I will never forget how surprised I felt when I heard the news that I was expecting twins. The pregnancy was our first surprise, – and now: twins!
After settling into our new reality, the excitement began and so did the planning.
Within a couple of weeks, my partner had decided to take a transfer with his work so we could move from the west coast across Canada to be closer to family. In fact, he had already moved across the country to be begin training for his new position when I went – solo – for a follow up ultrasound with our new doctor, who specialized in twin pregnancies. I was prepared for a routine check up, and planning to return to work with images of my precious little ones. The doctor took a quick look with her ultrasound tools.
“There’s only one heartbeat,” she said, matter-of-factly. “There’s only one baby.”
I’d never heard of Vanishing Twin Syndrome until that moment. In fact, scientists have estimated that 1 in 8 people started life as a twin, while in reality only 1 in 70 are actually born a twin. Studies predict that Vanishing Twin Syndrome occurs in 21-30% of all multiple pregnancies.
But I didn’t know any of this at the time.
I’ll never forget how routinely the doctor explained it. I didn’t know what to do first, wipe the tears away or the ultrasound goo off of my belly. I left her office reeling, and went home to process how everything had changed – in an instant. I felt guilt, overwhelm, and shock. I didn’t want to send the sadness or stress hormones to my healthy baby. But I didn’t realize how much this experience would impact him regardless.
When our son was just three and a half, we were sharing carrot sticks and chatting as moms and small children do. Between bites, he suddenly said,
“Mommy, I wasn’t alone in your belly, was I? There was a little girl in there with me. She came in with me to be sure I wasn’t scared, but she couldn’t stay. I still miss her, sometimes I feel sad for no reason at all.”
For a moment, I was speechless and covered in goosebumps.
I pulled him up onto my lap and said, “I’m so glad she came with you, so that you didn’t have to come all alone. I’m so grateful to her. I’m so happy that you are here with Daddy and I. We love you so very much.”
He hopped down with a smile and went back to building a tower with his bricks.
I’ve always appreciated the innocent nature of kids, so much more connected to themselves and less attached to outcomes.
A child’s implicit knowledge of how they experienced their time in the womb stays with them, informing how their future relationships unfold. Another significant influence for each of us is the impact of the emotional history you share with your family, and how it begins even before you were conceived.
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When your grandmother was five months pregnant with your mother, the egg that will eventually become you was already present in your mother’s womb. That means you, your mother and your grandmother all shared the same biological environment. Whatever your grandmother experienced—her traumas, her sadness, her grief—can become your emotional inheritance. We are more than individuals: we are the sacred vessels of genetic memories.
Our invisible patterns, formed in our childhood, shape our perceptions of the world. Unconsciously, they form our understanding of ourselves, of life, of our relationships and of what we believe is possible. Through working with thousands of people, I’ve observed that these patterns are only ripples of a much deeper challenge held far below the surface of our conscious mind.
Hannah started our session by sharing how sad she felt about not being able to relate or really connect with her mom. The distance had continued to grow over the years and what was usually there was a friction – an ever present irritation. When I asked her what she remembered about being a young girl, Hannah shared she was always independent and recalls that, when her siblings were born, she became mommy’s little helper.
Hannah revealed that her birth was a it was a difficult one and that she was rushed into care immediately after birth, spending a full week in an incubator, separated from both of her parents. When we consider what is love, safety and comfort is for a newborn after 9 months in the womb, it is being close with her mom, hr smell, her touch, her milk, and her voice. This is what supports optimal brain development – feelings of safety within the body, and the foundation of relational trust.
As adults ,we can understand that medical interventions may be essential for mom or baby. But, the emotional toll this separation takes can last a lifetime. Our body remembers this sense of being connected to everything and the stark change of separation. When you notice early independence in a young child, this is often a coping strategy that developed from an early separation and they are doing everything they can to avoid being hurt again.
When we lose that connection with mom, either in the womb, or because of medical intervention or perhaps she had to return to work right away, it is very common to experience a distant relationship with our mother. It’s as if an essential building block of trust between mother and child was missed. The good news is, this can always be repaired, this is at the very heart of the work I do each day with my clients.
Our earliest experiences, while we don’t consciously remember them, have a profound influence on how we live our lives. I work with what the body remembers, releasing was has been held within for years influencing our relationships for years.
The Family Inheritance
What images come to mind when you hear the words Family Inheritance?
You may imagine loved ones gathered together to hear the reading of a will. Yet our family inheritance is something that we are born with instead of something we wait to receive when someone in our family dies. We are shaped by the experiences of our parents, grandparents and even our great grandparents much more than perhaps you ever imagined. The family story is our story, it’s alive within us. Our family is the greatest pattern maker in our lives.
