It Turns Out I Don’t Breathe

Okay, that title might be slightly misleading.

Clearly, I am breathing, otherwise the very act of sitting here typing would be super creepy and would call into question much of what I understand to be true about the necessity of breathing.

But, it was pointed out to me, that I stop breathing normally when I get incredibly stressed.

So, the short version of the events is that my husband and I were at an appointment with my counselor. We were talking about the events of the last 2 weeks, and our decision to seek a second opinion in Dr. Braverman, and our worries about our current RE and clinic and the need for someone in our home city to monitor us to help with the costs. And the fact that we have 3 medical appointments at the end of this week, and basically the stress of it all.

And then, my phone rang. And, for whatever reason I didn’t ignore it (as I normally would when I’m engaged in another conversation). By some odd coincidence / twist of fate, my fertility clinic called me while I was sitting in the room with my counselor and my husband.

I answered it and had a quick conversation – it turns out they called just to remind me of our upcoming appointment next week – no big deal.

But, the important thing about this was that our counselor was able to witness the conversation unfold. She was actually thrilled that she was able to watch the conversation. She was actually able to see my physical stress response, and see how my body stopped doing what it needs to do properly.

I stopped breathing.

Not the type of stopping that requires immediate medical attention to prevent death. It was more like, I was preparing for the worst, and lost the ability to remember to inhale and exhale at a normal rhythm as I was focusing on the things that this phone call could mean. As our counselor observed, I evidently stopped breathing normally the entire time I was on the phone – a good 1 or 2 minutes.  While clearly, I continued to breath or I’d be dead, my breathing pattern turned very erratic and shallow for the duration of the call.

I can honestly say I had never noticed this. I have observed that when I get incredibly stressed in a conversation, I get really cold – so cold in fact that I’ll actually start shivering. I am now so aware of it, that if I was expecting a stressful interaction with someone at work (i.e. dealing with poor performance of another employee), I would dress in layers! And, I’m also now very aware when this occurs that I need to take a step back from the heat of the conversation and refocus the conversation to a less stressful place. Anyways, I digress.

I have never noticed that I stop breathing normally. This was new to me.

So, it became very evident to our counselor that we to develop a plan for me to get through our appointment with our RE because it turns out that asides from remaining alive, there are a lot of physiological benefits from regular breathing. She explained a lot of this, but I didn’t pay enough attention to the details to share them here.

So the plan now is that

  1. I have to remember to breath. My husband has to point it out to me if he notices that I stop breathing – he can do this by simply taping my leg, so that its’ not obvious to anyone but us (i.e he can secretly tell me in our RE appointment).
  2. I have to develop a mantra of some sort to repeat in my head, a few times. Even if it’s just the world calm repeated over and over.
  3. I had to practice deep breathing during our medical appointments – in through my nose, filling my lungs so that my stomach is pushed out, and holding for a few seconds, then releasing through my mouth. And repeating this a few times. She actually taught me to do this when I was stressed at my old job and I used to do it on my drive to and from work – and now I still find myself breathing when I’m in my car driving somewhere – so now I need to remember to use it during stressful events.
  4. My RE clinic gets a new ring sound on my cell phone so that I am aware that it is them instantly.  This will enable me to remember to start breathing before I even answer the phone.

Here’s to hoping I breathe through the appointments this week and that our medical professionals locally agree to work with us and support our efforts to really get to the bottom of our RPL.

If you like this post, please feel free to share it and please return to to follow my journey.

35 Comments on “It Turns Out I Don’t Breathe

  1. I was first told this almost 5 years ago when we first started prepping for our TTC journey. When I finally sought the help of an acupuncturist/TCMD, this was pointed out to me again. Every week, for a year and a half (except for a brief period when I only saw her bi-weekly), she instructed me to take at least 5-10 deep, slow breaths during the second half of my sessions with her (the first half I’m on my tummy or later my side, not as easy to do deep breathing). By now I recognize this behaviour in myself. I wish I could say I’ve eradicated it from my repertoire of stress-management behaviours. Nope.

    Of course, I have a stressful job that I cannot quit and I have infinitely more anxiety about all of the immune and genetic reasons for our RPL than I did years ago. That does not help. But your post today reminds me how incredibly important this lesson has been to me on my journey – the breathing lesson. I’m so glad your counsellor helped you craft a great plan going forward!

    Do you do any meditation? I have had to fight myself tooth and nail to do meditation (again on the recommendation of my alternative modality practitioners) but I can tell you it really does help us learn to be better breathers. It still does not come easy to me but I have recently returned to doing it (though now I’m using my hypnotherapy appointment recording instead of the other meditation recordings I have given where I’m at with this cycle). I can send you some meditations if you don’t have any yet and want to try them. Or I think I can.. I’m pretty techno-inept, but I’m prepared to experiment. 😉


    • Oh, I hate that you understand this!
      I remember having my first panic attack when I was 14 after my mom and sister died – I don’t have them any more and thankfully haven’t had those in years. So, I never noticed the recent changes in my breathing when I’m stressed, because they don’t compare to my memories of a real panic attack.
      Anyways, I have never tried meditation. My counselor has suggested that at this point, I probably wouldn’t buy into it, so to focus on just dealing with breathing in the moment and learning to live in the present to reduce general worrying. I do think at some point I may turn to meditation, but I don’t know. That said, if you can figure out how to send them to me, I am willing to give it a try!


