I’ve been reading (well…listening really) a book called The Book You Wish Your Parents had Read, by Philippa Perry and man oh man, what a book. It’s about parenting, no surprises there, but it’s also about so much more. I was listening to the chapter on Pregnancy while driving and I was overwhelmed with a plethora of emotions. I was angry, full of grief, I felt robbed and last but not least, I felt compassion for myself. Pregnant Stephe was doing the best she could. As I sat at a red light I felt the sudden urge to journal my feelings around what had happened during my first pregnancy, the abuse I suffered, and the anxieties I carried. So, here is my journal entry-ish.
I fell pregnant with my son (first born) just a few months after going back into an abusive marriage. I’d left the marriage almost 10 years in and went back a short few months later. And, as stated, a few months after that I had my first bun in the oven. Given the circumstances, I wasn’t cognitively aware of the abuse that was happening to me. My body was in a place of C-PTSD and had been for years, but I was unaware that there was a name for what I was feeling in my body, it was just normal to me. For those of you who are unaware - Complex-PTSD stems from chronic, long-term exposure to trauma in which a victim has limited belief that it will ever end and cannot foresee a time that it might (definition taken from BeautyAfterBruises.org). When I went back into an abusive marriage, I was hopeful that things would change, I also had taken responsibility for the problems, even though my body and subconscious knew that I was being abused (I had switched those parts of me off that were saying hey, um, this isn’t right). Back to pregnancy…I was excited to be pregnant, but was riddled with fear. I know fear and anxiety are especially normal with a first pregnancy, but now that I’m no longer walking in that level of fear and anxiety, I can look back and see that it was more than just your usually baby jitters and how hard it was on my body and psyche. What hit me the most listening to the chapter on Pregnancy was the section on labor. I can feel the emotions rising in my body just thinking about it. Overwhelming grief. I had an epidural. But the epidural only took on half of my body. Apparently that’s a thing - so waist down, half of my body was in full labor, the other half of my body was totally numb (it's actually a really funny story in the end...but I digress). Before they gave me the epidural I was experiencing normal labor pains...on both sides of my body. The contractions would come and I would go into a blind panic. As I was listening to the booked it dawned on me…OF COURSE I WAS PANICKED….I was in C-PTSD…reminding myself here - in state in which “a victim has limited belief that (the trauma) will ever end and cannot foresee a time that it might…” My body didn’t know that trauma could end. So as the pain of the contractions would hit my body, I couldn’t mentally get to a place that said “breathe, it will be okay, just a little longer and it will be over…” I couldn’t because I was in Flight, Fright, or Freeze. Labor had taken me to a place in my psyche that said "this will never be over", because that’s all my psyche knew from trauma. Listening to this chapter has caused me such grief. I’m grieving that I didn’t have a supportive partner - someone that was safe, loving, a teammate who I knew wasn’t selfish and self-centred, and lastly someone who wouldn’t leave the whole of the parenting responsibilities to fall on my shoulders meanwhile also making selfish demands of their own…. Yes, that was a rant, and I’m allowed to rant because it’s my journal/blog, lol. I think on a very subconscious level my body knew that I was going to be alone as a parent. The sleepless nights, the tired days, the joys, the tears, I was going to be alone and my body was fighting me. And somehow I have such a hard time forgiving myself and not feeling shame for the fact that I was in a state of trauma and doing the best I fudging could. And my body didn’t lie; after giving birth I was totally alone, except it was worse than alone, because I wasn't literally alone, my exe was actually making larger than life demands on me, physically and emotionally. I once expressed to my exe (at about 6 weeks postpartum) how hard being a new mother was and he looked at me and instead of offering sympathy or help said that perhaps I just didn’t have the same capacity as other women to mother. I was heartbroken and felt even more alienated.
But, grief aside, I am feeling, as I said earlier, a rising tide of compassion for pregnant Stephe. I didn’t know what I didn't know, and I also didn’t have a fair chance to be everything I could have been in that state. And I also did the best that I could. I love my children fiercely. I’ve worked hard to repair some of the ruptures that may have been cause from being in that state while pregnant and in labor. And while I’m no means perfect, I’m starting to truly believe the people around me that watch me mother and say that I’m a great mother. Those lies from my exe are starting to fall away - I do have capacity, I am strong, I am full of love, and grace and compassion.