Sarah Short Circuit

Heal, Nourish, Nurture

Tag: Stress

Shaky start

Becoming a mum was shaky start for me, not at all how I had imagined it to be. I had prepared myself in the months and weeks leading up to my due date. I read books, attended antenatal classes, participated in an Australian Breastfeeding Australia workshop, everything and anything to get ready to bring my baby into the world. However on my due date is when things started to unravel for me.

The night of my due date my waters broke and I thought to myself that everything is happening just as it should. The next day I went up to the hospital to get checked out and I was in the early stages of labour so sent home to progress the labour. This cycle continued for the next four days however my labour was not progressing. To be safe my doctor kept me in hospital, I was becoming tired and my baby was starting to show signs of distress. Within the space of 10 minutes I was prepped and being wheeled down the corridor to the operating theatre. My son was brought into this world in the nick of time with a cesarean section.

After the operation, I waited in the recovery ward for my son to be brought into me. And I waited, watching the time tick by, minute by minute waiting. Waiting for someone, anyone to come and tell me what was going on. I could hear commotion beside me with nurses rushing in and out, talking in hushed tones. Not quiet enough to be overhead by me as I understood the whispers of medical lingo to know that the patient beside me had passed away.

Paralysed, both physically from the analgesia and emotionally from being separated my baby, I laid there waiting. In a hospital that allows mothers to connect with their newborn during recovery after surgery, I did not get this precious time with my new baby. It was a long 45 minutes later my midwife came to take me back to the maternity ward where my son had been sharing his first skin to skin cuddles with his father.

On the ward I soaked up the snuggles and inhaled the scent of my baby boy with the biggest, exhausted smile on my face. I was elated to be with my family however no one spoke of what had happened on the recovery ward. Our parents came in to visit their new grandson and my dad noticed that I had the shakes. Little body tremors like my body had gone into shock. These shakes would come and go during the first few days after the birth. I felt quite lightheaded which I put down to having just gone through an operation. I remember sitting up nursing my son when this wave of nausea came crashing over me as I quickly asked my husband to take our baby before I vomited everywhere. The nurses came to our aid and helped me back to bed where they tilted the bed back to get some blood flow back to my head. And I slept, more sleep than I had had in the past 4 days, I rested till my baby needed his next feed.

Breast feeding with a cold cloth on my head

As new parents we muddled our way through the first few days, a blur of feed, sleep, change nappy, repeat. I strongly wanted to breastfeed my son, doing everything by the books and what I had been taught. My body didn’t get the same memo. Each time my son would latch on and start to feed I would get this feeling of starting to warm up to the point of being unbearable, my feet would start to swell and I would start to tremor. I would sit there and clutch my baby as I watched my feet swell up. It was like I was trapped in my body not able to say much as I either got the shakes or passed out. There was a number of times where we would either call my dad or our friends down the street to come and hold the baby whilst my husband supported me to land back on earth. I continued to experience these episodes of tremors and passing out till one episode I felt my chest was going to explode and the ambulance was called.

My feet swelling up

Hours later spent in the emergency department, with tests and a chest x-ray, it was a week to the day since giving birth to my baby. I was in a lot of stress during breast feeding and I had been calling the midwives regularly as I was emotionally upset that my baby was not breast feeding. I was very distressed about the health of my baby as I thought he had not been putting on weight. I had not had decent sleep in days and I had difficulty concentrating. The doctors described my episode as ‘went blank and then floppy followed by nodding of head, trembling of hands and feet’.

Diagnosis: Vasovagal Syncope

On my discharge papers an Acute Community Treatment Team (ACTT) referral was made re postpartum depression/blues with the ACTT social worker stating ‘Not an ACTT issue’.  Over the following days this all changed as I unravelled further…

What is vasovagal syncope? I will let you know in the next blog post!

Global Stress Summit

Let trauma go

Podcasts have been my way of learning and discovering as I heal and recover and this episode has been no exception. I had never heard of TRE so had no idea of size the rabbit hole I was about to fall into when I tuned into Let trauma go with TRE and Sharon Mullan.

Here are my highlights from this discussion with Alexx and Sharon.

