By: Lori S. Reising, BA, LMT
As I try to come up with the best way to talk about the far-reaching effects of stillbirth to our physical and emotional body, I struggle to find the words. The reason being that there are no words for this tragedy. There is no sense to the loss of a child a lifetime too soon. Our bodies are designed to carry children and keep them safe until they enter the world. When this fails, our entire belief system and trust is broken along with our hearts.
This subject is entirely too big to cover in one article so I am going to attempt to break it down into several parts. In this first piece I would like to talk about the point of trauma to our womb. In an instant our life has changed. The moment we learn of the loss the shock overwhelms us. We go into hysterics, distress, grief, sadness, anger and more. Every woman’s reaction is unique in itself, but there is a sudden reaction nonetheless. Inside the cells of our bodies we carry something called emotional memory. Our emotional cellular memory imprints all the emotions we feel as our bodies tense from pain. The sadness left in an empty womb grows as we grieve. The layers dig deeper and deeper as we move through many phases of loss. Everything we feel throughout this process becomes trapped in our cells. We need a release.
After the loss of my daughter, I had a phantom pregnancy. I still felt pregnant. Sometimes I could even feel her kick. I believe some of this is a result of a hormonal cycle stopped abruptly, which caused utter chaos in my chemistry not just for months, but years. It was also because my subconscious was not ready to let her go. I held her in my womb even without her body there. I was supposed to protect her and unconsciously I continued to do just that. I remained unwilling to let her go. After all, if I completely let her go, who was I? I was not a mother anymore, I was not a beautiful pregnant woman awaiting the blessing of my first child, I would lose the bond that grew everyday we were together and I would be living a life without meaning. I was so deep in my grief I did not make that connection until I went and had abdominal work done and I am therapist trained in this exact area! The reaction to a loss can be so overpowering logic becomes meaningless.
It was over a year after my loss that I went in for a Myofascial Release treatment in Sedona, Arizona. A whole year had passed before anyone touched my daughter’s previous “home”. During that year my body continued to guard itself and hold on to her memory. By the time I reached out for help, I was like a rock. As the therapist moved into my womb, there was excruciating pain. I quickly realized my body was still holding on to her. Our bodies innately want to protect themselves. After a trauma to an area the fascia (or connective tissue) begins to tighten itself to protect against any more pain that might come. In this case it may even tighten itself to hold a memory in. We don’t even recognize this process as it continues along with our pain. Our entire body has just gone from the state of growing and nurturing a baby to the place where we lost our baby. This shift is very sudden, but the effects remain long after. Having the profound releasing I did in Arizona made it no surprise that we had been dealing with secondary infertility since our loss. There was no flow in my abdominal tissue. Everything was locked up and holding on to my daughter’s memory. Just the physical trauma of her delivery alone was enough to tighten things up. Having to deliver a child not there is one of the most horrific experiences a woman can go through. There is no positive ending coming, it is a mother’s nightmare that waits. We go through so much, I wonder how our bodies function at all following the process. But we survive. I want to help other mothers of angels thrive. I had to search for help. I want to be here for all of you brave women that are finding the strength to continue on this painful journey.
I feel like I am getting ahead of myself. I want to talk much more about the delivery process, the grief, our relationships post-loss, the return to self and more. I needed to touch on some of these areas, however, to stress the need for abdominal work. It is essential to nurture our wombs after such heartbreak and open our connective tissue that becomes tight from shock and loss to create a flowing environment again. It takes courage to place your trust in a therapist after that same trust has just been shattered. You can take these steps. I ask you to make them sooner then I did. As I said earlier, this tragedy has far-reaching effects and the abdominal area is the first and foremost point of impact. I will talk later about the need for overall bodywork through grief, but the sooner you have help in releasing your womb the sooner you will begin to heal, physically and emotionally. When we reach out to those people that understand our pain we mend a little more hour-by-hour and day-by-day.
Some great resources related to these thoughts include the book “Molecules of Emotion” by Candace Pert and “Healing Ancient Wounds” by John F. Barnes.
Stay tuned for another part in the series ‘The Deep Reaching Trauma of Stillbirth’.