had their baby on the way to the hospital – feeling scared and alone.
Birth trauma is the couple that went to the hospital to have their baby only to find that their baby had passed away.
Birth trauma is the parent whose baby spent weeks in the NICU because they had an infection.
Birth trauma is the person whose OBGYN told them they would honor their birth plan only to completely disregard it when the time came.
Birth trauma is the person who had to have an emergency cesarean.
Birth trauma is the person whose midwife told them they could “do whatever they wanted” to the birthing person’s body.
Birth trauma is the parent who had a fever in the delivery room and couldn’t see their baby once it was born.
Birth trauma is the person who was emotionally manipulated into birthing a way that they didn’t want.
Birth trauma is the person who was stitched up postpartum without anesthesia even though they were screaming in pain.
Birth trauma is the person who was physically held down in the delivery room.
Birth trauma is the person whose provider performed interventions with out even asking first.
Birth trauma is the person who was forced to stop pushing to wait for the doctor.
Birth trauma is the person who was pressured with decisions when all their support people stepped out of the room.
Birth trauma is the person who was physically injured from an epidural done wrong.
What is birth trauma?
It’s an experience.
It can not be debated.
Psychologically speaking birth trauma is no different than any other form of trauma. When we talk about trauma we are talking about any perceived or experienced threat to the well-being and life of the individual or those around that individual. In birth trauma it is common for the birthing person to feel helpless, isolated, uncared for, fearful and/or anxious. According to this resource as many as 34% of birthing people will experience birth trauma and up to a third of those people will develop post traumatic stress disorder from that experience.
The societal mindset towards this needs to change if we want to see healing and progress from this way too common occurrence. We need a bigger emphasis on body autonomy in the medical community, more evidenced based practitioners and for providers to be trained in how to help people process traumatic experiences.
Just to be clear- there is no blame here. The person who needs an emergency cesarean most certainly may have experienced birth trauma, however that does not mean the cesarean was bad. We have to move towards teaching providers how to make space for the processing and emotional needs of their patients postpartum without wearing guilt or blame. This frees providers up to process their own experience also without needing to be validated by the experience of another person, and allows them to be supportive in a way that our families really need.
As a society we need to move away from this idea of invalidating someones experience in telling them they should just be grateful they are alive and their baby is alive. If all that mattered was the physical existence of life then we could argue that someone who lived imprisoned or in perpetual abuse had the same quality of life as someone who doesn’t simply because they are physically alive. (Check out my blog post on that here)
We know this is ridiculous because our emotional experience and well being is important to the quality of our life. This is the place from which we should operate to facilitate healing and growth as a whole.
So how can we support people through this experience? By listening. Giving them space to process their experience. We can help by offering open minded tools- recognizing that what works for one person may not work for another. We can support more therapist, social workers and somatic experiencing practitioners who work with birth trauma.
The change happens in putting practices in place that help avoid trauma when it can be and helping to process trauma when it is needed.
What is your story? Have you experienced birth trauma? What does birth trauma mean to you?
The other night my family was sitting at dinner in one of our favorite restaurants and while my kids entertained each other, me and my husband got to enjoy this really amazing conversation where the love and emotional connection were overflowing.
“I really love you, I really love this feeling of emotional connection. I’ve longed for it so much over the years and I just wanted to tell you that I really love it.”
He looked at me and smiled. We both felt it. We BOTH made the choices to show up to this point.
You see this past fall we got so close to getting a divorce that I was actually looking at rentals to move into. Things were bad.
Years of emotional disconnection and desires left unmet had us both drained and frustrated. The crux of this disfunction came this summer as I discovered some hurtful choices he had made and I felt like “what am I even fighting for?”
I can remember so many times feeling so lonely but moving forward because I love my husband so much and I was willing to be patient in his processes.
This was the last straw though, and it felt like a slap in the face. I felt like I had been duped.
I looked at him after the news came out and just said “if it were not for the kids, you would not be in this house right now.”
That is when he says it hit him. He realized I was serious and he should be too. That is when he made the choice to show up.
Fast forward to now – our lovely moment in the restaurant. How did we make it? What’s the one piece of advice I can give you to save any marriage? What did I do to fix it?
I have no advice. I have no fixes. I don’t know how we made it – or what our future looks like.
I’m lucky. The timing and effort put forth worked out for us.
To pretend like we succeeded for any other reason really points to a huge problem with the way we view marriage and love in our society.
You see we talk so much about “failed marriages.” What an odd combination of adjective to noun.
As if a marriage that ends in divorce it has failed. BLACK AND WHITE. FAILED OR SUCCEEDED.
My value in this relationship, my personhood is subjected to failure or success. That’s pretty messed up when you think about it.
Subjecting a relationship to failure or success strips a relationship of the fact that it is made up of two beautifully emotional people with beautiful cognitive ability and choices. It implies that if a marriage ends in divorce there is nothing to be had from it.
It’s bred in a society of soul mates and love at first sight. As if we can possibly know the future. Yes you may know you love someone, maybe even right away but who knows if that person will change or if you will both make the choices to show up when necessary. Who can truly predict their own personal growth trajectory led alone another person’s. When we put so much pressure in predicting the future at the beginning of a relationship then it’s no wonder we feel like we have failed if it doesn’t turn out how we thought.
When we think in terms of divorce or ended relationships as a failure, it takes away so much. What about the value in self growth and self identity? After all isn’t part of the real beauty in a relationship that we are two individuals and we make the choice to love, the choice to be present. Is it not beautiful when a person grows, even if that growth is rejected by their partner?
If you are in a marriage that ends in divorce you are “failed” even if you showed up emotionally and your partner decided they did not want to. You are “failed” even if your partner leaves you and decides alone that they don’t want to be with you. You are “failed” even if the process of leaving your abusive partner was empowering and a sign to you of your true strength. The list could go on.
Subjecting a relationship to failure or success strips a relationship of the fact that it is made up of two beautifully emotional people with beautiful cognitive ability and choices.
What is lost when we put the outcome of the relationship over the experience of the journey? Can you even consider it a failure when we have tried to love in the first place. What a brave and wonderful thing to pursue. Don’t we hold the act of loving and pursing love in higher regards than that?
