In this week’s episode, Alexia chats to Ramona, who shares her powerful story of triumphing over tokophobia and body dysmorphia to embrace and enjoy pregnancy.
Throughout our conversation, Ramona imparts wisdom on communicating with healthcare providers, finding the right support, and illuminating challenging experiences. She candidly shares her transformation from body dysmorphia to embracing pregnancy joyfully, revealing how her perspective changed with the help of a personal trainer and a comprehensive program of healing and self-care.
Conquering Tokophobia & Body Dysmorphia: Ramona’s Story
Ramona’s journey traces a path to acceptance and empowerment, from initial anxiety about her pregnancy to a resolute decision to embrace it. We explore how her past experiences parallel her approach to pregnancy and childbirth, as she confronts longstanding fears and anxieties head-on.
Here are just some of the questions we explore in this episode
- How did Ramona’s initial doubts about the effectiveness of mantras change over time? Did her open-mindedness play a role in their transformation?
- What were some of her previous attempts to improve her sleep and why did she find the mantras to be more effective?
- In what ways did her trauma therapy, combined with the use of mantras, contribute to her transformative journey?
- How does she experience with CBT for anxiety disorders and phobias compare to their belief in the need for body therapy to rewire the brain and body’s response to fear?
- What are some additional therapies that she recommends for addressing phobias and anxiety disorders, and why does she find them effective?
- What steps did she take to prepare for childbirth and ensure a positive experience despite her tokophobia?
- Why does she emphasise the importance of talking to someone about fears and traumatic experiences, and what role does validation and support play in this process?
- How can societal expectations around pregnancy and parenthood contribute to feelings of loneliness and isolation?
- What strategies did she suggest to overcome these challenges?
- How did her work with a therapist and personal trainer impact her body image and relationship with her own body during pregnancy?
- Reflecting on her journey, what role did research, online communities, and exposure to positive birth stories have in her transformation and acceptance of pregnancy?
Resources mentioned during the episode
In this episode, several resources were mentioned:
1. Fearless Birthing Online course: provides information and support related to perinatal mental health and overcoming their phobia of childbirth.
2. Supportive community: online support groups, including Facebook groups (Tokophobia Support Network), where Ramona engaged with others who shared their experiences and struggles.
3. Instagram page: “Pain Free Birth,” which provided valuable insights and positive birth stories.
4. Perinatal therapist: helps navigate fears and anxiety related to pregnancy and childbirth.
5. Tokophobia Support Program: My most popular one-to-one program for those wanting support in overcoming tokophobia
6. Research: focusing on alternative modalities to treat their specific condition and seeking recommendations from perinatal therapists.
00:01:52 “Anxiety about pregnancy leads to self-discovery.”
00:11:15 Therapist researches perinatal mental health treatment options.
00:16:50 Delay, avoidance, immersion, fitness, pregnancy, commitment
00:22:30 Changed routines and mantras helped me sleep.
00:26:37 Traumatic experience with puberty and menstruation.
00:32:01 Overcoming body image issues and embracing pregnancy.
00:37:36 Prepared, educated woman takes control of birth.
00:40:56 Talk to someone, don’t be lonely.
00:45:39 CBT has its place, but needs body therapy for phobias.
00:47:54 Energy psychology technique offers fast relief for women.
Conquering Tokophobia & Body Dysmorphia: Ramona’s Story – Episode Transcript
You’re listening to the Fear Free Childbirth podcast with me, Alexia Leachman. Let me help you to take the fear out of pregnancy, birth, and beyond with a mix of real life stories and experts sharing their wisdom. I’ll also be sharing psychology insights to help you to cultivate a fearless mindset, be inspired, and be empowered with Fear Free childbirth. And now it’s time for the show.
Hello, and welcome back to the Fear Free Childbirth Podcast. My name is Alexia Leachman. Thank you so much for joining me today. On today’s podcast, I’m going to be chatting to Ramona, and she’s going to be sharing her story in overcoming tokophobia. Ramona is currently pregnant, and she’s due later this year, and she’s going to be sharing her experience of going from experiencing panic attacks, being on meds because she can’t sleep, to now being a glowing, insta mummy who is adoring being pregnant and is looking forward to her birth. Hello, Ramona. Welcome to the podcast. How are you doing?
Good. Thank you for having me, Alexia. I appreciate it.
Do you mind just giving us a little bit of an intro so that we know a little bit more about Ramona, what you do, what your life’s about?
