Womb Prints: Trauma and Pain Stored in the Womb (Part 2)

The womb space, like the rest of our body, acts as a messenger. It lets us know when it’s unhappy- when we’re unhappy. More than that, it lets us know if we feel safe- to express ourselves, to let go, to enjoy, or even to simply feel.  It lets us know when there is an emotional conflict or imbalance within us. The womb space is an energetic bowl or container, and like these vessels, it holds the ‘water’ of our emotions. It holds imprints of our emotional and relational history- what I like to call ‘womb prints’.

The womb and heart are connected, in that they are emotional and relational energy centres in the body. But they have their differences. The womb centre is more connected to our sexual, sensual, ‘animal’ self. It is instinctive and develops at an earlier stage of childhood. One could say that the material stored here can be buried a bit deeper in the unconscious than our heart’s wounds, which could have to do with cultural biases. I think the material we carry here is often related to childhood trauma, early attachment, and/or sexual trauma. Also, when we carry a baby in our womb, epigenetic studies have shown that the mother’s emotions and traumas can leave an imprint on the baby.

This post is ‘Part 2’ of ‘Womb Prints: What are you carrying in your womb space?’ which introduced the womb as container and asked us to investigate the nature of the emotional ‘water’ we are carrying in there through simple exercises.

In this post, we will go a little deeper into exploring possible scenarios and histories that can leave us with womb prints that can create unhealthy energy patterns and manifest as illness or physical symptoms. For me, this is an exploration, and an area of questioning and reflection. I am not an expert, just an observer and learner- from my own experience, those of others and books and articles on these topics.

I feel it’s important to note that my suggesting these correlations in the following scenarios does not mean that I believe every time we have a physical symptom or disease that a previous trauma or emotional wound is the cause. Even if it was, it should not negate the validity and physical nature of the illness- healing support must be accessible to patients. I don’t believe victim blaming does any good. Mental health and physical health should both be taken seriously. There are resonances, and observed connections between traumas, emotional pain and health. But do not misconstrue this with a victim blaming perspective that the physical pain or illness you experience is emotionally-driven hysteria, your fault for not being ‘well’ enough, nor that mental health is any less valid than physical health.  It seems these days there is a lot of misunderstanding between all these things, but that could be whole other post.

What I am talking about here is possible emotional + physical resonances. Curiosity about the relationships between our emotional experiences. Intergenerational legacies, past life experiences and our embodied experience. I believe body, mind, emotion and spirit are all connected and influence each other. But I don’t think it’s that important to assign ‘cause’ to one level of being, and ignore the others, because usually there is something  happening on all levels. Notice patterns, and let that inform the healing process.

For parents: we are human, and if we have passed down wounding to our offspring, guilt and shame are not very helpful. We must foremost take responsibility for our own healing and hold respect and love for our offspring. We do our best to take care of the next generation. We can only do our best in this moment. We take this awareness and decide what to do with it.

Now, let’s explore some possible scenarios that may resonate with the experience of pelvic pain, difficult periods, a womb health issue, or issues around fertility, pregnancy, birthing, sexual health issues or relationship issues.

Intergenerational womb trauma scenarios:

This can be something we experienced as a baby in our mother’s womb that left an imprint on us emotionally. So, it is intergenerational- passed down to us, ours through osmosis.

What if your mother suffered sexual assault or any type of abuse during her pregnancy? You may have absorbed the impact of this on her womb and internalised some of her fear and pain as your own. Now, perhaps you subconsciously fear men or sex. You may be unable to have your own fulfilling relationships due to mistrust. You begin to feel shame or guilt about this, and feel that something must be wrong with you. Nothing is wrong with you at all. You can’t help feeling this way, and it isn’t your fault. But there is a reason behind it and it had nothing to do with you. You picked it up in the womb from mom, and now experience life based on her trauma. This isn’t mom’s fault either, of course! It’s just the way that energy flows- like water, it flows downward until it is cleared.

