BIRTHFIT Podcast: Summit Series Featuring Rachel Tenpenny & Infant Loss Plan
BIRTHFIT Podcast: Summit Series Featuring RACHEL TENPENNY
Trigger Warning: Infant Loss
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:00:01] Am I on? Before we start we have to sort of make an internal commitment because the subject matter that I’m going to talk about today is a hard subject matter. It has taken me, which you don’t know but I know, is 10 years ago today not today 10 years ago this month my twin daughters Aubrey and Ellie were born. They both passed away in July but it was June 24th that they were born; a decade ago. It has taken ten years of me working in trying to find a platform that would let me be brave enough to actually talk about this to a room full of women who work with moms who are either trying to conceive, have conceived, or postpartum. A decade because nobody wanted to do it. But it took Lindsay. I called her and I said I think we need to be brave and she said ‘yes’. So it took a team effort like it wasn’t just me that got me here you know but I kept pushing and I finally found someone who said yes. And so now I’m here. So that was a decade ago. So we have to not only make the internal commitment that this is important information and we’re going to be brave enough to listen to it. But you also have to decide if you’re going to trust me on what I have learned what I’m going to teach you and what I have experienced over the last decade. Because part of my–my battle has been with the status quo. We have a lot of bad information out there.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:01:42] So I’m going to be talking about things today that are going to press against information that you already have that’s wrong that you probably don’t know is wrong. So this isn’t just about educating BirthFit. This is really about creating a cultural revolution on how we take care of moms when they lose babies. So it’s deeper than just this room. It’s about changing how we think as a culture, changing how we think as women to get better care and better support when women lose babies. We can define baby loss; basically if you’ve had a positive pregnancy test and that baby is no longer with you that is the loss of a baby. So we don’t have to get into the nitty gritty of you know which–how many weeks in which term and you know was it a miscarriage? Was it viable? Unviable? Did you have a terminal diagnosis? Did the baby live? Was it premature? What was the cause of death? Cid stillbirth? On and on. It can get so murky we can spend more time on trying to define you know life that we forget to take care of the grieving. So that’s my definition. If you had a positive pregnancy test but that baby’s not in your arms then thats considered baby loss. Even if you didn’t know but you found out later. That’s me before I cut my hair which was like just last summer. My sister was so mad at me. She’s like ‘really did I just get headshots of you and you chopped your hair off’; So sorry. So that’s my bio. You guys can read that later.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:03:27] Aubrey and Ellie were born in 2008, but I have two other children I have an older son and then a younger son. So my boys are alive and kicking and wonderful to raise and when people ask me how many children do you have my response is usually ‘I’m raising two boys’. In the early stages of my grief I would blurt out four and two of them are alive and two of them died and I’d give people the whole skinny. I felt entitled to making sure that my girls were not somehow lost. As I’ve evolved in my grief gotten stronger I feel much more comfortable now which is saying you know I’m raising two boys. Those are personal decisions that you evolve to depending on what your story is. There’s no right or wrong answer, but that’s what I say to feel true to my girls and true to myself and true to my boys. So part of why I’m here and actually I’ll talk about this a little. This is not my main focus today but I’m an entrepreneur. My sister and I started a company called TeaMotions back in 2011 after Aubrey and Ellie died with the sole purpose of creating a line of teas that are blended with herbs called ‘adaptogens’ that have real emotional well-being and stress support properties and their sole purpose was to help grieving moms. That has evolved into a full company and an entire line of teas that we market for stressed support for emotional well-being for helping people learn better self-care how to check in with themselves and so these teas are amazing and one of my frustrations as an entrepreneur is how much education is required to help people understand what it is we’re trying to do and just like what we’re doing today is not about education it’s about cultural revolution so is our company. You know, our teas are functional beverages. They’re not just–even though they’re very yummy. I have awards to prove it. They are highly functional adaptogen herbs are phenomenal. They are not new. They are very old. We actually have the former Soviet Union to thank for all of the real science that we have behind adaptogens. They Actually have properties that boost your body’s ability to cope and respond to stress of all kinds. They balance every system in the body. They are also safe, effective, and non-toxic which means are pregnant even for nursing–or safe even for pregnant and nursing moms. They’re amazing and we blend them in these beautiful teas so that you can combine the ritual of drinking tea with the actual medicinal benefits of these herbs. Everybody should be having a cup of this tea every single day. They’re also incredibly effective to integrate into your programs because not only does the nutrition and these benefits of the herbs are highly effective but the actual ritual of drinking tea shifts the wave lengths of your brain from beta waves into alpha waves. And if you understand her brain waves work, and I won’t give you a full science lesson, but beta waves are the brain waves that you function in most of the time especially in a stressed state. They are your quick thinking quick information absorbing brain waves that help you make decisions quickly, survive, Like these are just sort of your everyday get things done. type of brainwaves. When you are trapped in chronic stress though, especially if that chronic stress comes from grief, what they can do is they put you into a survival state which means you sort of can learn how to you know not die basically, but they prevent you from being able to have what’s called future thinking or forward thinking. Which means you really can’t think more than right now the decisions you have to make right now to stay safe to move forward with the next you know the little next step. When you move out of beta waves into alpha waves, it reintroduces the ability of your brain to think forwardly to understand concepts like hope or time or a future, to do functions like have introspection, have self awareness like this is sort of your more philosophical side of your brain. And then there’s gamma waves and theta waves and all these other waves and most of those are either sleeper meditation waves and there’s the science will blow your mind. I could teach you guys two hours on that alone but the ritual of tea pulling you from your a ways into your alpha ways allows you to absorb the information especially when you’re talking about philosophical concepts like mindsets heart set things like that, but it also allows you to function with hope. And if you don’t have hope, if you don’t have forward thinking, then you can’t change the way that you’re living. You can only survive you can never thrive. So the teas equip you to not just nutritionally support the shifts and changes that need to take place, but they actually adjust your brainwaves so that from a mental perspective you can actually conceptualize moving forward in a healthy way. Are you following me? All right.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:08:38] So I hope that just blew your mind. Hopefully you went from like beta waves to alpha waves. So that’s what we do and we sell them and we teach about them and you know I am incredibly proud of these teas and this is a huge part of Aubrey’s and Ellie’s legacy. And you guys all got samples and your bags. So you’d better drink ’em. And if you microwave them I’ll kill you. So use real hot water.
Audience: [00:09:04] [Laughter]
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:09:05] There’s a good question. So she asks can you drink them ice and hot? You can drink them both and they have the same nutritional benefits either hot or iced. I’d suggest to make iced tea actually use a cold brew method, so you take the looseleaf tea put it in room temperature water and stick it in the fridge for a couple of hours, pull it out, Strain it, and poured over ice and you’ll have the best tasting iced tea you’ve ever had. So when you use hot water to make tea, the heat pulls out the tannins in the leaf and that’s where sometimes you can get that astringency or bitterness from. Now the higher quality of tea you use the less astringency and bitterness you’ll get, but still that heat does pull the tannins out. So when you use just normal room temperature water and you have no heat applied to the tea at all you don’t get the tannins so you get this really smooth flavor and it’s very delicious. So okay. All right on to other things. This word is effectively just checking. It could be like code it could be Russian. We’re not sure but it’s effectively. So the point of me being here today is my goal is not to turn each one of you into therapists or grief counselors. That’s not the case. What I just want to help is to educate you so that you’re equipped to help effectively when one of your clients loses a baby. And the reason why that’s so important is because here are the stats. I wish that I could stand up here and say ‘we can you know prevent baby loss’ or you know or ‘it only happens to microscopic amount of people’ but it doesn’t. It happens to a lot more women than we even realize. So in this environment it’s not about if, but when. You will if you haven’t already–you will encounter infant loss and if you have already you will encounter it again and that’s a hard reality, but it is the reality. So this education is not really optional. If you want to be good at what you do, if you want to be effective in this space you have to have this education. You just have to. None of you sign up to do this and leave out the nutrition part or the mindset part or the chiropractic part or the fitness part. This is just as important, it just is. So here’s the stats. So these are national stats here just in the United States. They didn’t do worldwide. This is just first world country United States stats on that loss. One in five pregnancies end in loss. Thirty five percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage in the first trimester.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:11:55] Five percent in the second trimester. Stillbirth affects 1 percent of pregnancies. That’s about twenty four thousand babies a year. 15 million babies are born too early. That’s one in ten babies are born premature. Both my girls were born premature and that was essentially the cause of their death. I remember talking to a doctor and he basically said they died because they were born which is like makes your brain turn inside out and you just want to crawl in a hole because you can’t wrap your head around that. Approximately one million children die each year due to complications of preterm birth. I also tried to find more SIDS statistics but those were tricky too. That’s not even included in this.
