Coping with pregnancy loss: Interview with Buffy Trupp of The Mindful Fertility Project


I have with me Buffy Trupp who is the founder of The
Mindful fertility Project. I’m so excited to have you on here today. We’ve talked
before and I just love your energy and I think we have so much to talk about so
can you give the audience a bit of an introduction on what you do and your
background? Thank you so much for having me, wonderful to see you again, Rishma.
Yes, so I am a psychotherapist and I’ve worked with women struggling to conceive
for over 15 years. Yeah I started in San Francisco in fertility clinics and now I
have an online business. Amazing and you also have this wonderful coloring book
that I wanted to point out that I love and I’ve been recommending it so I think
it’s a really great way to kind of really connect in the moment and help
relieve stress and I think that’s part of what we want to talk about
specifically today stress related to loss and so maybe we can start by just
explaining what we want to define loss as for the people who are
listening and then we can maybe jump into a discussion around that. Yeah,
thanks so much so Rishma, one of the biggest themes that I see in my practice,
I see a lot we have a lot of discussions in my practice about life and fertility
and transformation but one of the biggest themes I see is women learning
about loss for the first time. They don’t have the tools we, of course, you know
we’ve never really been taught that loss isn’t wrong or that loss has to happen
for transformation. You know one of the biggest stories this was, a neat moment
recently, I went to see my favorite poet David White speak. Deep currents of
humanity, you know, come through that man but he said one thing he was talking
about the birth of his niece or nephew and the poem he read was you know really
spinned birth on its head and he’s like you know when as a child comes in
there’s sort of this like trauma the birth if you will you know and there’s a
real loss for the child. You know it’s like we’ve come out of you know we try
and define what that space is but we come out of this space into this life
you know of, where there’s suffering and where there’s pain and the
birth is painful actually and it’s a great loss for the child and I thought…
you know what a beautiful way of explaining how
we have kind of a one-sided view of loss that it’s wrong or it’s bad and that it
really shouldn’t happen. The stress of that belief is a lot of what I work
with women that are trying to have babies and that are having a
hard time Yeah, such an interesting perspective
because I do feel, I agree loss is not discussed. It’s sort of you know we
think it’s wrong. We shouldn’t be feeling that and in certain situations, I can
understand grief that’s associated with it but there are other situations where
we really take loss for granted so even as you mentioned the birth experience
which I think was a really interesting perspective, I’ve never heard that before
but I’ve worked with a lot of women who have felt a loss after delivering a
child so you know you think it’s supposed to be this beautiful experience
and you have this instant connection and this bond and you think you’re supposed
to just be happy but you also have gone through change, your body has gone
through a change, your identity has gone through a change, your history especially
for women who have gone through a fertility challenge, everything is
different and they almost feel like things are very different which is hard
to process and there could be feelings of loss, of that independence, of that you
know, all of a sudden someone is dependent on you and we don’t really
talk about that emotion I think enough because a lot of women experience it but
we don’t feel comfortable mentioning that that’s what we’re going through. You
got it, right. There’s a stigma about it and then we think that it’s going to
harm our chances of conception, right. I also see it a lot, well going through the
trying to conceive process and then after we give birth, right. Yeah huge
identity changes, a lot of loss, freedom, independence and it’s the type of loss
you don’t go back from like real loss, like things have changed permanently for
you right and I think that with struggles conceiving as well you know
are these ideas about what we think this process is going to be like and
what it means. Those are just annihilated and so you know the
the loss of innocence really about you know conception and intimacy and is all
and who we are as women and our you know our purpose is really
shattered and I think in some ways in a good way like we get to really
re-examine those in the process that I work with women in let we get to really
redefine who we are and what our purpose is, same thing when you become a mom same
thing when you have challenges conceiving, same thing when you lose a
parent, it’s part of the life journey but I find like just some skills because we