At some point love was exchanged most likely, and that should not be completely lost because the relationship is over. Yes, it is possible that the love existed because you where broken and felt comfortable in a dysfunctional relationship; it’s also possible for people to change and for the connection to be lost over time. However, rejecting the love you once had because it is gone, or because it was bred in a place of disfunction serves as a real way of rejecting your past self.
You do not have to agree with the choices you made to appreciate the process you needed to take or the person you used to be. This is one of the most complex ideas in self love to grasp and honestly I am still trying to navigate it, but I am guaranteeing you that if you throw the emotional baby out with the bath water here there is something truly lost.When the relationship is about the success or failure it opens the door for my partner to stay with me solely because they want to avoid the idea of failure. This makes the relationship status about ego over a genuine loving of another person. If someone only shows up when faced with failure then that doesn’t really lead to lasting happiness or lasting love.
It creates a type of minimal maintenance love. It creates an environment of appeasement and no one wants to just be appeased.
The reality is that relationships are full of failures and successes. Failures do not equal the end though. Failure is just a place where we missed the opportunity to love fully and well. We can either show up in this place or not, but the reality is that this choice has to be made by both people and has to be warranted by a healthy relationship environment. There are so many factors that go into the choice to move forward through each and every obstacle. If you are fortunate enough to have a partner with whom you can safely make the choice to move forward each time and they do too, then you are truly blessed. Not everyone has this and we have got to start making space for that in our community so that people feel free to be loved because they truly deserve it.
In a healthy heart the journey is more valuable than the destination. If we can truly strip this idea of success or failure from our mindsets and our language I think we have the power to free ourselves and those around us from loveless relationships and really open up to lasting love that is real and genuine. No one deserves to feel guilt or like a failure if they come from a relationship that ended, because they have tried to love and have undoubtedly learned to love themselves in the process.
I have been really thinking intentionally about the TruBirth Facebook group lately. You see there are like a million mom groups to be a part of ranging from *super holistic* to *screw those crunchy moms* and everything in between.
I often hear of moms doing purges of the groups they are in or talking about the drama behind being in a group, so when I started my TruBirth Facebook group I wanted to be intentional. I wanted to create a place outside of the drama of what we feed our children, how we choose to birth and what type of diaper system we use. I wanted to prove that there is a much deeper common thread that we all hold which is that we are all emotional beings.
The result is a group of women who share my sentiment that while the things we choose to do as mothers is totally important, it’s not more important than connecting with other moms and learning to be a loving and compassionate person. What we have created is a group based in compassionate motherhood.
After all I may choose to feed my kids all the best food in the world and practice “the best” parenting techniques but if my sweet little bundles see me treating those in the world with judgement and non-tolerance what are we really left with at the end of the day?
So why is this so hard? Well first of all its really complicated.
It’s complicated because so much discussion around topics happens on social media, stripping people of their physical and emotional essence. I’m sure most of the people reading this have at sometime or another been a jerk online or shared some judgmental meme because they got caught up in the moment and didn’t think about the millions of ways it would interact with those around them. I know I have and that is because social media is hard. Its hard because it is with us 24/7, right in our pocket, with almost instantaneous access and we are not our most thoughtful selves all of the time.
It’s also complicated because of passion. People get passionate about topics and I’m not even remotely suggesting that this is wrong. Passion is beautiful. It’s also hard to facilitate these passions in relationships where people do not share that same passions. So how do we juggle this?
The biggest reason its complicated though, is because most of us lack the ability to be truly self compassionate.
So what is self compassion? Self worth, self care, self acceptance, self forgives, self growth, etc. It’s seeing the processes we need as worthwhile and pursuing them.
Just to clarify I’m not talking about the ability to rationalize, which can be mistaken for self compassion. Like “I am self assured because I have rationalized everything I do!” No. Rationalization actually shows a truly low level of self compassion because it says “I’m not worth really working on myself in the ways I am challenged so I am just going to lie about myself and brush this under the rug”.
A common example of this is seen in birth trauma. A woman who experienced birth trauma may rationalize that this is just how birth is, or that it was wrong of her to have desires for the outcome of her birth, or that she should just be happy for a healthy baby, healthy mom, etc…. Each of these are essentially a tool to invalidate the feelings and necessary emotional processing of the events.
So this is where the cycle begins; denying self compassion and invalidating our feelings. Then when we see someone else with birth trauma, especially if they are starting to process through their experience emotionally, we tend to push our rationalizations on them as fast as we can. Almost like we can not allow another person to process what we did not allow ourselves to process. So we pass along the lies we told ourselves to further justify the experience we gave ourselves.
This cycle can go on from woman to woman creating a hostile environment where very few feel validated and where it is hard for forward motion in the birth world to happen. Instead of processing and saying these things were wrong we see women brushing them under the rug and nothing changes.
This goes so much beyond birth trauma, and its why emotional health is so key to making this world a better place. If we can all truly learn to validate our emotional needs then we will see that we lose the need to validate through our reactions in other peoples experiences. When we are secure in ourselves then we are free to be truly and deeply compassionate with those around us. Every piece of ourselves that we learn to love deepens our ability to love the world around us and make it a better place.
Its the new year! That means it is the time for setting new intentions and thinking about how we could enrich our minds, bodies and souls through our everyday practices!
The “New Year’s resolution” is a wonderful tradition that sometimes gets flack because it is hard to follow through with. Traditionally people will joke and point out that most new years resolutions don’t last more than the first month. According to this study only 8% of Americans actually follow through with their resolutions and 38% of Americans don’t even attempt to make a resolution. This statically low success rate and the awareness of it ironically creates and perpetuates the environment where we expect ourselves to fail.
So how do we succeed??
We change our mindset.
What does failure look like? Its an interesting thing to look at because when do we actually fail? Is it when we stop trying or is it when things get hairy?
Maybe you are trying to cut sugar out of your diet and about, oh I don’t know, 1 month and 14 days in your partner buys you some amazing caramels from a local chocolatier as a random act of consumer driven kindness (IE a valentines day gift). AND what if you enjoy the crap out of those caramels. (You wouldn’t want him to feel rejected right??? RIGHT???)
Does this equal failure?
Did you fail at your goal to cut sugar out of your diet? Well I guess you could say yes. Then you could just give up and not try anymore.
Maybe you need to re-asses your goals and be more clear about what you want- Do you want no more sugar ever, or do you want to drastically reduce the amount of sugar you eat?? Once you figure out what your goal is this can help with the progress at hand. The question still remains-what if you truly wanted to go zero sugar and you slip up?