What about our mothers or grandmothers who were pregnant during a war or political upheaval? Perhaps she didn’t know if she or the baby would survive, and lived in constant fear and anxiety. She may have not felt that it’s a good idea to bring a baby into the world. Maybe she gave birth in a very traumatic way or unsafe conditions. The impact of that leaves an imprint on baby. Baby grows up and is afraid of loud noises, lives in anxiety and doesn’t know why. As a grown-up they are experiencing infertility or are unable to carry a baby to term. There is an underlying trauma passed down affecting their life today. Again, not mom’s fault, or anyone’s. But the originating trauma creates a cascade effect that can go all the way down to great grandchildren and needs addressing in order for the pain to be healed.

Present-day womb trauma scenarios:

If intergenerational effects weren’t enough, we have plenty of ways our womb may be carrying pain from our own experiences in life. Rape-culture, oppression and governmental control over abortion rights are examples of social stresses that we may carry in our womb space. If we can’t feel free to dress or express ourselves without threat, live in a culture that normalises objectification of our bodies, or don’t feel we have the rights over our own bodies, how can we not have a womb space imbalance or womb health issues?

Our tender sensuality, sexuality and sense of body-sovereignty are contained within our womb-space- if that feels under threat in any way, it will recoil, contract, rebel or yell for our attention through symptoms of pain, illness or imbalance.

One more example of womb prints includes loss- Perhaps you have had a miscarriage or multiple miscarriages or a child loss in the past. You are actively trying to get pregnant and having difficulty. The imprint of your past losses is still being held energetically in your womb space, blocking the possibility of new life, because the pain isn’t fully processed yet. The grief may need to be processed, cleared and the womb space renewed before conception can occur. A pregnancy following such loss can feel challenging. You may not readily want to bond with the baby for fear of losing them. This can affect your relationship with them through life. It is important to be compassionate towards yourself, and perhaps seek support from a therapist in conjunction with embodiment work when there is trauma history such as this.

Childhood trauma scenario:

A childhood trauma can affect us in present-day intimacy issues in relationships. For example, a parent may have abandoned you and your family, leaving you to wonder if perhaps you are unlovable or it was somehow your fault? Perhaps you now attract partners who are emotionally unavailable or non-committal, triggering your abandonment fears. You crave a secure, loving attachment, but instead keep attracting abandonment, triggering your past trauma. There is an underlying feeling of shame and guilt inside you that manifests as perhaps low self-esteem and so you seek pleasure through casual sex to fill the void. It feels safer because it doesn’t go deep enough to trigger your abandonment. But it isn’t truly what you desire, so this conflict between wanting commitment and getting short term pleasure may try to get your attention through contracting STI’s or experiencing pain during sex. Your womb stores this deep desire, and lets you know through various symptoms that there’s a disconnect between what you really want and what you are seeking to fill the void.

As I explored in my previous post “Ancestral Trauma, Gifts & Wisdom- Healing Our Tree“,  I feel that my endometriosis is at least in part a manifestation of an energetic imprint from my family lines of women who suppressed their creativity, true desires and child-loss grief for too long, over too many generations, in the name of duty, the work that needed to be done, and to remain ‘good’ in the eyes of the church. Hard-working, faithful, ‘good catholic women’ who had many children, but didn’t have the freedom to live their truth. Perhaps I was one of them in a past life, or lived similarly. And now it’s time to change the pattern.

The symptoms, illness and the pain, are messengers of your deeper truth, which is longing for expression. Your unhealed wounds. Your inner child. The womb centre’s energy needs to flow. It needs to move. Its job is to help you process and release the past, and birth new ideas and creations into the world.

 

The examples above are just possibilities and there are a myriad of other scenarios of womb prints that block us from our flow.

I feel like there is a Part 3 coming on this subject, specifically to address healing, so I will leave this here for now and see what wants to be expressed on this topic later…

If you are reading this and interested in healing your womb space, please check out my offerings at Willowroot Healing Arts!

 

Womb Prints: What Are You Carrying in Your Womb Space? (Part 1)

The origin of the word ‘pelvis’ comes from the words: basin, container, goblet, vessel, bowl and cup in various languages. The pelvis contains our pelvic organs and has a bowl-like appearance. It holds, contains, carries and protects the tender organs inside, including the womb, and our other reproductive/sexual organs.

The ‘womb space’ is another way I refer to the womb and pelvic area in general- in an energetic sense. Not all of us have uteruses and ovaries, but we all have an energy centre here. Like the pelvic bowl holding and containing our tender organs, the womb space holds and contains our tender feelings, creativity and sexual urges. If we are pregnant, it holds, protects and interacts with the baby. In relationships, it holds the energy of the bond and its intimacy.. 

What I call the ‘womb space’ is akin to the Sacral Chakra in Yoga. In sanskrit, it’s called Svadhisthana, meaning ‘in one’s abode’. The element of this pelvic energy centre is water. The emotions and sexuality are synonymous with water, as fluids are released when we cry, give birth, menstruate, make love or orgasm.

So, our pelvic bowl/womb space are essentially holding ‘water’ energetically. This begs the question: What is the quality of this energetic ‘water’ we are holding? Is it murky, sludgy and in need of release? Is it hot, boiling and frustrated? Is it warm, luscious and sensual? Is it cold or frozen? Stagnant or flowing?

I ask myself these questions on a near daily basis- when I do my regular womb check-ins and my yoga practice. In the span of one day, I may get different feedback. I may have weeks or months of general stagnation, or frequent bouts of hot and boiling. Like the ocean, my womb flows in waves and cycles. And it definitely is attuned to the moon. If you menstruate, you may find your cyclical patterns to be more attuned to your hormones than the moon- everyone is different.

At some point in time, many of us may experience symptoms related to an imbalance or blocked energy in our womb space. This may manifest as:

  • Lack of inspiration/creativity
  • Sexual frustration or overdrive
  • Sexual disinterest or shutdown
  • Issues with emotional or sexual boundaries
  • Repeated toxic relationships
  • Guilt or shame around sexual orientation, gender, identity
  • Pelvic pain, cysts, disease
  • Painful, irregular or heavy periods
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Infertility, issues with pregnancy and birth
  • Low self-esteem
  • Frequent financial issues
  • Lower back pain
  • Unable to receive pleasure/ excessive pleasure-seeking

When we have symptoms of imbalance, we are likely carrying energetic ‘water’ that needs to flow or be cleared. We may have attachments to others that are toxic or unhealthy, or grief to let go of.  We may have had traumatic or negative experiences that left an energetic imprint on our womb (we will explore this in an upcoming blog on womb trauma), that we have yet to work through. We also may have an inner conflict that causes stress. 

How can we heal the womb space?

Each individual’s womb space is completely unique and requires a personalised approach to healing. There is no ‘one size fits all’ method. This is why I like to focus on one-on-one healing sessions.

But for starters, we can begin to just give ourselves the time and space on a regular basis to ‘check-in’ with ourselves. If we have any of those symptoms listed above, our womb has already been trying to get our attention.  

The best thing for it, it to give it that attention. I like to do a little check-in I call  ‘Womb Listening’ as part of my practice, and with clients. 

How to do ‘Womb Listening’:

Take a moment alone, in a peaceful environment. Lie down or sit comfortably, place your hands on your lower belly, and just breathe.

Slow down your mind, and just tune into your womb space. Some people like to play relaxing music in the background, or light incense or a candle. Do whatever makes you feel relaxed, calm and focused. 

Feel your hands resting on your belly, gently moving with the flow of your breath. It can be very subtle. Let your thoughts quiet. Think of your womb space as a wise, truthful, living entity of its own, that really wants to communicate with you.  Then ask your womb ‘what do you need right now?’

If you feel pain, allow for the pain to ‘speak’ and listen for an answer.

The womb space may not communicate through words, although you may ‘hear’ words- it also likes to move, bring an image to your mind, sing, or make sounds. Allow for it to communicate however it wishes to. Just be open to receiving it. Give it expression. 

Take in a deep breath and let whatever sounds that needs to come out, to come out on the exhale. Maybe it’s a big sigh, or an ‘ahhhh’ sound, or a grunt, yell or even a scream.

Maybe it wants a massage. Maybe it wants to shake, dance or to be completely still. Do you best to give it what it needs in the moment. Notice how doing that changes how you feel. 

Some people find automatic writing revealing. Hold a pen in one hand, and place the other on your womb, and let it speak through whatever words flow through you.

