If you’ve experienced something painful in your life, such as a loss or infertility, you know how annoying triggers are. They bring up painful memories from the past, often causing you to feel like you’ve lost control of your emotions.
It’s common to experience triggers around the anniversary of your baby's due date, while passing the clinic where you had fertility treatments, or around celebrations like Mother's Day or even your own birthday.
I’d love to help you to understand what causes triggers so that you can send them on their way when they appear.
What causes triggers
Triggers occur as a result of the associations we’ve made in our mind with an experience, place, person, etc—especially if that experience (place, person, etc) left a strong imprint on us. You can think of the experience (or the stimulus which becomes a trigger) as neutral. It’s the association that we make with it that’s positive or negative.
An example of a positive trigger is seeing a commercial of your favorite restaurant. The association you've made with that restaurant is one of positive memories: good food, laughter with friends, a sense of community or belonging. The stimulus (mention of the restaurant) would then trigger those positive emotions and memories.
So again triggers on their own are neutral: the dates on the calendar, the clinic, seeing another pregnant person, etc...all neutral. It's the association our brains make with them or the story we tell ourselves about them that make them negative.
Here’s where your power comes in: By understanding the story you have about a trigger, you can completely disarm it. No joke! Here are the steps below.
Steps to Karate-Chopping Triggers
Step 1: Identify the trigger (ie the stimulus)
Step 2: Identify the story you're telling yourself
Step 3: Change the story to a more empowering one
Step 4: Each time the trigger shows up, remind yourself of the new story
Step 5: Over time, this process becomes more effortless. Eventually, that stimulus either creates no emotional response or it may trigger a positive one instead
Let’s Break These Steps Out with An Actual Example.
Here’s the scenario:
A good friend sends you a text message with a picture of a new baby bump. She’s pregnant for the second time after what seemed to be a very easy and uncomplicated pregnancy with her first. You’ve been trying to conceive for 3 years without success, including early miscarriages. You love your friend and you want to be happy for her, but damn life is unfair!
Sounds a little familiar? Here’s how to knock this one out!
Step 1: Identify the trigger: Your friend’s pregnancy announcement
Step 2: Identify the story you're telling yourself:
Her body is working for her and mine isn’t working for me
She has her life all together and I don’t + I’m so far behind everyone else from college who seem to be pushing these babies out without issues
She’s so happy and glowing. I’ll never be truly happy until I have a baby
[I know that those might have been heavy, but karate-chopping triggers means that we have to be able to really see what we're aiming at.]
Step 3: Change the story to a more empowering one:
I’m learning so much about what my body needs to be in balance. I’m already on my healing journey and I know that it’s just a matter of time before I conceive and gift birth to my beautiful baby
My journey is different from my friend's journey. It has to be different because I am different. I don’t know why my journey involves infertility, but I know that I’m growing from it. I know that it has taught me so much about self-love and self-compassion. I know that this journey will help me to become a stronger mother. And in the end, I’ll have a more interesting story to tell :)
A baby will absolutely make me happy, but there is so much joy that I can cultivate right now. My happiness doesn’t need to be delayed. I can be happy now and later
Step 4: Each time the trigger comes, remind yourself of the new story: Each time you interact with your friend or see a pregnant person, remind yourself of the new stories that resonate the most. Add to them or change them to keep them fresh and effective. It also helps to keep something that reminds you of that new story such as a piece of jewelry or gem.
Step 5: Over time, this process becomes more effortless. Eventually, that stimulus either creates no emotional response or it may trigger a positive one instead: You’ll either not be negatively affected by seeing a pregnant person, or they’ll serve as a reminder that you too are on your pregnancy journey and your baby will be here in only a matter of time.
When we change the story, we get to take control over what's happening in our mind and the reaction occurring in the body. And the bonus is that by eliminating the emotional distress caused by triggers, we're promoting emotional balance which creates a healthier environment for fertility and pregnancy.
Need Some Additional Resources & Support?
The Preparing for Pregnancy After Loss Podcast, Ep 4: I share more about triggers, including how I overcame being triggered by seeing pregnant people soon after my pregnancy loss. The healing I've done around this now allows me to support people who are pregnant and trying to conceive as the core of my work. Listen to the episode here.
The Birth Warrior Tribe: I had a great session with our Birth Warriors earlier this month in our Facebook group and workshopped (in real time!) some of the common triggers they experience. In case you missed it, log into Facebook and watch the replay here! Not yet a member of the Birth Warrior Tribe? Join us here. And if Facebook has been a tough trigger for you, RSVP to join Birth Warrior Wednesdays on Zoom every Weds at 12PM ET.
1:1 Session with Me: If you’d like 1:1 support and guidance in your healing and to prepare for your mind and body for pregnancy, book a complimentary call with me here. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain. Whether or not working with me is right for you, you’ll leave the call knowing what steps you should be taking on your fertility or pregnancy journey.
Sending all the love!