Well let’s try to look at it this way; maybe the fact that you slipped up is just an affirmation that your mind is really profoundly changing and the resistance is a sign that you are holding on to the old you? Maybe the presence of the slip up or the desire to slip up is just a sign that you are about to really change and the old you is scared? Maybe you are so resolved that you CAN’T succeed that you have to prove yourself right? Your old self sees the new and better you and is saying “uh-uh, not in MY HOUSE!”
Wow. Who does the old you think they are??? Why do they get to call the shots! Maybe it’s time for a new person in charge, right!!? It’s time to lovingly say to your old self “You don’t get to call the shots anymore!” Even if we slip up- we only fail if we let our old selves get the last word.
(This was very much so inspired by the work of Jaime Smart if you do not know him please check out his website! He is very intelligent and has helped me change myself for the better)
So with that being said I want to present the most important change you can make in your life with this new year!
Self Care – EVERY DAY.
I know “self care” is a popular term right now and there is lots of conversation around it. I think lots of people are familiar with the idea around it but how many of us are actually pursuing this regularly?
This isn’t just some trend! It’s not just some lingo to use to fit in with your meditation club! (is that a thing!!!?) It’s a real bonafide practice that promotes better physical, emotional and spiritual well being and was developed by doctors and mental health practitioners over the last 4-5 decades!
I remember a counselor giving me my first ever self care list over 10 years ago! I was really excited!
So what is it? Well generally speaking it is something that keeps you healthy (mentally, emotionally and spiritually) and really can vary from person to person. Some general self care things would be; getting enough rest, eating healthy food, drinking enough water, regular exercise, journaling, talking to special people, meditating, etc.
Some of you may already be overwhelmed!! How do I do ALL of these things everyday! Well the simple answer is you don’t.
You start out by changing your thinking. You are not just adopting a list of duties everyday- that would be self defeating in a way. You would still benefit from them, but you are less likely to withstand long term change if you do not feel the deeper sense of self worth that is available from these practices.
Any doctor can tell someone to change their eating habits but how much higher is the success rate if that person deeply understands what is going on physically and chemically when they eat nutritious food and truly understand their worthiness of this kind of pleasure and peace!
So here is an easy way to start.
Find your time- everyday. Doesn’t have to be the same time everyday, although that is beneficial to creating new rituals it can be difficult for those with unpredictable schedules or children. SO just find a time. (**side note- you do not have to be child free or even home from work to do most of these, if the wheel lands on one of the few activities that would be hard to do with children around or at the office then just spin again!)
Sit in the beginning and just close your eyes for 30 seconds to 1 minute and really assess how you feel.
Say out loud to yourself: “I am worthy of self care. I am worthy of feeling good. I value my own well-being.”
Spin the “Self Care Wheel”- and do the self care act.
Say out loud to yourself: “I am worthy of self care. I am worthy of feeling good. I value my own well-being.”
Sit and close your eyes for 30 seconds to 1 minute and really assess how you feel.
This can be 10 minutes, it can be an hour. You can do multiple things or you can do just one. Be sure to really assess how you feel before and after because if you can really see the benefit you will feel more motivated to keep at it!
Do this everyday, and remember when you start to feel yourself thinking “agh I don’t have time” or “I don’t want to do that”, or you notice that you haven’t done it for a week STOP YOURSELF, say to yourself “Wow look how profound the change I am making is that my old self is resisting it! I should keep going!” AND DO.
Here are some good tips on the items on the wheel:
Self Massage: This is a great way to release stress, it can be done to any part of the body and there are several great tutorials on YouTube! Here is one for the head and neck: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cN2cDMdvdxM
Salt bath: For this you can use your bath tub and take a whole body bath with salt- or you can fill up a sink or bucket and soak your feet. Add some coconut milk and an essential oil for a extra special experience (Make sure to add a fat with your essential oils to dilute them. It may seem like a whole tub full of water would dilute it enough but it doest dilute it at all. Since oil does not mix with water and our skin is waterproof this means that the oil will sit on the top of the water and our skin will absorb it as if it was undiluted)
Oil Pull: You can use 1-2 tsp of either coconut oil, sunflower oil or sesame seed oil and swish it around in your mouth for 15-20 min. This has been shown to gently detox your gums and teeth and has even been shown to whiten teeth!
Yoga: Do a simple sun or moon salutation! YouTube has several videos to choose from that can guide you through the process! https://youtu.be/uMV4Nq6jpu0
Meditation: These can be found on Youtube. You can select from 5,10,15 minute and so on! Another great tool is the HeadSpace App!
Grounding: This is the act of connecting ourselves to the ground, much like the appliances in our house which ground to secure their electrical stability, we also have electromagnetic properties and grounding ourselves from time to time is a very healthy and helpful practice. It can be done by stepping outside (ideally on soil or grass) with bare feet. If you are incapable of getting outside barefoot you can purchase grounding mats to use or just go outside with shoes on (this does not have the same effect as going barefoot but it is undeniable that going outside has its own benefits that can help)
When I describe TruBirth sometimes what I often find myself talking about is how the class is a tool to create connection and self awareness in your reproductive journey. One way I actively promote this idea is through my online Facebook community. I regularly post questions designed to get members thinking and talking about their feelings and growing their tools of self awareness. Throughout my TruBirth E-learning course I have tools to aide in this process but I wanted to spend some time really identifying a general ability to be self aware.
You may be saying, “I am self aware! For instance right now I know that I really want to read this blog post.” 😉
You may be saying, “I feel like I’m self aware most of the time, sometimes I forget to turn off the toaster oven or eat lunch but I’m generally on top of my feelings.”
You may be saying, “Most of the time my emotions catch me off guard. I wish I had a better handle on what I felt and why.”
You may also be going, “Emotions??? What are those?”
Wherever you are this can be helpful, especially if you are even thinking about starting your reproductive journey! So let’s look at ways you as an adult can go back and create an inward environment that welcomes your emotions and, in turn, self awareness. Let’s talk about the 5 steps to self awareness.
Step 1. Creating an open space within your mind and heart.
This will be something you may need to return to frequently but it is simply saying to yourself, “I am open to feel what is with in me, and I will love myself wherever that is.“
You can just say this to yourself right now, but the more frequently you are saying it, and the more visible this is to you, the more your heart will open up to the reality of this statement. This is your self awareness key.
