When I was recovering from losing my baby girl at five months pregnant, I was desperate for any information that could help me feel better–both emotionally and physically– to heal my body so I could try to get pregnant again. I was lucky to see a therapist weekly, but I knew I needed something beyond those sessions that could help me daily.
I can remember during those desperate days wishing that I had a roadmap from someone who had been there before me to help me navigate my way through. As I sit here today with the grateful perspective of having made it to the other side of miscarriage and secondary infertility, I offer my version of that roadmap.
For those trying to figure out how to take the next step in their healing, I hope these practices that supported me–not only in healing my body but my mind and heart, too–might do the same for you.
The first practice I turned to and recommend to anyone experiencing infertility, miscarriage and baby loss is to turn to pen and paper. This universal practice facilitates connecting with your inner wisdom and heart space. It has nothing to do with how good you are at weaving prose. Expressive writing is a way to go within that is guided and intimate and allows access to your greater intuition that can be done alone or in community settings.
A step beyond journal writing, expressive writing is a practice with the explicit intention of bringing certain emotions to the surface to release them, based on the research of James Pennebaker. I've worked as an expressive writing workshop facilitator since 2017 with many of my workshops based on the theme of fertility and miscarriage. Through this work, I have witnessed firsthand how this type of writing is a cathartic tool that never fails to help the women in my groups achieve some insight or breakthrough to support their inner and outer healing.
Yin yoga is believed by many in the yoga community to support women who are struggling with fertility and miscarriage because it works to bring back to balance the feminine or the "yin" aspects of ourselves. The poses are held for 2-5 minutes, which works to accomplish a few outcomes, primarily that the slowness and the turning inward with the breath help to calm the nervous system.
During the singular stress of miscarriage and fertility struggles, the nervous system can be on constant high alert, so this calming element of yin yoga is incredibly therapeutic. It also helps to stretch into the hips and the womb space to release stagnant energy.
Beyond the physical, yin yoga was instrumental in rebuilding the trust and connection between my mind and body, a vital shift for me to feel safe in trying to hold another pregnancy.
There are many free online resources for yin yoga that you can find to promote hormone balance. If classes are not your thing, you can choose a few yin yoga poses (child's pose and legs up the wall are incredibly supportive and easy to do for all levels). Just hold each pose for 2-5 minutes and allow yourself to rest and breathe in the pose without forcing.
Walking as a form of EMDR therapy is an excellent practice for those struggling with the stress that surrounds fertility issues and the trauma of miscarriage. It has a similar effect to in-clinic EMDR therapy in that the repetitive motion of stepping one foot down and then the other is akin to moving the eyes back and forth while focusing on a difficult memory or experience to help release the trauma in the body.
Although EMDR has some controversy surrounding whether it works, I found therapeutic walking to be the most essential tool next to expressive writing in my healing and recovery toolbox. I processed so much of the grief and confusion I held on those walks, often starting out feeling dark and heavy but inevitably feeling lighter by the end (even if it was ever so slightly). Putting one leg in front of the other proved to me that I was strong and capable and could get through even the worst of experiences.
Also known as "Shinrin-yoku" in Japanese, forest bathing immerses oneself in a forest environment to soak up the atmosphere. It has been the subject of numerous scientific studies suggesting various health benefits due to its effects on stress reduction, mental wellbeing, and physical health. I found that during the early days of grieving and working to accept the loss of my baby girl, spending time in nature helped me to realize that I was part of something greater than myself, leading to more inner peace.
Even if you live in an urban area, find a park or public garden where you can sit and have green space surround you. Turn off your phone, remove your earbuds, and follow your senses as they reveal the environment.
I went beyond traditional meditation and worked explicitly with guided meditations to connect with my "spirit baby" like this one and found these to give me hope for another baby on the days when that was waning. While for some, the spiritual practice of connecting with your baby's spirit might not resonate, it was a comfort for me. Whether it was real or not, sometimes we need to believe in something, and this practice of connecting with my future baby was what I needed to believe in.
If spirit baby meditation is not something you are comfortable with, doing a guided meditation to visualize healing your body or laying down while listening to 528 HZ frequency music, which research has shown to promote emotional healing and release, would be another great way to practice meditation.
Ultimately, whether one or all of these modalities appeal to you, the wonderful thing is that you can do them alone or in the community for free, and each one has proven benefits that will support your emotional and physical wellbeing.
While experiencing the loss of miscarriage or the uncertainty of infertility, you might feel you have no control. These practices offer options for you to lean into doing something–anything–to give you a sense of agency over your life. This simple act of showing up for yourself can provide a sense that you are doing your best to be okay–no matter the outcome of your fertility journey–which on some days has to be enough. It's more than enough.
About: Allison McDonald Ace is a YA Certified Yin & 200 HR Vinyasa & Hatha Yoga instructor, published author and expressive writing workshop facilitator. She is passionate about turning her own healing practices and experiences into offerings to help others on their journey.
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