haven’t really been taught this it’s like you know this no, you know I
get a lot of it no this isn’t normal or good. Yeah there’s a lot of, I find shame
and self-doubt as well like I shouldn’t be feeling this or what’s wrong with me,
something is wrong with me especially in the area of trying to conceive although
even with loss of a family member, a parent or a child like you almost feel
like there’s something wrong with you you should just move on, you should just
you know grieve and then everything should be okay but it is the permanent
change. It’s part of your history. It’s part of your person. It’s part of your
ideal, your thought process even if we take out the person, the loss
of a person even if you just take out the loss of an ideal so you know I would
thought I was gonna have children at 20, I thought I was gonna have children by
30, even that shift of who you are, that is a loss that you have to move
on from. I have a lot of clients too who are wondering you know I’m almost 40, is
this a path for me? Should I try or should I not try? And so even those
emotions I find are in the similar realm where you’re losing an ideal or
you know a path that you thought was maybe for you and maybe now it might not
be. So I went to this great business talk recently, this is relevant. And the
woman’s talking about innovation, how we have to every three and a half years now
we really have to you know innovate in the business world. I think it relates to
most of us right in this world so the cycle the sigmoid
curve of like you know growth and you know when we have to transform to stay
in the market has shortened significantly right and she what she
said was she’s like she asked the crowd she that’s how many of you like changed
because she’s talking about innovation and change you know one like half the
crowd put up their hand but because I am in the work that I’m in, I kept my hand
down I like, you know I like adventures too but I understand my father died this
year. I understand like, thank you yeah change that you can’t you know sort of
come back from, the loss of innocence, I wanted to have a child at 20 right.
Someone told me the birth control pill would regulate my cycle, the food I’ve
been eating you know that that I’ve told didn’t told as a standard American diet
right, but that.. but my physiology is reflecting those things
and it’s change that I potentially can’t go back from right, that type of
change nobody wants, right. Yeah, yeah. The brain,
what we know about the brain, that kind of change you know really triggers the
brain to start emitting you know go into sympathetic arousal and start emitting
signals that are like this isn’t good. The pattern shifting the brain doesn’t
work like that it works on familiar patterns of perception period and that’s
those patterns of perception than those neural pathways that it is built right
are what makes us feel like, oh we’re in balance right, you know what’s
happening and when that shifts and the pattern changes right, it’s deeply
disconcerting for our unconscious mind and it and it puts our brain on high
alert, there’s something wrong. but really all that’s happening
is like, oh we’re innovating, life’s moving it’s never changing like that. It never
stops. And those cycles as we know are
quickening so would you say I mean in my work it seems like over the last 15
years right we’re in a cycle of decreased fertility. It’s harder to get
pregnant. That’s none of our fault but because the pattern has changed, the
brain is saying, whoa whoa whoa whoa there’s something wrong and the
medical world is within a model of pathology. There’s nothing wrong
with that. It’s a beautiful resource in our world that we have Western
medicine and IVF treatments and things like that right but a pathological model
is inherently reiterating this you know like there’s something wrong. No, we’re
just you know, there isn’t anything inherently the body is absolutely
responding to its environment right there’s a lot of people on the earth.
It’s expensive to buy a home. We’re starting later. We’ve added synthetic
hormones about 40 years ago and they play a huge role, a lot of what I
talk about. You know and we’ve been I think under the perception that it’s
liberating, these things right yeah but we’re learning that you know
there’s a physiological response that it can be hard to go back from and
the brain is emitting signals like oh my goodness, oh my goodness, new pattern, new
pattern, danger. Yeah, it’s interesting when you say that I’m thinking about
when people go through either a loss or some traumatic experience even when
they’re younger and you sort of get into this familiar pattern of you know I
can’t trust the environment. I can’t trust you know people around me or I
can’t trust my body if you’ve gone through a struggle for many, many years
and you feel like your body has let you down. It’s like this familiar pattern
that your body almost gets stuck into, do you find that as well? Oh, beautiful!