The emerging science of epigenetics helps to explain why we may think – “this is just my life, full of struggle or financial hardship” We may say to ourselves – “I’ve always been let down in my relationships, I guess this is how it will always be” The challenges we face in life are not ours alone, they are shared across multiple generations. You may think of it as your emotional inheritance.
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How are you living your family inheritance?
Peter, the oldest of 4 children, became the “man of the house” much too soon when his father passed away when he was just 11 years old. A day that started out like every other ended with the feeling of having the rug pulled out from under everyone in his family. His mom was devastated by the unexpected loss and Peter began his lifelong tendency of taking care of the woman in his life. What began as a young boy with the instinct to love his mom and offering whatever he could to ease her grief ended up being a pattern that kept him from healthy relationships with woman.
After his 25 year marriage ended due to what Peter explained as his wife’s never-ending needs of his time, attention, money and the lingering sense that no matter what he gave to her it was just never enough. He expressed that it was as if he woke up one day and simply couldn’t live this way – not even for one more day. He moved out abruptly and after some time passed they traded their marriage in for a connected friendship. One where Peter still does everything he can to make his ex-wife’s life easier from driving in-laws to medical appointments or being available for her whenever she reaches out to him.
Newly single, he admitted his thoughts were consumed by worries about the women he works with, over hearing some of their personal challenges over a lunch break and couldn’t seem to stop himself from making gestures towards providing solutions – even when he hadn’t been directly asked for help. Things like offering to lend them money or giving unsolicited advice created immense challenges in his professional working relationships. He would take his colleagues challenges home with him, his worries about their life situation would keep him up at night.
He took up dancing as a new hobby thinking it would take his mind of the women he works with yet instead of having fun, meeting new people and enjoying the music he would end up spending the evening feeling overwhelmed watching the woman on the side lines without a dance partner. He felt so incredibly sad for them that it got in the way of his ability to have any fun. He would be sure to ask as many of the woman who didn’t have a dance partner to dance even though his legs would throb and feet would ache by the end of the night. As if unaware of his own pain to save what he perceived as the discomfort of any of the women watching everyone else dance.
During our work together Peter discovered that his Grandmother, his dad’s mom, experienced severe post partum depression after each child was born. Peter’s father needed to take care of everything during that time from working to provide for the family, meal preparation, bed time routines, love and care for the children while she was recovering. As a young boy, he watched his dad do it all. In Peter’s earliest experience love and giving were intertwined, one simply didn’t exist without the other. Add the tragic loss of his own father, he ended up replicating the pattern where his own needs went unnoticed within an environment where mom’s needs along with his younger sister’s needs took priority.
In our work together, I guided Peter to locate places in his body that would react to woman in distress from his professional life to the dancefloor. As these feelings had the power to overtake his body, he could locate them right away. I had Peter connect his breath to the specific areas that would tighten or collapse at the mere thought of the woman in his life who felt stressed, who were grieving or feeling left out. During our session, I had Peter bring in some of the inner images held within since he had been a little boy. Imagining saying things to him mom such as, ‘I’m still so little, mom, look at when happens to me if I try to take away your sadness and pain. This is too much for any young boy. I miss him too’ These words acted like keys to open the flood gates that Peter had held closed all these years to be able to be the strong one, the one with all the solutions, the one who gave endlessly even to his own detriment.
When a young boy gives to a sad mother, he often feels in his own marriage that his wife’s needs are endless. As an 11 year old boy, how could he have done anything to truly take his mom’s pain away? Grief is a process, that takes its own time that is unique to each and every one of us. Yet, Peter’s body would feel like no matter what I do for my Mom, it is never enough to bring her back to us, never enough to lift the sadness from her eyes. It’s as if he takes that feeling of ‘no matter what I do its never enough for her’ into the marriage. As fate would have it, often we find that perfect fit partner that encourages us to step into that familiar caretaker role. All healthy relationship truly do require an equal balance of give and take if its not there I’ve observed that its only a matter of time before resentments build.
Just a bit of time after our work together, Peter has cultivated healthy boundaries with his ex-wife, enjoys an evening of dancing by engaging with those who join him on the dance floor, travels for months at a time exploring new cultures and believes the women he works with have the capacity to find solutions that work best for them. He describes finding a peace in his body that he’s never quite known.
Perhaps your emotional inheritance isn’t as pronounced as Peter’s yet I can say with certainty after working with hundreds of clients over the years that your family experiences are shaping your relationships, your success, your health in many more ways that you may have considered. Peter lives with a new awareness of his family inheritance, with this new found knowledge he is now free from past painful patterns. How are you living your emotional inheritance?
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