Only thing that hurts worse than losing a child is losing your child and your tribe.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:12:50] BirthFit stats. so I had you guys take a poll, Lindsey disguised it as her poll but it was my poll. So out of everyone who took the poll this is who is dealing with what different type of infant loss. So only 17 percent of you have not yet already faced yourself or a client that has some form of infant loss experience. That’s even actually higher than the national average. The only thing that hurts worse than losing a child is losing your child and your tribe. Infant loss is incredibly isolating. Loss begets loss. So the culture that we live in now our normal response to grief is to withdraw. So first we feel fear the loss of a baby makes us all very uncomfortable even terrified. I After Aubrey and Ellie died, I tried to go back to MOPS. You now what MOPS is? Like Mothers of Preschoolers. They were like ‘you’re making everybody very uncomfortable’. It’s true story. And they thought they were protecting everybody else but they were ostracizing me. But it was easier to sacrifice one of the many. So again we have to change the culture.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:14:15] Confusion and inadequacy. We don’t know what hurting moms need. We only know that we feel inadequate to help. Part of changing this culture and empowering ourselves is to get the education we need so we don’t feel inadequate to help because feeling inadequate is not enough reason not to help. The answer is well then figure it out. Distance we step back when we should step forward and cliches. We don’t know what to say so we say the wrong thing even well-intentioned wrong words wound. I talk about cliches a lot because I despise them to the soul of my being. They are–their wounding and we need to get them out of our culture. We just do need to stop saying the dumb things that have been passed down for no good reason whatsoever to try to minimize other people’s pain. The result is isolation. The hurting broken mother has to navigate her grief and her recovery by herself. The problem is when you’re isolated and left alone to heal you might survive but you never thrive because two things are required for healing: community, which essentially boils down to love and hope. If you don’t have a community and hope you will not heal. There’s no such thing as bootstrapping your way through. If you’re not in a relationship with other people you can’t heal it’s literally physiologically impossible. We’re all created for relationship and if we’re denied those relationships there’s a part of us that just can never thrive. So BirthFit can set the tone, we can change the culture by default. Your clients are going to turn to you because you’re their tribe. They’ve been working with you and they know you and they have a group with you and they feel belonging with you. When worse case scenario strikes they’re gonna go to where they’re most comfortable and that’s going to be you guys. It’s not going to be their doctor, it’s not going to be their nurse, might not even be their mom or their sister it’s going to be their birthing group and most importantly the regional director. The person who they believe should know something. It’s just our nature. So we have sort of a three step process here. The education you guys are going to get today we’re only like a little bit in there there’s more. And then the baby last plan. So we created an infant loss plan that I’ll talk about at the end and then the ongoing support. So I will be providing and Lindsey and I haven’t exactly figured out how that’s going to work but you guys will be able to have direct access to me whether it’s directly to me or more through BirthFit so that you can get your questions answered you can get the support you need when and if you know something like this happens.
Grief and Loss Education
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:17:04] All right we’re going to go through some grief and loss education. And this is not exhaustive. You know you have to remember I’ve spent a decade doing this, so you can you can go deep with this stuff, but this is sort of what I would say like hitting the big ones that mattered the most to be able to execute well. And we’ll go through them please if you have questions just do me a favor. Write them down. I will do my best to leave sometime at the end to answer questions and make sure you guys have the understanding that you need as we go. So grief myths and misunderstandings. Myth Number One: is that grief has stages. You’ll hear this all the time. You know. The stages of grief, the stages of grief. Elizabeth Kubler Ross wrote a book a long time ago about the stages of grieving. Her research though was specifically on the stages people go through as they–after they get a terminal diagnosis. So it’s their acceptance of their death, which has somehow been applied to all grief, which is not necessarily a direct application. So what’s important to understand about grief is it doesn’t have stages. Even though it does have phases for lack of a better term. But the point is people should be allowed to grieve the way that they grieve without having expectations placed on them about how they should be grieving or if they’re grieving the right way or the wrong way. Like grief support needs to be nonjudgmental. Now with that said, it doesn’t mean that grieving is a free for all. Just like fitness or nutrition, there are standards and boundaries that create a healthy process and it’s the same way with grieving. So within those healthy boundaries there’s lots of room for variation. Everyone is unique therefore they will grieve uniquely but that doesn’t mean anything goes. Am I being clear?
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:18:58] You know you can all do different–have different nutritional plans, eat different foods but simple math tells us if we consume more calories than we burn we’re going to gain weight. Now there’s all variants because we know high quality food is different than low quality food and all this stuff but for the most part we have this simple mass structure. Grief is the same way. You have lots of variance, but there’s still a structure that grief does have to stand for it to be healthy and for healing to take place. After that it becomes self destructive in all kinds of strange things. The second myth: that time heals all wounds. Time is just time…just time. It’s what we do with time that matters. There’s an enormous–the role of personal responsibility in our healing is enormous. I have worked with many many people where time only increases their grief. They never woke up magically and went ‘Oh today’s the day when it finally lifts and I feel better’. It’s what we do with time now. Time is certainly a factor in grieving. It does take time it is a process but time alone is not some magic thing that fixes your pain. When we tell women when we tell anyone that time will heal them, we are on empowering them disempowering them. Whatever the vocabulary word is. We are taking their power away because we are basically telling them that they don’t have any control, they have to wait on factors out of their control and that is not empowering. When the truth is healing is 100 percent up to you it’s a choice you have to make.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:20:41] And then once you give yourself permission to heal then you walk through the process. But any time we use myths like this it just enables people to feel like they are the victim of what is going on and takes their power away to find the healing that they need. People don’t like to hear that there’s accountability in grief but there is unfortunately, unfortunately. The unfortunate part is it’s hard, but the fortunate part is there is hope. Because if it was just left to fate how would we know if some of us get lucky and like in a year we wake up and feel good and the rest of us have to carry it for the rest of our lives. That sounds a cruel cosmic joke to me. Letting people know that ultimately their healing is their choice is empowering and that provides hope. Myth number three: a mother never gets over the loss of a child. I can’t tell you how many people told me this. ‘Oh honey you’ll never get over the loss of a child’. They would always say ‘Oh honey’ so it would be like extra condescending. All grief is possible to find healing from. Does that mean that you never stop missing that child. Of course not. That relationship never ends. We were talking last night at dinner and one of the best ways to explain it is that you learn how to carry your grief differently. You know, you first start on your crossfit gym and the simplest squat just feels horrible and you can’t get it right and the latest weight feels heavy and it’s awkward and you’re just bumbling through. But then you get stronger and then you work on your form and then you start hitting your benchmarks and then you see that your maxes are getting bigger and the same weight that used to feel overwhelming now feels like nothing. That’s how grief is. What used to cripple you is now something you can carry like nothing but you have to do the work. It doesn’t happen by magic. You have to do the work. All right. This is a really important concept as regional directors. You are not responsible for your clients healing. You’re not responsible for their heart, but you do have a responsibility to them. Here’s the difference between a responsibility for and a responsibility to. The only thing in the whole entire world you have a responsibility for is your own heart. You are in charge of yourself. That’s what I tell my children. ‘You are in charge of yourself. I don’t care if your brother hit you first. Don’t hit him back because you’re in charge of yourself. I don’t care if that kid’s super annoying at school so you told him something really mean he may be annoying but you are in charge of yourself’. The same goes for our personal responsibility over our own hearts. You are responsible for your own heart. People who have a really difficult time with this concept who are like ‘Nuh-uh you’re not right, I don’t believe you’ are usually co-dependent. So write that down. Any of you who are just like ‘I decided right now I don’t think I trust you anymore’. Right down “co-dependent question mark”.