Yeah. Yes. So I’m Ramona. I live in Minnesota in the United States. I’m married. I currently have a large fur child, great Dane mix dog. He’s like my current baby. Currently waiting on first baby to come in September. I’m a mental health therapist by day. I’m actually a trained social worker, but went into the clinical field doing mental health therapy. I’ve been doing that for, like, ten years, and I specialise in treating PTSD.
So let’s go to the beginning of this story, then. Where does this story begin for you?
Yeah, I would say the beginning of my story is probably after I got married. I think probably in between. So I got married at 26. We had kind of always talked about waiting to have children. Not having children was never part of the conversation because I never thought of myself not having kids. But I always was weirded out by it. I was like, oh, yeah, that’s cool. But why do people think birth is beautiful? It’s disgusting. That’s not beautiful. There’s nothing beautiful about that. So I always kind of had that, but I just thought it was like I was grossed out by it, like, normal, because I think a lot of people would say, like, yeah, it’s kind of gross. There’s a lot of things involved and whatever. So we had agreed to wait for a while before having kids. Like, we wanted to travel, and we just wanted to kind of relax, and we were in no hurry to have children, which was awesome. We were both on the same page, and I think that somewhere along the line, I had sort of put this number out there that I would have kids when I was 30, and I don’t know why I did that. I think it was like a I was trying to hoard off family members that start asking you immediately after you get married, like, when are you having kids? Right? That’s the next progression of things. So I think I said that to maybe try to shut people up a little bit. But also I was like, well, that seems like a good age. We can have fun. The rest of our seems like a great age to start a family. So for some reason, this number was in my head, and it wasn’t until my 30th birthday something snapped. And if you know me, I am a birthday queen. I love my birthday. I make a huge deal out of my birthday. I have a birthday month. And I really fell into this weird place. I was dreading my 30th birthday. I couldn’t figure out why. And then after I fell into this really weird, just anxiety spiral, and it was obviously because I’d put this number out there. So my family is like, okay, your 30th birthday, you’re going to get pregnant, right? And I was like, oh, no. What have I done? And so that’s when it really kind of started to spiral, and I started to second guess whether I wanted children. And that was kind of my first clue. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was like, I don’t know if I want kids. I think that I’ve been lying to people. I think I lied to my husband, and I felt bad for him because that was never part of the conversation. It was like, we’re going to wait, but we both know that we want them. And so I was kind of like you where I felt like I was going absolutely insane, and I was like, there’s something wrong, but I don’t know what it is. I have panic attacks when I think about having kids. I have panic attacks when I think about getting pregnant. I’m in this serious anxiety, and I don’t know where it’s coming from. And that was probably a good two years that went on. And in between that, it was like, my husband would kind of check in and say, like, oh, do we want to start having children? And I would be like, don’t even talk to me. I don’t want to have this conversation. No, we’re not going to start having children. I’m not ready. I’m not ready. I’m not ready. Luckily, I have a very supportive husband, and he wouldn’t push, and he would just say, like, okay, that’s fine. He’s like, I’m in no hurry either. I’m just checking in. I think where he became concerned and where I became concerned was when I finally said, what if I can’t do this? Or what if I don’t want this? Does that mean we need to get divorced? Do you absolutely want children? Is that a deal breaker? And that’s kind of where things started to kind of bubble to the surface was like, there’s something off here. And it kind of came out of the blue for him, too. And he’s like, what is going on? There’s something else underneath. And it wasn’t until I actually got into therapy, so I started therapy for just different reasons. I’m a therapist myself. I was in a horrible job where I was working with kids that had really intense trauma, and I was feeling traumatised by the work I was doing. So it was like I needed somebody to help me with my burnout, my compassion fatigue, but I also had a lot of other things going on with body image. So my body image stuff really came to the surface, too. That’s always been an issue, but it really spiked. And I think that was probably my way of controlling the pregnancy stuff. When I look back at it, I think I put my anxiety into my weight and my body and how it looked, and I started to try to control that. So I was kind of, like, there for my job, but I was also like, okay, I’ve always had these body image issues. They’re really starting to spike. I need to work on this, and I have some other I would just like to have less anxiety. Like, I have anxiety. I would like to have less of it. And it wasn’t until my therapist started kind of bringing up we kind of just through conversation started kind of talking about kids and where I saw my relationship. And obviously, like, the pregnancy conversation comes up when you’re talking about body image. And I just kind of started to talk to her about all of these things that had been happening that I really a couldn’t talk to anybody about because I didn’t know how to talk about it. Because when you say that you’re scared of pregnancy, everybody says, oh, I was too. It’s normal. And I was so sick of trying to explain, no, I’m not just scared of it. I will try to avoid this like the plague. I am doing everything I can to not do this. I am not normal scared. I am, like, having panic attacks at the thought of being pregnant scared. I’m like, you’re not having panic attacks. This is not the same. But it was just really like, people just don’t get it, and they just kind of think you’re crazy or they really invalidate what you’re saying. And I think it’s because they don’t get it either. And so I kind of started really voicing all of these things to her, and she