In my years of working in perinatal mental and emotional health, and supporting people to find relief after birth/postpartum trauma or loss trauma, there is one thing that always makes it feel even more unfair, and that is when it has happened during a surrogacy journey.
A time of giving so much of yourself… it can feel so unfair.
Then add the lack of oxytocin that you would usually get from baby cuddles, sniffing heads etc. It can feel extra hard to deal with birth trauma.
As a two time surrogate, what you don’t get from me is a focus on ‘why the surrogacy journey’, unless you feel that this is relevant.
If you are left feeling upset about what you experienced at the birth or postnatal period, please know that there is something that we can do to change those feelings and how it affects your life going forwards.
(Side note, this post is about birth and postnatal trauma but is very relevant to other traumatic or challenging experiences too)
When a person experiences a challenging and/or trauma experience that is unresolved, no amount of ‘pull yourself together’ will neurologically change the ‘fight, flight, freeze’ state you are left in.
We are hardwired to survive, and so our brains are constantly storing events, situations, stories etc as something to refer back to and to alert you to any potential threat.
This is a good thing, but when trauma is left unprocessed and we are stuck in the threat mode. Our minds don’t differentiate between so-called reality or a memory or a made-up emotive story.
And the body doesn’t know if the stress hormones are being produced due to a threat that is a medical professional telling you that your life is at risk, an angry person shouting at you, or a tiger in the woods. All our body knows is that it needs to be prepared for fight, flight, freeze or fawn.
We cannot live freely and peacefully if we are left with unprocessed experiences like a challenging birth or postpartum experience. Especially when there are many triggers that are setting off the fear response, whether they are actually happening or simply remembered.
The good thing to know is that if you are being triggered – that your brain and body connection is working well, and you are doing what you are hardwired to do. But please know that you do not have to live on like this. It is time to process what you have experienced and all of the negative emotions with it. Helping you to see the positives that are usually also there.
We can’t change what happened, but we can work towards changing how you feel about it.
Helping you to be back in control of the memories, and not having them as intrusive thoughts.
So that you can recall your experience a bit more ‘matter of fact’, and at will, rather than involuntary recall.
How do I work?
I use a variety of techniques to support the individual person and their experience.
I ask that you commit to 3 sessions initially. I make the suggestion of the first session to be practicing grounding techniques, and a debrief of your experience – some people want to share details and be heard, and I am all ears. Some people would rather not speak about the experience, and that is absolutely fine too. We can work content-free and still have the most incredible results. I prefer to give you the choice.
Some of the techniques that I use to help ease the negative feelings and bring relief:
Giving you chance to talk through without someone having their own experience to add in, or comparison. No agenda except to listen. I hear you.
Many people share their story in a non-linear timeline way, some people like to share a written account, some people like to give bullet point experiences – no one is the same, and we do this your way.
I like to make sure that we sandwich this with a grounding, calming meditation either side.
This is often called 3 Step Rewind, or the Fast Phobia Cure (NLP based) or the Cinema Technique.
This isn’t a new thing, and there has been lots of research shared by David Muss who has been using this technique for decades to support people to find relief from their traumatic experiences.
Safely, gently allowing the brain to process what has occurred, metaphorically speaking, to save it as a ‘past event’ rather than a ‘current threat’, and allow you to rest and feel calm and free of anxiety.
It is a gentle method that is a cross between NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and Hypnotherapy/Guided Meditation.
Hypnosis & Guided meditations
Guided relaxation and allowing the body to feel safe again, releasing and letting go of the tension and fears in a variety of ways. Very much tailored to the individual.
An EMDR technique that is a simple-to-do exercise that you can repeat anytime. Simple and yet very effective at changing negative reactions.
Tapping bridges the gap between talk therapies and energy therapies, working on the same meridian system as acupuncture. Again a great tool that you can use anytime, anyplace, yourself.
Releasing Trauma through Somatic Experiences
Some people feel they really benefit from physical movement.
If you are prone to a bit of David Attenborough, you will no doubt have seen in many nature programmes, animals chased or going through a fearful or potentially traumatic event, and once in safety, they shake it off.
When we have that build-up of energy/chemicals/stress hormones that have prepared us for fight or flight, sometimes we need to allow for the physical movement to release the pent up stress hormones.
I recommend that you book for 3 sessions so that I am seeing you through this process and more sessions are always available after, if you feel they would be helpful.
I work globally online. All I ask is that you have a good internet connection, some time dedicated to you, and ideally on a laptop or tablet (as phones aren’t so helpful if a call/messages come in.
The first session is the longer one, and I suggest allowing for 1.5 hours.
Thereafter we tend to keep to 45 mins up to an hour, as I appreciate time when you children is limited.
You are encouraged to keep in touch with me between the appointments via WhatsApp messages, and this support is all included, and encouraged.
After your first appointment, I send you some links to meditations and a PDF with some tools and techniques.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. Does it matter when I do this? As in, what if my birth was a long time ago?
A. It could be a recent experience or something deemed ‘historical’… there is no time limit at all.
Q. I supported my partner/our surrogate through a traumatic birth and I am still struggling with flashbacks, guilt, and all kinds of thoughts and feelings. Is this only for the birthing person?
A. Whether you birthed the baby yourself, supported a birthing person, witnessed, heard, experienced this, I am here for you too.
Q. Do you work with people who have been through sexual trauma or domestic abuse?
A. Absolutely, yes. I am here for you.
Q. I had a miscarriage at X weeks and I still have flashbacks and upsetting memories. Would this be helpful for me?
A. Grief is a journey of its own, and the process for relieving the trauma doesn’t stop the grief process, but it can be so very helpful in helping you through that. Helping to clear the negative emotions that may be coming back as you think of events, such as scans, hospital appointments.
If you want to have a chat beforehand, to see how this can help you, please feel free to drop me a message. I am here for you.
Online Birth Trauma Therapist.
Birth Trauma Relief Harrogate, Yorkshire.