How to move forward after a traumatic experience having a child
I believe there are potentially mothers who have had very traumatic experiences either while pregnant, giving birth and in the early stages of life with a baby that have been missed and undiagnosed.
What is trauma and how do we know if we have been in a situation that has caused it?
As we experience a threat, (trauma), to our survival, for example during labour; our limbic system, is activated. This system which holds the hippocampus, processes information and the amygdala, which processes emotion, reacts starting our fight, flight, freeze response. This area of the brain is in constant communication with the cortex, the outer layer of the brain, which we use to rationalise. In stressful situations the link between the hippocampus/amygdala and cortex can break down.
When a traumatic event happens the memory stays in the cortex but because the emotions and the memory are separate from each other, we still can’t rationalise. There are a number of symptoms of trauma or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) which may help you consider where you are with trauma. Do you avoid situations or things that remind you of an event? When you remember an event do you feel sick, numb physically and/ or emotionally, on edge, tense? Perhaps you only remember snippets of the event/birth. When a mother has a traumatic birth, it impacts them not only at the time but through the course of raising that child. There may then come a time when another child is wanted in the family. How is it possible to have or perhaps even want another child after experiencing trauma? Is it possible to have a different experience with the weight of past trauma?
Working with trauma is complex and needs to be done in a contained and safe way. The client is always in the driving seat, with me the therapist, sitting beside them supporting them to navigate the road they are on.
Written for Darling Magazine Wimbledon, Summer 2021 edition