was like, there’s something here. She just is a fantastic therapist. And she just was like, there’s just something here. This is almost like you’re reaching, like, a phobia level when you talk to me. It’s like somebody who’s scared of public speaking or somebody who’s scared of snakes. You are getting to this level of almost phobia levels of where I could almost look and try to diagnose something going on here. If she didn’t know something, she was going to figure it out. And she started researching, and she’s literally the one who found this and comes to me and says, I’ve figured this out. And I’m like, what do you mean you’ve figured this out? And she tells me that there’s an actual condition and that it is an actual phobia, and it exists, but nobody knows about it. And I’m just like, I can’t even tell you in that moment how I almost feel like that cleared some of my talk phobia right there. It was like this weight was lifted, and I was like, I am not crazy. I’m not crazy. I’m not weird. There is a name for this. I knew this wasn’t normal. I knew that there was something wrong with my thought process about this, and it was such a relief to get that news and that information, and that’s literally how I found you. She, through her research, found all these resources, and you were one of them. And then I kind of just started researching myself, and I dove in headfirst, and I started reading everything that I could and educating myself about what was going on.
So you started researching. And so whereabouts in this journey? Where are we on this journey?
Yeah. I would say, yeah, I was probably 33. Like, at this point, we’re probably a year out from me getting pregnant.
When you found out that it had a name, did you think, okay, I can sort this out. This is great. Now I know it’s got a name. I just need to do Bish Bash Bosch, and then I’ll be fine? Or did you then go, oh, okay, I know what it’s called, but now what did you do with that information once you found out it had a name?
Yeah, so I, being a therapist myself, kind of basically dove in, and I was like, okay, I need to treat this. I’m going to figure out how to treat this. So a lot of my research was my therapist and I were both doing our own research outside of session, and we were kind of coming together, kind of as therapists together, and being like, okay, what did you read that you found is helpful for this? What did you read that you found is not helpful? And the interesting thing is, it’s really hard to find any information that’s helpful because this is not widely known, and it is something that nobody even knows exists. Right. So basically, we were kind of centering our search around the perinatal mental health world. So we were looking at perinatal therapists, like, people who specialise in working with pregnant women, women who are experiencing infertility women who have experienced infant loss, traumatic births. We were really centering our search kind of around that area and basically kind of boiled it down to a couple of different modalities that were recommended, which I disagree with both of them. I’m just going to throw that out there. It really was like CBT, which anybody in the therapy world is always going to say, CBT. People are going to say, oh, CBT can help that because CBT is the old fashioned way of therapy. It’s what we’ve been doing for years and years and years, and it does not work for everything. And I feel like it’s a very general version of therapy that is applied to lots of different situations. And sometimes it works really well and sometimes it doesn’t. And exposure, which exposure therapy is basically like exposing yourself to what you’re scared of so much that you’re not scared of it anymore. My therapist brain is like, how am I going to expose myself to something I haven’t done yet, and I’m not going to be exposed to until I do it right? I interviewed a couple of different therapists that were perinatal therapists. They specialise in this. And I kind of asked them, what would your approach be? And a lot of them were like, I’m going to use exposure therapy. Here’s how we would go about it. And I just like, in my soul as a therapist, I do very specific trauma work that is a version of exposure, but it is a very gentle version of exposure and is very trauma informed. I have a soapbox about exposure therapy, and I won’t go there, but I have a soapbox about it and I don’t love it as a modality. So I got really hesitant and my soul and my body was just like, no, I don’t feel like this is right for me. I feel like exposing myself to the negatives or potentially exposing myself to something is going to traumatise me more. And I just felt that. So basically I started with you, and I started with an Instagram page that I found, pain Free Birth. It’s amazing. So I started with you and I started kind of looking through your material. I joined a couple of Facebook groups, so I kind of started searching Facebook and I would just type in, like, Tokophobia. And I ended up finding this really wonderful online support group on Facebook. And those were kind of my three places. And in between that, I kind of told my therapist, I’m going to go here. So basically I was kind of like, I’m either going to try to find a therapist or I’m going to spend my money elsewhere on other resources like your class, pain Free birth classes. I’m going to spend my money somewhere and I need to decide where to spend it. And so I decided not to pursue therapy since the answers I was getting, I was not liking. I didn’t feel like exposure therapy was going to be good for me. And so I basically decided to sign up for your course. And I started there. And I kind of started just taking classes and I worked through it really slow at my own pace while exposing myself to very positive birth stories. So Pain Free Birth is all about very positive birth stories. She highlights just the most beautiful empowering birth stories. And she really talks about how to empower yourself in this process. And the support group was so helpful to just say, like, I’m feeling like this. Does anybody else experience this? Can anybody else relate to this? And you would get so many people that would say, yes, I can. And then you would have conversations with those people. We’d be in messenger, we’d be talking. And so that general support from other people who understood was essential. So those were kind of my areas that I started dipping my toes in.