Audience: [00:24:02] [Laughter]
Holding Space as a Regional Director
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:24:04] Because your heart is your responsibility. However that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a responsibility to the other hearts in our life our spouses our children our closest friends. We do have a responsibility to treat people with respect and kindness and compassion. So your role as a regional director you are not in charge of the heart of a grieving mother that you might find in your care at some point. Because there’s nothing you can do to make her heal to make her you know make certain choices. All you can do is your best to be responsible to her to show up as well as you can for her. Are you tracking? That making sense? Though you will have you will cross paths, over the last 10 years I’ve experienced this myself, I had a mother tell me about three inches from my face ‘If you love your children as much as I loves mine you could never heal’. And I know thank goodness that that was she was speaking from pain. I didn’t take that personally because it was more about how much pain she was and then about me. But the point being she didn’t want to take responsibility for her own heart and there’s nothing you can do about that. You have to let people make their own choices. But your choice can be to show up really really well. All right so here’s some of the most important things you can do to show up well.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:25:39] Listen don’t talk. People in pain sometimes need to get it out. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes in the beginning they do, sometimes they wait a year to finally get out. When or if they open up to you just let them talk. Don’t give them advice, don’t make at least statements, don’t tell them to start making a gratitude journal. Freakin punch you in the face if you ever told me in do that. Gratitude and grief are not opposing. By the way you can be grieving and grateful at the same time you know you can also be very ungrateful for the horrible things that happened in the world and not have to somehow rationalize how they’re bringing about some good because they’re not. And part of showing up well is being able to call what’s bad bad and being able to call what’s good good and not blurring the lines. We’ll talk more about that in a minute. So just listen so don’t judge, don’t give advice, just listen. Do not say the following things: ‘everything is going to be ok’. You can’t say that because you don’t really know it’s the same under those same guidelines as sort of don’t worry you’ll have another baby. You know what. You don’t know you can’t you can’t say that to a grieving mom. You can’t tell her what her future is going to be because you don’t know you. You can say I’m so sorry. My heart breaks for you. I’m here if you need me. But don’t make promises you can’t keep. ‘Everything happens for a reason’. This one kills me. How do you know? And if it does happen for a reason it could be a really sucky reason. Like we cannot rationalize pain. It’s an emotional experience. So we just again ‘I’m so sorry. My heart breaks for you. I’m here if you need me’.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:27:50] ‘I understand or I know how you feel’. You don’t have to know how they feel and you don’t have to understand to care and most likely even if you’ve had a similar situation you still can’t offer a full understanding because we all just have our own unique situation. I’ve met so many women who’ve also had twins die. And when you really start getting into the nitty gritty of it it was so different. You know and you fool–if you’re a grieving mom you fool yourself into believing if I could just find somebody who understands me I will feel better. That’s not how it works. It’s the same thing with if I just knew why. It’s an illusion but what does make you feel better is a really kind people who just give you a hug and say I’m so sorry my heart breaks for you. I’m here if you need me you’ll have another baby. Went over that one, don’t say that. ‘At least’ if you preface any phrase with the term at least before the rest of the sentence it’s a bad idea. ‘At least you have other children. At least you know what happened’. I even had a doctor say ‘Well at least you’re young you can have more children’ like at least your stupid doctor and I wish she would die.
Audience: [00:29:15] [Laughter]
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:29:17] He was a stupid doctor too. I had some really wonderful doctor as he just happened to not be one of them. He kept calling Aubrey “Audrey” and it was making me insane like it’s not even her name. Call her by her name. Yeah. Unfortunately in the medical world you know you see a lot of harsh things you can get jaded so I forgive him, but that still doesn’t mean he wasn’t stupid.
Audience: [00:29:45] [Laughter]
Grieving people don’t know what they need.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:29:49] Take the initiative. Don’t wait to be asked for help. So if you have a client someone who comes to you and says my babies died. Don’t say ‘let me know what you need’. Call me if you need anything. Figure it out. I’m going to give you some resources in a minute and how to really do that effectively. Grieving people don’t know what they need and most of the time they can’t even think. I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I felt like I was floating over my own self watching myself walk through my life like a zombie. I didn’t know what to ask for. You know people would show up with meals and I’d say thank you. You know later on I got more savvy. I know you guys talked yesterday about going through a season of receiving. This is a perfect time to help your client, help a mother who’s grieving understand that this is a season of receiving. This is a season of letting people help you. In some cases even making decisions for you, organizing meals or helping with laundry getting care for children without even necessarily putting you right in the middle of it. Now of course respect people’s boundaries of these how you ‘get away and leave me alone’ well then do that. But most of the time they don’t even know what they need.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:31:02] Side note: if you can bring more than just chicken and lasagnas for dinner, I’d be cool too. I don’t even really eat lasanga anymore. After nine hundred of them I just decided I’m done. It’s like baked chicken and a side salad (or) lasagna and a side salad. Now when I bring people meals either bring them like chicken curry or enchiladas. Those are neither even close to lasanga even my older son: granola bars and lasanga, he just can’t eat anymore. Like a bad bad trigger. The third one: commit don’t disappear after six weeks. There’s a weird phenomenon about helping people who are hurting for about six weeks. We have a tolerance in our society for about a six week window and then we just go on with our lives and we expect them to go on with their lives. Well grief takes way longer than six weeks and that doesn’t mean you have to show up everyday, but checking in with them regularly for way longer than six weeks is imperative. Everybody told me ‘oh you’ll turn a corner after a year, the first year will be the hardest’. Well I didn’t turn a corner after a year. It took me like a solid 18 months and they hit a year and just felt like ‘what’s wrong with me that everyone else turns a corner and I don’t’ again that’s that dealing with these cultural expectations. There’s no reason why it has to be in a year. Just like there’s also no reason that a mother who’s doing really well after six months needs to be looked down on like ‘what’s wrong with you? Your baby just died. How are you ok?’ Like it’s it’s hard. And women are catty just step back. Dial it back. It does not–and that’s that’s what happens with grief though as there is this belief that I can prove to you how much I loved my baby the longer I stay in pain and it’s false. Our love is more reflected in our healing than it could ever be in our hurting. Alright for your group. So if you have a mom who had lost a baby it’s not just going to affect her. It’s going to affect the group that she was working with and it’s going to affect you personally. So this is how you want to work with your group. You want to make sure you tell them I want to give them appropriate details they don’t need all that information but enough to know what’s happened. You need to encourage them to offer their help and support. Pass along the resources that you have to them. Communicate with the mom who’s lost the baby that they are welcome to return to the group. This may seem like a minor issue but it’s actually the major issue. It is imperative that they never feel like they have to leave; that they’re no longer allowed to participate. They may choose not to participate. And that’s OK. But they cannot get a vibe from you that now having them involved is weird. This is their tribe. This is supposed to be their tribe unconditionally. Not just because their baby lived but because they’re human being who came to become part of a group.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:34:21] And if you send that subtle message of like ‘well now you kind of make us all feel weird and well you know if you’re not pregnant anymore what you’re doing here?’ As long as they’re still breathing and there’s still a woman they belong here. Give them the opportunity to express their feelings concerns and questions in the group or in private or both even don’t hold a support group. Don’t turn your group into a support group just make sure it’s a safe space. That they just know when they walk in that they are wanted and accepted there not all weird. Trust me they’ll know. We’ll know if it’s weird like when you’re grieving your little senses heighten and you know what’s weird and what’s not. ‘Fear alert’. The assumption is that a mom who’s lost a baby doesn’t want to be around other pregnant moms or infants. Absolutely not true. Some don’t, but some do. I was a mom who did. Everywhere I went. They’d say ‘oh I don’t think you want to be here. This mom just had a baby or this mom’s nursing or this one pregnant and they would shoo me away’. Even my own sister her baby was 2 months old. So me I have two sisters and my middle sister and I always had babies at the same time our pregnancies always overlapped. We’re like swapping maternity clothes and you know she when Aubrey and Ellie were born I was so engorged when my milk came in that she gave me her baby to nurse like she was a good sister.