It may not happen right away. It may take days or weeks of practice, but eventually, it will speak and you will hear what it is trying to say. This is where the healing begins!

 

 

Ancestral trauma, gifts & wisdom: Healing our tree

My Memere passed away this past fall, just shy of her 99th birthday. She was my last living grandparent. Born in October 1919 in St.Leon, Manitoba, she gave birth to 6 children, one of which died as a baby. Her and my Pepere worked hard, making a life out of a stubborn plot of land through the harsh prairie winters. They hunted, fished, trapped and farmed more or less their whole lives, raised their kids, made the best life they could with what they had. They faced life’s challenges with a buoyant sense of humour, and devoted spiritual faith. They gave my mom life, and therefore made it possible for me to be here, and therefore my daughter, and so on.

When my grandma passed, I got a bunch of her old photographs, genealogical records, and some funny collages she put together. She was quite the scrap-booker. She was very thorough with recording every birth and important life details of her life, her ancestors and her descendants. On top of that, the church also has kept excellent records so I have a lot of info about my mother’s lineage. More on that later.

One of her writings I came upon made me think about a subject that is often on my mind, part of my own healing journey and the work I do. Intergenerational trauma, healing- and the sacred feminine.

I am not the best at french-english translation, but roughly, she speaks about how important recording our geneaology is. Because how else would we be able to know about our ancestors’ accomplishments, or their struggles? It also keeps us accountable. Once we have children, our name is remembered, and with that so are our faults and good qualities. Our actions have repercussions; You never know how your bad behaviours can manifest or what repercussions they may have; and equally, you never know just how far the good work you do will reach down the generations- all the work you did to make the leaves on the family tree beautiful to be enjoyed by those down the line.

You may have read the articles floating around about how on a biological level, we hold imprints of the memories of our grandmother simply from living in her womb. Our mother carried us as an egg in her ovaries while developing in grandma’s womb, and so, we were in grandma’s womb too. Our genes can mutate based on our foremothers’ experiences.

And so, we must ask ourselves, what are those imprints? What traumas and gifts are being passed down to us? And, are we making the family tree more beautiful and healthy with our actions in this life? Or are we weakening it?

The legacy of our ancestors includes traumas, but it also brings us gifts, and wisdom. We need to use the gifts we were passed down and the ones we cultivated ourselves, to heal ourselves and our line.

I have seen spiritual healers about my endometriosis and done my own spiritual investigations on it. For me, it’s a lot of past life imprinting and generational stuff passed down, rather than events from this life. There are studies that show that women with endometriosis often have a history of sexual abuse or assault.  One could argue that most women have this in their history- either their own or in their lineage, yet they don’t all have endo.  Endo also begins in utero, long before birth. There’s more to it than what happened to us in childhood. 

There are many health issues that are more likely to manifest when there is trauma history. As the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) test scores show, common illnesses we experience today are traced back to how many of these childhood traumas are in your background. My ACE score is fortunately, pretty low. But ACE tests don’t factor in past life stuff, nor intergenerational or collective wounds.

Most women struggle with their relationship with their femininity, or their reproductive organs in general, so perhaps not only personal trauma, but the collective feminine wound can manifest through illness in many of us.

To be clear: I don’t support the mindset of there being a spiritual cause of disease- because it does more damage than good to a lot of us- it negates the very structural, biological nature of the disease which is laid down in utero. We do not choose, or cause disease to happen. It happens to us, but our work is to heal it through whatever means we choose or have available.

Some schools of thought in our victim-blaming culture like to take these resonances between trauma and disease- which aren’t our fault, and assign them as emotional or spiritual causes which then puts shame and pressure on individual women to fix their ‘issues’ and ‘emotional problems’ because that’s the root of why they are sick. But blaming young women (endo shows up at puberty for many) for the personal traumas or collective wounds they may carry, or for simply having a physical disease does not help anything, in fact it does more harm. It gives the already patriarchal medical system an excuse to not take our disease seriously enough to invest in it, and feeds into the archaic yet common ‘female hysteria’ notions that I do not support in any way.

