Healthy Mind

Navigating pregnancy with PTSD

Valerie  |   22 Jul 2021


Valerie candidly shares her personal trying to conceive journey, the trials and tribulations of navigating pregnancy, suffering with PTSD, and more.

At a BBQ several weeks ago, one of my husband’s family members pointed at my stomach and asked if there was something I wanted to tell him. Incidentally, my stomach had the slightest of bulges. I wonder what he’d think if I pointed at his stomach and asked where the extra weight came from?

Navigating pregnancy is a constant battle of elation, and competing with the dread of repeated boundary violations.

It’s a strange club to be in; on the one hand, strangers are suddenly nice to you, but those same strangers will reach for your stomach without consent. Someone did this to me when I was pregnant with my son, and they were shocked when I touched their stomach back.

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Boundaries

Boundary violations surrounding pregnancy and postpartum are nothing new. The whole idea of pregnancy, motherhood, loss and infertility is a complex web of interconnections. And sometimes seemingly innocuous questions can do tremendous damage to those going through it. There is little emphasis placed on the mental health toll that follows.

Related Article – Trying to Conceive and Pregnancy After Baby Loss: Lisa’s Story

#Freebritney

When the #freebritney movement first took off, it captured our attention; the details of her conservatorship, along with ongoing boundary violations by the media and the singer’s own family have made Britney Spears a sympathetic figure. But we still refuse to acknowledge that the beginning of Britney’s mental health challenges were most likely a result of postpartum depression.

In 2007, Britney was newly divorced and in the middle of a custody battle – she shaved her head and famously attacked a paparazzi photographer’s car in what was widely dubbed by the media as a ‘breakdown’.

No one took into account that this woman had given birth to two kids, in two years, under a microscope no less. Motherhood is hard. I can’t imagine enduring the scrutiny Britney went through as a new mom and a public figure.

Related Article – Mothering Yourself Whilst TTC

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PTSD: A miscarriage side effect

I suffered from PTSD after a miscarriage, and from postpartum depression after the birth of my son. Seeking help as a new mom is a daunting experience. From therapy to possible medication—doctors and well-meaning friends and relatives can make new moms feel as though they are unfit; what happened to Britney could happen to any of us.

In pregnancy mothers are closely monitored, especially in the weeks leading up to birth. In the days after giving birth, your baby gets countless visits to the pediatrician to ensure they are getting adequate nutrition and thriving. New moms on the other hand typically aren’t seen until their 6-week check-up. This visit is mostly an in and out deal now that you are no longer a vessel for life.

The struggle to share your suffering

Britney’s story serves a cautionary tale to new mothers who dare have a mental breakdown or even discuss their mental health or seek help. If mothers have a breakdown, well, they should’ve asked for help. If mothers ask for help, they should be able to do it all on their own. We are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. And mothers go through all of this perhaps navigating the stress of infertility, loss (and the stigma of loss) or the stress of parenting; or all of the above.

The community that encompasses motherhood, infertility, loss and so much more, has taught me that as much as I don’t want to share sometimes, if those of us suffering don’t share, how will others know how to take care of us? So this is me sharing.

Related Article – Chrissy Teigen Talks Infertility Stigma & Baby Loss Awareness

Pregnancy after loss

For some of us, pregnancy is not as easy as just having sex. For some of us, getting pregnant can be an excruciatingly hard road filled with years of defeat, fertility treatments, repeated loss and financial stress–and there are no guarantees. Moreover, pregnancy after a loss can be terrifying and riddled with post-traumatic stress.  Many of us don’t feel safe until that baby has taken its first breath outside of our bodies; because we know all too well the pain of having to explain to someone why we suddenly aren’t pregnant anymore.

So perhaps think twice about asking someone if they’re pregnant. Same rule applies to asking people when they are having kids, or going to have more kids, even though these may seem like harmless questions. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask honest and caring questions of each other. But you don’t know what journey people have been on, and perhaps you have been fortunate enough to never have had to think about it.

Related Video – Baby Loss: Grief, Coping Mechanisms and Pregnancy after Loss

I’ve learned through my journey that some things are worth protecting if it helps your mental health. No one has walked in my shoes. Just because you think I’m pregnant doesn’t mean you’re entitled to know what’s going on in my body.

I am doing what’s best for me, my mental health, and maybe or maybe not, the protection of my unborn child.

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