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:35:50] But we always had babies at the same time and I remember she came to me and said ‘I don’t know what to do I don’t know if I should come around with my baby’. And I said ‘Come around. I want you to come around’. It was so healing to my heart. So again this is communication. Just talk to them and also give them permission to change their mind. They might at first not be comfortable but then they might become comfortable. Just check back in and check back in. Don’t shelter them away. I mean I love that I would hold the babies and I would squish their little fat legs. I skipped number five: just reassure them that they don’t have to run away. Again this goes back to being responsible for and responsible to. It is also not the grieving mom’s job to make sure that other people in the group feel ok. That’s their job. We all have to own our own hearts so don’t require that you’re grieving mom walk on eggshells making it all better. I spent years making it all better for everyone else. Because people would look at you like ‘Oh my god ah’, you’re like ‘don’t worry. It’s OK’. Well sometimes it wasn’t okay at all. So it years later I was like I have to deal with this because I never got to grieve the way I needed to because I was walking on eggshells for everyone else. The people you depend on the most will probably be the ones who disappoint you the most and the people who show up for you the best will be these surprise people that you didn’t even realize were there. So be open. You just never know. For your heart.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:37:36] So as the regional director, this is heavy stuff. You lose somebody you lose a baby from somebody that you’re working with. It’s hard. So you have to take care of yourself because that’s a lot to carry on. You already have an enormous amount of responsibility so you need to get support too. That’s especially where I come in. If you find yourself having a hard time, you call me, but you also need to eat sleep and breathe. You need someone safe to confide in you know if you have a good husband or a best friend or someone else over you and BirthFit like anything somebody you can talk to. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself. Don’t put unfair expectations on yourself. You’re just human too, ok. Empathy compassion doesn’t require perfection. Use your BirthFit podcast and the resources I’ve provided, order some Teamotions tea for yourself, get those brainwaves moving down, fill your body with all those good herbs and then call me. So no one can pour from an empty vessel. It’s imperative to be aware of your emotional needs. The goal of your support is not to shoulder the load for your group and your client. It’s to facilitate sharing the burden, because when we stand with each other we cultivate healing. These are the resources I was talking about earlier. So this is Teamotions so that goes without saying. Just get yourself some tea. But this organization right here called Give InKind is sort of a type of crowd sourcing platform where you can go and you can set up this stuff.
Infant Loss Plan
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:39:21] To be honest this is also good just for moms who are having babies like this is a wonderful resource because you can set up an account where you can basically put your needs there. Any information you want and then you can request everything from meals, pet care, child care, laundry, donations. It’s a central hub where you can communicate effectively information that needs to be disseminated to a lot of people. So when a mom loses a baby her entire family, her community, her church, her friends can go to one central location where all of her needs are known. It’s interactive it’s actually phenomenal and you can help get people what they need without 10,000 phone calls and confusion. It’s a wonderful platform and then I actually know the founder I created a retreat called Retreat Hope for moms who lost babies and one of my attendees went on to create this after the birth of her rainbow baby. And then I also know the author of this she also came to the Retreat Hope in three years after that retreat he wrote this book. This is her first book and she’s written a second one. But this is a ‘book’ book I’m talking like a book and it is called “Navigating the Unknown and the Immediate Guide When Experiencing the Loss of your Baby” and this is an exhaustive resource. You need to have a couple of these on hand, so a mom loses a baby you can give it to her. The Infant Loss Plan that I created is the first thing you want them to have because it’s it’s like the decisions you need to make within the first 24 hours.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:40:52] It’s just when you are spinning and you need to get your head above water it’s exhaustive or not exhaustive. This is exhaustive. It is a book that once you have made those first 24 to 48 hour decisions now you have something to walk you through everything from every conceivable scenario all the way through the grieving process postpartum, new babies, you name it. It’s a wonderful book. She even created it so that the cover is soft like it’s just really really well done. Here’s your immediate actions. ‘Remind mom and baby of the Infant Loss Plan’. I’m going to go over that in a minute or clarify some things there. They can download it from BirthFit Get them a copy of the book order some tea for them and then set up their Give Inkind. And usually you would set up their GiveIn and hand it over to their point person and we’ll talk about them we go through the plan. That’s the end. I don’t know what time it is. OK. I good a yeah I’ll get him next. While we’re transitioning, any questions for me before we go to the next phase? Yes.
Audience: [00:42:06] Any Advice for a client that is struggling with a day of remembrance?
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:42:14] Like anniversaries and memories. Yeah. Well it’s can be a combo thing. So you know most of the time what people just want on an anniversary is just acknowledgment. They just want people to remember their babies remember them. But if you have a client who is, you know I’m not talking one or two or three, but as years and years in and is struggling every time they’re probably still dealing with a lot of unresolved grief and so what they really need is help you know it should evolve from traumatizing into celebratory over time. And if that transition isn’t being made that means that there’s still unresolved grief that that’s going on. So it’s a combination of acknowledgement and then also potentially therapy or grief recovery program or something like that.
Audience: [00:43:08] Maybe you explained this already, but if you have a mom in a group and she tells you about what happened in confidence, and you go back to the group do you give them a heads up to tell them about it? Or do you let her choose?
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:43:25] Yeah I would discuss that with her. You know I would simply explain you know because you’re a part of this group. I need to tell them something. Would you like to come and tell them. Would you like me to tell them something on your behalf. And then what is that. What would that be. What are you comfortable with me telling them. But you certainly can’t just have a mom just like up and disappear out of a group without saying something. So most people they understand that. Yes.
Audience: [00:43:54] This is a weird question.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:43:54] No weird questions.
Audience: [00:44:01] It’s because I’m curious if you coined the term ‘heartset’. I’ve never heard use that.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:44:01] Yeah I mean I maybe I could say that I did. I think. I would make up words all the time. But yeah. Well even you know–even when I was watching you guys laying on the floor you know doing your ball stuff.
Audience: [00:44:15] [Laughter]
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:44:16] It’s when we left this morning. They’re like ‘Do you have your balls?’ And then there like ‘We have our balls in our sack’. And I was like that’s funny. That kind of stuff is really funny to me. But anyway I’m watch you guys you know rolling all around and I was thinking so much of what we’re learning today is the equivalent of finding where all of those emotional knots are, like where you’re just so emotionally intertwined and figuring out how to loosen that stuff up and create healing. So this is that emotion that the heart set is that work. You know for a mindset. And all the rest that goes into it. So we should trademark it, maybe I can monetize it. No I’m just kidding. The entrepreneur in me and like ‘how can I make money doing that’. I’m just kidding.
Audience: [00:44:58] For moms that do need a little extra help finding a group therapist or grief counselour, how would you go about finding those specific people?
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:45:11] That can be tricky because in all honesty most therapists know very little about grief. They suck so sometimes you have to like maybe ask more questions. There is an organization called the grief recovery Institute. I would look on their website for some grief recovery method specialists but even that’s only going to take you so far. You know I’ll work on putting together a better list. You know call me. I usually know people they trust or yeah we’ll come up with some better resources questions to ask; things to that. So.
