Is Trauma Standing in Your Way of Conceiving?
Jennifer Summerfeldt, MACP, joins the show to talk about how our bodies protect us through trauma, and her wisdom from working in the field of maternal health and psychology for over two decades. Along with being a counselor, childbirth advocate, doula, and maternal educator, Jennifer is the founder and creator of the Healing After Birth Program. She and Hillary talk about the brain and how it works in trauma, what led Jennifer to be a birth crusader, the different lenses of healing, and many of the indicators that may be pointing at trauma in birth that most people aren’t aware of.
[8:17] Jennifer was a college-level athlete and has always had a passion for peak performance and a deep determination to excel in both mindset and physical achievement. She used some of the skills such as mental rehearsal and self-talk for her own birthing experience. Her intimate relationship with her own physiology in performance led to her self-directed choice in her eighth month to switch caregivers to hire a midwife to attend her first birth. The incredible empowerment she felt gave her a new mission to spread the word that there is much behind the veil of birth many women are not informed of.
[14:48] In her second childbirth, she endured a rough time emotionally, but stayed curious in her education, and the consumption of information and stories. This led her to discover just how many births are traumatic and violent for both the mothers and the babies, and it blew open her passion even more deeply.
[19:51] A conscious conception looks at all facets of birth and pregnancy. Jennifer believes we are initiated throughout an entire energetic continuum of bearing life which may include losses, conception issues, complicated childbirth and labor, or postpartum challenges. In our society, we are not often prepared or comfortable with the struggles these bring and in the tendency to suppress or move quickly through it, we miss out on the healing that surrendering to our wisdom and knowledge within brings.
[29:21] The last few years have shown an increase in care and languaging, but Jennifer feels there is a long way to go. She defines trauma as what we experience as the result of having an experience that activated our stress response, leaving us feeling trapped in our survival stress response. There is a physical reaction that instinctively happens, all intended for our safety and protection. However, the psychological component traps us in the stress response, in which we have a hard time discharging suffering and the feeling of threat to our survival.
[33:45] When we understand a disorganized system through the lens of a system, we can start to see how to use our innate intelligence to bring us back into balance and take the information and store it in an appropriate manner.
[40:03] The stress response not only affects digestion but also shuts down our reproductive system. Our bodies know that it is not time to reproduce if we need to protect ourselves from what we perceive as a threat.
[42:25] For those of us that have lived with unresolved trauma, we know that it has a deep and profound impact on our entire mind, body, and soul.
[44:17] Mammals in the wild know how to literally discharge and shake off energy, rage through and eventually restore the somatic repercussion of trauma.
[49:51] If we can cultivate the practice of mindfulness and activate the observer within us, it brings our pre-frontal cortex more back into balance.
[52:40] It’s the meaning behind the feelings that we are actually afraid of. We fear if I feel too much, I may die or hurt someone or myself.
[57:02] We get to a point where the distractions and diversions don’t work, and we are forced to do the work and create a new story in what Jennifer describes as the “collective womb.”
[61:34] Women tend to feel that their story is not important enough and yet storytelling is what makes us feel human and connected.
[66:20] Our unresolved birth experience has a profound impact on our relationships and the story we carry that impacts and ripples out in our life. Jennifer reminds us that the more we can cultivate the practice of “being with” and the less we label or create a biased attachment of meaning, the more we can be in true awe of our physiology and the amazing being that we are.
[69:44] Our biology is in favor of us wanting to thrive and is constantly giving us feedback and rich information.
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