Pregnancy and PTSD
I share this cautiously, knowing that pregnancy is a difficult, deeply personal topic for many. I would like to say upfront, that I honor anyone experiencing infertility, or who has lost a child. You are in my heart and prayers.
The intention of sharing my story has one purpose – to open the door to anyone who may be feeling like I did and need a place to share. I apologize in advance if my opinion or story is offensive to you in anyway, and invite you to reach out if you would like to discuss further!
As some of you know, I am currently six months pregnant with baby #1. To say it has been a journey, is putting it mildly.
I never thought I could get pregnant. As a result of some health issues, my doctors made it clear that getting pregnant would likely be difficult, if at all possible. While it was never an easy thing to hear, I was ok with that possibility. As a former coach and CASA for Foster Youth there has never been any doubt in my mind I could fully and unconditionally love a child that I did not create. It was something I was very upfront with my husband about early in our relationship, and fortunately he did not bat an eye at the possibility of infertility or adoption.
Much to my surprise (and his), I got pregnant shortly after we got married. Finding out was a wave of emotion – the shock and fear- am I ready, are we ready? This wasn’t our plan, will he be upset? And then of course joy, when I told him, and the blessing before us really hit me. Despite his own shock, he embraced me so confidently and lovingly, assuring me that there was no need for doubt.
As excited as we were, the first trimester was especially difficult for me. I was riddled with guilt, because I truly resented being pregnant, yet know how many women would give anything to be in my position. Accepting that my body was no longer mine was challenging. Half-jokingly, I called my unborn child a parasite for far longer than I would like to admit. I simply could not wrap my mind around my own emotions. I have wanted to be a mother for such a long time, how could I be feeling this way? I was so disappointed with myself and my reaction, I slipped into a bit of a depression and could not seem to pull myself out of it.
Somehow as the insomnia got worse, the dark place I was creeping towards felt familiar, but I could not pinpoint what was happening… that is, until, my pregnancy pillow caused a full-fledged panic attack. Yes, you read that right: the wonderful pillow, sent by my wonderful mother, that was meant to bring me comfort, instead incited a panic within me I have not experienced in years.
As I woke up from a dead sleep with the weight of the giant pillow engulfing me, feeling trapped by both the pillow and my sheets, I came undone. I was no longer safe lying next to my incredible husband – I was back on that couch, stuck under the weight of a man I didn’t know, fighting for my life.
When I calmed down and was able to process what had happened, the ah-ha moment hit me like a ton of bricks, pregnancy was triggering my PTSD. For years I had fought to reclaim my body, accept all the broken parts and love myself again. With a new flood of hormones, exhaustion, sickness and pain; my body no longer felt like mine anymore – and despite the love I had for our growing baby, it made me angry and increased my resentment.
Thank goodness this realization was a game changer, I knew in that moment I could give in and decide to go back to that dark place – or I could fight like hell to do the right thing for our child. I started reading everything I could get my hands on about PTSD and pregnancy. I learned that with a PTSD diagnosis, the likelihood of experiencing postpartum depression increases significantly. I started talking to my husband about my fears and what my history potentially meant for our child. With his support, I was able to make a career change to consulting that allows for a more flexible schedule. The change has significantly reduced my stress level and allowed me time to invest in self-care activities like Yoga, exercise and rest.
Thanks to the support of an amazing partner, second trimester has been immensely better. We found out baby is a little girl – and somehow that has given me even more incentive not to let an old diagnosis impact her world for a second. While the resentment is gone, the fear is still there.
Despite the support, I am still so afraid that if I am not careful, my story will become a part of hers.
Soundingboard Mothers – what do you think, will that fear ever go away?