Maybe consider making it a note on your desk at work, or on you bathroom vanity. Maybe embroider it on a pillow or get it tattooed! The point is the more visible this is to you on a regular basis the more powerful it will be.
Step 2:Spend time in thought daily.
You may be thinking this seems too easy to be including in the 5 steps to self awareness, but stick with me for a minute. In today’s world where technology is handheld and can even join us in the bathroom for our daily poop, most people are spending what in the past would have been time to think or process on Facebook or reading their Kindle.
Now this post is not a guilt fest for using technology or even to imply that technology is the root of all evil. I’m not saying technology is intrinsically bad by any means, because at the end of the day you have the power to control your devices. You can chose to put them down. You can say “I will no longer take a device with me to poop” or “When I nurse my child I will not look at a device.” It’s up to you what is right for use of your technological devices, all I am suggesting is finding SOME sort of time that YOU want to be in thought.
That is all, just find time and be in your own thoughts. This time is not meant to be structured at all. What we are looking for here is unstructured time in your open thoughts.
All self awareness is the ability to assess right? But what do you have to assess if you do not sit with yourself regularly? It’s kind of like time spent with a good friend. Generally speaking you have no real objective other than just to be together. You probably are not doing regular psych evaluations with them yet you probably still feel you have a good idea of who they are. That is because there is so much to see when you just spend time with someone. When you just learn to listen.
So go for a walk without your phone, workout without music, turn off the radio on your drive home. It doesn’t have to be constant, just some time everyday. Who knows you might actually find that you enjoy being with yourself! 😉
Step 3: Broaden your emotional vocabulary.
We might all know things like mad, or sad or happy. Maybe you know more than that and that’s great.
There are literally 100s of words to describe your feelings!
A great assessment tool (perhaps you would call it a self awareness tool) would be to write down all the words you know that describe feelings. Maybe even try to define what they are or give examples. Then when you are all done, look up a list of words and commit to learning 5 or 10 new words! You might realize you already know more than you thought, and even this can be a great reminder!
With limited language skills comes limited ability to assess (see I keep using that word). If you only know the colors red and black, how well are you going to be able to dialogue about the sunset and refer to your assessments? This will be much easier the more language around the subject you understand! This is true with all areas of study, including your emotional self!
Step 4: Notice trends.
When you are spending time with yourself daily (DO IT!) do you notice any trends?
For example I might notice that when I think about writing I start to feel bad. Or when I think about the conversation I had with a co-worker I feel happy! You can really help yourself out in the beginning by writing theses down. Note in the examples that this does not have to look like some sort of PHD-level paper on emotions, this is very basic simple feelings, with whatever emotional language you might have. (It helps to have lots of language around this! Don’t you agree?)
This is what I call peripheral self awareness, in other words, this is the outer edge of your self awareness and is a step that can be/should be done ALL THE TIME. Like a reaction to stubbing your toe, the more you do this the more of a reflex it will become! Thus paving the way for you to further assess whats going on!
Your truth stands in your trends. If you can access these reactions and trends then you begin to find your deeper belief systems. Knowing these is like finding the road map to yourself.
Step 5: Asses your trends and draw conclusions from them.
Note: You are not on trial here. These do not have to be perfect or even 100% accurate – it is all a process. You are navigating new waters and you may follow an idea, only to realize it doesn’t really resonate with you after all and that time was not wasted! The process is what we are looking for NOT THE OUTCOME!
Let’s take a second here to remind ourselves that all feelings are welcome. Maybe re-read your self awareness key from Step 1? In order to be able to dig this deep you must create an open and loving environment for yourself so you can avoid defenses coming up and stopping the reflection process.
When you hear yourself saying “no don’t go there,” or “no don’t write that,” take note of that. This could be your mind’s way of pushing feelings down that we have deemed socially unacceptable or even “bad”. Be kind to yourself. This can be scary but if you feel ready push yourself there. This is most likely an area of yourself that really needs love and healing. This part of you may need to hear.
Look at the trends you wrote down and try to see if any conclusions you come up with feel right to you. By feel right I don’t mean that they don’t meet any resistance, but that they seem to fit. Finding this feeling might be hard, so if you cannot find one that feels right you can just write out as many as you can come up with and leave it at that. Next time you are thinking about it in your unstructured time, it might just come to you.
Examples of conclusions:
“When I think about writing I feel bad.” Some conclusions might be:
I am scared to write
I don’t like writing
I feel insecure in my writing ability
“When I talk to my co-worker I feel happy.” Some conclusions might be:
I feel connected to this particular person
I have feelings for them
They remind me of my father
Listen to the things that pop up in your mind, because this is WIDE OPEN. There are so many things that you could come up with. At the end of the day we are looking for the things that sit right with YOU and feel the most true. (it could be multiple)
You are a work in progress just like every other person on this earth. We are all navigating this life and trying to find our way. This can be a tool to help you find more joy and confidence in yourself and to feel deeper and truer connection with those around you. I hope these steps are helpful. Please feel free to comment any other ideas you may have that have helped you find your self awareness!
I can’t tell you how many times I have been told that the key to a successful marriage is putting your husband above your children. Every time someone has said this to me it strikes my intuition the wrong way. Like I might kinda physically twitch when I hear it.
Heres my logic:
My husband is so important to me! I love being married to him and we wasted no time getting started having kids. I hear what people are saying underneath this advice and that is this; it’s hard to be in a partnership and have small children.
It really is a slow boil though, you are not thrown all of it at once. First, in pregnancy, it may start off that you can’t stay awake to catch up after dinner. Then you have the baby and your conversations are frequently interrupted by hungry/sleepy/dirty baby. Then they start to move and you are in the middle of a sentence when you realize they are about to walk right into the table or about to trip over a shoe they put in the walkway five minutes earlier. Then they start to talk. Then they need to be a part of the conversation and before you know it all your conversations are about Thomas the freaking Tank Engine and My Little Ponies.
All that being said- I get it. It’s hard and you have to be conscious if you are going to make it out together.
What does’t jive with me is the mindset created when you say you need to put your partner above your child.