Yeah, so the first part of my work is kind of like clearing out the present
with all of these ways we’ve been taught to think and perceive and believe
by kind people who are generally really do have our interest in mind
but we change and we learn new things about even what professionals
what we understand in medicine and what we understand in psychology right yeah
so we’re clearing these pieces that usually, we think are about having
struggles conceiving, we think they’re about the present but they’re actually
patterns of perception that we learned a long time ago about our body, about trust, about shame, and we learn that this really deep sense of there’s
something wrong isn’t really about what’s happening in the present, we learn
it’s it’s been taught to us from a very young age and for women it’s been talked
to us about our bodies, about our sexualities, about our power. Yeah,
absolutely. Yeah the most pervasive way of perceiving
that gets projected on to the present, I’m having a hard time. I know what
you mean because you see the world in a lens based on your
experience so you will approach the next event based on how you felt and
the last event and that’s actually protective, it’s good that your body does
that because it allowed you to get through the trauma that you experienced
but that doesn’t mean that the trauma is there currently right and I know in my
work, I work a lot with the physical piece. I’m not a counselor. I’m not a therapist
but I see this every single day and talk to people about their emotions all the
time but I always love to work with someone like yourself who works with the
emotions because people need tools to have to be able to recognize those
patterns so that they can break out of them and I find at least in my practice
a lot of it is around control. You know, you want to be able to control your
environment, you want to be able to control your thoughts, you want to be
able to control your life path and your destiny and so because I work with the
physical, people come in and say oh I have to take ten different supplements
and I have to do this and have to do that and yes all of those
things have good research behind them and yes I know the physiology and I can
explain that but you don’t have to do all the things because that’s just a
matter of controlling everything that’s around you, you’re not gonna get the same
response if you can’t also then connect your
mind-body together. Yeah so one of the things we work out and it’s an
interesting it takes a little bit of work is like what’s from the past?
What’s present grief and they’re very different. They feel different.
What’s an idea from the past like there’s something wrong and what’s
happening in the present which is, say let’s take a common example, you know my
endometrial cells are going outside of my uterus, for example. That is happening.
I’m not in denial and I’m looking into that and I usually look to medicine
for that, great way of using thinking to problem-solve right but at the same time
I’m doing that, I’m looking at you know what’s this brain just used to patterning
in this way, saying that there’s something wrong? Could I look into
endometrial cells growing outside of my uterus wholeheartedly without this older
pervasive pattern of perception that there’s something wrong? That’s kind of
radical. I’m not denying that there’s endometrial cells growing
outside of my uterus and I’m going to a specialist who knows a lot about that
but I’m also recognizing there’s this something wrong piece you know
that’s more past-oriented but to do that to take there something wrong
off of endometrial cells growing outside of my uterus, that’s real right then I
have to sort of then I hit grief. It’s like because there’s something wrong
blocks just like then I have to go into like oh my god right and below that is
this deep well of grief, there’s endometrial cells growing outside of my
uterus and that’s such a harder thing to do for all of us. It feels like
resignation. It feels like I’m giving in and
actually what I found is it’s immensely liberating to grieve actual
reality while it’s happening it’s enlivening and the physiology
responds to that enlivening process so it’s a little bit of a jump. You have to
take the past out of the present. You have to understand it as the past and just
perceptional perceptual ways of relating to reality that we’ve been taught and
are deeply ingrained and are largely unconscious. They come to view when
endometrial cells are growing outside of the uterus, the medical world will
also believe there’s something wrong so it gets really sticky. Again I’m not
saying that we don’t go into the medical world and look at them – we do
that. No, I understand what you mean, it’s more of accepting or understanding
where you are and then not blaming yourself or not feeling like there’s
something wrong with you but just really feeling really being present with where
you are. Being present with that is what’s happening and then we have to
grieve. You have to grieve the environment. We have to grieve
inflammation. We have to grieve there’s a lot of things we have to
grieve that early perception right potentially synthetic hormones right
because endometrial cells growing outside of the uterus, you don’t exactly
know right yeah but we understand the component, some of the components of it
and they’re more sort of environmental toxin-related, you know nutrient-related,
synthetic hormone-related, estrogen cycles like that and those
are big patterns that everyone is really working with right now, the world in
terms of you know understanding what the toxins do to our bodies, what
the food is doing to our bodies, what these synthetic hormones are doing
to our bodies. Yeah absolutely and there are so many treatments that can
help but you also have to know who you are and deal with the emotions that are
associated with that and there is so much
history with endometriosis, with endometrial cells because of all of the
history of potential pain or you know all of that stuff that women have to go
through and maybe being discounted by you know other people or well you’re
just a woman or what you know whatever it is that they have gone through. Yeah.
