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Archive for the ‘Trauma’ Category

How to speak to expectant mums – a guide for existing mothers

Following on from my previous post, I have decided to do a list of advice for mums on how to deal with pregnant women.

I’ve only been a mum for 9.5 weeks, so I claim no expertise, but I do understand where a lot of you come from. I’m not berating you, but just hoping that this post will help you to help others through their first pregnancies.  I’ll try make this as succinct as possible.

1. Listen.

Pregnancy to a first-time mum, is an incredible experience. Some may find it terrible, some may find it amazing, but most of us find it a roller-coaster of new experiences. A friend’s response to my pregnancy announcement was ‘congratulations on becoming a living science experiment,’ which is absolutely true. Every pregnancy is different and most women want to share that experience. It’s the biggest thing that’s happening in our lives at that time (if we’re lucky) and we may find it difficult to talk about anything else.

Expectant mums know that you know better, but what’s happening inside of us is huge. Let us experience that and tell you. I found it increasingly difficult to finish a sentence after announcing I was pregnant. I was constantly interrupted with unwanted advice or someone else’s pregnancy story. I remember one morning announcing that I felt like death. I wasn’t able to continue because I was interrupted with a lecture that started off with “Hah!  You think you feel bad now, wait until you’re 9 months pregnant.” I’m not exaggerating when I say that only a half hour later was I able to interrupt the tirade with ‘I feel like death…because I have a cold.’ 

It had nothing to do with pregnancy. Try to realise that you may know more about pregnancy and childbirth, but that sometimes, we just need to talk and you may not know what we’re about to say.

2. Wait until…

These words were incessant throughout my pregnancy. As I mentioned in the first post, you have experienced your first pregnancy, let us have ours. The tiny flutters you first feel when you start to feel your baby moving are possibly the most exciting thing that has ever happened to you. The last thing we want to hear is “wait until the kicks start, then you won’t be smiling.”

Some women experience intense round ligament pain. The appropriate response to this is not “wait until you give birth, then you’ll know what pain is like.”

Likewise for new mothers: what we feel when our little human grabs our fingers for the first time is indescribable. We don’t want to hear “Awww, wait until s/he gives you their first smile, then your heart will melt!” It’s melting now. Let us experience every second of this amazing journey, in the moment – not waiting for the next milestone to amaze us.

3. Horror stories (expectant mums please skip ahead)

Come on, guys. You know the drill – don’t bombard pregnant women with horrific child birth stories. You all know this, and yet, that’s all I seemed to hear when pregnant. We know it’ll be bad, we know we are completely unprepared, but your stories certainly won’t help us sleep at night.

I heard some doozies during pregnancy: blood on the ceiling, near-death experiences, stillbirths (Seriously? Mentioning miscarriages or stillborn babies around a pregnant women is completely unacceptable. I shouldn’t have to tell you this) and botched c-sections. I heard one positive birth story in the whole ten months.

I now understand where you’re coming from, having my own horror story. Part of healing after a trauma is talking it out of your system and birth can be extremely traumatic. Mine was and I talk about it all the time…to people who have been there before, or people who were there. I found myself retelling the story to a friend who hasn’t any children yet and I really regret this. She did ask and she was well aware it was a bad birth, but it’s still not something she should know. There are plenty of easy births that happen. On the day I gave birth, there were two women that I know well who gave birth to two healthy little boys, in under three hours. It’s not uncommon.

So, quit using pregnant women as your psychologists. Seek counselling and heal yourself properly – don’t spread the fear.

4. It’s still early

Three of the harshest words you could say to a pregnant woman. Does the fact that I’m only 7 weeks pregnant make my pregnancy null and void?

You are basically telling me that there is a high probability of me losing my child.

Don’t.

5. Sympathy goes a long way

As aforementioned, every pregnancy is different. Your round ligament pain could have been a light ache, whereas another women’s could land them in hospital. Don’t assume that the woman complaining about pain at 7 weeks pregnant is experiencing the same pain you experienced. Try to sympathise with her and realise that she isn’t being a hypochondriac; she, quite possibly, is in agony. I felt like I was being split in two when John started to move, as the adhesions caused by my endometriosis were literally tearing.

