***Trigger warning. Contains description of baby loss***
The blue lines
Announce your presence.
But I know you are
Any pee on a stick
Such a quiet
In my womb.
All 21 weeks
We are together.
There is unease.
That you’re not meant to stay.
When we hear
A knowing shock
Awake with you
For the week
In my womb.
Still giving you life.
The day arrives.
The fifth of November.
A homely room
No, for three.
“Take this pill”
That same day.
Have to endure
A live birth,
In another room,
No pain relief.
Oh the blinding
The big needle
Gives some respite.
Oh so peacefully,
Dressed as an
I hold you close.
I kiss you.
We say goodbye.
They take away
Your physical body
There are no tears.
Just a chasm,
On the journey home,
Just your tiny
Hand and footprints.
In the days after,
From my breasts.
But still no tears.
Until I see
Around 800,000 women in the UK become pregnant each year. More than 40,000 will be told there is a risk their baby has a serious fetal anomaly. Naturally, this causes a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty. Most parents will ultimately be reassured the pregnancy is progressing as expected. Sadly, some will receive the devastating news that their baby has a serious, sometimes lethal condition or might be told that the outlook is very uncertain.
ARC offers non-directive information and support to parents before, during and after antenatal screening; when they are told their baby has an anomaly; when they are making difficult decisions about continuing with or ending a pregnancy, and when they are coping with complex and painful issues after making a decision, including bereavement.”
“As the year rolls on and autumn arrives, all of nature prepares for fruition and going to seed, or to store up reserves for the winter” (The Language of Plants, Julia Graves)
It’s Autumn Equinox here in the northern hemisphere. Before our energy sinks into the gradually decreasing hours of light, we can find balance in the equal hours of light and dark today. It’s a beautiful time to take stock of the year; while the fields are being harvested, what can you reap from the past months?
As our outer focus shifts from the external pleasures of summer, we turn to a more inward-looking state of being.
The yearly seasons mirror so beautifully, our menstrual cycle, with our pre-menstruum being our inner autumn. But…
If you ask a group of women when their least favourite time in their cycle is, almost always there is a unanimous show of hands for the premenstrual phase.
It’s kind of understandable. We rage. We lose our filters, as the truth speaker in us is unleashed. We may question pretty much everything around us; from our relationships to our ability to do our job, to feeling that nothing we say or do is worthwhile. Without a container of awareness, this phase is disconcerting, disquieting and raw.
Our inner autumn is also the home of the inner critic; part of our shadow side that dances with glee as it feeds our rage, encourages our feelings of worthlessness, and at its worst can have us clinging to our sanity.
With a nod to the Julia Graves quote above, we can genuinely feel as though we are “going to seed” at this point in our cycle. But as the rest of her quote says, autumn is a time when we have the opportunity to store up reserves for winter. In menstrual cycle awareness terms, we can store up reserves for our inner winter, our time of menstruation.
By paying close attention to our needs in our inner autumn, the pre-menstruum can be a deeply potent time in our cycle. We can still be discerning truth speakers, but more directional and with awareness.
We can own this powerful time in our cycle, rather than apologise for it.
To add more juice to the picture, perimenopause is our Life Autumn, often with a more distilled and intense flavour of our premenstrual phase. The oils suggested here would work just as beautifully in perimenopause.
To ease these passages to power, we might need some sturdy support around us. Essential oils can be a firm ally to have by our side if it all goes wobbly.
Enjoy a selection of autumn supportive oils:
Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
In plant form the flowers of clary sage form a spikey tip to their pinky purple and heart-shaped bloom. The leaves, with their downy hairs, cup the flowers from underneath, in a show of tender support. Perfect for our premenstrual phase.
As an essential oil, clary sage, has a warm, musky and herbaceous aroma. But it’s talent lies in it’s actions – being deeply grounding and holding, yet uplifting. As Gabriel Mojay shares: “The earthy quality of (the oil) reflects its ability to both steady the mind and reassure: while its gentle pungency enlivens the senses and dispels illusion, restoring the clarity echoed by it’s name” (Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit, Gabriel Mojay). The description reads like a balm to the sometimes deeply unkind work of the inner critic.
The pre-menstruum, a time when the outer lights go down and the inner lights brighten, pulls us towards greater intuition. Valerie Ann Worwood invites us to hear the “whisper” of clary sage: “…be at ease, and focus on contacting the inner spirit” (The Fragrant Heavens)
For a beautifully feminine and holding massage blend for inner autumn try: clary sage, geranium and black pepper
Clary sage also enjoys spending time with sandalwood, cypress, bergamot, and grapefruit.
Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)
Distilled from the resin of the Boswellia tree, with it’s sweet, rich but fresh aroma, the oil holds a special place in my heart. If an essential oil could hold out its arms and offer a hug with genuine love, it would be frankincense.
As Valerie Ann Worwood shares, frankincense is “…like an ever-watchful older friend capable of support in a wide range of circumstances. But, like a vigilant parent, it will not let us go where we are not ready to go.” (The Fragrant Heavens)
The incense resin has it’s place in spiritual tradition, but the essential oil is also “…an ideal aid to mediation, contemplation, and prayer, ceasing mental chatter and stilling the mind. Facilitating a state of single-pointed concentration, it allows the Spirit to soar” (Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit, Gabriel Mojay) When the mental chatter can turn quite vicious, seeking out frankincense can be an act of kindness in your pre-menstruum.
Frankincense cozies up well with so many other oils. But for a supportive inner autumn blend, clary sage, sandalwood (another oil that enjoys offering a nurturing hug) and bergamot will give you a place to ease your premenstrual disquiet.
Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
Picture the scotch pine, with it’s cluster of evergreen needles, the tree and its fresh, crisp and clean essential oil makes it an ally in supporting you when you’re feeling easily “needled” in your premenstrual phase.
Pine encourages us to trust, ease in to more self-confidence and helps to hold the tension, and more. Gabriel Mojay suggests pine as supportive in “Restoring emotional positivity and “boundary”, as well as our ability to “process” experience, pine works to dissipate both negative self-image and feelings of remorse, replacing guilt with forgiveness and self-acceptance” (Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit)
Blending pine with frankincense and clary sage, the other oils explored here, would create a truly holding blend.
For a lighter blend, try vapourising pine, grapefruit and juniper.
Who knows what kind of powerful places you can inhabit, with your psyche supported with these beautiful oils…
To support your inner autumn experience, try vapourising the oils, or mix a few drops with Epsom salt or milk and have a soak in the bath. Or perhaps you would love an an Aromatherapy Massage and have a bespoke massage blend created for you, to meet your needs for that day.
The safety stuff:
If you would love to explore your menstrual, fertility or menopause health, with a bespoke blend of essential oils created each time you visit, have a peruse at Aura Mama to see how you can be supported.
And for more information on menstrual cycle awareness enjoy this link
Some of us need to share our thoughts and thought processes; some of us need to remain private; some of us need to internalise; some of us need to create a safe space for others who have undergone similar experiences, maybe by running a support group; some of us go on to educate and work to support others who have experienced similar trauma; some raise money for charity, or even set up their own charity.
Each and every intention that is born out of a trauma or tragedy will come from a place of authenticity and a drive to cope. And each will also play a role in the healing journey of the person involved.
Losing a baby or child is a trauma that illicits many diverse and individual responses.
Support groups are available, some in person, many online and thankfully with the space created by social media there is more and more opportunity for offering or receiving assistance. Within this network sometimes what emerges is a name that unifies those that are coping with the same situation.
It’s utterly beautiful to connect your next precious pregnancy or baby you can actually hold, feed, take home and nurture, to a phenomenon that occurs after a storm has broken and the sunlight that has been allowed in to break the darkness.
And there is such darkness to weather when you’ve been left with empty arms and a broken heart.
When I googled Rainbow Baby, endless search results came up; there is clearly a huge amount of support that comes with the term – many pages, images and services are on offer to bring comfort to parents.
But what of those who grow up being Rainbow Babies?
They are the much longed-for child, who has grown, has filled their parents lives, has been able to offer cuddles, giggles and hopefully joy.
The constant reminder of loss; I am here because my sibling or siblings died. Could this name carry guilt? I live, but my baby brother or sister didn’t. Do I want to be recognised by this label that will always refer to the baby before me? Can I not be my own person?
I wasn’t aware of the term when I was pregnant with my daughter after losing Baby Harry. I decided to ask her what she thought of the name Rainbow Baby/Child (she’s 10 years old) and shared with her its meaning. Her reaction was that it was a lovely name. After this conversation, we had a busy afternoon, a period of time passed, so I tested the water and referred to her again later as my Rainbow Child. This time she began to get upset, and made it clear that she didn’t want me to use the term again. It was hard for her to verbalise why her reaction was so strong, but she did ask me to use pet names I’ve had for her in the past instead. I’m assuming they felt safer.
