August 10, 2019 a woman gave birth in South Dakota to healthy triplet babies...but didn't know she was pregnant. This story has had me floored since I read about it last month. I think it would catch my attention whether pregnant or not, but especially now, with a baby the size of a wee guinea pig inside me (our 9 year old lets me know every week the size of the baby according to animal, fruit and dessert selection), I can't even fathom not knowing you are pregnant...WITH THREE BABIES.
An extreme awareness of your body, it's sensations and general health is normal with dancers. It is your tool, you have to be aware of your body and intimately connected with it at all times. And as I work with mothers as clients as a mindfulness mentor, I see more and more the disconnect that happens first, with our bodies. Now maybe dancers are dancers because they are born with an innate ability to sense their body and other bodies, or they grow the ability as they keep training, but whatever the cause or effect, there's a connection. Because of my dance training and mindfulness of my body, I have known I was pregnant within a week after inception. With my first baby I was running daily, and I remember feeling more tired than usual and a little out of breath, which was strange on an easy 3 mile run. With my second I knew because my breasts were feeling full again, something you don't experience as distinctly with the first because, well, ahem, they've never lost any "fulness" yet before nursing. With each baby it's been a subtle, yet undeniable signal. Clumsy, emotional (our third baby I knew when I cried uncontrollably at the parking ticket office registrar desk in Provo), tired, achy and slightly full breasts. And these are just a few weeks into each pregnancy.
Even now only 20 weeks into this pregnancy, it has been obvious to me from even the first several hours after conception. In an experience I won't share here in public, but I knew I had conceived. I could feel another energetic source within me. Call it crazies from now meditating daily, or the mindfulness practices and awareness that brings you even more deeper into your body, or spirit. It was obvious. But I'm also more in love and connected with my body than I have been in my entire life. Some say that each pregnancy you are stretched out and can feel the baby move earlier because of that, or because you are more aware of what a gas pain is and what a fetal flutter is, but it's obvious. I could feel this little baby bean flutter at merely 12 weeks. And now at halfway through the pregnancy I can feel him kicking the laptop right now as I type with my feet up. Yes it's a boy and yes my feet get swollen in the heat. It's obvious all over that this body that holds my spirit, is preparing another body every day to be born. Minute by minute. I forget most of the day, but then it's obvious. The repetitive kicks like a bingo ball rolling around inside a tumbler, or the heartburn, or the full and swollen boobs and stretching aereolas (somehow your body doesn't get the message that they are big enough already thank you stop growing) and round ligament pain and sciatica after sitting too long.
I can't even imagine what a twin pregnancy, let alone triplet one would feel like in a body. It would be a constant presence, unshakeable and impossible to ignore. So what, how, why could you be so out of touch with your body that you don't "even know"? That you think it's merely gas pains or your kidney stones again? It's easy to get upset and derail the woman for being negligent and maybe even insane, but after what I've experienced and seen with women who are suffering, the reason feels and looks pretty obvious.
We detach from our bodies because of trauma. Emotional, mental, physical, sexual...doesn't really matter. Our spirits slowly, and sometimes literally rip apart from our connection to our body as a way to protect ourselves. It's a protection. It's safer than actually knowing what's going on. “Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.” (p.97)” ― Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
In a mental aspect, we call it cognitive dissonance, we know we shouldn't be doing something, but we do it anyway. (smoking, overeating, gossiping, etc). How do we allow this kind of self sabotage? By disconnecting from the negative feelings.
With our physical bodies, we create this dissonance by completely disconnecting. It's too many negative and unsafe feelings to actually feel, so we just check out...completely. It's how we wake up one day 60lbs overweight, or wake up the next with three babies. The thing that is the hardest to see, is that even if you are disconnected from the uncomfortable emotions, it doesn't mean they aren't there still. It's almost like living a half life, like a horcrux from Harry Potter. Little pieces of your soul just floating around...existing.
How do we heal this disconnect? I can only tell you how I did it. I started being honest, I started reconnecting with my bodies feelings, daily, hourly, minute by minute. “Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going inside ourselves.” - Bessel A Van Der Kolk
Becoming honest and really looking at what you are feeling and sensing is NOT EASY. It's worth it, but not easy. Because I've worked on reconnecting so much, this experience with this pregnancy has been delightful. I'm honored to witness this type of creation. Yes, witness, because I don't feel I can do anything more than honor what my body needs to create another body. I'm consciously not creating anything, but allowing my body to do it in how it needs to do it. It's beautiful, it's humbling, it's nothing short of amazing. And it couldn't be possible without me reconnecting with my past, my wounds, my dishonesty...and healing it all.
Some more quotes from the body keeps the score:
“In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.”
“How many mental health problems, from drug addiction to self-injurious behavior, start as attempts to cope with the unbearable physical pain of our emotions? If Darwin was right, the solution requires finding ways to help people alter the inner sensory landscape of their bodies. Until recently, this bidirectional communication between body and mind was largely ignored by Western science, even as it had long been central to traditional healing practices in many other parts of the world, notably in India and China. Today it is transforming our understanding of trauma and recovery.”
“Being traumatized means continuing to organize your life as if the trauma were still going on—unchanged and immutable—as every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past.”
“Because traumatized people often have trouble sensing what is going on in their bodies, they lack a nuanced response to frustration. They either react to stress by becoming “spaced out” or with excessive anger. Whatever their response, they often can’t tell what is upsetting them. This failure to be in touch with their bodies contributes to their well-documented lack of self-protection and high rates of revictimization and also to their remarkable difficulties feeling pleasure, sensuality, and having a sense of meaning. People with alexithymia can get better only by learning to recognize the relationship between their physical sensations and their emotions, much as colorblind people can only enter the world of color by learning to distinguish and appreciate shades of gray.” - Bessel A Van Der Kolk