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How Unresolved Childhood Trauma Resurfaces Postpartum

Something I was not aware of before having my daughter was how unresolved childhood trauma would rear it's ugly head and manifest itself in anxiety, overwhelm, and depression as I navigated early motherhood, having to find a job, and going through the divorce process.

Trauma, whether it is big or small, effects us. We can all agree on that. What I have found interesting is the physical and physiological effects trauma has on us and how it lingers in our bodies long after the threat has passed.

I have been reading "The Body Keeps The Score" by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. and it is truly eye opening.

I knew that stress can really impact our bodies and minds, but I didn't realize how deeply it could. Unprocessed trauma can cause someone to be in a constant fight or flight mode. Higher levels of stress hormones, chronic tension, and not understanding what the body is experiencing.

I understand that maybe my postpartum experience is a little unique. I had my daughter after a rough year. Marital issues, a miscarriage, a hospitalization, and COVID, all of those things alone caused trauma haha, but I knew my issues ran deeper once I was a single mom, navigating a new life I wasn't expecting.

(also, I never dealt with my childhood. I just put on this happy face and pretended like I was strong, 'good', and had a grasp on things. BUT this is what I want to change!)

How do I know if I have unresolved childhood trauma and that it is resurfacing for me in postpartum?

For me, it showed itself specifically when I had to return to work. I was DERAILED by the idea. I just kept going back to this fear of working and ruining my relationship with my daughter. My mom was a teenage mother and worked and went to school. I don't fault her for it, but I missed her a lot when I was a kid and all of that was coming back up for me.

I talked to my therapist about it and she helped me process through that. I learned a lot about building secure attachment, being predicable, consistent, and 'good enough'.

It was the tip of the iceberg in my healing journey. Deep down, I knew that I had a lot to work through. I had experienced a lot of life at a young age and while I had stability, my needs met, and loving people around me, I did not understand my feelings or learn how to trust myself.

My separation and launch into motherhood were the gifts I needed to start my healing journey.

Postpartum is an intense journey. It is beautiful, it is worthwhile, but it is also a lot. Hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, losing yourself of self because a sweet tiny human now clings to you 24/ can bring up some things!

My goal is to help you prepare for it, in case it does, so you don't feel crazy or alone.

A strategy for healing is to bring awareness to the issue(s).

Giving myself time and space (even if it was just 20 mins at night) to breathe, pay attention to what my body was experiencing: tension, tightness, numbness, etc. Bringing myself back into my body was huge, in addition to talk therapy and journaling. Also, an emotions wheel. Anger, Happy, Sad...there are more detailed words I could use to describe how I feel.

I am an external processor and I needed a safe space to talk out loud so I could hear what my body and mind were saying so I could process those thoughts.

I did not grow up with words for my emotions. Words I heard a lot growing up were "dramatic", "stop crying", "you're fine", and also, so much was going on in the lives of my parents, family, and adult around me, no one really knew what to do.

So, I felt like because externally I was 'good', I had dealt with these issues and traumas, but no, I didn't realize how little work I had done until everything was going in a direction I didn't want.

I am deeply fascinated by trauma and it's impact on our bodies. Not claiming to be the expert here, but I do want to encourage you to consider what your body is currently telling you? Especially if you are a new mom.

If you know you have had experiences in the past that you just shut down or buried and never fully felt and processed through, do yourself the favor and work with someone who can help you cope.

Read "The Body Keeps the Score", incorporate breath work, exercise, and talk therapy into your life. If we cannot label within ourselves what we are feeling and why, we cannot teach our children effective coping mechanisms, perpetuating the problem.

This isn't about being a gentle parent or woo-woo. God made us to feel a FULL range of emotions. Emotions are not truth, but they help guide us to it.

With the rise of anxiety, depression, and isolation, I am determined to help women understand themselves deeper, find purpose within themselves, and to help us cultivate richer and more meaningful relationships in our lives.

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