Audience: [00:45:43] I’ve had people say to patients that have issues with infertility and everytime it doesn’t take or maybe it finally took but then they loss the baby they say, “Oh you didn’t have a miscarrage because you didn’t have a baby”.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:46:14] Oh people are just so mean. More like well you’re not human because you don’t have a heart.
Audience: [00:46:20] [Laughter] My question is do you kinda apply these same things to that situation?
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:46:35] Yeah. This is a great question. We were actually talking about this yesterday in our little Air BnB. About how you know specifically today we’re talking about grief that results from the loss of a baby. But really what grief is, is the loss of anything and those losses can be intangible. They can be expectations, dreams, longings, ideas, even philosophy’s of how you think the world works or things that you created in your world view they can be tangible things like a job, a house, a person, a marriage, you know some things are easier to conceptualize as loss than others.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:47:13] But really what grief recovery skills are life skills because we’re always going through different kinds of loss and that is a real loss you know and again we live in a culture that always wants to diminish and devalue our loss. We were even talking about IVF specifically you know people say ‘Oh but they already told you the chances were so slim’. As if any time people tell me ‘I’m trying not to get my hopes up’ or you know ‘I’m not going to get my hopes up’. I’ve got news for you. Their hopes are up because you want to say that kind of stuff if your hopes are not up it’s not even on your radar. And people deserve that support because it is a real loss even if it’s just a loss of expectation like infertility is so painful because it’s the loss of this given future that you just thought you’d have. Your little girl and someday you want to have babies and you meet somebody and get married and then you just go and try to have a baby and then you realize you can’t and your whole life just gets shattered. But everyone just you know ‘Oh but you’re still you know a mom in your heart’. Well I don’t want to be a mom in my heart. I want to be a mom that’s holding a real baby. You know when my girls died I told my mom I said ‘I don’t care if God himself came down and told me why my girls had to die unless he puts my babies back in my arms, I don’t really care about his reasons’. And that type of like that’s the good kind of anger because it fuels you towards compassion. Honoring people’s losses is how you help them heal. And helping them walk through all of those losses. Yes.
Audience: [00:48:53] Have you developed or thought over about a plan for dads?
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:49:01] Yeah I have a little bit. So a lot of the grief recovery method applies to men. Absolutely. One of the things we’ll talk about in the plan here. That’s up on the screen is men and women. I don’t even like saying that you know men and women grieve so differently. Really every human just grieves differently. Men are human so they fall into that category. One of the most important things we can do for our spouse is give them the freedom to grieve their own way. It is unfortunately, we believe that they are the only person on the planet who understands what we’re going through. But they are also grieving so they’re not capable of holding us up while we’re depending on them. So learning how to find somebody else to lean on and someone else for support is really important. Because even though they want to and you want to be there for them, you’re overwhelmed with grief. You have to set right expectations. And so yes there is definitely work out there. I don’t work as much with men. Just because this is my arena but we can certainly there are resources and books. I put a ton of resources in the back of this thing and there’s plenty of money for dads, for partners, for men, for grandfathers. You know everyone involved. So. Ok. Here’s our infant loss plan. So it starts out with the letter. I actually think I’m going to change this instead of ‘parents’ it’s just going to say ‘regional directors’. But the kind of press is saying this whole document is that I’m going to read it real fast so scroll down. I said you know ‘dear’–well I’ll speak to you ‘Dear regional directors. The very idea of creating an infant loss plan goes against every instinct we have as parents. It seems like a terrible idea and feels unhopeful. After all, babies are meant to be born not to die. And the mothers and fathers that fell in love with them ought to set their heart and expectations only on the positive. Why would any loving parent waste even a single second believing anything except that their babies are going to belong to them forever? Having experienced the death of both of my twin daughters in 2008, I know firsthand that all the positive thinking and love in the world didn’t prevent Aubrey and Ellie from dying. My babies and I became a statistic in the blink of an eye. And although the death of an infant is a rare thing, it does happen and when it does it is devastating. We are not helping anyone by pretending that babies don’t die or that only other people’s babies die. As a matter of fact, we just heap pain on pain by refusing to have this conversation and make a better way for those who need it. The purpose of this infant loss plan is not to strike fear in the hearts of expecting parents, nor rob them of anticipation and joy. This plan is motivated purely by loving compassion. It is for the blindsided parent who finds themselves where they never imagined they’d be. It is a brave just in case document that refuses to let a single hurting parent fall by the wayside on a technicality. It is my hope that no one will ever need this plan, but for the few who find themselves where I did I hope the insight and information here guides you through the hardest time of your life with more support than I had. Less regrets than I have and a sense of peace knowing you did the best you could. And you are not alone.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:52:30] Ok. The first-gosh-four pages or so of this is actually–and again this is not meant to go around handing out to everybody in your group. Okay this is to let them know it exists so in the case of emergency they have access to it. The first four pages or so of this are actually really awesome for everybody though you don’t have to go on to parts 2 and 3 you can just do part 1 but it’s just–it’s information. Who is your primary care provider? Who is your point man? And these are good things even if you’re you have a healthy beautiful baby. You know who is going to help you organize the help that you need? Who can you call when someone needs to let the dog out? You know these are all good things but in the case of the death of a baby you have immediate access to who you know you need to call to intervene on their behalf. And then we have part 2 which I called ‘Do the Best You Can At the Time With Information You Have’. So it kind of goes to what we talked about Give InKind and the book.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:53:31] And then it gives them a bunch of questions that they can take directly to their physician. So this is whether they know that they’re going to be giving birth to a stillborn or their baby has already died. This is everything from how much time can you spend with your baby. Hand prints and footprints. You know, taking articles of blankets or clothing that the baby you know had touched or its just about going through everything you knew. What are you going to do regarding the removal of the baby? Are you going to keep it with you for a while? Are they taking it to the morgue? Are you going to have a burial or cremation; like all these questions that you don’t even know you have to ask but they’re going to be right there so that when life is a blur and your heart is broken, you don’t find yourself wishing ‘If I had known I would have–‘ fill in the blank because I look back and there’s so many things that I go ‘I didn’t even know what to ask that’ you know. Like my biggest regret is I did not put my girls in clothes to bury them in their casket. I didn’t even know I could and luckily I had this amazing amazing man who delivered my girls for their burial because I had them buried in the same casket. Which is something I fought hard for because the state of California is like ‘You can’t do that. They have to have their own.’ And I was like over my dead body. So you put them in that same casket. So they were like ‘well we’re just going to pretend like we didn’t know’ I’m like ‘Go do it’. And then I had like a headstone with two names on it like ‘Well they know now’. But he came to me and he said ‘Did you want to dress them in anything before I placed them’. And I bit his head off. I was like ‘What am I supposed to dress them in? They’re teeny tiny. They don’t even make baby clothes for babies that small like nobody told me I could do that. I didn’t bring anything.’ And I just laid into him and he was so gracious to me. He just said Ok, then I’ll wrap them up. And so he wrapped him in blankets and later I had to find him and ‘I said tell me how you place them in their casket’ because I didn’t even know. Had I had this kind of document I would have known that that was even something to think about. And I could have made plans ahead of time, I could have had my mom going get something, I could have picked the blankets I wanted them wrapped in, I could have made some choices that didn’t leave me wondering what happened to my little girls. I live with that. Yes?
Audience: [00:56:25] On that note, there’s an organization locally in my area that was started by a woman who lost both her babies and ran into the same problem where she didn’t know what to bury them in because they were so tiny. So she started her own charity that takes wedding gowns and makes burial gowns the children.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:56:25] So sweet. We need to add that to the resources.
Audience: [00:56:26] It’s called “Angel Gowns”.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:56:29] Angel gowns yeah we need to do that. Okay so we go. Oh yes.