Let’s think for a second. How capable is your partner of finding someone (besides you) to talk about feelings with? How capable are they of identifying their feelings all on their own and bringing them to you? How capable are they of caring for themselves? (Now I know you may have said “not a lot” to all these questions but thats another post for another day 🙂 ) (Double side note-I am not suggesting that your partner wanting to do all of these things with you is bad- just making a point that they are physically capable of doing so.)
Now let’s think of your child. Who else does that child have to go to with their needs and feelings?? NO ONE. How well can that child articulate its feelings in a concise matter? Not at all. Who are the primary people who are there for these little beings? You and your partner.
So before you run away with overwhelming feeling regarding their needs and how to love everyone- lets think for a minute. We want our partnership to last. Its really hard with kids. Our kids need us entirely.
So how do we fit all these neat facts together?
Well here is what I have decided. Why do we EVEN have to choose one over the other? I mean it’s different people, different kinds of love. SO why all the pressure to choose one or the other? It seems like our culture has this view that love is a limited resource. Like I only have five loves to give so I have to delegate who will get what.
When you think about that for a second you start to realize how messed up that is. I don’t need to take love from anyone to give to another and that is because love is not measured like that. Love is like energy. It is present and it can be shared. You can grow more love all the time.
Why don’t we just get rid of the idea that we have to delegate our love all together and just sit with the facts:
We want to be with our partner.
We love our kids.
They need us.
This shit is hard.
Boom. There you go. Its so much easier when we just let emotions co-exsist! Now let’s talk about some practical things we can do to make it easier and we have almost solved the worlds problems!
Here are there 8 steps to connecting with your partner in a lasting and meaningful way.
1: Self Awareness
The big bad wolf of emotions! This big daddy can take anything you feel and turn it into a productive piece of your being! So what is self awareness?? Basically, its just learning to hear the things you are feeling and identifying what things signal these feelings inside you. That sounds easy, right???? Wrong.
Here’s where the problem with self awareness comes in, most of the time in society, somewhere along the lines we get told to bury that shit deep down inside and never let anyone see it ever. In order to do that, we may have had to numb some parts of ourselves that were to hard to conceal. The thing is that there is no localized anesthesia for our feelings. Once you start the numbing process it can be very hard to control where it spreads.
So, basically, a lot of us are dealing with some pretty intense self awareness issues. The good news is there are things you can do to help!
First, find a good outlet for you to say out loud what you are thinking and feeling. Some ideas might be a journal, a close friend, or a counselor. These are all great ways to access your inner feelings.
Next part? You just let go of any ideal of what you “should” look like and intentionally be with your feelings AS THEY ARE. Feelings and emotions will come at you in different paces and you should not try to control this, just be with what is within you.
There are some great books out there to help you start to ask questions about your needs and feelings, one I really recommend is The Five Love Languages. Ask yourself these questions:
What do you need to feel connected?
What is your love language?
Are there any areas of your relationship that you need to talk about?
What makes you feel sad or mad?
What are your fears?
Write these things down and remember it is so important to just be. Trying to control and manipulate our feelings is what leads to unintentional numbing.
2: Identifying Defensive Behavior
Learn what you look like when you are being defensive. There are some very common behaviors that are signs of defensiveness, understanding these is key to understanding each other.
The goal behind knowing these things is to set cues for yourself so when you see yourself behaving in certain ways you can stop, say I am being defensive. Then you can address what feeling you are trying to avoid by being defensive.
You can learn more about defensive behaviors here.
3: Practicing Compassionate Listening
L. R. Knost has been quoted saying “When our little people are overwhelmed by big emotions it is our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.”
This is a skill though, that once mastered has the potential to heal and grow all relationships in your life. SOOOO what exactly does it mean?
Well you know those moments when you are just minding your business and maybe you make a comment to your partner or you do something and it just strikes them the wrong way? Maybe you were already fighting and your partner seems to be getting really REALLY upset by the conversation.
Meeting them in their chaos is thinking, “Why are they yelling? I am going to yell back.”
If, however, we can take our partners extreme emotions as a cue to stop, take a step back and be compassionate. We can see and hear what is really going on. They are being triggered. It is not us that they are yelling at however the thing that has triggered them.
We can then do one of two things. One thing we can do is try to approach them with love by saying “I see you are really upset right now. Can we pause this conversation and talk about that?”
This approach is great, but it will not always work. That is because it is sometimes hard to leave the part of your brain that causes these defensive and angry behaviors and come back to the part that allows us to talk consciously about our feelings.
So sometimes the best thing is to say, “I see you are really, upset. I do not want to be yelled at, so we can try talking about this when you have calmed down.” Then walk away, and do not engage in the argument anymore.
When you are able to talk more calmly, please share how their yelling made you feel. It is valid and important. Compassionate listening does not mean that it is okay for someone to hurt you through their words or tone, it means understanding that when your partner is triggered they may not be able to honor your feelings and that returning their upset energy will not help either of you.
*** If you are in a relationship where you are afraid for your safety or where you are being hurt through yelling, abusive comments or physically you need to seek help ASAP. This is not where compassionate listening comes in. In these situations you need to protect yourself and find safety.
Last part to this is listening. Your partner being upset was a distraction from the real issue. So when your partner can join you at your calm, hear what that trigger was and work together to grow away from these types of experiences.
4: Mindful Wording:
There are two things that can take a productive conversation and stop them in their tracks. Extreme or polarizing statements (Eg. You Always, or You never) and a barrage of YOU statements.
Make it a rule, and talk about it. In my relationships we don’t do always or never statements. The minute one slips from our mouths we stop ourselves and re-phrase it.
You may be thinking “they know what I mean” or “thats how I feel” but they don’t, and its not. There may be like one exception to the argument that you really feel that way, but if you stop and really honestly try, I am certain you will be able to come up with one time when your partner did or didn’t do what you are saying.
Additionally these phrases are overwhelming and unproductive. How do you fix something that you ALWAYS do. Instead talk about specific instances or focus on your “I” statements.
“I” statements are HUGE. if you can be mindful and only say things that start with “I” You will see you and your partners ability to be receptive sky rocket. There should never be any discrediting of the way you feel. Its not up for debate because you are the only one who can experience it. However “you” statements are up for debate and unproductive because it usually spurs defensiveness verses reflectiveness.
These things may seem small or insignificant, but just try it. You will see how much they can help.
5: Relational Affirmations
How often do you verbally say out loud the things you DO like about your relationship and your partner? We are usually really good about letting someone know when we don’t like things, but its equally as important to let people know when we do love things.
List five things you like about your partner or your relationship right now, then say them out loud to your partner. Maybe all at once or maybe one here and there, but let them know- it will help a lot.
6: Setting Clear Intentions
Me and my husband have this tradition, sometimes we get bad about it but the idea is that every new moon and full moon we sit down, with our family and set intentions for ourselves and for our family. We usually have a few categories like personal intention, physical intention, job intentions, etc.
This is so awesome because it helps us experience our growth together. I know what ways my husband wants to grow and he knows how I want to grow. Then when we see each other actually growing in those ways we can celebrate it together. We can also, very respectfully help hold each other accountable for our goals.
It also helps us to have a constant idea of what things our partner is valuing and what values we share. Perpetual growth is essential for a healthy couple (healthy individuals as well) and doing it together encourages communication and comradery!
7: Having Fun and Scheduling It Regularly
This is nothing new, but it is HUGE! Go have fun! Go on dates! Spend a night every week with out TV on and no Facebook just really connecting, face to face. Watching shows is a great way to relax and this is not meant to give you guilt for watching TV but you HAVE TO set aside some time when you are really seeing each other, looking at a TV screen does not facilitate this time.
8: The Couple That Meditates Together Stays Together
Lastly but certainly not least, you both need to be meditating. This will facilitate all the things on this list, and encourages mindfulness and self awareness. Learning how to identify the layers of what is going on inside of you will create areas for you to connect upon and help you to really be available for loving your partner.
You can mediate together before you hang out, or just do it on your own. Either way find time to really invest in your mind and heart and your relationship will be so much better for it!
Thats it you guys! Do you have any things you would add to this list??? How do you stay connected?
34% of women these days are reporting their birth expense as “traumatic”(1), 28% are showing some or all of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in regards to their brith experience (2). Despite the growing ideal of “natural childbirth” over the last 10 years our cesarean rate has stayed in and around 30% nation wide.
As a childbirth educator and lactation consultant I see lots of moms just before and just after they experience birth. I know that in my experience there are moms who desperately do not want interventions at birth, that regardless of the precautions they take or the education they get they end up with the very things they did not want. I also know that lots of moms who experience this are told not only by those close to them but by society as a whole that if they should “just be happy for a healthy baby and healthy mom”.
This notion of being grateful for “healthy baby and healthy mom” is not lost, nor is it wrong, it is just used inappropriately and (likely) unknowingly by those around new parents in order to deal with the discomfort of the listener. I don’t think any mom is going to say, I am ungrateful for my healthy baby and being healthy myself. The notion that this statement somehow is the antitheses of the pain and loss mothers may feel is where the problem comes in.
When we practice self awareness and making space for the experience and feelings of others (as is spelled out 5 Steps to Pursuing Self Awareness) we realize that no two sentiments ever cancel each other out.
Birth trauma is used to describe experiences that pose a real or perceived threat to the safety and well being of the mother, father or baby in birth, including the threat of death. It can also be used to describe experiences where the traumatized person perceives a threat to the physical or emotional integrity of the mom, dad or baby. Note that this concept is not determined by outcome but by perception and experience of the traumatized person, so, for example, all that matters is that the risk of death be present, not if the baby or mom died. (This experience is not indicative of birth trauma, though it absolutely would fall under the umbrella of this definition.)
Birth trauma has a wide range of instigators from having medical procedures pushed or forced upon moms, to the loss of mom or baby, to the mourning of plans lost from the ideal birth a parent envisioned.
The presence of birth trauma is never to negate the fact that mom is grateful for the life of her baby or her own life. I have often heard women criticize those who are mourning and feeling the wide range of emotions associated with birth trauma as selfish or silly for caring more about ideals than the health and well being of baby/mom. I can tell you that in my time spent with those mourning the loss of an ideal birth or other traumatic experiences I have never met a mother who does not love their baby or the fact that they are both healthy.
The presence of birth trauma points to the fact that our existence is so much more that purely physical. Our physical life is not more important or more significant than our emotional or spiritual existence. This would imply that someone who lives enslaved or oppressed has the same quality of life as someone who isn’t simply because they are physically alive. I don’t know many people who would debate this fact, but if you deny people the space to feel their emotions to the fullest simply because they are physically healthy and alive you are imposing this idea. SO though a mother and baby who experienced a birth trauma may be physically healthy whats to say that they are emotionally intact? At the end of the day is it really up to ANYONE other than the mom or day them self to decide whether their feelings are important or not?
So lets not devalue your sentiment of how grateful YOU are for a healthy mom and baby by forcing your feelings on someone else! Those feelings belong to you and there is nothing wrong with that, if you want to interact with new parents feelings around their birth-ASK!
It may be helpful to think about why you want to move the conversation to the feelings of gratitude rather than listen to what really is going on in moms mind and heart.
One thing that is pretty common is a general discomfort with emotions that may be deemed as “bad” in our society. This would basically be anything that isn’t happy or anything that brings up feelings of sadness.
Another common reason people will be so quick to shut down the emotional processing of certain emotions in another is because they themselves have similar emotions that were not allowed to be felt, or were shut down by someone else. You yourself may have experienced birth trauma or even another form of trauma in your life, and have never allowed yourself to mourn and feel the feelings that go along with it. So when that person starts to talk about these things you yourself are triggered back to these repressed emotions and in order to shut it back down again and shut down the person you are talking to.
Identifying that this is at the root of your response gives you the ability to now decide if you would like to either work through your own experiences or if you are uncomfortable talking about this traumatic experience and maybe need to distance yourself from this conversations about the trauma at hand.
If the latter is your sentiment then simply say “I hear what you are saying, and I want to honor that. This is triggering some things in me that I am not ready to open up. I can not talk about this at this time.”
Once we have done that, we have set up a safety net to catch ourselves when we are talking to a new mom/dad about their experience. Then you can try one of the following:
Train your brain to ask questions and listen.
Offer to write out a birth story for the family as they tell it to you while nursing/feeding the baby.
LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. Then offer to call tomorrow to listen some more.
Offer sympathy with their experience, acknowledging that their experience is important.
Remember that what they say is valid, even if it sounds “wrong” compared to your experience/feelings.
Know how you can help and don’t be afraid to ask for specifics if you are unsure.
Watch for signs of PPD and offer love and help if mom needs it. Be delicate and gentle here but don’t be afraid to speak up.
Moms need us to start listening, asking questions and speaking up for their well being. The first step in doing this is identifying any personal prohibitors we may have and addressing them fully. Through our own emotional awareness we make space for others to find themselves. So next time you catch yourself thinking or saying “all that matters is a healthy baby and healthy mom” Stop yourself and instead say “Your experience matters and I am here for you.” You never know how big of a difference that could make in the new families early weeks.
Did you feel free to mourn your birth pain or birth trauma? Have you ever found yourself saying “all that matters is healthy baby and healthy mom”? Why do you think you said this?
I know you may be trapped under your new baby as you read this. Maybe the baby is sleeping, maybe you are holding them while they cry.
Maybe you’re not trapped right now and you are taking a break. Maybe you have someone to help you and hold the baby, maybe not and you are just stepping away while they rest in the crib. Maybe, just maybe, that baby is crying right now but you just couldn’t handle it so you are taking a break.
You are doing AMAZING!
You may be feeling overwhelmed and even a little scared as your world has recently completely flipped upside down. You may have been caught way off guard by this, or you may have known it was coming. You may be overwhelmed by how lonely you feel. It can be so confusing because you have a tiny human that is with you all day everyday, but you still feel lonely.
You may even have support people with you and STILL feel lonely. Or maybe you are going it alone and doing your best to live step by step, breath by breath.
Breathe in. You are doing amazing. Breath out.
You may long for your life before the baby came. The peace, the ability to care for yourself, the time to take a shower or put on your favorite outfit. You may be sitting in your dirty spit up stained pajamas right now not knowing if you will ever get another shower again. You may have never known how large your threshold was for wearing another human’s bodily fluids… but who has time to change anyway!
You are doing amazing.
You may look at your body that once housed your new baby and wonder if it will always look this way. Your body may have injuries or just feel a bit wobbly right now and it may be very hard not to let yourself hate these things, and wish your body would just “bounce back”.
Your body is amazing. YOU are doing amazing!
It’s hard to see right now, but what you are doing right now is so phenomenal that you will some day look back and wonder how you ever made it through. The feat you are facing right now may be whispering lies about how you should be doing better, but the truth is that the fact that you are in this moment, that fact alone, shows your undeniable strength and power.
YOU ARE DOING AMAZING.
Maybe your house is a wreck right now, and you may wish you could keep it cleaner. You may sit trapped under your new baby and count the dust bunnies you can see, or maybe you have learned to tune it all out. You may have dishes piled up but the one moment you get to clean it up you are simply too tired.
Oh the exhaustion. You are probably discovering just how little sleep is possible for a human to function. Take a step back for a second, and marvel in the fact that YOU ARE DOING AMAZING!
You may be crying all the time these days. You may feel silly even as you cry over the fact that Target can’t overnight ship you the super jumbo maxi pads you want, you may wonder where these new fits of emotions have come from. Maybe you know that its the hormones, but unfortunately in this instance knowing does’t make you cry any less.
You may have yelled at your partner or helper last night over the fact that they sneezed too loud and woke the baby. You may have lost your mind when someone came over and ignored your pleas not to ring the door bell causing the dog to bark.
You are doing amazing.
Maybe you desperately want for someone else to hold the baby, maybe you desperately want for them to leave you to hold the baby. Maybe all you want is just someone to talk to you, help you straighten up a bit, maybe fold some laundry.
You may be getting unsolicited advice from well meaning friends and family. Maybe this is overwhelming… or maybe you need this kind of support. It may be hard for you right now because you don’t have people telling you how amazing you are and how truly wonderful your mommy intuition really is, but YOU ARE DOING AMAZING.
Maybe breastfeeding isn’t going as planned. You may have cut nipples, and the pain is enough to make you want to just throw in the towel. Maybe you have to, maybe you have support and help to guide you out of the pain. Maybe your baby wasn’t gaining weight like they hoped and so you had to turn to formula out of desperation. Maybe your body had a hard time, maybe you have felt lost, lonely, disappointed.
I promise you, no matter how it feels, you are doing amazing.
You and your baby have so much to learn, these times are so incredibly trying. It’s very easy to believe that everyone else had there lives together during this time, but I promise you, they didn’t and that’s 100% okay. This time is supposed to be unwound. It’s designed to feel new and scary. It is new and sometimes scary. You are adapting to a new life. Celebrate you and all your courageousness for taking this journey. Celebrate how hard you are all working to find your new normal.
Make space to mourn the way things used to be, those parts are very valid. Don’t, however, compare your new life to your old. This is where we start to wonder why on earth we just can’t seem to get it together.
Your old life was then and your new life is now. You have been born as a mother, just as your baby has to navigate this new life outside the womb, so do you. Together you will figure it out. Together.
The new normal will come, and one day you will look back on these days and realize just how truly amazing you where. You will look back and thank yourself for all the hard work building this new foundation so that you could learn to be a family of 3 (or 4, or 5, or 6……).
YOU ARE DOING AMAZING!
Side note*** there are some very real and very common postpartum conditions that may inhibit your ability to feel love or joy right now. These things are postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, and postpartum psychosis. They are more common than you would think and its important to recognize when you or your partner may need help. Please go here to look at a list of signs/symptoms and tools for help please click here.
You have been there. You are in the middle of a disagreement with your partner and all the sudden they start saying things that don’t make sense. Their energy shuts down and they may even start to say things that hurt.
Or maybe you are the one. You are just talking about what way the toilet paper roll should go and they make a remark that you do not like. Then you start acting out hurtful, or you shut down and walk away, or you decide not talk to them for days.
These are our defensive mechanisms.
Defensive mechanisms were researched heavily and really brought to the psychological limelight by Anna Freud the daughter of the well known Sigmund Freud. Sigmund laid the way but Anna was really the one to draw out the 18 particular methods used in defensive behavior.
What is a defensive mechanism?
Well if you think about the term defense, what does it mean? It is the act of defending or protecting something from attack.
So where does this come into play with emotions? This can be answered through several more questions:
What are things that can FEEL like an attack emotionally?
What are things that cause us anxiety?
What are things that make us feel sad or mad?
What emotions we do not welcome into our being?
What are things that bring up our own weakness we are not ready to accept?
I would categorize these emotions as UNWANTED or UNWELCOME.
