Monday, September 1, 2014

Part X: Pregnancy after Trauma, 2nd Trimester

First trimester was characterized by fear of miscarriage and finding the right doctor. Second trimester was characterized by the range of emotional responses to the thought, "Oh, crap, I have to give birth again."

In my past therapy experiences, as I was originally dealing with my traumatic experiences with Ben's birth, I learned that art and some measure of visual expression was helpful for me in figuring out what was actually going on in my head in order to work through it. In light of that knowledge, I bought this journal to use during this pregnancy.

Some pages were cute and fun, like all the pictures of my babies. Bonus points if you can correctly identify everyone on the right.

Other pages, however, were stark illustrations of the fears in my mind and representations of the panic attacks I had on a fairly regular basis for a few months. For your interest's sake and because I think my journal pages look really cool, I'll share three of the major mental battles I went through in the course of my second trimester.

After everything I went through with Ben's and Audrey's births (see the right sidebar for links to those stories), the idea of giving birth was just about the most terrifying thought possible for me. It was almost ok, though, when I thought about the baby that would result. Unless, of course, something horrible happened to the baby.

Within the course of just a few weeks, I had several different friends and acquaintances experience personal trials and tragedies involving their newborn babies. I was pretty darn sure that if I was meant to face something like that, there was no possible way I could get through it. And thus was born this journal page.

That particular event was resolved through much prayer and scripture reassurance, which resulted in a much more comforting journal page--reminders of Who is really in charge and that no matter what happens, we have been sealed in the temple so we will have our family together no matter what.

The single biggest panic attack that I ever had throughout the entire pregnancy came early in March. I don't remember all the details of the day, but I had lined up a babysitter for an appointment that ended up being cancelled for some reason. I kept the babysitter anyway and took myself out to breakfast. Too much thinking during that meal lead to a panic attack revealing a belief that I can't give birth, someone else has to do it for me.

It was the visit to my third and chosen doctor that gave me hope again that I could actually have a baby and not only survive, but do it well.

I am only sharing a fraction of what is in my journal here, so you're missing the progressions through several other fears and problems I faced, as well as decisions I made. One such decision was a very thoroughly investigated decision of home birth versus hospital birth. One trigger to that debate was the lack of trust I had developed for medical staff, illustrated here.

Each of these pictures is accompanied by a quote that was said to me at some point during labor--one picture from Ben's birth, the rest were from Audrey Jane's. They were all individual moments in a bigger picture that served to undermine any comfort and confidence I had in a hospital setting.

In the end, we still chose a hospital birth for various reasons, and it was done very intentionally with eyes wide open. (And because I'm writing this almost two weeks after giving birth, I can report that it was indeed the right decision.)

Considering the kinds of mental battles I was fighting during this pregnancy and the effects they were having on me and my ability to run life as usual, I opted to go back to therapy. It took one failed attempt (a therapist that obviously didn't know anything about birth and told me flat out that I had no control over the situation so get over it now--worst advice ever) before finding a therapist that I liked, and even then it took a session of me saying "Here's everything I don't like about you and here's how I want us to work together differently" before we really clicked. Once we did, though, it was smooth sailing in therapy land. In birth preparation land, it looked something like this.

I followed a fairly consistent pattern, cycling through five stages:

I can and I will have the birth that I want.

too many obstacles, too much money, not enough information, not enough support, IT'S TOO HARD

repeat trauma, unhandled abuse, anxiety, failure

Active Avoidance
ANYTHING BUT birth: coloring, quilting, netflix, shopping...but not real life, either

Tentative Exploration
there are options, it is possible, maybe...

I went to therapy almost once a week throughout the second and third trimesters, and thankfully made some seriously enormous progress. More on that in the next post.


Liz, Karl, Madison, Brooklyn and Aubrey said...

I think one day you are going to be grateful for that journal. I mean I'm sure you already are. But I'm sure some day you will begin to forget some of the parts you want to remember. Even the hard parts will help make you stronger! And PS I'm pretty sure I can identify all your kids in that picture. Two of each. Ben, Ben, Megan, Megan, Jane, Jane?

Tannie Datwyler said...

Laura - your journal is AMAZING. You are amazing. HOLY COW, I miss you.

Okay, I'm going to guess...TOP TO BOTTOM, LEFT TO RIGHT.

Ben, Ben, Jane, Megan, Jane, Megan.