Did you sign up and then find out you were pregnant? What was that? Or did you know you’re pregnant and then sign up?
What was the order of yeah, so I signed up. Did not start the program right away. I kind of had like a few months where I really kind of just lagged. It was summer. Also, I think was a little bit of an excuse to avoid not going to lie, so I will say there was a little bit of avoidance, but there was also just like I was like, I need time to really immerse myself in this. I don’t want to start this and do it half assed. I really want to dive in and do this. So I think I started your courses, like, maybe in the fall. I had also started working with a personal trainer and doing some really good work on my body image, how I looked at food. So I really was kind of immersing myself in this fitness journey that was not just a fitness journey, but recognising I need a better relationship with food and I need a better relationship with how I’m treating my body while I’m working out. And I also kind of started your courses at the same time. So it was kind of this like I don’t know, I don’t know what it was, but it was like I turned 34 and I was like, here’s what we’re doing. September is my time. Like a new leaf. So started in the fall and then I found out I was pregnant early January. And so I was through your course and had worked through your course before we actively started trying to get pregnant. And that’s kind of what got me in a place where I was like, okay, maybe this will go okay.
Then you booked in for your call because I think when we first started working together, you were about seven weeks pregnant, is that right?
Yes. So I very quickly panicked when I found out I was pregnant. I very quickly went down.
I was going to ask you when that news landed, when you realised you were pregnant, what was that?
Like, it was a rough like, I would say, found out I was pregnant immediately was like, this was stupid. I regret this. I take it back. Every single anxiety, fear, panic that I could possibly have bubbled up in the biggest way possible. And I spent probably the first five weeks pretty much every day panicking about something, having anxiety attacks, having meltdowns. To my husband very seriously contemplating terminating the pregnancy. I was just like, I need to make a decision here. I need to make it soon. And so through his support and then through kind of my own thought process, I’m like, you know what? No, I just felt like that wasn’t right for me. I figured going through something like that was going to traumatise me more. I’m like, I know myself, if I make that decision, I’m not going to come out of that well. So I was like, I have to go through with this, so what am I going to do about it? So I scheduled calls with you. That was kind of my, like, I went through your course, and I hadn’t scheduled my calls yet, and that was sort of my cue. Like, you need to schedule your calls with Alexia now. And then I also, at the same time, got in with a perinatal therapist and started working with her. So basically just loaded myself up with support between the two of you. And then I was in that support online support group probably every day. Like, here’s what’s happening today, and got so much support from that group, too.
My recollection of your journey was that things started shifting quite quickly for you.
So just talk us through because we worked together, what, four weeks. Talk us through the beginning of that journey for you and how you started changing, how you’re feeling, the shifts that you’re experiencing.
Definitely the fear clearance is that you taught me right off the bat. I did not hesitate to dive into them, and I think that’s kind of important. If you really do want to get on the other side of this. It’s a lot of work, and it’s really intense work, but also if you put your mind to it and you actually dive in and you commit, you can actually get over it pretty quick if you really want to. So I dove into the fear clearances that we were doing, and at the time, I had been not sleeping, so I was taking medication to sleep at night because I was so anxious and I had so much going on that I was not sleeping. And what queued me in to because at first I was like, this is kind of weird. Like, I’m sitting here, and I’ve got my hands on my face, and I’ve got my hand on my back of my head, and I’m just, like, repeating mantras.
