If you’re struggling like so many with the emotions of your fertility journey, please join me in an interview with Buffy Trupp, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Registered Clinical Counsellor, and believer in the power of mindfulness. Buffy “loves helping women get pregnant and stay pregnant!” I am very excited to share her knowledge and insight into how impactful emotional health and mindfulness is on this journey to healthy fertility and pregnancy. Buffy understands the need for a holistic approach to fertility health and pregnancy – an approach that includes mind, body, spirit and community. She knows firsthand how mindfulness as a fertility tool can bring great benefit and because of this, she created The Mindful Fertility Project.
Mindfulness is an awareness, both inside and out, of what is happening as it’s happening. This “what” can be anything from a physical experience or sensation, to a thought or emotion. Being mindful helps you engage in moment-to-moment living. Through daily, routine practice of mindfulness, you can transform the disruptive emotions of and influence your fertility journey by being open to all possibility.
The Healing Power of Mindfulness by The Mindful Fertility Project Creator Buffy Trupp
Elizabeth: Welcome Buffy! Share with us what led you to study the effects of mindfulness and stress reduction techniques on women longing to have children?
Buffy: I was in graduate school in San Francisco studying somatic psychology and practicing mindfulness. A friend who is an acupuncturist was working primarily with women struggling to conceive in her practice and we began to discuss the clinical applications for mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for women with fertility struggles. Based on all the research, and my own personal experience, I knew the practice of mindfulness would be extremely beneficial for women struggling to have children. So my friend introduced me to the medical director at Laurel Fertility Care and I began developing an adjunct mindfulness-based program in his fertility clinic, which had incredible success. The success of the program and the deep healing for the women who used it really grew my passion for this work.
Elizabeth: Why do you think it is that women blame themselves and feel ashamed for not being able to conceive?
Buffy: Generations of women have grown up in patriarchal, male-dominated cultures where they are conditioned to think of themselves as “less-than” and not deserving or worthy. This feeling of “less-than” or “shame” dominates the inner lives of countless women. We project this feeling(s) onto challenges of conceiving. Or, said another way, we believe challenges conceiving are the cause of our shame. But having difficulties conceiving is not the source of our shame, internalized beliefs about our worth are the source of our shame.
Elizabeth: Why do women go through years of failed assisted reproduction before they turn and trust their own inner wisdom?
Buffy: Our inner child does not want to risk losing her doctor’s/husband’s/mother’s/father’s/communities/culture’s approval, so internalizing limiting beliefs like “Infertility is a disease!” or “There is something really wrong with me!” is a form of loyalty [to the perceived outer authority] and emotional survival.
For our inner child, it feels safer to remain unsure about what to do and follow the doctor’s (the authority’s) advice.
Actualizing our full potential, aka, listening to our own inner wisdom usually means risking some form of rejection or criticism from the medical mainstream/family/husband/culture.
Elizabeth: What is the #1 reason women feel vulnerable, self-doubt, stress, fear and despair that they will never have a child?
Buffy: It has always been my experience that the love we long to give our yet-to-be-born children must be fully realized within ourselves.
When love for ourselves feels like it is in short supply, repressed, dependent on someone else or some future scenario, we are in an internal state of deficiency. This is when we feel self-doubt, fear, stress, despair. We feel cut off from life.
When the pain of desperately wanting and not having is the focus of our attention, we are in a state of deprivation. Of course, life is still a miracle in these times, but how do we open to it?
Opening to life, aka receptivity, is a powerfully healing state. Our entire reproductive system operates from a state of receptivity. When we feel lacking within, we don’t experience the fullness of life, and this state is reproduced throughout the body.
When we try and fill from without [outside of ourselves] that which is missing within, we actually deplete ourselves further.
It is a paradox. In mindfulness practice, awareness creates receptivity.
You have the power to receive all of yourself; all the vulnerability, self-doubt, stress, fear, despair and unmet longing.
Regardless of what you do – place your attention focus on the inner seed of openness you have inside of you. Leave no aspect of yourself out in the cold.
When we’re not resisting that this might not happen, ironically that is when we’re really open to life! ~Buffy Trupp
If you are longing or if you are in pain (physical or emotional), bring your breath and your attention right into the feeling, wherever it is in your body, and open to it.
- “Yes, it is OK, I can feel this. I can experience this,” say to yourself.
- “I am open to all of life – joy, and pain.”
- “I am receptive to ALL of life moving within me.”
Elizabeth: And how do they get out of that emotional place?
Buffy: We open to the miracle of life right now, while we are in pain. When we practice mindfulness, we place our attention, our focus on the inner seed of openness we have inside of us.
When we bring our attention, our focus to awareness happening within us, then the feeling of being orphaned from love, a state of deprivation, can easily be turned into a state of receptivity.
In the Mindful Fertility process, we begin each day allowing ourselves a state of stillness to open up to ourselves and take all of us in.
Throughout the day as we get busy, we try and pause and find the inner seed of receptivity within. We love and care for this seed. And nurture it with our kind attention.
Note from Elizabeth: Pause and consider a bit of coloring! Buffy shares that “Coloring is an opportunity to bring the line drawing to life. When you color, you immediately form a connection between the image and your body.
In fact, science supports the powerful effect of coloring. As soon as we begin to choose a color and start looking at the shapes, our awareness shifts into the right hemisphere of our brains – the visual, spatial, perceptive, intuitive and emotional side. Our brain produces calming alpha waves, our blood pressure goes down, our body releases endorphins and we experience a sense of well-being…”
Elizabeth: One’s beliefs about their fertility challenges can be unconscious. How does one bring them into consciousness to heal without this being a traumatic experience too?
Buffy: I define trauma, not as the event that happened, or is happening but how the organism responds.
Often times, we can’t open to the pain of the present, we aren’t receptive to the present, the present feels traumatic because our younger experiences of pain or vulnerability, from our childhood, overwhelmed us.
So we come to fertility challenges specializing in avoiding, denying, suppressing, and repressing our vulnerabilities – by engaging in numbing activities or by weaving narratives of blame and victimhood, and how something is wrong with us. We come to fertility challenges urgently and frenetically seeking relief from our vulnerability. The avoiding, denying, suppressing, repressing, numbing, etc., are what is unconscious and often hidden in the acts of repeated IVF attempts, deferring to the doctor, not taking responsibility for our fertile health, etc.
The felt sense, the inner embodied experience of receptivity, of being safe, of being a loving place to experience the present in (pain, vulnerability, shame, loss) – THIS is where the work is. It is the work of recovering our own inner Mother (a safe protector, a warm welcome, a reliable confidant, a true supporter, unconditional love).
In the Mindful Fertility process, we become the safe, mature woman/Mother who can comfort the scared child within us, so vulnerability and pain are a source of aliveness, comfort and connection.
This is the practice of mindfulness!
Buffy Trupp, MA, LMFT, RCC is a therapist and an educator on the art of mindfulness based stress reduction.