Posts Tagged ‘panic attacks’

The Loss of a Birth Plan

Trauma.  That word evokes feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, injury, shock, disbelief, anger, sadness, despair.  Trauma does not equally impact individuals. One person’s trauma may not be another person’s trauma.  Our perception of a trauma is very important.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is  about not only the trauma itself, but the individual’s perception of the trauma.

In terms of birth and birth trauma, it is very important to note that every birthing mother is is different.  Quite recently, I have been completely involved with individuals who are very close to me with birth stories that are wildly different from mine.  With every birth story I hear, I remember that I must withhold judgement about individual birth choices, as well as remember that violations of those individual choices can result in emotional and physical trauma.

In our society, women are often held to the “ideal” standard of an uncomplicated, unmedicated, vaginal birth with no postpartum complications.  Women base their entire birth plans on this way of bringing their child into the world.   Other women focus on delivery by way of cesarean section, basing their entire birth plans of this way of bringing their child into the world.

Unfortunately, having the type of birth you want is not always possible-be it by way of the vagina or via cesarean section.  Sometimes medical professional’s personalities as well as very real medical circumstances cause an individual’s birth experience to be somewhat or completely out of  her control. The reality of birth is that circumstances can change in an instant, causing birth plans to shatter, and idealization of what we, as mothers, thought was going to happen, to go out the window.  Unfortunately, this is a hard reality to hit up against in what can really be a women’s most vulnerable time.  In the instant of birth, you are often the most exposed, most exhausted, most emotional being that you ever will be.  It is no wonder that when your beliefs are challenged at this time, when the plans are rapidly changed, when your control over what is happening to your own body is taken from you through circumstances you have no control over, that women DO feel violated, alone, and often helpless.  It is important to note that it does not matter what choice women made for their birth plan, or whether that would be your choice or not, it is still HER choice, and still HER violation when it changes.  And you know what, it does not matter if it HAS to change, that feeling is still there….that feeling of loss, helplessness, and despair.

When all is said and done, women often can look back objectively and realize medically WHY things happened the way they did…but that often does not erase that feeling of loss that whatever birth was envisioned did not occur.  It may take medical intervention, both physically and mentally to process the experience and heal from any physical and mental wounds that may have occurred.  Any experience IS traumatic to individuals when they perceive it be, and it is not up to society to decide what kind of birth a person should have as well as decide how a mother should perceive the deconstruction of the birth plan during birth.

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Familar Routines

One thing that people need to know about PTSD is that is paralyzes you.  With me, this paralysis was evident in my lack of spontaneity, my loss of freedom, and the limited choices and locations that were “safe” for me to engage in or visit.  One of PTSD’s major hallmarks is avoidance.  I avoided my many triggers and essentially guarded my mind against potential triggers by avoiding many people and locations.

Some people with PTSD develop agoraphobia and will not leave their house, their safe area.  Although never diagnosed with full-blown agoraphobia, I definitely experienced the panic that new areas, or areas with known triggers had on me.  For three years, there were a lot of things I did not do, experiences I did not engage in, people I did not meet, and places I did not see-all because of PTSD.

When I did venture out, it was never on my own at first. I always had a person with me, an advocate, who could steer me away from potential triggers, or help to calm my panic ridden self if a trigger was unavoidable.  After time and through therapy, I was able to safely navigate these areas as long as I had an “escape” plan at my disposal if the panic set in.  The places that I personally deemed “safe” were a trip to the library (children’s section only-adult books may prove to much of a trigger), a once a week extended family dinner, and certain classes at the gym (where the average age was 65-less likelihood of running into a pregnant woman in class). Today, I have come to the realization that these familiar routines that I developed were truly a lifesaver to me during those times of crisis.  Thank you to all those who made those experiences possible, I am forever grateful.

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Panic Attacks

My panic attacks were very severe.  They started with the development of tunnel vision, in which my peripheral was narrowed visually and I was unable to hear anything besides my own negative thoughts.  I then physically crumpled to the floor, often assuming the fetal position.  My breathing became rapid, my chest tight, my face flushed, and tears just flowed out of my squeezed shut eyes.  Often times, I would begin screaming as visual, verbal, and tactile stimuli from the trauma began to assault my senses.  I sometimes would begin choking, as it felt as if my airway was closing.  Twitching and facial grimace tics were also a very real and painful part of my panic, due to the adrenaline rush that was going through my body.

These panic attacks, or the very real fear that I was going to have a panic attack, kept me from my life.  They kept me from engaging in activities in which I perceived that there may be a trigger to the trauma.  These panic attacks caused me to live a very sheltered life at the height of my PTSD.  These panic attacks can only go away through skillful therapy in which your triggers are neutralized.

Here is a great article on Panic Attacks:

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