  • TRE is trauma releasing exercises that trigger the natural mechanism within out body to release tension through a shake, tremor or sometimes a stretch; connective tissue in our body releasing tension.
  • The tremor is natural to the body; always been there but has been socialised out. Dr David Berceli the founder noticed every culture does this natural physical response.
  • Tremor is coming into safety, coming out of fright, not going into threat, body is regulating as threat has passed.
  • Not enough psychologists, psychotherapists etc. in the world to deal with the number of people who are traumatised.
  • Created in communities with a tight-knit culture where people can continue to cry or continue the effects of the release had culture to look after each other, which is different to the Western culture
  • Creating safety, people don’t tremor unless they are safe, tremor comes when the body regulating back down to be able to be social engaged and calm. For people to truly heal it’s really important that people go home to a loving and safe environment.
  • Trauma is mostly physiological, only 10% cognitive, its in our body. Trauma creates an immobility and lessens their range of capability.
  • Our body chose TRE, our body is trying to guide us
  • Panic attacks are often the body releasing so fast that the mind can’t keep up so the mind blanks out, passes out

Our body has our true memory, not our mind

  • Polyvagal theory, based on safety, how do we make people safe. Introduced psychophysiology, that we don’t just have fight or flight, we don’t just have a sympathetic nervous system, we have parasympathetic nervous system where we are socially engaged or we are freezing or voluntarily being immobile e.g. meditation. When we are dissociative not have a choice, we have a traumatic reaction in our body, body has decided best for survival that we freeze, from full collapse to not saying anything, it is physiological response. Body decides it needs to go into fight or flight, it happens automatically, autonomic system. For us to survive, because we are designed to defend and survive, that it is best for fight or flight, when the threat is perceived to be too big to fight or too fast to run away then we go into the collapse, the freeze. After the traumatic experience, if did use flight or fight they are often not traumatised as they used up the energy, the freeze puts a lid on the energy. Tremor is releasing the lid, immobile to mobile, return to socially engaged.
  • Teach you to take care of yourself during the exercises, gentle, designed to make you tired
  • Trauma can be so severe that can go back into the freeze response if they talk about it. Why do I feel nothing? Because it is too scary, we are designed to not have to over-feel something again. Tremor is doing the physiological work of releasing tension, trauma and stress.
  • If we are traumatised, we are caught in the loop of our system is traumatised, through the vagus nerve we sending message to the brain and all is not well, stay on alert. Reducing the message, we are calming the system down. Calming the nervous down is for everyone.
  • Reducing tension in the body so the nervous system relaxes and the message to brain to rewire so don’t have to deal with level of constant hyper-arousal
  • All trauma has the capacity to be transformed into something more useful. It is not a disorder, it is you body doing what it does, a natural response.

Taking care of myself is within my control

  • Nurture the safe environments. It is ok to search for people and places where we feel it is ok to be ourselves
  • Trauma two biggies in childhood are neglect and parenting the parent. We are only as good as what we have been shown. Following the body, get to know ourselves, observation and kindness.

It is possible to free of your history

To find out more about TRE check out TRE Australia. Stay connected with me as I will be learning more in depth about TRE as part of my healing after my shaky start to becoming a mum.

Discover more about the Polyvagal Theory and all things stress on the upcoming Global Stress Summit with the creator of the Polyvagal Theory, Stephen Porges, discussing Developmental Stress and How to Re-Wire Neurological Safety. During The Global Stress Summit, researchers and thought leaders will teach you about the “new” science of stress, which shows that you can be in control of your experience! Don’t miss this event from April 24 – May 1, 2017, free and online!

Global Stress Summit

Transmission of Trauma

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the long lasting effects of stress. In the flight/fight response to a threat, the sympathetic nervous system is activated, adrenaline is released to cope with the stress, then cortisol is released to stop the stress response and breaks down when the threat is removed. In PTSD the cortisol levels are lower, which are a reflection of a greater dysregulation of the HPA axis, including circadian rhythm alteration, glucocorticoid receptivity and alterations in cortisol metabolism.

In trauma survivors the stress responsive can be a transformative experience. The offspring of trauma survivors, such as the Holocaust, were also more likely to experience anxiety and depression and have lower levels of cortisol associated with child adversity.

Offspring make their own changes – is this transmission or accommodation? Developmentally programmed changes allow more flexible responding but may be a mismatch for the offspring.

Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma – Epigenetic mechanisms, the in Utero Environment and Early Attachment – Dr Rachel Yehuda, International Marce Society Conference 2016.

Further reading

Yehuda & Le Doux 2007. Response variation following trauma: a translational neuroscience approach to understanding PTSD.

Yehuda & Bierer 2008. Transgenerational transmission of cortisol and PTSD risk.

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