Birth Trauma, an anniversary

Here’s the story that women are supposed to tell:

 

On this day __ years ago, this perfect little bundle came into my life. And the moment I saw his/her face, I knew that all the pain and sacrifice was completely worth it, and the joy of seeing my baby washed away all the trauma I experienced bringing him/her into existence.

Here’s the story I’m telling you today:

It’s my son’s 7th birthday today. Yesterday I couldn’t pin down why I was feeling so sad and anxious all day long. Last night I went to sleep running my fingers over my C-section scar. This morning I woke up after yet another anxiety dream, and my body felt like it was pinned to the bed. Just like that horrific day seven years ago when I discovered that I would be strapped down to a cross and cut open, and then left alone for hours with my mind and body still reeling from the horrors that had just happened. From all the echoes of past trauma that had been both physically and mentally re-opened.

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For mothers who experienced traumatic births, these birthdays are the cruelest of celebrations. We are supposed to smile and shower love on our children, and never admit that on these days we would really love to curl up in a ball and sob. We are not supposed to say that having our children took too high a toll on our physical and mental health. We are not supposed to mention just how badly our medical and social systems failed to support us when we needed it the most.

There is no space for this grief. It is lumped into a big pile with all the other unacceptable griefs in our culture and buried in a mass grave far away so we won’t have to look at how women’s bodies are routinely traumatized in the name of health care. Or how our culture simultaneously holds up motherhood on a pedestal while actively despising mothers. Or how childbirth re-activates old sexual assault trauma. All these topics are strictly off-limits.

Well I am done pretending that this day is not traumatic for me. I have seen friends who decades after the anniversary of a loved one’s passing still make room for grief on the anniversary of the death. And I think that mothers (and parents of all genders who experienced birth trauma) need to be allowed to take room for themselves on this day. Maybe we can have some kind of group ritual, much like people bring flowers to grave sites. Something to honour that pain and sacrifice. Something to sooth our grieving bodies, who very much still remember.

I think I’ll find a park bench today and sit there with a bunch of flowers and make space for tears to flow. I’ll remind myself that I am in good company, that many others feel this way. I’ll honour my body and the sacrifice it made by treating it kindly today, offering it sweets to taste and fresh air to breathe. I’ll light a candle for all those who are sitting with any form of grief today that they have to harbor in secret. And I’ll send out these wishes for all of us.

May we be filled with loving kindness.

May we make space to honour our grief.

May we be loved, supported and seen in our sorrow and our strength.

 

P.S. If you are struggling with birth trauma right now, I want you to know that you are not alone. If you need support, Pacific Post Partum offers phone and text support at 604-255-7999 Monday to Friday from 10am to 3pm PST.

 


Interested in learning more about trauma recovery?

Enroll in my upcoming online workshop: Parenting After Trauma.

Parenting After Trauma

Dear Survivor Parent,

Yes, birthing and parenting are triggers that can open up old wounds. If you are struggling to manage flashbacks and intrusive thoughts about your childhood abuse while parenting, you are not alone in this. And yes, there is something we can do about it.

Hi, I’m Joyelle Brandt I’m a self care coach for parents, who specializes in working with survivors of abuse. I want you to know that when you are feeling triggered by daily acts of parenting, you are experiencing a completely normal response for someone with a trauma history. You are not crazy, you are not broken, and together we can work to heal from old trauma patterns and build a life with more joy and connection.

If you would like to learn more about Parenting After Trauma, join me on May 13th in Port Moody for an evening workshop. We will cover:

- how early childhood trauma affects mental, emotional, and physical health throughout the lifespan

- common triggers for parenting survivors

- common reactions and symptoms experienced by parenting survivors

- the role self and co-regulation play in recalibrating the body’s stress response system

You will leave the evening with validation, support, and concrete steps that you can take to start feeling better in your daily life with your kids. Your history does not have to be your future. You have the power to create the life that you want for yourself and your family.

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Parenting with PTSD Interview Series, a conversation with Andrea Papin, RTC

I recently interviewed Andrea Papin, RTC for the Parenting with PTSD interview series. We had a great conversation about the role of anger, grief and forgiveness in the healing process. Check out the video below!

 "Anger and grief are feelings that arise when we experience a loss, a transgression, an injustice, a boundary violation, or a transition. They are embodied energy that alert us to what we value and what we need. They can be a way to honour what we have lost." -Andrea Papin

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 "Forgiveness is a word that we hear thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean and how important is it in the context of trauma?

Typically, the word “forgiveness” is used to describe the arrival at a state of peace, that involves a letting go of anger and resentment towards someone who has harmed us.  In the context of trauma, we tend to think of an abuser, perpetrator, or even an event.  We also tend to talk about forgiving ourselves.

All of these ways of talking about trauma seem to elude to a particular trajectory with an endpoint where we are healed, calm and wise. Now I don’t doubt that this is possible, but I don’t think that forgiveness is an endpoint, a necessity or a feeling state that is static." -Andrea Papin

Guest blog on Out of the Storm: Parenting and the Legacy of Childhood Trauma

Janet is overwhelmed with a wave of revulsion and nausea every time she breastfeeds her child. Mateo feels guilty every time he changes his son’s diaper, as if he is doing something wrong. Han is filled with paralyzing anxiety every time her boys play-fight. What do these parents have in common? They are all parenting with ACEs.

Many research studies have now established how ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences, negatively impact mental and physical health over a lifetime. The CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study and subsequent surveys that show that most people in the U.S. have at least one ACE, and that people with four ACEs— including living with an alcoholic parent, racism, bullying, witnessing violence outside the home, physical abuse, and losing a parent to divorce — have a huge risk of adult onset of chronic health problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, suicide, and alcoholism. An ACE score of six or more can shorten your lifespan by up to 20 years.

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The question that is not being asked is, what happens when these survivors of childhood trauma grow up and have children of their own? Many survivors of childhood trauma are living with un-diagnosed PTSD that becomes un-manageable when they have kids of their own. These parents are blindsided by the sudden onset of flashbacks and triggers related to parenting. In the absence of information about this common occurrence, they are left feeling broken and alone….


To read the full article on Out of the Storm, click below: