I use to be on the board of my local chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network and so I sat month after month with a lot of mamas in that group who had intense childbirthing heartbreak. Who were suffering from PTSD. Who felt utterly disillusioned by what happened in and to their bodies. Who struggled hard with their births - be they via cesarean section or VBAC.
As part of my leadership role, I reached out to a former EFT therapist of mine to see if she'd facilitate one of our monthly meetings to help create more inner space for healing. As we discussed what was going on with women in the group, she asked me such a striking question:
"Do you think the trauma of these births is connected to earlier traumas? Or is in some way a repeat of a pattern?"
I wasn't sure and so she asked me personally: "Do you think that the feeling of abandonment you experienced in childbirth is connected to earlier feelings of abandonment? Do you think you would have experienced it as traumatic without the earlier traumas?"
Ah. I see. Yes. Yes, it's about so much more than the present moment.
The core of this truth has come to me over and over again since then, as I've opened myself up to drawing connections to what is happening in my physical body and in my outer life to my history, to prior experiences, to old feelings unfelt, to my inner journey.
As you may know, my family has moved across the country but we are still looking for a place to settle down. Not knowing where we are going has been challenging, but I've been so often aware of how my feelings about it - the anxiety and fear - don't correlate to the actual present-day reality. We have plans A, B & C and will be just fine no matter what happens. I can see that I'm "overreacting."
Now, I don't mind being triggered. Or rather, I view big feelings to something that is clearly not happening in the here and now to be invitations to do some deep, inner work. I see them as opportunities to heal.
And so I've committed myself to that path through this move. Through all this uncertainty. It's made for a CRAZY amount of personal development!
As we get really close to needing to make a choice about where we're headed next (the owners of the house we're temporarily renting move in in three weeks!), I've noticed the fear and anxiety increase and yet I hadn't been able to put my finger on what has been coming up.
My husband and I have been going round and round about choosing between an island in Washington off the Puget Sound, and various parts of Colorado.
But I felt like I was making a life-or-death choice. Like giving up 300 days of sun in Colorado is a prescription for utter desolation. Or like giving up access to the salt water in Washington would leave me bereft of my soul. I have been clearly "overreacting."
When I am doing that, I pay really close attention (and I keep my therapy appointments!).
As usual, when we stay awake, we see what needs seeing.
Three days ago, I took some time outside to do some really slow movements, staying connected to my breath, honoring how I felt inside, even though it made me wildly uncomfortable.
Then two nights ago I had a dream in which I was able to tell that my psyche was being driven by something old, something that didn't represent my true nature and something that was deeply threatening to my well-being. I acknowledged it and reflected on what that might be.
And then yesterday, I had this big "aha"! When I was a child, my parents divorced and I lived in two homes. I never had one home from that point forward, in fact switching homes every 3-4 days. Choosing between two homes would have been choosing between two parents - an impossible task for a child.
Now here I am, seemingly choosing between two homes. The six year old in me is horrified by this idea, knows that it will be a terrible thing, cannot conceive of herself as a whole being separated from either parent, from either geography. She would much rather straddle both worlds, never committing one way or the other, always being somewhat dis-integrated in an effort to have the connections she needs.
This six year old didn't have the space to process what it meant to have two homes. And while I've done some of this work as an adult, there were clearly more layers for me to unravel and until this point, my life didn't require me to keep exploring this.
But now it does. Which is why this is coming up.
I've literally recreated in my outer world an experience that can trigger this reaction.
So I can heal. So I don't have to go around forever implicitly burdened by this heartbreak that happened decades ago. So I don't have to keep up a low-grade inability to commit or to name what hurts me or to show up as myself wherever I go.
I had a really big cry as I began to sink into this old hurt. And I did some EFT. And I shared about it all with my husband.
And I felt amazingly different. No longer paralyzed. No longer threatened. Choosing became about what might feel good, knowing I'm giving up some things no matter the choice we make, but that those things aren't going to cut me off from Life.
~ ~ ~
I know a lot of you struggle with how you feel in your bodies. Things aren't working the way you want or the way you expect and maybe you freak out a bit. Or maybe this is coming up for you in other areas where you are trying to make change. Maybe you feel deeply afraid or anxious and those feelings are making it impossible for you to find a way forward.
It's okay. It's okay to feel that way.
Staying present will guide you into awareness. Awareness will lead you into what you need. And you, too, can heal - not just whatever is right before you, but you can release the patterns that are governing you, the beliefs and tensions and protective mechanisms that keep you right where you are, even when you want something else.
So yes, my experience of feeling abandoned in childbirth was about childbirth. But it was also about my past.
And my experience of anxiety and fear in this move is about the stress of this move. But it is also about my past.
And how you feel about what is happening in your body is about what's happening in your body. But if you dig a little deeper, you'll undoubtedly find some old threads that are ready to be untangled so that your heart can heal, so that you have new choices available to you, so that you are just that much more free!
P.S. I've got quite a few resources for this kind of work. If you'd like to go a little deeper on your own inner journey at the intersection of your body, head on over here to get some free resources to connect your heart and body so that you can move more and hurt less and be wildly in touch with what your body needs!