Single and Pregnant: Recovery- When Survivors Give Birth

When you first get pregnant, I’m sure you’re like: okay here we go!  There’s all this stuff.  All these things that need to be done.  But everything will be easy as it gets, for being pregnant.  Then you start to account all the physical stuff, I am going to be pregnant for about 9 months or about 40 weeks, I might get sick in the first trimester, and I’m going to put on weight, hopefully not too much of it.  May or may not go on bed rest, etc.  The whole list of things to essentially be ready for! 

But no one really mentions the mental health aspect of being pregnant.  Yeah, sure they talk about your hormones.  But seriously we all know it’s hormones when you’re crying over ice cream at 2 o’clock in the morning!

What if there is something deeper going on?  What if there are fears and triggers?  What about those flashbacks you keep getting?  What about those crazy dreams about you dying?  Those are just pregnancy dreams?  Seriously!?  Don’t get me wrong, there are some crazy pregnancy dreams.  Like the one I had of my younger brother riding an elephant in heels in some competition!  LOL!  Sorry brother!

In my personal experience the fears, the triggers and the flashbacks were much deeper than just being pregnant.  They were much different than off the hook hormones. 

This is something that I waited until I was pregnant to resolve.  I didn’t realize it was haunting me so bad. I’m not sure if it’s because you’re about to bring another human into the world or what exactly, but it certainly changes things.   You really do start thinking differently as soon as you know you’re going to bring another life into this world.  Everything changes from me to us.

My pregnancy physically thus far has been a breeze.  (I know!  I’m extremely grateful!) My pregnancy mentally and emotionally was torture up until about 2 or 3 weeks ago. To give you a little back story: My boyfriend and I broke up about 12 weeks into the pregnancy, hours before I was supposed to move into his house.  I went into an emotional tailwind. Even before then I wasn’t emotionally stable.  I was depressed, had crazy looping thoughts, and my dreams were out of control.  Because of this I started working with a spiritual coach, as I like to call her.  (And if you want more of the back story you read this blog here.) I was learning some valuable lessons but I soon realized the pain and the problems were much, much deeper than I ever expected.

The pain was from being sexually abused between the ages of 4 and 7. (I’m not going to share much of the details.)  For years, I actually hadn’t remembered it had taken place.  But with being pregnant flashbacks started to occur and I started to put pieces together. 

As fate would have it, I went to the doctor to check on the baby the Monday after my boyfriend and I broke up; I started to stress over the baby with the emotional turmoil.  I asked for counseling and the advocate suggested that I read the book, When Survivors Give Birth.  I hadn’t mentioned my abuse to anyone at that point. I felt like it was a sign.

I’m still healing from the abuse, but in this blog I am going to specifically write about how When Survivors Give Birth helped me heal and help get ready for the birth of my daughter.  It’s my hope, one day, that I will share even more of my healing journey so that it can benefit you as well.  But today, if you’re pregnant or expecting or wanting, I, first, recommend reading When Survivors Give Birth, and second, I think it’s important you address your abuse because, if you don’t, it can lead to fears and triggers at a level that is unexplainable, not pregnant.  And when you’re pregnant it’s a whole different ball game. 

When Survivors Give Birth is a book to help expecting mothers first child or multiple, address their sexual abuse history so that it doesn’t trigger them during labor.  Not only does it help mothers but it helps clinical staff that might come in contact with women who are victims of sexual abuse.  The whole purpose is to minimize re-traumatization during labor.  Which can actually happen with or without the mom knowing or remembering she had been sexually abused. (As a personal example, I don’t remember the details of everything.  But I remember that it happened.  Our brains will disassociate to keep up safe-defense mechanisms.)

I have come to realize that many women have been abused.  More than I think are statistically accounted for.  Why?  Because women don’t want to talk about it.  There is still shame, not wanting to bring up the past, supposedly moving on, it doesn’t hurt me now, or just not sure she can trust the person on the other side.  Plus the reactions and the words that come after.  It’s really not the most comfortable conversation, to say the least.

The book helps you realize that your flashbacks are real.  Whether you have fear of labor or fear of having exams, it’s related to past trauma.  Even women that have gone to counseling still have to cope with having exams and going into labor.  Not only does the book help you understand your flashbacks it helps you identify your triggers in a clinical setting.

Here are some other areas When Survivors Give Birth can help:

Communication

It helps you identify what the flashbacks really mean, it also helps with one of the hardest parts of recovery.  Talking about what happened.  Up until a few weeks ago, I had only told one person what happened.  The book encourages you to not only tell your provider but also your partner.  It’s important for your provider to know, because they need to be able to assist and understand what you’re going through.  They also are there to help accommodate you in any way they can.  It also helps bring trust into the relationship.  Remember they can’t help you, if you don’t tell them.  When I told my provider, I asked both the father of my child and my mother to leave the room.  And I just told my provider I had gone through abuse during my childhood and as young adult.  That’s it.  I didn’t provide any details.  I was so freaking nervous about it!  You don’t want them to feel bad for you, but you also don’t want them to disregard what you’ve been through!  And telling someone of authority is trying in itself.  Because most of the time we trusted someone in authority and we were taken advantage of.  This can be one of the hardest things you’ll do.  But It’s worth it.  You’re not required to give any more detail than what you’re comfortable.  They might ask you if you’re seeing a counselor etc.  Which is okay.  I highly recommend telling your provider. It will helps with the process.  Especially if you are emotionally and mentally struggling with the fear of labor. 

Single and Pregnant: Recovery- When Survivors Give Birth

The book also recommends telling your partner because they need to know how they can support you.  They cannot support you in the best way possible, if they’re unaware of the abuse.  You would think partners already know, but not telling partners is extremely common.  I did tell the father of my child.  Even after we weren’t together.  I really think I only told him because the book encouraged it. I also knew it was getting to the point that I needed to, because I was having some crazy fears about it happening to my daughter because I wouldn’t be in his home.  Not that I believe he would do it, but I don’t know who would be coming in out of his house.  When I told him, it was the most uncomfortable conversation I’ve had. He didn’t know how to respond.  And his main concern was whether or not those past incidents would be projected onto him.  (Not exactly what I was hoping for, but I did tell him.)

Self-help Techniques

The book also provides self-help techniques that can assist you before and during labor.  They offer this because not everyone is in a position to go to therapy.  They offer it because these techniques can also help along with therapy.  They mention things like art therapy, breathing techniques, and so much more.  If you honestly feel like you’re unable to get yourself to a therapist, I highly recommend reading When Survivors Give Birth and practice these techniques.  Then pick one you like the most and stick with it.  It will truly help you get through the flashbacks, get through labor successfully. (I journal a lot.  That helps keep me grounded.  I also write letters to my child self.)

 The book is really meant to help women go into labor with a positive mindset.  Knowing they have techniques they can use to help them with a successful labor. 

Recovering from sexual abuse is hard enough, going into labor with or without being healed from that abuse is a whole different ball game. This book is a terrific resource.  And it not only provides self-help techniques and ways to communicate but it also gives you a list of questions to ask a potential counselor and provider.  Giving you an opportunity to be as comfortable as possible with these authority figures.  The whole purpose is to eliminate traumas during your labor.  So you can develop a better relationship with yourself and your child.

Can you relate or have anything to add or say?  Leave a comment below! Let’s connect!