Yeah, you’re describing the headshot clearance method.
Yes. And I’m like, this can’t work. I can’t just sit here and talk to myself. So I was a little bit but I was like, no, you need to be open minded. And my first clue that something had changed was I would do them before bed and got into this routine of doing them at night before I went to sleep. And within the first, like, six or seven mantras, I would start yawning. And then as I would go through them, I would get more tired and more tired and more tired. And by the end of this mantra, which probably took me 5 minutes, maybe ten, but I would say between five and ten, they didn’t take very long. I was exhausted, like, felt wiped out, and I slept. I started sleeping, and I was not taking medication, and I was sleeping, and I was sleeping through the night. And I’m like, okay, something’s happening here. My body’s releasing something because this is outrageous. And I had been working with my therapist on different things, like, different things to help me sleep, relaxation techniques, all these things, but it was like something’s happening because I’m sleeping and I’m tired. And I mean, I would shut my laptop and I was out and I would sleep through the night. And so it was not I mean, that was after, I would say maybe night three of doing those, I started sleeping. And then I think it was probably like I did them consistently every single day while we were meeting. And it was probably like, I don’t know, like our third call maybe or something where I was talking to you and you were like, that’s an interesting change in language. What’s that about? And I’m like, I don’t know, I’m feeling kind of good. And I just thought it was because I was finally sleeping, but no, it was because I actually was really kind of working on bringing all these things to the surface. And I think it wasn’t only the fear clearances, but it was like, forcing myself to think about these things and talk about them. Because I think that especially in my work as a therapist, I do trauma work. And so people come into my office and they have been not talking about or thinking about this thing for a very long time because they’re like, no, it’s going to be too hard, it’s going to be whatever. But internally it’s causing all of this chaos. You’re not avoiding it. Your body is telling you the story every single day, but you think by not talking about it or by not thinking about it, you’re helping yourself. And I think just even making myself think about those things, and you making me make a list of all the things that freaked me out, from the tiniest little things to the biggest little things. I was like, just recognising some of those fears. Honestly, I let them go. And I didn’t even have to do the clearances because I just was like, I acknowledged it. I’m like, yes, I acknowledge that I’m terrified of this. And then it would just kind of clear itself. And in combination with my therapist too, I’m doing kind of the same therapy with her that I do in my own practice. So I was actively also working on this trauma therapy with her where I was clearing a lot of fears and doing a lot of work around phobia and anxiety. So those two things together were huge.
And we hit upon an interesting trauma that I picked up on where I felt there’s a parallel between the pregnancy and the body image stuff. Do you want to share what that was?
Yeah. So as we were talking, we were kind of talking through kind of a lot of the physical aspects of birth and pregnancy and what those things are that trigger me the most. And you kind of made this connection, and you asked me how I felt about puberty, and I was like, I hated it. I was terrified. All my friends were like, I can’t wait to get my period right. Like like, it’s like this female, like, rite of passage thing. And they talk about it, and they’re like, why don’t I have my period yet? Why don’t I have my period yet? Like everybody else has theirs. Why don’t I have mine? I was a late bloomer. I didn’t get it till I was 16. And I was like, this is great. You all have to deal with this, and I don’t, and I hope I never have to. And so there was also this avoidance of that and that process. And when we were talking through it and you asked me what it was like when I got my period, I was like I literally woke up that morning, realised what was happening, and I actually passed out. I literally was on the toilet, and I fainted in the bathroom, and I was home alone, but I passed out. And to this day, I didn’t know why I had that reaction. And it wasn’t like a sight of blood thing. It was just like, that’s how my body responded to that moment. It was, like, total over while I’m total shutdown. And I kind of felt stupid. I’m like, okay, I do this every single day. I work with people all the time that have these traumatic experiences, and here I am. I think that might have been kind of a traumatic experience for me, and I would have never placed my finger on that. That was something that had really kind of shifted things for me in terms of how I thought about my body and what my body functions. That’s a very normal thing. And that was something that was anticipated. It was something that I had a lot of knowledge about. It was something that we got talked, school talked to us about it. My mom talked to me about it. I had all this knowledge and I knew it was coming, but when it happened, it was like total loss of control. And that’s kind of where it stems back to, is like, I have always had a huge need for control in my life, and that has driven most things I have done, and it has driven most of the decisions that I have made up until this point, 34 years. I have made most decisions out of fear, like avoiding something I’m scared of because of loss of control. And in that moment, that was like, this is something I can’t control, this is happening to me and this is something that I would rather not have to deal with, but I don’t have a choice because it’s my biology, right? So that was like a pretty big shift into why I also was looking at pregnancy and birth in the same way. Because I’m like, it’s something that happens to me, it’s something that I cannot control and it’s something that there’s going to be a lot of changes, like physical body changes. So that was a huge piece of information that I was missing.
