Birth trauma triggers are tricky because we are often in the middle of caring for children when we experience them. Kids are noisy, messy and demanding, so when we are told to cope by meditating, we kinda want to laugh in their face!
To help with this, I have come up with some mother-friendly ways of managing through triggers while you are caring for your tiny friends. I invite you to pick and choose from the following and see what works for you.
1. Tell your kids what is going on.
No matter their ages, your kids probably know something is up. If they are not picking up on your emotions in their own nervous system, they are probably at least aware you aren't yourself. And that is good. We want them to know something is up because we need something different from them.
Therefore, I invite you to tell them you are triggered, that you are experiencing big feelings which means you will need their support.
While it is not their job to take care of you, it is completely healthy to tell them you expect them to behave differently during this time. Imagine you had a flu, you would ask them to give you space and speak quietly. This is the same.
Also note that if we pretend that everything is fine when inside we are in full blown overwhelm, the in-congruence between our behaviour and feelings are more disturbing to our children than us just telling them how we feel.
BONUS: By telling them about triggers, you are de-stigmatising mental health issues for your kids!
2. Have your kids build a boundary for you.
When I am being triggered, I feel so overwhelmed that I need space to feel safe. If my oldest is around, I will ask him to take a bunch of scarves, yarn, or rope and make a large circle around me. I tell him that inside is lava and he cannot go in, and I ask him to entertain the youngest outside of the circle. This safe space is incredibly powerful. If it helps you, you can also add additional qualities to your boundary (imagine colours inside, the material it is made out of, if it is noise free (awesome with kids :P)..etc.
BONUS: You are familiarizing your kids to the concepts of consent, boundary setting and safer spaces.
3. Get snuggles from your kids. Sometimes, we need closeness and touch to ground. Having my kids lie on me like a sandwich always elicits big giggles and is incredibly grounding as they act like a weighted blanket. Hugs, stroking, hair brushing and massage can also be exceptionally grounding. It is up to you to see what YOU need during that particular trigger.
BONUS: Need I explain this one?
4. Dance, Drum, Sing.
These are such instinctual and effective ways of discharging any activation that arises from trauma triggers. Drumming is particularly satisfying to dance to as I find it helps us move from the waist down (where lots of the trauma happened). When you dance with kids, you don't care what you look like (or is that just me?) so it is safer to explore what our bodies want to do.
If your voice is telling you to scream, or grunt or roar you can do it and chances are your kids will think it is awesome!
BONUS: You are modelling to your kids how to regulate their nervous system through movement and vocalization.
5. Get in the tub, the pool, the lake, the stream, or the ocean!
Water is amazing. Everything quiets in the water and sensations become less overwhelming. The water holds everything for us, and carries our suffering with us. Plus, kids love the water. If you do not fit in the tub with them or they are to old to bathe with, put your kids in there while you soak your feet and drink some tea.
BONUS: Your kids will be entertained while you get yourself together.
5. Get outside, or connect with nature.
From planting your feet barefoot in your yard, to rubbing the leaves of an indoor plant with your fingers, or sitting under the shining sun, you will find grounding from nature's pleasant sensations. This can be a very subtle and easy way to ground when you are nursing a small baby.
In general, it has been my own experience that we have a tendency to want to be swept away by our overwhelm, to go back and re-experience the trauma and find some resolution. However, the best way to cope with triggers when you are not in the place or time to actually get into healing work, is to ground in the here and now.
Wishing you courage and pleasure,