Audience: [00:56:44] I know of some hospitals that work to provide gowns so the moms don’t have to special order anything.
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:56:45] Okay. Anyway yeah we’ll figure that out too because that would be really important to know. OK. And then after all of those considerations now you have postpartum care. You know just because your baby dies doesn’t mean you didn’t have a baby. You know I my milk came in and I was you know my girl were here for a couple of weeks so I was pumping milk for a couple of weeks in anticipation that they would pull through, but they did. He died six days apart. So within one week’s time I lost two little girls and but I kept on like pumping my milk. And you know you need care, you need nutrition, you need recovery. I had an emergency c-section. My pain management was bad. And these are all my unique situation it just gives you kind of enlightens you to what a mother might experience. You know, the hospital policy was that I was not allowed to see my daughters until I could get myself out of my bed and into my wheelchair on my own without assistance. So even though they marched into my room with a doctor and a social worker and told me my girls were touch n’ go that they didn’t know they would even live through the night, I wasn’t allowed to see them until I could get out of my van and walk to my wheelchair. Even though I had just had an emergency c-section and so I looked at my nurse who was awesome! Like she was like this really quiet girl who I swear would slit your throat if you gave her the opportunity.
Audience: [00:58:11] [Laughter]
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:58:11] Like she was legit. She was like ‘What do you need honey?’. And I said ‘What can you give me so I can get myself out of this bed?’, She’s like ‘Well here’s three options’ and she’s like ‘How about a morphine drip?’ said ‘Deal’. And she hooked me up to that thing and I was like you push that button so that little light comes on where it stops you you know so you don’t kill yourself. And I just like pumped myself up and you feel it because morphine is crazy and I just like ‘ahh’. And I got out of my bed and I’m marched and I was like ‘Fuck you doctor’. And I sat in my wheelchair and I went for my babies. That’s probably so inappropriate for this video, I apologize.
Audience: [00:58:50] [Laughter]
Rachel Tenpenny: [00:58:50] And I wheeled myself in and I saw my two baby girls. But my point is like it’s physically traumatizing and so postpartum care is really really important. Whether you have a miscarriage, a stillbirth, a c-section, you know a real birth. It doesn’t matter like postpartum care is essential. But here’s some important things so go down–so we talk about nutrition, emotions. Go down to–we’ll talk about prescription medication in a second–go down one more to.. sorry I’m trying to figure out what I need here. Oh go up sorry go up. ‘Go down. Go up’. Oh OK. The postpartum recovery after a loss will be different. And I just wanted to highlight a couple of things. Now everybody is body physically responds differently so there’s no you know across the board certainty, but I just wanted you to be aware of a couple of things because grief actually changes your physiology. You’re not functioning with the same brain and the same body that you would be if you were not grieving and that needs to be recognized. Grief causes your body to heal more slowly.
Rachel Tenpenny: [01:00:02] Okay so were you know on average you get cleared at six weeks after a c-section or vaginal birth. You might not get cleared and you don’t want a grieving mom freaking out or thinking she’s behind or something’s wrong with her. She may, but she may not. Because physically your body is just depleted emotionally it’s depleted and it heals more slowly. Grief zaps your energy, emotionally and physically, do less and go slower. Adrenal exhaustion. Postpartum depression results from the toll of trauma, birth, surgery, and grief. That’s a lot for anyone body to go through. You want to help to understand a little bit of the difference between postpartum depression and grief they’re not the same thing. Usually what we see with postpartum depression is it’s consistent where grief tends to come in waves. That’s just one, there’s more but that just gives you an idea. Hormone imbalance is a real thing. You know you cannot will yourself out of hormone imbalance. You have to get help. Help women see that. You know my middle sister when she had her second, our life was so hard then. Like my girls had died, she had her second baby had a really hard time. Our family life was rough. My sister called off her wedding three weeks before, my mom was having like mid-life crisis. Like it was just a rough time in her life. And she calls I mean she’s living in Spaulding and I was living in San Diego and she calls me and says ‘I think you need to come up and help me’. And I said ‘Why what do you need?’.
Rachel Tenpenny: [01:01:37] And she says ‘Well when the trash truck came today to take the trash away, I imagined throwing Leah (who is her little baby) into the back of the trash truck’. She goes ‘I think I need help’. I said ‘That sounds like you do need some help’. And I went down there and we got her help. We took her to the doctor, we got her some sleep, got her some food like we helped her turn that corner. I was thankful that she asked for it, but she wasn’t grieving. She wasn’t just exhausted. She was suffering from postpartum depression and there’s no amount of wailing yourself out of that that gets you there. She needed medical attention and that is OK. So keep that little eye out watch them and help them understand and see the difference. OK. The concept of surrendering to your loss can be very difficult and a point of resistance. It is not uncommon to experience a crisis of faith, a crisis of identity, crisis of purpose, a crisis of self-love. Grieving women are dealing with way more than just trying to like you know heal their incision and adjust their milk flow you know and dry up their milk like there is an internal battle going on that will manifest differently in every single one of them. Be sensitive to that. What you see on the outside is not what’s going on on the inside. I think that’s about it…oh I’ve two more. Your relationship with your body can change and not always for the better. Feelings of anger resentment betrayal shock and even hatred toward your own body can be overwhelming. Be gentle with yourself, give yourself grace, and forgive your body. We’re talking about this last night. There’s sort of two ways that women go. There are those who decide to hate their body and abuse their body for failing them, for betraying them. They sort of give up on their bodies. And then there are women who decide to beat their bodies into submission; that the next time they will get their bodies to do what their bodies are supposed to do. And both of those extremes are very destructive. There is a middle to make peace with an imperfect body that you can’t perfectly control. So I was insanely angry because I was healthy and in shape and did all the things my first son was a nine hour natural you know medication rebirth I could have had him in a field under a tree. You know he was amazing. And so when everything went so wrong with Aubrey and Ellie, I felt so responsible. And then I watched this documentary on this Russian crackhead who kept popping out sets of twins and she had like four sets of twins and this amazing family went and found them all so they could adopt all of the siblings. So it was supposed to be this phenomenal story of the struggle you know for the family to reunite these siblings and they’re amazing. But all I could focus on and my grief was how some Russian crackhead was popping out like it was cool and I was healthy and did all the right things and I couldn’t bring mine into the world. So first of all, lesson learned: don’t watch documentaries after you lose a baby.
Rachel Tenpenny: [01:04:38] And second of all, what was really saying was that what I was dealing with myself of course I had nothing to do with that woman. Life is unfair. But I had to go in and do some deep work regarding how much how much I blamed myself when I really didn’t have anything to do with it. So that’s basically it. OK go down. Oh ‘Antidepressants’ really quickly. This is a big buzz word in this community. Should you go on antidepressants, should you not. Part of the reason why I created Teamotions was because when I went to my doctor and said what do you have for me. He basically said nothing or antidepressants and I felt like there should be something in the middle. I am not for or against antidepressants. That is a decision that you need to make with your doctor with the people who love you. You need do some research. It’s not about deciding to or not to use antidepressants. But there is nothing on earth that will medicate you out of your pain. Even on antidepressants you have to figure out how to face it and it will be a process and it will take many many steps. But if you delude yourself into believing that a pill is going to make it easier for you then you are really really disconnected because it won’t you either will deal with it then, you will deal with it later, you will deal with it during, but you can not antidepressant or antipsychotic medication yourself out of your pain. All right. And then we talk about grief outlets; all kinds of resources available, relational needs. Here’s my best advice for grief: Forgive the cliches. So as regional directors don’t use any, don’t say any, warn your group not to say any, but when they hear them help to coach them on just forgiving. Because people are well-meaning but they don’t know what they’re saying and if they can reach a point of forgiveness as early as possible and stop caring that extra weight. Like they already have enough burden, they don’t also need to be mad at all the people who say dumb things. I learned that my grandmother broke my heart because I called her. You know I love my grandmother and my grandmother loves me she isn’t alive anymore. You know like we had a fun phenomenal relationship. I was born on her birthday. So we were like twins but 50 years apart. And when I called her to tell her that Aubrey that we removed from life support because Ellie had already passed away six days later she said ‘Oh honey that’s what I was praying for. If she couldn’t be healthy she’s better off with the Lord’ and I wanted to rip my grandmother’s throat out you know and to have that kind of emotional response to somebody that you love can be very jarring because all of a sudden I started feeling like ‘Who is on my side here’? Like what kind of thing is that to say, like you’re my grandmother you’re supposed to be rooting for us. The sooner that I learned to just forgive her because forgiveness is not about saying that what happened is OK.
