I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl over 2.5 years ago in a local hospital in Hong Kong.
It was the best thing that ever happened to me.
And the entire experience was traumatic.
And yes it can be both at the same time.
Our stories make journeys worth it
As a coach who helps with other people’s journeys, I've realized we all go through the fires of trauma in order to share our survival stories for those still in the fires.
It’s part of the Hero’s Journey-- to go through the dark moments, to battle the dragon, to learn something about ourselves, integrate it, and return home to share the story. (I talk a lot about this journey in My-Quest, if you are keen to learn more).
And I also know all too well that regardless of our achievements, it is really our stories that are our greatest gift to the world.
But, I didn’t want to share this story…
Because I haven’t been able to understand it just yet.
But the story wanted me to understand it.
So working through my body, it decided to give me pain until I would explore it.
Stories are crafty that way. The pain was meant to get me curious enough to start digging. (It knows that I like a good adventure…)
So, I have been doing the digging, and I am understanding the story.
I am healing the pain, and healing the trauma, so I can share MY story … in case YOU need to hear it to begin the same process in you.
Listening to the Body
I started in the body...because all pain starts in the body. And mine was holding me captive through chronic migraines.
I never had migraines before the birth of my daughter. But I had my first one 3 days after her birth. It was blinding pain that started in my neck and radiated to the sinus area of my head and stayed for hours. I was nearly blind with pain, couldn’t handle lights or sounds, and felt nauseous enough I wanted to die.
But we all thought it was normal “after-birth” hormone-related migraine and brushed it off as a one-time thing. But when they kept coming back, I started a pain-journey I never wanted (figuring out why I had them and what to do about them).
Specialist after specialist had ideas and solutions, but none ever “stuck”. After two full years of pain (sometimes for weeks at a time) I was able to recognize my pain was more than a physical issue -- it was hiding something deeper.
Through embodied meditation, I realized that I was still processing the birth of my daughter.
Bring on ALL.THE.EXPERTS!
For anyone who is also experiencing chronic pain, something important to share is that I have always used a “holistic approach” for my health, but that means seeing A LOT of different healers and integrating what THEY say with what I intuitively feel inside -- doctors, naturopaths, osteopaths, spiritual healers, energy workers, acupuncturists, kinesiologists, and more. (So, trust your instinct when you find the right combo for you!)
Sure, there are times that what these experts say won't fit (and so you disregard it), but there are other times when it not only fits, but it corresponds with what another expert says, and more importantly: how I feel.
And that's when I pay attention.
And what I have come to realize is: as a result of being a Highly Sensitive Person, I physically, emotionally, and spiritually FELT my baby’s birth much more strongly than a non-sensitive person. So what was already a traumatic event anyway, was felt in my body as the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to me.
And my body could NOT forget that.
As a result, despite thinking I had mentally processed it days, weeks, months, and years afterward, there are STILL a LOT of emotions and energies trapped within my body that were causing me this pain.
So I had to revisit them.
(Trigger warning: Skip ahead a paragraph if you want to avoid a few details of the birth).
36 hours of excruciating labor. A botched epidural that made me both still feel the entire labor, and gave me lasting nerve damage. A baby that was stuck on her side so I felt excruciating hip pain the entire time. Pitocin-caused contractions that came too fast for me to handle so I had non-stop vomiting. 1.5 hours of pushing to no avail. Being screamed at in Chinese to push harder. Running out of energy. Having my husband be sent out of the room for an emergency episiotomy and suction. Holding my baby for five minutes before they rushed her to the NICU for 48 hours. Sitting alone, cold in a bed with nearly a liter of blood missing. Being wheeled to a room with 6 other women and screaming babies with no understanding of what was happening. And then left to myself with no guidance, help, or support from the hospital.
But it was my first birth. So I thought this was all “normal”.
And months later, I learned some women have it easier than that, but of course some have it much, much harder -- so my narrative began, “How dare I have trauma around this birth? So many people have it much worse, I don't deserve to be traumatized over this...”
No matter how intensely I experienced the birth of my daughter, I didn't allow myself to recognize it as trauma.
"Other people feel trauma". "Veterans feel trauma". "Crime victims feel trauma".
I can't claim trauma from this.
But I am sensitive.
I feel the world deeply.
And whether I admitted it early on or not, I felt this experience DEEPLY. STRONGLY.
Accepting the birth as traumatic was the first step.
(And I thank conversations with friends, my partner, and my doctors for this).
Healing this trauma with conscious effort was the next step.
So I went there.
Through embodied meditation, energy work, and visiting various healers, I allowed the emotions to come pouring out of me over the course of several months.
There were some expected ones like: Disappointment. Embarrassment. Feeling of failure. Confusion.
But some surprising ones too like: Shame. Joy. Grief. Relief. Panic. Loneliness.
And all of these conflicting emotions were felt in my body-- some in my womb, but most in the areas of my migraine.
Although I didn’t know I was an HSP at the time of my baby’s birth, recognizing myself as a Highly Sensitive Person NOW has actually helped me re-frame this experience in a way that helps me understand why it was so traumatic for me.
Because a HSP's nervous system is more activated, we literally feel the sensations of pain more strongly, we are also empathically picking up on the emotions of the entire team of nurses/doctors (especially when things are not going well, which I felt), and feeling the fears/anxieties of our partner. Emotionally I was also aware of the powerful rite-of-passage I was experiencing becoming a mother, so my feelings were heightened as high as my hormones.
Like a ghost haunts a building, this extremely sensitive time haunted my body.
So, like you ask a ghost what it needs to move on toward the light, I asked my body what it needed.
It wanted to be heard and acknowledged.
So, I promised that in order to process the trauma, I would feel all of the emotions deeply, but in a less attached way. I would honor each, but still let them pass through me (I have had to stop writing this several times as I have become overcome by some).
But I did really have allowed them to pass through: I have shaken them off, run them off, spoken them off, shared them off, and each time passed them on to the Earth instead of others in order lessen the load.
And I have been feeling lighter and lighter each time.
And I am healing.
I feel more connected to my body.
I feel proud of my sensitivities instead of betrayed by them.
And most importantly: I finally feel ready to have another child.
I tell you this because...
Sometimes my blogs come THROUGH me. I have no choice but to share them. And this one was just that.
It was birthed through the fires of trauma.
It was painful, but it strengthened me like steel and made me want to share with you:
+ Listen to your body and don't downplay your own experience.
+ Trust that trauma can lead you on a healing journey if you listen.
+ Find your experts and integrate them with your own wisdom.
+ Feel your emotions fully, but allow them to pass through you to the Earth when you are done.
+ To fully heal, you must share your story too.
Thanks for being with me on my journey...
I will keep you posted on baby #2... we're working on it! :)
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