Trauma and illness are often connected, and I believe past lives and heritage can also be involved. But sometimes they aren’t and self-blame doesn’t do any good.  Personal responsibility for taking steps towards healing ourselves, and social & governmental responsibility for doing the research, funding, and giving us the supports and medicines required is key. We’re all in this together.

 Trauma and illness are things we must accept, and work through for those we leave the planet to after us- whether they are our blood descendants or the next generation. Because what we don’t heal, we pass down. And, if you believe in re-incarnation, you just might end up paying for your mistakes in your next life as your own great-granddaughter!

Healing ourselves heals those who came before and those who come after us.

Collectively, women are suffering. But they are also healing and shaking things up. Women are working together, now and through time, working on our own healing, and that of our foremothers.  We are collectively nourishing our trees by waking up to our own self-worth. We can’t spend our time blaming others, or blaming trauma as something outside ourselves. We need to take what we are given and work through it. We can only do our best with what we have at any given time. We need to be compassionate to ourselves, find the right supports and remember that our foremothers were resilient as f*ck and that’s why we are here!

I think about my great-grandmother- my memere’s mom- who had 16 children and several did not make it to adulthood. I think about the losses she felt and how that was imprinted on her womb, and on my memere’s, my mom’s, mine.

I think about her grandmother, who was of Ojibway-Scottish descent, born in Michigan, first married a Metis man and then a voyageur, and moved to LaFontaine on Georgian Bay, Ontario. She and her husband were part of a Metis settlement there. She later in old age picked up her life and moved to St.Leon Manitoba with one of her sons and died there in her 80s. She spoke french, english, cree and michif.  Her son continued to raise his children in Manitoba, a devout catholic, musician, a man with hope for the future.  I think about colonisation, and how it lives in my blood. Cultural and spiritual suppression and erasure, white-passing, internalised guilt and shame. My settler history- Scottish, English and French, their struggles, their ignorance, their racism (internalised and externalised), the things they did to survive. I have so many questions for them.

I think about the mothers fleeing war-torn countries while pregnant, and grandmothers who survived the Holocaust. Mothers who took their own lives, mothers and grandmothers’ silent struggles that we now can put a name to, and recognise.

I think about my Scottish great-grandma (pic below) on my dad’s side, born in Glengarry, ON. who died of Spanish flu at the age of 24, the very day her husband came back from the war, leaving their two young sons motherless. Her husband put his sons in an orphanage, because that’s what fathers did. He too, was raised in an orphanage with his brother because he lost his mother. Suspiciously, both his mother and his stepmother mysteriously disappeared. They have no death certificates. What kind of imprints did that leave on our tree?

Paternal great-grandparents Charles William Oakley and Sarah McGillivray

Nobody’s family tree is all light and love and thriving. We’ve all got some nasties eating away at the leaves, rotten roots, old, broken branches and maybe a parasite or two. Whatever tree we are part of, we can only do our best with the branches and roots we are given. How much energy we give is up to us. Some of us may feel the weight of a sick tree more than others. But we must remember that we are all connected- here and through time. And all our trees eventually connect, somewhere.

As for the Sacred Feminine, I feel that my body, my womb and my heart, holds grief that isn’t even mine. I feel the lost babies and supressed dreams of my foremothers- who were creative, wild, and spiritual, having to make the necessary sacrifices to survive in a patriarchal world and make it possible for me to be here. They obeyed their husbands, accepted their limitations, paid homage to God, the priest, the church, the establishment. They did what they had to do, and their faith got them through. They found things that brought them joy, levity, laughter and strength. I am grateful to their sacrifices which brought me life, and for their resourcefulness, independence, devotion and resilience too.

But my healing lies in reclaiming the wild, creative and spiritual lifeline that they left un-tended. Moving through the constricting pain, guilt, and shame that was passed down helped me very clearly know and appreciate my freedom, my sensuality and my shamanic, direct-to-source spiritual inclinations.  I am pruning the tree, to create pathways of freedom where there weren’t before. And I don’t do this alone. My whole generation does this with me.

 

There are roots I need to tend and cut, re-direct, water, and nourish. Over time, the tree may, hopefully change, so it’s healthier for my daughter, my nephews and all those of the generations to come.