Anneke reached out to me when I was just returning from maternity leave after my daughter was born. I remember exactly where I was when I talked to her for the first time. Though we live thousands of miles apart, I could hear her heart breaking. I could feel how devastated she was, how much hope she'd lost.
She recounted her tremendously difficult journey to growing her family, filled with losses, a previous high-risk pregnancy, preterm delivery, time in the NICU, and a complete loss of trust in her body and in the medical system.
She was at the point of their family building journey where she knew she had to do something different. She and her partner wanted more children, but she had fallen down such a dark hole with such fear about future pregnancies and future fertility treatments and no hope.
[I knew I wanted to work privately with you when I realized] How much anxiety and trauma I had from my last delivery, which I recognized after listening to your podcasts and reading Instagram posts. Then I read your book and realized that I REALLY needed what you had to offer. You were able to articulate directly what my body was craving—peace about my conception, pregnancy and birth experiences. I knew that you would help to get me where I wanted and needed to go.
The work started with restoring peace but was so much bigger than that
As we began our work together to establish that sense of peace about trying to conceive, a future pregnancy, and delivery, our work, as it always is with clients, was far deeper and more extensive than that.
It began with preparing her for preparing her mentally and physically for an upcoming fertility treatment cycle.
While we discussed the ins and outs of the logistics of that cycle, our primary focus was on releasing the grief that she had been holding on to throughout her family building journey - grief around death and non-death losses that she had not fully processed through her body.
The thing with unresolved grief is, it takes a toll on your body physically, creating changes to your nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system that can impact your fertility and increase your chances of pregnancy complications. So it came as no surprise to me that as Anneke dove deeply, fiercely, and with great determination into the work, she found out she was pregnant, without needing any fertility treatment at all!
Let me reassure you that she did not think more positively, and she was not just lucky.
Anneke worked hard for that, coming to every call, asking questions, learning about her body, keeping an open mind about listening to her body, and trusting the process that neuro-endo-immune shifts can translate to improved health in so many ways.
Her pregnancy progressed beautifully. She sailed through the first trimester, though still feeling unsure how much to trust this pregnancy and her body this time around. We worked closely on how to understand her body, and also how to create sensations in her body that she wanted to feel, sensations that reminded her she was safe.
It was in the second trimester that she had a life-changing realization.
[I realized something had shifted] at about 16 weeks into my most recent pregnancy. I realized that my body was calm, I felt present and I wasn’t feeling worry or stress, even though the risks and overall concerns had not changed.
With a preemie at home, and a history of preeclampsia, she was going through a high-risk pregnancy, with a higher risk of delivering another preemie, having more NICU time, and - what worried her the most - developing preeclampsia or a hypertensive disorder again.
Despite none of those circumstances changing, Anneke realized that our work together had allowed her to feel safe in her pregnant body, something she had not thought was possible prior to our work together.
Still, she stayed with the work.
We worked through her reestablishing trust in the medical system and in her providers after trust was lost in her previous pregnancy. Together, we worked on her finding her voice and advocating for herself, so she was taken seriously every time she spoke up.
One of my favorite milestones Anneke hit was learning how to feel so safe in her body that she no longer needed to rely on the ultrasound machine she had access to at work to reassure her that everything was ok. She had created such a level of peace, security, and certainty in her body that she knew when it was her anxious brain urging her to use the doppler and when her body was telling she and her baby were ok. I'll never forget the look on her face when she realized she had the choice to say no to that anxious brain and to restore safety and peace completely on her own.
[My favorite part of this program was] being able to break down and apply the exercises to various situations, and find th e right exercise for each situation. It helped my mathematical brain apply a solution to the problems I encountered! Even though I know that it’s not that simple, I learned to recognize my body’s stress response and decrease it.
It was not always butterflies and roses, however.
As with most women who become pregnant after loss / preterm delivery / birth trauma, body memories creep up and they did for her too. Memories stored somatically (in the body) from her previous high-risk pregnancy crept up the closer she approached the gestational age in her current pregnancy when her instincts began to tell her that something wasn't right in her previous pregnancy.
Releasing those body memories helped her to regain a sense of compassion and power in her body, realizing that she was not a victim of her body nor a hostage in her body.
I told her all of the results that were possible, but it was in her actually having the lived experience of feeling safe in her body during a high-risk pregnancy that showed her how much power she had on the course of this pregnancy.
This proved to be especially important when she developed a complication toward the end of her third trimester: olygohydramnios. (This is when the amniotic fluid measures low during pregnancy.)
As you can imagine, hearing that she had developed a complication brought fears about what could happen for her and her baby. But by then, we'd been working together closely for so many months, that she trusted her body despite the fear.
I then realized [a shift] again after the oligohydraminos showed up and I was able to stay more calm than my husband, who is a notorious non-panicker.
This woman, who had come to our work together, feeling the lowest she'd ever felt in her life, fear gripping every muscle in her body about getting and being pregnant again, was at peace.
And I could see it on our video calls. Her face was relaxed. Her body was relaxed.
She had changed, and even her partner noticed. The Anneke he knew was back.
And she beat medical odds!
Through our work together, we were able to keep her neuro-endo-immune systems regulated so that she beat the odds of recurrent preeclampsia and gestational hypertension. (The risk of recurrent preeclampsia is somewhere between 20-80% depending on a variety of factors, according to preeclampsia.org.)
Even when she had a particularly anxiety-provoking doctor's appointment, she was able to tell the nurse or PA to hold off on taking her blood pressure so she could use some of the personalized exercises we had worked on together.
The end result? She brought her blood pressure down, every time. For a woman with a history of preeclampsia, this was a tremendously powerful experience to restore trust in herself and her body.
Anneke required a ceserean to deliver her baby, and while that was not her ideal choice, we had created a birth plan to protect her against any additional birth trauma. Between that plan and the work she'd done during the pregnancy, she had one of the most blissful, peaceful c-sections I'd ever heard of.
After the birth of her super adorable daughter, who needed no NICU time, Anneke shared her biggest win:
[I] made it to 36 weeks with oligohydraminos! [I] recovered faster, kept blood pressure low, didn’t panic with the onset of complications, and felt like I had healed emotionally after she was born.
The transformation is so much more than having another baby
Anneke came to me a woman who was unsure if she could ever have more children, who was devastated by her previous journey, who had been silenced by the same medical system that employs her.
Through our work together, she became a woman who healed from her past traumas and losses, regaine