Morning sickness is not amusing. I remember rushing to the bathroom every hour and when  I returned with mascara running down my face and blood-red eyes, people would laugh. And yet, when someone came down with a bug and vomited once, there was endless parade of people ‘checking up’ on them. I felt isolated and as if my pain and discomfort were somehow less important than that of a non-pregnant woman.

Pregnancy doesn’t make it easier to deal with sickness, pain or discomfort.

Perhaps this wasn’t as succinct as I’d hoped. There are many other snippets of advice given to pregnant women (sleep while you can? What a joke.), but, in short, just try for a little compassion and put yourself in her shoes.

It is simultaneously the worst and most wonderful time in a woman’s life and it’s okay for her to feel that way.

A little bit of me

I’ve been struggling over whether to write this post or not, but as yesterday was World Suicide Prevention Day and bloggers like  The Bloggess and Wil Wheaton have been open and honest about their depression, I think it’s only right that a little person like me does it too.

This isn’t really about depression, though, but it is about mental illness, mental stability and well, whether I belong in the looney bin.

This isn’t an easy post to write, but this past week has been pretty intense for me and it’s certainly been a mark on the memory bank (excuse the pun you’ll get later).

I have suffered on and off with depression. I’m lucky enough for it not to have been a major influence in my life, just a month or two every now and then, when I feel like shit, hate the world and myself and only ever want to sleep. Depression isn’t an issue for me, but it’s a serious  issue for many of my friends. If your friend has depression, let them know you’re there for them. It’s not something small and it’s not something that they can just turn off. It’s a serious illness and they need your support.

Mine stems from a trauma that happened when I was young. The problem is, I only remembered this trauma when I became an adult. Until then, I remembered enough to know I had a close call and in fact spent 4 years assuming that’s all it was, until the memories started.

My looney bin moment resides in the fact that I don’t know if these memories are real or false. I’ve been to shrinks, who can’t really help me if I can’t remember, and almost went to a hypnowhatsit, but that went belly up when she decided (incorrectly) that I had epilepsy and couldn’t help me.

I don’t have full recollections, only flashbacks, which, according to most of what I’ve read up about, imply that this is more real than false. After reading up on false memories of trauma, I find more often they occurred after hypnosis and not before (created through badly phrased questions by hypnowhatsits) and also that those that fabricated memories before hypnosis may be wrong about small things (the colour of the curtains) or big things (the perpetrator), but rarely about the act. It doesn’t quell my uncertainty though. My heart says it happened, my brain says it probably happened and my body has said PTSD for as long as I can remember, but I need to know.

The point I want to make here today is: Talk about it.

Last weekend, in a fit of fury and rage over something as inconsequential as spilt wine (ok, that’s not inconsequential, it’s a bloody terrible loss), I let loose my feelings and unloaded on someone close to me. I didn’t do it spectacularly well…or even in a dignified way (a screaming car ride is always the best way to deal with your issues, I think), but I did it. And then I went home and I wrote. I told them of my rage, my sorrow, my hurt, my confusion and above all my fear.

Writing about it didn’t take the fear away, but when I showed them the letter, part of my anger and pain melted away. The next morning, I woke up and I just lay in bed for hours (thank god I’m self-employed), because it felt so damned good. The tightness in my chest that had been sitting there for over a year, and probably longer, was finally gone. It was (and still is) like I’m finally free.

I’m still terrified. I’m not terrified of remembering, I’m terrified of not remembering or terrified of the reaction of my friends and family. Most of all, I’m terrified that my brain concocted this story, for whatever warped reason it would have, but I’m better now and able to take steps to deal with it… I hope.

This post is only to urge you to talk. Talk to your friends and family, write anonymously, even talk it out in the room on your tod. Trust me, it feels better.

 

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