We have to grieve all of this. This is what I mean by loss that it’s so a
lot of you generally in this positive process, it’s so pervasive and if
we really kind of go into it and tackle it right or really feel it right there’s
deep insight there’s deep liberation there’s a deep feeling of wellness right
and we there’s a there’s definitely a forgiveness process that we go into, self
others, you know, our culture in 2019 for example right, what we thought was
liberating 40 years ago. We have to grieve and in that grieving process, we
come to terms with it and it gives us just a whole bunch of clarity about
now and that is the clarity that from a psychological perspective, I’ve
seen women make huge shifts. Oh yeah, me too for sure. What are your thoughts on
helping women move from the past to the present and then into the future because
I do find, I mean endometriosis is one great example but there’s also other
examples where say a woman has lost her parents and she’s trying to conceive and
now she’s wondering what her legacy will be, you know like as an example or in
other situations where they’ve had you know a miscarriage or something how do
you help women, what are some tools that you can I guess suggest or use for them
to move through that grief, deal with that grief and then also look to their
future? Yeah so the main tools that I use are dialogue, mindfulness
so a technique that is focusing attention so we begin to differentiate
the lens from reality. We’re not trying to get rid of the lens,
impossible or people say the thinking, impossible but we are
differentiating it from reality so as we start to do that, we
liberate the past from the present and we see these as just lenses, not true,
not untrue, just simply lenses, we’re always needing making machines right and
we bring our attention to focus more into the reality of the moment and the
part of us that can, that has a relationship with the reality of the
moment and we take the judgment off of what’s happening and when we do that, we
often have a whole bunch more choice. We see things in a different light.
We’re not feeling as stressed in that we’re not personalizing reality,
“there’s something wrong with me”, “this is my fault”. I mean that’s deeply
liberating for women. Yeah can I just reiterate that point cuz I see this so
often and I feel like this is a key piece for anyone listening where we have
an emotion but it’s not a right or wrong emotion. We can’t judge that
emotion is wrong or right because we do have a lot of “I should be doing
this” or guilt that’s associated with that. That could be in a trying
to conceive journey. It could be in a motherhood journey. It could be in a
relationship and if it’s I should have done this or I should behave this way or
I shouldn’t feel that way, that judgment I find in and of itself is very
detrimental to the way we then proceed after feeling that emotion. That was
maybe a perfectly fine emotion just you know we have to deal with it in a
different way or think about it in a different way. You got it. The emotions
are are part of the lens right yeah and so if we’re should’ing, there’s some lens
there right because reality, whatever is happening is not there’s no should’ing
right that’s our, that’s our piece I mean reality is happening and it’s unfolding
constantly right, generally in ways that are you know toward,
I mean there’s the, here’s the lost part there’s cohesion but there’s also
pulling apart you know and they’re both essential to growth right then reality
is always unfolding like that you know we’re never going to avoid that you know
maybe that was back to the control thing because we think of our lives as a
trajectory right but anytime there’s great global change like right now,
you’re seeing the coming apart for the new thing right and part of it is our
fertility, you know a part of that coming up apart process. I mean you can
look, even look at it, it’s another lens right and in this work we don’t choose a
more positive lens that’s not we’re not in that game you know but there’s lots
of lenses that you could look at it through is more of the work that I do
right and taking responsibility this is the hard part when so much has
then when other people’s lenses medicines lenses or nutrition lenses or
what we’ve been taught to eat and think and you know we feel like we haven’t had
much agency around or control of, they’re just taught to us and we’re replicating
them. When we get that control back like hey you know and that’s that’s a
maturation process that goes along with loss right. It’s like, oh hold on you know
I actually have as a child I didn’t but now I can actually see the lens and then
I can take responsibility for the lens that I’m looking through. Yeah, absolutely.