      • I will try tonight. I really struggled with some of them, others I don’t mind. It’s a really good exercise even if you suck. My second (and equally favourite) acupuncturist had me start with five minutes visualizing a colour from the chakras and just try to clear the mind in those five minutes while breathing deeply. That is hard work, I preferred the structured meditations but now I see that I spend time meditating quite often, I just didn’t know how and I didn’t know I kind of did it to some extent already when I *wasn’t* stressed. Panic attacks suck, I remember my first well, too. I don’t get them anymore though I see my usually low BP jump up every time I’m in a doctor’s office now – case in point, it was 107/61 when I got to the RI’s office and within 15 minutes it was back to 90/60. Waiting in reception can get it going. Good thing I don’t have high BP to start with!


      • Oh, my husband has the same problem with doctor’s offices. Thankfully, I do not. Well, I probably actually do at my RE’s clinic, I’ve noticed that both my husband and I hate everything about going into that clinic now – we noticed it particularly with the last two visits. I just know Friday’s appointment is not going to be too fun…
        Anyways, if you manage to get them copied, great. But if not, just send me the name of your favourite one and I’ll find a copy. 🙂


      • I had a Torrential Toddler evening (someone had refused to eat ALL DAY and lost his poop on my watch) so this didn’t happen last night but I will do this (send copies or a link where to find them if I am too inept).


  2. Hate to break it to you but most people aren’t physically capable of holding their breath for more than 30 seconds or so. When I used to swim competitively, I was a little over 45 seconds. Science. Maybe you were breathing shallowly or showing some other stress response, but this is scientifically inaccurate and your counselor is trying to sell you something I’m not buying.

    Sounds like you’re overthinking this and just need to go to yoga or get a massage or go to kickboxing or something. Don’t worry, you won’t literally die on the phone from suffocation after two minutes with your RE. But just hearing about your counselor making shit like this up (not breathing for 2 minutes? REALLY?) for you to worry about is raising my stress level.


    • While I greatly appreciate your concern, I just want to point out that in my post I did say breathing normally. The type of breathing I was referring to – shallow and erratic – it is a scientifically documented response to anxiety, commonly referred to as panic attacks.
      And, I have no intentions of dying, but do want to be better equipped to handle these situations when they arise in a way that will help me maintain a normal breathing pattern.
      Thanks again for your care and support 🙂


  3. Most of us woman are terrible breathers! 😉 We breathe really shallow and then of course like you said stop or hold our breath when in stress or fear. This is why my mindful breathing/meditation/just sitting in silence for a few minutes every day is so important to my well-being. Sending you strength, clarity and love!!! Justine


  4. Breathing is so crucial. Pardon me if I’ve preached this before, but this is why I’m in love with mindfulness (a big component of which is breathing.) I started doing it about a year ago, fell off the wagon, and am now back on. It has helped me so much to stay calm during various procedures, before scary appointments, what have you. Setting aside 10 minutes a day to practice breathing sounds nuts, but it’s totally worth it.


  5. I’m glad that your counselor was there to see your reaction and help you get through this time with maybe slightly less stress, or at least better handling of it. It’s got me thinking…I wonder what my reactions are to stress besides tears. I may have to ask my husband if he notices any signs. I think mainly I just cry…I’m such a crier, lol. Just keep breathing, just keep breathing! 🙂 Sending hugs and love your way!!!


    • I’d totally ask your husband, it would be interesting to know what he has observed. That said, I’m not sure if my husband had noticed that I don’t breathe properly when I’m stressed. 🙂
      Thank you!


  6. Knowing is half the battle? Ugh. Anyway, so glad your counselor was there to witness this and give you some points and tips. I hope they do help! And good luck on the upcoming appointments this week.


  7. I’m so glad your counselor was able to witness the level of stress you go through by just answering a call from your clinic. Hopefully, being more mindful of it will help you when you have to see them this week. I constantly have to remind myself to take deep breaths before I go into as stressful situation too. Sometimes it’s so hard to remember though! I really hope your appointment goes well and they cooperate with you and are willing to work with Dr. B!

    Also, thank you so much for the maple candy! I found your package on my doorstep when I came back from my OB appt today and I got so excited when I read your card and realized what it was! You absolutely did not need to do that! Thank you! I love maple candy so much! I will post an update later when I have a free moment about my appt (all is good) and I can’t wait to post about the maple candy 🙂


    • I’m so happy you received the candies! My husband thought I was crazy driving to multiple candy stores to find them – evidently they are very hard to find in our city! I usually find them at tourist shops in the Rocky’s, so I just figured they’d be in the city too. Anyways, I hope you enjoy them and I am sooo happy to hear that your appointment went well! 🙂


      • Haha, my hubby would have thought I was crazy too, but it’s something I would totally do too! I cannot say how touched I am that you went out of your way to find it and think of me. Thank you again hon ❤


      • I just hope they are yummy, because they aren’t the brand I normally buy (I had no idea there was more then one brand, but alas, there are). I did check the ingredients to make sure it was real maple syrup, so I figure they will be good. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m so glad you have a plan to deal with your physical reaction. I got a call from my RE yesterday and I feel that I always start overheating as soon as I see the number on the phone. I like the idea of changing the ring tone, maybe it will help me too. Thank you for sharing.


    • I thought the ringtone was a great idea too. I actually just changed my husband’s to one of our favorite songs, so now when he calls me it instantly puts a smile on my face. I am afraid I might get a little too addicted to customized ringtones. 🙂


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