Also, just to set the record straight, defensive mechanisms when used to prevent growth and connection are not good, but there are times when these mechanisms are helpful and can help keep us from acting out in self destructive manners.
For example I really do not like my boss. I can not express that to them without risking losing my job. Therefore defensive mechanisms can come into play to help keep me from living in the pain of rejected emotions and self destructive behavior.
That being said, let’s dive into the types of defensive mechanisms.
There are 3 categories of defensive behaviors: Primal or primitive; Intermediate or less primitive; and Developed or mature.
The way these are categorized usually has to do with their relation to when we see them in human development. e.g. Primitive would be things we see in very young children.
Be open to the idea that while most of the time you may be able to resort to developed defensive behaviors, you probably utilize different behaviors from all three categories, depending on how you expense the particular unwanted or unwelcome emotion inside.
While reading these, take note of emotions that you know you have seen inside yourself, and emotions inside your partner.
When you see yourself doing these things you can take them as a cue. When you see this cue you can do a couple different things.
First, you can say to yourself, “This is an area where I am experiencing unwanted or unwelcome feelings and I see potential to grow from this, so I am going to push my comfort level, allow these feelings to come to me and maybe even expressing them to others.”
Second, you can take note of the defensive behavior, and ask yourself what feelings are making you defensive. You can simply acknowledge this to yourself with out allowing the feeling in, and move on.
Be kind to yourself! Not all instances of using defensive behaviors are wrong or right. They are a mechanism we have to serve a purpose. When you allow yourself to be open to your own self reflection, and stay away from needing to be right or wrong, you will really learn who you are and how to love yourself.
So here we go!
Primal Defensive Behaviors:
Denial: Using this mechanism people will pretend that whatever the unwanted or unwelcome emotion is does not exist. For instance, I do not like that I feel sad in my relationship so I will just pretend to be happy. Another example may be someone with an addiction pretending that the addiction does not exist.
Regression: This is defined by moving backwards through developmental stages or personal victories. For example, someone who has worked a lot of being able to express emotions, when a parent dies they do not want to deal with the sadness so they will regress to isolating and shut-down behaviors. We see this a lot in children who have just welcomed a new sibling. They are overwhelmed or sad with the stress of sharing the attention they may begin to act as though they were a baby too.
Acting out: When someone acts out in a form of defense you will often see them do something very out of character. These reactions are very extreme and can sometimes be violent. For example, someone is angry and instead of talking about it they throw something at you or break something. We see this a lot in acts of violence societally, like a driver speeding up their car towards protesters or a protestor destroying property.
Disassociation: Someone who is dissociative will detach from their reality and cling to their own version of reality. Often times associated with multiple personality disorder but it can be less severe than this. This is very common for victims of childhood abuse.
Compartmentalization: This is when a person keeps two parts to themselves separate from the awareness of other parts to maintain the illusion of certain values that may not be represented by both parts. An example of this might be someone who advocates for strong family and christian morals but then goes and pays for hookers on the weekends. These two things remain independent from one another to keep the value systems untainted by one another.
Projection: This is attributing ones unwanted or unwelcome feelings onto another person. This mechanism relies heavily on the persons denial of feelings or lack of self awareness. So an example might be a partner who is cheating, always suspecting and claiming their partner is cheating.
Reaction Formation: This technique utilizes forced reactions polar to the unwanted or unwelcome feeling to make it seem that the unwanted or unwelcome feeling does not exists. An example of this would be a person in a committed relationship sees a person whom is not their partner and feels sexual attraction towards them. Instead of acting upon this, which would be detrimental for the committed relationship, the person might pretend he is repulsed.
Intermediate Defensive Behaviors:
Repression: This is the blocking or the distortion of certain memories. Common in victims of childhood or long term abuse. This defense mechanism is unconscious. An example might be someone who experienced a trauma, that sincerely does not remember the event.
Displacement: This is a redirecting of one’s unwanted or unwelcome feelings from one outlet to another. An example would be a person who feels really unvalued by their boss, but can not express their anger towards the boss. They then go home and act out in anger towards their partner.
Intellectualization: This is the act of replacing or suppressing unwanted or unwelcome feelings with rigorous or obsessive study. This can be illusive because the study will be related to the root of these unwanted or unwelcome feelings, making it seem you are dealing with the situation, however they are decisive in not dealing with the unwanted or unwelcome feelings. An example would be finding out a family member has an incurable fatal disease and getting lost in researching the disease and possible cures. This is not to say you can not be dedicated to helping your family member heal without it being a defense mechanism, it is only when this is used to avoid dealing with the unwanted or unwelcome feelings.
Rationalization: This is when someone changes their outlook on what has happened in light of changing reality to avoid the unwanted or unwelcome feelings. For example a mother who is trying to get her child into a private school may be over the moon about the school, until the child is rejected. Then the mother will bad mouth the school and say she never wanted to send her child there anyway.
Undoing: This is the idea that you can reverse actions with other actions, usually with polarity. For example you shout at your child, and to try to undo this action you spend the rest of the day being overly nice to that child.
Developed Defensive Behaviors:
Sublimation: This is the channeling of unwanted or unwelcome feelings or thoughts into acceptable ones. For example, someone who is a recovering addict might focus on charity work. Humor is frequently used here as a buffer, and fantasy can be used to help one visualize or focus on manifesting what they do want. These tools are all used to shift the focus onto a more palatable or pleasant experience.
Compensation: This is the shifting of focus from unwanted feelings or unwelcome feelings in one area where you might be struggling onto and area where you are thriving. This can be over used causing problem (common term being “overcompensation”); however, it can be used to lift the person to a place of self love and self acceptance. For example; I am not very good a public speaking but I am very good at doing research. This shift of focus acknowledges that we do not have to be good at every thing in the world. Over compensation might be someone who brags constantly about one strength, in this form it seems that it does not empower the person but it becomes an obsession.
Assertiveness: This is firm, respectful expression of your wants or needs. This is the balance between speaking up for your needs and listening to others. An example of an assertive person might be someone who reads somethings hurtful written by a friend, and choses to share their hurt with a friend. In this example the person would remain respectful, staying away from accusatory statements, but would be firm about the value and validity of their feelings while being an active listener to their friends prospective.
We all use these mechanisms at different times in our life. They are here to serve a purpose for us. What ways do you see yourself using these mechanisms and is this something you want to change?