There’s a lot of self-awareness too that comes from that because I talked so much
to women about nutrition and various things, there’s a lot of self-awareness
that comes I’m not into fad diets and you know
those types of things because I feel like they’re very often restrictive but
also not long-term in terms of change or health. We’re just looking at bringing
better health and not judging the moments when you’re not doing what we
should. There’s more shoulds in my field as well and so I feel like there’s
a lot of self-awareness, you know what makes me feel good, what makes me feel
less good, what helps me with my emotions, what doesn’t help me with my emotions,
what brings me towards positive change versus what holds me back, you know so
those types of that type of awareness I think is really
and as well. Bingo. When do I have choice is another way that I thought that and I
choose to eat that or not eat that in this moment right and is that more like
because I should or is that more because it like really brings me clarity and
vitality and it feels good and my inflammation goes down and I noticed
that for me. The other person, you know someone else that doesn’t do that for
but for me right yeah choice and this is what this process brings so much more of
so it’s not so much about shoulds anymore or what the doctor have said
necessarily although I’m consulting with you know doctors that understand right
but I’m bringing it. I’m taking responsibility to understanding what’s
clarity for me what is my minding right yeah what am i choosing in my life? You
know some people call it like finding my voice, some people call it maturing.
It’s hard one in this case, it’s hard one, it’s not easy but I I find most
people come to this when they’re really losing something that they value then we
start to really take a look like what it what is this, what am i doing with this,
whatever I’ve been taught, what are the lenses? And there’s that transformation but
lots of times, there’s birth that comes out of that. Yeah, yeah and there’s
so much growth. The baby or the next stage of my life with more
insight and wholeness or whatever it is. Yeah, yeah. I find that too when people
are very prescriptive where they’ve been told something that they
have to do in order to get pregnant. It’s like they just do it so that they can
get pregnant. They’ll deal with everything later but that process can
one, take a long time and two, can take a lot out of you and so I think there’s
that there is a give-and-take there’s a compromise that is there where you’re
doing something but you don’t want to do it such that you lose something from
yourself as well so you have to find that I think that choice piece is really
important and the knowledge and the empowerment and you know I feel like
it’s important to empower women to know you know what we’re going through and I
mean in men of course too but when we talk about trying to conceive, I feel
like a lot of the burden is placed on the woman where
she has to do all these things, to house the baby which is a lot of
pressure. Yeah and that clarity, that open space of clarity and being is
really hard to find. I just think of examples, you can think
of examples but I think of examples recently when I went to my doctor to get
an IUD and she was like oh here clearly there’s this, you
know because you’ll just, you won’t ever have a period again she said to me like
a bonus, right? I mean that’s a hard conversation to have for anyone.
I’m like, oh actually that’s not what I’m trying to do, not have a period again
like in no way am I like, I don’t.. why would anyone want to do that? And everyone’s different in their experience Contradicting your doctor, for example,
I’m like, that’s not my jam. You got anything else? She’s like, oh no one’s
ever you know ask me that question. I’m like, how about a copper IUD? We go there?
I think I could find you one of those you know like but and then the ob/gyn
who put it in was like I’ve never put one of these in, you know. Really? Never.
You know and I was like, hey we need to use you know look at the manual? He’s
like no, I got it. I think but for example that is hard to do as a person
to say no, thank you. I’ve done the research and you
know and it works for some people. I’m not suggesting everyone makes the
decision I make. No way. As long as you know what you need. Yeah. It was clear.
