There is no right or wrong way to feel when you experience pregnancy trauma. Whatever you feel is real and does not need to be justified. The path to healing yourself is yours to choose. What I want you to know is that there is help available to you at every stage. I invite you to investigate the following avenues that men and women have used to heal their pain and move forward.
1. You are Not Alone
Talking about what has happened to you and sharing your experience in a safe and caring environment with someone you trust, is the first step to feeling that you are not alone. You will be surprised by the number of people who, once you tell them about what has happened to you, will disclose that they have been affected themselves or by a loved one who has gone through a similar experience. The shared information can build supportive bonds and form new friendships. One of the ways we can all help each other is to offer a safe space for sharing our pregnancy and birth trauma. Talking about it is a vital part of the healing process.
The more we talk about it, the greater the awareness of these issues and this fosters bringing change to the long-held social etiquette of suffering in silence.
2. Friends and Family
When you are going through a traumatic time, close friends and family may want to do everything they can to support you. The important thing here is to work out what you need to feel supported. Be grateful for the efforts that people are making and make sure they know you appreciate their good intentions. But if they are helping out in ways that are not working for you, gently redirect them to something that would be acceptable.
You may not hear from some friends and family members. This does not necessarily mean that they do not care. Perhaps your trauma has reignited a past pain for them and being with you in that moment might be too confronting. There could be many other reasons why they feel unable to engage so don’t write them off.
3. The 12 -Week Rule
There is much discussion about this unspoken societal construct that dictates that we should not tell anyone about our pregnancy within the first 12 weeks in case something happens. There are no actual clinical guidelines as to when you should or should not announce a pregnancy.
The conundrum occurs when we experience loss if have not told friends and family that we were pregnant, how can we now say that we have miscarried? At the very time when support is most needed, we fail to share our emotions and seek help.
If you are deciding what is best for you, seek all the information and assurance that you need to make your decision about when you feel that the timing is right for you to share your news.
4. Peer Support
From our discussions with many families, one of the most helpful things they did was to seek the support of others who had endured similar experiences. They did this through a variety of ways, including online groups, face-to-face groups and social media groups.
The groups offer a place to share information and to ask questions that friends and family cannot understand. It is a safe arena to share and learn about beneficial
ideas and resources. This nurturing environment is one that can also carry you through new pregnancy issues.
Peer groups can be found through support organisations. You can also search groups on social media to find the best fit for you.
5. Professional Support
If you are struggling, it is vitally important to seek medical help. So many of us adhere to the ‘soldier on’ philosophy, suffering through our illnesses and thinking that they will eventually go away. When it comes to mental health and in particular, postnatal depression and anxiety, new mums can feel that their sadness will pass and that they are just tired from the sleep deprivation that comes with a newborn.
Seek help from health professionals. If you are having difficulties settling your baby or with breastfeeding, there are wonderful organisations who offer individual support to assist you to master the right techniques.
If you have any concern whatsoever that you are not coping, or if you have an inkling that you just don’t feel right, then ask for help. You can start with your GP and if needed, they can refer you to specialists to advise on particular issues, including mental health.
No matter what you are feeling, please do not judge yourself or downplay your emotions and situation. Ask your doctor for help. The best-case scenario is that you discover that you are coping well. The even better outcome is that if you need medical help, you have made the first step and will get what you need to get on the path to recovery.
6. Counselling Support
Many people I have talked to credit counselling as a key factor in their recovery. You may have a friend who is your mentor or confidante, or you may prefer a professionally trained counsellor who offers a safe place to speak openly without any fear of repercussions or hurt feelings.
Finding a counsellor can sometimes be challenging. I have had people say to me that they have tried therapy, but it didn’t work for them. Once I delve further, I usually find that they only went once, to one psychologist and because they did not connect with that person, they decided that the entire profession did not work!
You may need to see a few different counsellors to find the right one. Please keep
searching until you find them.
7. Information and Resources
An internet search brings a plethora of information on whatever subject you wish to learn about. When you add in social media sources, many different voices are sharing their opinion as fact. As you seek knowledge, look for credible sources from reputable support organisations.
Opinions and ideas are wonderful but not all of them may work for you. Before trying something new, it’s always a good idea to talk to your GP, midwife or obstetrician to discuss your options.
8. Good Habits
There are many things you can do to help yourself heal from any trauma. I have tried all of these things personally as have the many people I have interviewed. These are all practices you can implement to calm your mind, body and spirit.
The act of contribution to others is as rewarding for the giver as it is for the receiver. You could offer support to friend who has experienced pregnancy difficulties. You could provide friendship as a peer mentor through a support network, group or online group. Every act of kindness counts.