So then you went to clear that trauma. Was that with your trauma therapist?
Would it be fair to say that once that trauma was out way, it was kind of downhill from there on?
Honestly? Yeah, the session that I had, so you gave me a trauma clearance on it, which I did, and then I brought it to my therapist and I said, oh my gosh, I literally made this huge realisation. And she was like, all right, that’s our next thing. So in our next session, we did a session on that where we used the protocol that we used to clear the trauma. And that was honestly a huge catalyst. Everything from there got so much easier and most of the things that I thought that I needed to work through, I was able to just be like, no, that’s good. Don’t have to work through that. No, that’s good. It cleared so many different things.
For many people, there is always going to be there’s a trauma at the root of it. It’s just kind of discovering what it is. Once you clear that one, everything just collapses because everything’s just like a mobile on the ceiling. Once you pull the main one down, all the other stuff pulls down with it. After that, it sounds like your body image issues that you had kind of went with it. Is that fair to say? Because then I remember I joking with you, I said, you’re going to win those Insta mummies showing off a bump every week on Insta. Totally am.
Yeah, it’s crazy. I did do another session with my therapist on just general body dysmorphia, body image. And I worked through a lot of those experiences throughout my life. Just as a female. As a female in society, we get lots of messages from lots. Of different places that we’re not good enough unless we look like a certain person. And I worked through a lot of those, just a lot of dating relationships that were really unhealthy or the way that I looked at my body my whole life that I was comparing to other people, and it was never good enough. And so I did a lot of that work as well, alongside of this with her. And that’s been, like, crazy. And along with my personal trainer, too, she has worked so hard with me on using exercise as honoring your body and seeing it as a way to move your body. And she’s taught me how to eat to fuel my body. There’s no bad food. And it’s like all of those things were things that I had struggled with, where it was like I was restricting. I had certain foods that I didn’t eat. And all of that altogether has just really doing all of that work side by side with each other has made a huge difference. And if you would have told me a, that I’d ever get pregnant, that was like something I didn’t think would ever happen, but B, that I would enjoy the process and that I would be purposely wanting to wear tight fitting dresses because I think I look cute, I would have been like, this was so far from my brain. My husband said this weekend, we had our baby shower this weekend, and we were talking after the baby shower at night before we went to bed, and we were just, like, reveling in how loved we felt. And he’s like, you’ve turned into one of those cute pregnant girls. And I’m like, what does that mean? And he’s like, well, you were just so worried. You were so worried about what you were going to look like and how this was going to impact your body. And he’s like, you’re just walking around here, like, taking pictures with your belly hanging out. He’s like, you’ve just turned into one of those cute pregnant girls. And I’m like, I guess, yeah.
So at what point in that journey, then, do you feel that you actually overcame tokophobia? Was there a point where you think, yeah, this is it, this is behind me, I’ve done it.
Yeah. I would not classify my fears that I have now. I would not classify them as tokophobia. I would classify them as like, I’ve never been through this, and I don’t know what it’s going to be like. Very normal, those normal fears that anybody has when you haven’t been through something and you’re wondering what it’s going to be like on the other side, it’s just very normal. Like, I’m worried about the baby’s health. I’m worried about my health. I’m worried about my birth process and wanting it to go as well as it can so that we both are very healthy and we both are very happy at the end of it. And it’s none of that I would classify as tokophobia fears. It’s just like very general. Like, okay, I just want this to go as smoothly as it can and I just want everything to work out the way that it’s supposed to.
When you think about birth now, which is what like three months away ish for you, how do you feel about that?
I really feel like honestly, when I think about it, I’m like, I’m going to do that. I don’t know how it’s going to play out and I don’t have all the answers. I have an idea of what I want it to look like. I have this ideal birth and it is very peaceful and it’s at the birth center and it’s very calm and there’s a lot of support people around me. And I’ve visualised this birth, I’m manifesting this birth. But I also have this message of learning how to really hold that very loosely and knowing that I’m going to rely on people and trust people around me, that if something needs to happen that I don’t particularly want, that that’s something that is being told to me because it’s in my best interest. So I feel very confident in myself, I feel very confident in my partner, but I also feel very confident in my team. And so that’s kind of the word that comes to mind when I think about birth. It’s just like there’s this level of confidence that I would have never thought that I would get there.