Yeah you know what’s the right decision for you. For me at the time and then
you’re always in that process of then paying attention, awareness. Does it
actually feel good? Does it work? Is there more inflammation?
Is there not? You know do I feel good and whole or do I have to adjust? Yeah right
absolutely. Yeah and then I could talk to have another conversation with her again
about okay, well what else? Yeah. Just an example of what we’re
talking about when clarity is there, when awareness is there, a sense of yourself
that’s whole, that there’s nothing wrong with you, you know but you have
endometriosis but there’s chronic pain. I mean really, you know a very challenging
rite of passage. Yeah absolutely. I’m saying I would wish on anyone and yet we’re there.
We’re there. This is the reality. How do I work on the clarity? How do I work
on the patterns of perception? How do I clear the past from the present so I can
really clear space or if it’s pain you know and my relationship to it. Yeah. Do
you have any ideas or suggestions, comments to anyone who might be
listening who is struggling with some of these things any you know suggestions
that they can do right now even if it’s just one thing that they take home or
take away from this conversation that they can just put into place right away.
Yeah so the biggest, most objective tool that I teach almost everyone but I don’t
discount it, it’s one of the most profound things I teach women who are
struggling to conceive is moving your diaphragm across the vagus nerve
consistently as a practice every day 20 minutes a day. The research says
if you do it for three weeks moving the diaphragm, making sure the
breathing is moving the diaphragm so its belly breaths, the diaphragm’s moving
across the vagus nerve, if you do that 20 minutes a day for three weeks, your state
will change. You’ll go from parasympathetic to sympathetic arousal,
fight/flight to the relaxation response. You can research it, Herbert
Benson, it’s out there. And it’s profound. The difference when you see the
state shift and the clarity for a minute you know it all comes tumbling back in
right I mean it does it’s not that then we have to do sort of like what’s
happening? We have to ask that question because we’ll go back and forth but when
the body shifts right into the relaxation response, it’s a different state
of reality and it’s a different place to work from. It helps you know pregnenolone
metabolize into progesterone and not cortisol. I mean there’s phenomenal
metabolic as you know significant outcomes right but it’s also a state of
mind that will shift. Yeah. If they do it and they get to it and they’re just like
oh my god I had no idea. Yeah I think what you’re saying is super powerful. I
just want to say it maybe in a different way so people so I know people
understand because some people will know the science pathways and some
people won’t so I’m just gonna clarify again cuz I think what you said is
really key and I think people don’t realize you know they’re told, oh deep
breathing, deep breathing. They don’t really get why or what that means so
when you talk about vagus nerve, that’s the nerve that’s really important for
the neurological pathways really important for fight-or-flight versus you
know rest and digest which i think is a term that a lot of people really relate
to and even this pregnenolone pathway that you refer to. Essentially
your body when it’s stressed, it sacrifices the hormones because it’s
like, well that’s not danger. I can live without that but I have to run away from
this lion in the jungle. I need to handle my stress and if I have to sacrifice
something, I will sacrifice hormones and so what you’re talking about
just to say it in a different way is if you bring your body out of that danger
zone by breathing deeply really moving that diaphragm which is underneath the
lungs, you’re breathing deeply in and out, you almost like trigger a
physical response in your body to cause a relaxation so your brain knows it’s no
longer in danger and then that causes a whole shift in
your mental function, is that sort of what you are this is how I explain it
usually. So beautiful. Oh thank you so much for joining me. I think this is a great and very
valuable conversation. Can you tell people where we can find you if they
want to connect with you again? Yeah so my website is mindfulfertilityproject(dot)com. That’s the best way, send me an email. Just say hi. Sign up for my blog.
Yeah, I’d love to talk. That’s great, I’ll link to it as well. Thank you so much for
joining me. Thank you, Rishma.

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