Rachel Tenpenny: [01:07:53] Forgiveness is about deciding that what happened is so negative or toxic or unhealthy that you want to cut the chain and no longer be connected to it. It has nothing to do with approving what happened and everything to do with deciding that freedom from those things is what makes you healthy and free people are dangerous people. If you want to change the world set yourself free. Even from well-meaning grandmothers who say the wrong thing and my grandma and I we fixed everything. We move forward with that. The relationship was great she loved me my whole entire life. She mazing person in my life but that moment my own mother did not show up for me. She was dealing with her own stuff and she said she told my other sister ‘If Rachel really needed me she would call me and tell me to come’. And she pretty much checked out. But I love my mom so much that I decided to forgive her because I didn’t it wasn’t worth the next 30 years of my life not having a relationship with her. She’s just human too. So I decided to cut that free and in my freedom. Now I can love my mom and I’ve had the most hellish last year of her and my mom has just so been there for me. So worth it. A decade ago I was really angry but I dealt with it and now I’ve had this amazing year with my mom. And I wouldn’t trade it so forgive. Forgiveness is huge. I actually teach a specific class just on forgiving. Okay. Ask for help. Advocate for yourself again that season of receiving. Learn to ask for help. Get comfortable asking for help. Number three: carefully choose music and movies. This sounds mild but it’s enormous mindless entertainment is your friend. No news, no worship songs, No you know songs that are free like world revolution or you know sound like just silly things unimportant things. Nothing heavy. I used to watch this movie with Drew Barrymore called “Music and Lyrics” like ten thousand times because there’s nothing in there about nonsense and that’s what you need. You need a break. It comes back. Now I’m like digging into really important things and I have plans for a world revolution and all this stuff and you know I get spout off sometimes about my political views as transforming people’s lives but I couldn’t do that ten years ago. I could barely like get up get my kind of granola bar and put in my mindless film and drink some tea. That was the only capacity I had. And that’s ok. Like sometimes in life our bandwidth is small and other times in life our bandwidth is big. There’s nothing wrong with that. You just have to identify it and don’t torture yourself watching documentaries on Russian moms popping out twins or you know, I watch the stupid show about like multiples being born and how all these women were like having five babies at a time and you know that we’re born at 24 weeks and all of them were great. And you know I just I just had to disconnect and that’s ok. Be patient like we talked about. Time doesn’t heal all wounds but time is a factor. Don’t rush. Be patient. And then there’s a million billion resources there. And we’ll add even more because clearly there are some that are missing really important stuff. So anyway I think how much time do we have. So the birth of postpartum training is going to be add in to the document which will help. And this is really important because it goes back to I was talking about before about how even though everybody’s grieving process is different, it’s not a free for all. You know. Even though grief is going to add some some complexities to the postpartum recovery, it doesn’t mean that walking them through this is not beneficial to them. It really is. You can still take them through the same postpartum training that you would anybody else. You just want to check in with time and be mindful of where they might be. So again it’s not sort of like anything goes. These are these are really really really important process and they should be included and divided into it. You just want to keep an eye on them for extra things. Oh yes. And there is no timeline on this. So you know I mean you seem like the print up you know ‘essentially postpartum recovery forever’ and it is normally. And it is especially through grief and beyond. So there’s no rush. It’s just about giving them some structure giving them some support giving them constant contact with you and helping them heal physically, emotionally, and in community so anyhow with me time OK five ten minutes four questions. Yes.
Audience: [01:13:25] After 6-8 weeks of helping a client, I find it challenging to not want to take on that person’s pain. what are your strategies for long term support?
Rachel Tenpenny: [01:13:25] Yes. So that’s it. Excellent question. So strategies to support people long term so that you don’t end up completely drained and depleted. The very first thing that every single one of you must do is if you have unresolved grief or loss in your life, you need to go get the help to get healthy. Ok you cannot teach somebody what you do not know yourself. You cannot help walk them through an experience you yourself have not walked through. If you have unresolved losses or pain in your life you need to resolve them. And that doesn’t mean putting sticky notes on your mirror that say like you know ‘I think positively and’ I’m no longer bound by this’ like you need to do real work. As you can tell I’m not a huge fan of positive affirmations. I think they certainly have a place. Absolutely. But they only have a place if the positive affirmation you are speaking over yourself is not being blocked by a secret lie that hasn’t been resolved. So you can tell yourself you know I am strong, I am strong. But if way deep down inside your heart you feel weak. You cannot just will yourself out of that. You have to get the healing in the resolution so a therapist, a grief recovery program. I teach a program called ‘Grief Recovery it’s Amazing’. A heart stewardship program that’s another program that I run anything that will get to your losses because oftentimes the reason why you get so depleted is because you’re getting re triggered every time you open your heart to somebody else and it’s just too much to take on. The second thing is YOU NEED TO GET SOME TEA. It’s not a plug it’s legit. The tea will change your life just like you take quality supplements and you pick good food you need to add a tea ritual into your life and if you are a coffee addict you need to cut it out. Coffee kicks your adrenal butt. Your adrenals–you need your adrenals to function in order to not only have good physical health but emotional stability if you find yourself feeling hopeless overwhelmed. Especially if it’s hormonally linked and you say like ‘4 days before my period I feel like crawling in a hole and dying’. Chances are it’s not just hormonal it’s also adrenal. So physically you have to get your body strong. And again you can’t just will yourself there is sometimes pushing harder for longer but isn’t how you get strong that you know conditioning and endurance is not just pushing further till you die. It’s figuring out how do you strengthen yourself to go the long haul. So you gotta get those things in a row. You gotta get connected with people who speak life into you and you need to get rid of the people who deplete you. If you have people in your life who just suck the soul right out of you you have to learn healthy boundaries again. I know I was joking when I was talking about codependency, but more often than not people who struggle with their own well-being codependency is there bad boundaries. Too much time spent with people who suck the life out of them, not enough time spent with people who speak life into them. You know we talk about positive affirmations. We’ll try to speak good life over ourselves, but then we hang out with people who just tear us down that doesn’t do any good.
Rachel Tenpenny: [01:16:55] So yeah all of these, you know I wish I had like 10 steps to you know being awesome for your entire life. But I don’t you know. And always checking in, that that check in process is so important. Like we talked about that heart set. Are you regularly asking yourself ‘How am I doing and what do I need? When I’m good and I feel healthy and strong do I celebrate that acknowledge it? Do I give myself some recognition for being in this good place? And Then when I’m not doing so well do I recognize it empower myself to get what I need? Make the changes? Get the support or do I kind of ignore it’? Like that check in is constant. And I wish I could say like check in once a week. But like check in once a day at least if not more so. Notice patterns, notice needs. Notice what words you say in your own head. Notice the people in your life. You know it’s self-awareness. Self-awareness is different from introspection and I think sometimes too much and introspection can be a bad thing. But you can never have too much self awareness and learning to love yourself and understand yourself is an act of love towards other people. You can only love others better by learning to love yourself. You’re not taking away love from somebody else and giving it to yourself. Loving yourself multiplies your capacity to love others. It’s just like as moms you know we have a heart. Then we have a baby. We just feel our heart grow. And then we have another baby and we don’t split our heart in half and love two babies. Our heart grows to love two babies and then three and then six and however many we have. And then everyone else in our lives like our hearts–we don’t have like a love pie and there’s only so many pieces. We have infinite pies. Love is infinite. There’s always enough there’s enough for you. There’s enough for people in your life. There’s always enough. So if you feel like you have to take love away in order to give it to yourself, once again check your boundaries check your codependency. Other questions for me.