There is certainly no right and no wrong in using the term Rainbow Baby. The comfort for parents is palpable, but so was the strength of rejection of it by my daughter.
Our methods of coping when faced with recovering from trauma will always remain highly individual.
To all who are on their healing journey following baby loss, I wish you peace in your heart.
My friend Trauma? Really?
It’s an incredibly hard concept to fathom that companionship can develop with trauma. How can you possibly build a deep and comforting relationship with an event, a feeling, a pain, even a thought that has had such destructive consequences on your whole being?
Trauma is one very powerful force.
You experience the cause, you move through the shock, you may be left with the physical scars, but you’re also left with the memory, often developing into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (in this piece, however, I wont be discussing PTSD). You try everything your conscious self allows to “deal” with it. This could be counselling, psychotherapy, medication, natural remedies, homeopathy, meditiation, healing, whatever you chose as your methods of care. But something remains, you just can’t seem to extricate yourself from the repetitive thoughts, the replaying of the experience in your memory, over and over again, until it becomes a narrative.
It becomes your story.
At this point the relationship may shift, it feels as though your story has entered every cell of your body and becomes such an intrinsic part of you that an uneasy friendship starts to form.
It might be a deeply uncomfortable bedfellow, but you begin to find that you can’t be without it. It gradually takes on a persona of its own and eventually you find yourself having the urge to say to people “Come and meet my good friend Trauma…”
This friendship has power.
Maybe it gives you an identity, a purpose; you actually feel safe with the discomfort as it shows you’re alive.
Beware though, trauma isn’t exclusive – trauma hooks up with a bad crowd – the leader being your inner
critic – you know the one who shouts, sometimes far too loud at you, and for women, mostly when you’re premenstrual, but she can pop up at any time! Trauma hangs out with her.
Sometimes it consciously doesn’t feel right to give up the trauma.
It’s too hard to step away from the friendship. How will I be able to feel after breaking up? What’s there to replace the strength of the attachment? Maybe I’ll actually feel lonely without this companionship. You may even feel an intangible connection that is almost imperceptible but far reaching, perhaps there’s a generational or even ancestral link that binds you to your friend?
This relationship can keep you in a cocooned world.
In a world where you don’t have to expose your true inner self. I don’t mean that self who is holding hands with the trauma, but the one who can fly, who can create, who truly feels life, sees colours in their full brightness, see beauty around them, the one who allows the world to be seen in HD, rather than through a slightly fuzzy-screened 1970s cumbersome tv. That self is kept hidden away.
But what happens when you want the friendship to end…?
I had my story, my own relationship that developed when I lost both parents and my baby all within six months of each other. I recall times, months after, when I had to just cry and cry and cry. I’d momentarily check in with myself – which loss was I crying for? The wrenching sadness of not having Mum? The deep emptiness of losing my baby? The sometimes debilitating disbelief of Dad passing so unexpectedly and suddenly? All traumatic events individually, but squeeze them in to a six month period and you have yourself there some deep dark trauma!
Sometimes I would just be sobbing from the overwhelm of all three. But with each sob, I knew I was where I had to be. Comforted by the trauma; my new friend sat with me as a cried those tears – not just for the losses, but for almost every sadness I had felt throughout my life.
The friendship deepened and sadly pervaded so many areas of my life that it almost stopped me growing. As my personal work on healing the trauma developed, the realisation came, that what had become integral to my being, actually no longer served me.
I spent years trying to free myself from the now unwanted friendship, but the companionship persisted.
We will each have our own methods of breaking off the friendship with trauma.
For me counselling and psychotherapy, and many other forms of treatment each eased feelings and emotions, but the friendship persisted. As my journey continued, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) or tapping and Womb Massage come in to my life. Both of these therapies finally facilitated the much longed-for break up with the wholly unhealthy friendship I had with trauma.
The dichotomy of trauma being an uncomfortable yet deeply reassuring companion is breakable. It is possible to see the beauty again and to fly.
I understand that this will not be everyone’s experience and I wish those who do and those who do not identify with this premise, a peaceful journey in your healing.
As I work with these therapies alongside my Aromatherapy practice, I continue to be moved and in awe of how beautifuly they allow someone to be held in their experience. Witnessing shifts, whatever the source, is so incredibly heart-singing. If you would like to get in touch and see how these nurturing and healing therapies can support you please do contact me
For a list of therapists trained in Fertility Massage click here
Top artwork: “Moonlight Walk” by Lucy Calhoun
Lower artwork: Lisa Rough