And it sounds like you’ve got like you’ve invested in this pregnancy journey quite significantly from the sound of it, in terms of probably money that you spent on professionals, but also the time, the inner work you’ve done, the fitness work you’ve done, the nutrition. I mean, it sounds like this has been a real like it sounds like you’ve really taken this incredibly seriously, which is brilliant.
I have, yeah. And a lot of my midwives are pretty impressed. Like the first midwife I met because when I did my intake with the birth center, I kind of told them I have this tokophobia now I tell the whole world about it. No one’s getting away from me without hearing about target phobia. I feel kind of bad. But my intake at the birth center, I’m like, I have this phobia. You need to be very aware of this. You’re going to have to change the way that you treat me and speak to me because of this. And there’s going to be things that I’m not going to be okay with that other people might be. And so the midwife came in at my first appointment and she was approaching me kind of cautiously and she just listened and she kind of took everything in. And at that point I had already had a doula, found my doula. I was already signed up for my childbirth education courses, which I’m doing through pain free birth. I basically had all my ducks. I was talking about how I was working with you. I had all my ducks around. And she goes, wow, I have never seen somebody this prepared. You really know what? And I’m like it’s because this is what’s helping me. What’s helping me is knowing what I’m getting into, making sure I have support and educating myself like crazy. There is no stone unturned here. So, yeah, I am taking control of this because it’s my birth and I’m the only one who’s going to do it. Nobody else is going to take control of this for me. So I’m going to jump in and I’m going to do it, and I’m going to make it the best experience I can in case I ever want to do it again. If I ever want to do it again. I would like this to be a very positive experience and not something that I’m dreading in the future.
I mean, everything you’ve just said is just music to my ears because I just wish that because it is such an important event in a woman’s life, this transition from becoming a mother is a real moment. And I think by preparing in the way that you have and that lots of other women do as well, means that they’re just stacking the odds in their favor that they’re going to come out with a positive experience, and let’s not be around. A positive experience is going to live with you till the day you die. And equally, a negative one does too. So, hey, let’s make this a good one.
This is great for everybody. If it is a good one, and you’ve like, okay, I’ve got this. I’m going to get everybody I need. I’m going to get my support. You’ve just done it and it’s brilliant. I love it. I just love hearing everything that you’ve done. And actually, you’ve invested in all that and it’s paid off. And look at you now. You’re feeling fabulous about what’s coming, and you’ve overcome a really bad phobia that a lot of people really struggle with. I mean, no one’s heard about it. And yes, it does affect anything between 15 and 30% of women, so it’s not insignificant, right? So for those women that are listening that do suffer from tokophobia, with your experience, the journey you’ve been through, and also with the insight that you have as a therapist, what would your advice to them be?
I would say definitely talk to somebody. I don’t care who it is. If it’s a trusted friend, if it’s your spouse, if it’s your therapist, and even if you don’t know how to describe what’s happening or you don’t have the right words, you feel like you don’t have the right words. Just try your best to go to somebody who you know will validate you and support you 100% and just say, this is what’s going on. And I don’t think this is normal. I think that this is above the level of anxiety that I should have about this and let that person help you, guide you, or just talking about it sometimes can just help you, motivate you to say, like, what do I want to do about this? Or Maybe I need to learn more about this myself. I always tell people I work with the monsters in the dark. Look a whole lot less scary when you open the door and you turn the light on. And I think that’s a huge part of this is I think it’s so lonely that’s the biggest thing I can remember is just like, it feels so lonely because you don’t know what’s going on because you’ve never heard of this, and everyone that you talk to tells you the same thing, oh, that’s normal. And once you have that baby, it does, nothing matters. And it’s like, okay, but I don’t even want to go through the process of getting the baby. That’s what you don’t understand, right? So you hear the same thing, and you kind of start to feel outside of it. You kind of start to feel like, I’m a female, but I don’t fit in with any females. I’m not a part of my own gender, my own people, my own whatever word you want to use, because I don’t feel the same way about this experience that you do. And so just don’t be lonely. Don’t sit with it, and don’t let it eat you up from the inside. Talk to somebody. Ask for help, research, do whatever you can to just shed some light on it because it will get a whole lot easier once you actually know what it is and you can ask for the right support.