Audience: [01:19:21] Can you talk about your relationship with your son during your loss?
Rachel Tenpenny: [01:19:22] Yeah I definitely did some things some things wrong. You know in some respects you know he was the reason why I got out of bed in the morning. You know. So thinking about him and not just my my grief helped. But also like thank god my kids are so resilient. You know he also lived off of granola bars for a while. You know he’d say ‘Mom I’m hungry’ and I’d just say ‘Get yourself a granola bar’. He was always a really independent kid. But he was also my little barometer. I could tell. Like I would see his countenance change when I was having a hard time. So what was difficult for me was I was trying to fake it so that he wouldn’t be affected. But it was making me go backwards in my own healing. So probably–probably within six months or so of just trying to like well myself through it I realized I needed better support and I when I started getting real grief therapy and that helped tons so I didn’t–I actually had an outlet for my pain and I no longer had to stop it and fake it from my son. Some of the other mistakes in one of the things I teach in my class are there’s something called S.T.U.R.B.S. They’re basically Short Term Energy Relieving Behaviors. There are ways that we relieve our pain that don’t necessarily lead to healing and they’re not always necessarily bad. You know one of the things I talk about in here is like be very careful of alcohol during grief. Alcohol is highly effective at relieving your pain but it puts you in a vicious emotional cycle and sobriety is a requirement for healing. I’m just going to put that out there. Alcohol will wreck you because it shuts your liver down shuts your emotions down it depletes your adrenals. It does everything that you don’t need for healing. And so I look back and I definitely you know there was a time there were, you know, a glass of wine was the only thing getting me through. You know lots of time it was tea. But it’s sort of like progressed and I was like ‘Oh um’. But I also started running was my big thing ‘I’m going to run’. And for a time I would just throw my son in the jogging stroller put a bunch of Cheerios in the tray and we’d run for 8 miles 12 miles. And luckily he was just such an easy kid you just hang out there forever, but the minute I get home that grief just come flooding back. And so I just started learning that I need better coping skills because he could tell when I was BS-ing him you know he could just tell in my countenance and I didn’t want that for him. So in a lot of ways he–you know the day of my daughter’s funeral I looked myself in the mirror and I said ‘I know you wish this wasn’t you and this supposed to happen to other people but it didn’t. This was your children. This was your life. What are you going to do about it?’ and the big reason was him because I did not want him to be robbed of a mother and the childhood because of something that was not even in his control. Now it took me a while to figure it out. I’m not going to say that I like magically learned what to do, but it is worth it’s worth fighting for. And there is life after grief, there is. You know, I would think I was about to tell you know I pumped my milk for seven weeks after my girls died because they just didn’t know what else to do. I just kept pumping it and my entire freezer were packed, packed to the point that my husband at the time was like we have to do something. Can’t even put anything in the freezer it’s just breast milk. But I was adamant that I did not want my baby girl’s breast milk to be pasteurized in some hospital and handed out to anonymous babies that I would never know or meet. So in the state of California it is illegal to sell breast milk and it is illegal to use unpasteurized breast milk. Stupid California, like they think they’re so like liberal and progressive but they do stupid things.
Rachel Tenpenny: [01:23:13] So you know and there’s a side of me that loves to like rebelled against the status quo, so I was like ‘Game on’. So I went to the breast milk black market, which exists by the way, it’s a real thing and people are looking for breast milk and they’ll pay a pretty penny for it. Well I had no intention of selling my girl’s breast milk because I was not going to degrade their memory by capitalizing on my breastmilk. But my one request was I want to know which baby is getting my girl’s milk. I want to meet that baby. I want to see that baby, I want to be able to call that baby later and see how the baby’s doing. So I talked to my Dula who helped deliver Dustin my older son and said ‘Who do you know?’ I said start putting your feelers out. Like talk to a guy who will talk to a guy you know. Let’s figure out where we can put this breast milk. And sure enough I did, I found a wonderful family who had adopted a little baby girl. Her name is Sadie and she was six months old and she was diagnosed failure to thrive and her adopted mom was convinced that if she could just get her breast milk she would turn a corner. And so she came and got everything that I had. I remember my mom actually took it to her and it was like a lot it was like an entire giant chest full of milk. And I got to go and meet her and hold her and you know become part of her life and her mom was exactly right. Breastmilk was what she needed. She became a healthy thriving little girl and now she’s 10 years old doing all the normal things little girls do. And I know where she is and that she’s OK and that she’s got Aubrey and Ellie’s breast milk. You know and so you have to advocate for yourself like that. If something is really important to you, you fight for it. Some things were not important to me. You know like I’ve never been the mom who needs to be at the cemetery for every anniversary of it. But that’s just me. But for some people that is important. You know it was important I know who gets that breast milk. It was important that we started our company. You know it was important that the doctor call her ‘Aubrey’ and not ‘Audrey’. So some hills I picked a die on and some hills I didn’t. But that’s my choice and I don’t really feel like I have to apologize for that. You know I’ve tried to function with as much compassion and understanding as I as I can you know and after that people have to deal with their own stuff. You know I threw a birthday party for what would have been their first birthday. And everyone came and swam and we had a good time. But I never–I have never done it since. Because I just didn’t feel like I needed to you know–like my girls–you know in some ways I try my hardest to make sure that the world knows about them, but in other ways I’m comfortable just that I know about them you know and I don’t have anything to prove. And getting to that place where you can finally feel the peace of just knowing that I don’t have to prove their existence or their worth to anybody else that I already know. There’s a lot of freedom in that. You know and beginning when moms lose babies at the beginning that is the predominant feeling how will anybody ever know how important they were to me. My girls never even came home from the hospital. Nobody outside my parents, my son, maybe like two other people. Nobody even ever saw them. All of a sudden we’re just calling people telling them to come to a funeral. You know and I thought how do you show them the value of babies that they never even met or saw or you don’t have pictures of them, you don’t have a history of them. You know I had a complete breakdown in my car this school year when I was doing teacher meetings. And this one blindsided me. I did not see this one coming but I went to my son’s teacher meetings and all they said was you know how wonderful my boys are, how helpful they are, how kind they are, their grades they’re great you know that they’re a joy to teach, that they’re funny. Like my little guy is hilarious. Like he stands on his hands in his pocket and his teacher says you know ‘How are you today, Colton?’ And he says ‘Oh just another day in paradise’. You know like they’re really pleasant children and after I’ve met with their teachers and just thought wow this is you know what wonderful things to hear about your kids. I got in my car and it hit me. What were their teachers said about them? What would Aubrey and Ellie be like if they were in the fourth grade and my I was sitting with their teachers to hear about them? I will never know. And it hurt my heart. But I have a plan now. I have a routine. I know how to check in with myself. I went home and grabbed my cup of tea and I grabbed my journal and I write it down and I got it out and then called my sister and I have my plan for what I do when I feel that in my heart. Not because I’m trying to shut it down because I’m trying to give it a voice because when you give it a voice then it can heal. You know and it’s a good moment when you feel empowered in your grief instead of overwhelmed by your grief because I will for the rest of my life wonder about those two little girls. When my sisters daughters get married, I’m going to wonder what my girls would have been like to walk down the aisle. You know when my boys graduate high school, I’m gonna know there’s two little girls that are not at their graduation. That is my reality. But I embrace my reality because I want the legacy of Aubrey and Ellie to be the hope and healing of other people. Because that’s the best I can do with the situation that was given to me. And if we can help other women do that, think of the world we can create.