And do you think it’s important that people find people who get it and know it? Do you think that it’s important for them to find somebody that understands the condition and therefore finds maybe specialises in it or has got insight into it, or what’s your view on that?
Yeah, I do think that it’s hugely beneficial. Like the support group that I joined on Facebook. It’s called tokophobia support Network. So that group was so helpful because it was validation for the first time. So it was like, no one’s going to call you crazy. No one’s going to tell you that it’s normal and everybody goes through it. So yes, that’s a huge component. I also think that if you can’t find that, if you’re struggling to find that, and if you can’t find somebody who relates, there’s nothing wrong with going to somebody and just saying, like, I need some help researching, or I need some help finding somebody. And if you go to a professional and they write you off, find a new one. That’s the biggest thing. I think there’s so many people, especially in my work as a therapist, I’ve seen so many people that have come to see me that have had bad experiences in therapy and they stuck with it because they just felt trapped, or they felt like they couldn’t ask for a new therapist, or they felt like they couldn’t. If anybody, if you go to a professional and they are not willing to sit with you and beside you and do the work with you, then they are not worth your time and they are not worth your money, and you should be out of their office so fast and you should be finding someone different.
Earlier you mentioned that exposure therapy and CBT wasn’t really techniques that you really wanted to pursue for yourself. Do you think CBT, in the context of Tokophobia, could work for someone for many people, or do you think it’s just not? Given what you know about CBT and what you know about Tokophobia, you’re just not sure whether it would work? What’s your view on using CBT?
I think that every therapy has its use somewhere. My experience with CBT, especially when it comes to anxiety disorders, which talk a phobia, if we want to get really technical, we could put that under an anxiety disorder, because that’s kind of where all the phobias live. Like all the phobia diagnoses that are out there kind of live in this anxiety disorder category. The problem with it is anxiety doesn’t respond to logic. And CBT is a logic therapy where it’s like you’re challenging thoughts and you’re really learning about what your thought process is. That, of course, could be very beneficial. I’ve learned a lot throughout my course of this. Just how to shift my thinking and how to look at situations differently has definitely been helpful. So I do think that it has its place. However, I don’t think that you’re going to get full relief from a phobia anxiety disorder by just doing that. You need to have some kind of body therapy with it because you need to learn how to rewire your brain and your body to respond to fear differently. And you can’t do that when you’re scared. Your thinking brain isn’t online. We don’t have access to it. So telling someone in a panic attack to change their thoughts, they’re not even there. They can’t even comprehend what you just said, let alone change their thought. So I think that if you are going to do CBT, I would really encourage you to try something in addition to that, like EMDR Eye Movement, desensitisation Reprocessing Art, Accelerated Resolution Therapy. Those are the two that I do. I’m doing art myself with my therapist, and that’s been really amazing and it’s really proven to be effective for phobias. So that’s kind of my two cent on that. Yeah.
And I would add to that I think the head trash is an energy psychology technique where the energy system is an interface between mind and body. So that’s why that can work very fast, because you’re actually accessing both through energy modalities like that so that brings you that very fast relief that you clearly went through as well with and be able to sleep better and all of that so wonderful. Well, thank you so much, Ramona, for sharing your journey. And I think that’s going to be so inspiring for those women that are suffering. And I’m going to invite you back for another conversation because I really want to dive more into this body image puberty conversation because I think there’s a lot more we can talk about there. So we will be having another conversation for those of you that are intrigued about this, because I think it’s an issue that so many women wrestle with that I cannot wait to go back into this. So we will be chatting to Ramona again very soon. But until then, thank you so much for coming on Fear Free Childbirth podcast. It’s been brilliant.
Yes, I’m so happy to be here and I’m so excited to talk to you again and to everybody else.
You’ve been listening to the Fear Free childbirth podcast with me, Alexia Leachman. Fear Free Childbirth is the online destination for women seeking to take the fear out of pregnancy, birth and beyond with fear clearance, meditations, self healing products and courses, professional training and specialist programs for overcoming tokophobia. And if you’ve enjoyed this episode, then check out the Fear Free Childbirth mama ship. It’s a bit like Netflix where you can binge on a boatload. More Fear Free Childbirth content to inspire you on the journey to motherhood and beyond. More interviews, views? More birth stories? More expert wisdom? Visit fearfreechildbirth.com to find out more.