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In this episode, we discuss experiencing trauma when parenting a child with ongoing medical complications. Guest Parijat Deshpande’s parenting journey began with an ectopic pregnancy rupture, IVF and prolonged bedrest. She eventually got pregnant with her first child, experienced PPROM and went into labor very early, and delivered at 24 weeks after having been in the hospital for 15 days to ensure that she remained pregnant as long as possible. Shortly before she went into active labor, she looked up what a 24-weeker looked like, which she felt made a humongous difference for her when her son was born, because how he looked didn’t surprise her. Her son had a 109 day NICU stay and then due to his fragile medical conditions, he was on at-home lockdown for 2 years. The NICU stay was a huge shock for her; the noises, the sounds, the machines, the nurses who didn’t know anything about her. Toward the end of her son’s NICU stay, he had to switch hospitals due to possibly needing a surgery that the initial hospital wouldn’t be able to provide. Then, they were at a new hospital, with new routines, new people, and no familiarity, which was really difficulty for Parijat. She was thrilled on the day of discharge, as they were finally free! However, she still needed to navigate preemie parenthood and just parenthood in general. They had countless doctor and specialist appointments and a huge team of people still following him. Therefore, life was a lot busier after discharge. There were also a lot of identity shifts, such as discovering who her son was now that he was home and who she was as a first time parent. Additionally, as a parent of special needs, Parijat found herself wearing zillions of different hats (mother, therapist…).
During the 15 days between being in the hospital and delivering her son, she realized that whenever her anxiety rose, her contractions picked up and every time she calmed her body down, her contraction would stop. She didn’t want her child to be born due to anxiety; she wanted him to be born when it was time for him to be born. Therefore, she delegated things to others and focused herself on keeping her body as tension free as possible. Later, when she looked into it, she found 70 years of research on nervous system regulation and pregnancy outcomes. This led her to want to become a high risk pregnancy specialist and trauma professional.
High risk pregnancy specialists (not MFM’s) provide mind-body support in relation to nervous system regulation. They can help before, during, and after pregnancy, to retain a resilient healthy nervous system, which can help keep the rest of the body health and safe. Pregnancy, labor, and delivery have the potential to lead to and cause the experience of trauma, due to perceiveing yourself or your child might be in danger, and then we can get stuck in survival mode. When you have a preemie, this can lead to the perception of danger, which can lead to the experience of trauma for the parents. Then there are triggers in our lives that continue to make us feel unsafe. Having a child with ongoing medical conditions can also lead the parent to experience feelings of trauma. This is because everything starts to pile on top of each other, and there are lots of unknowns and things that cannot be predicted. Uncertainty can lead us to feel like we are experiencing danger.
Symptoms of trauma can include flashbacks and nightmares, but also possibly things like crying out of nowhere and feeling all of a sudden overwhelmed, having a hard time settling into being happy, and getting really angry out of nowhere. Sometimes this can present as a sudden chronic illness. Parijat discussed “conventional wisdom” that doesn’t work. Parijat noted that it is important to retrain the nervous system to return to baseline. She noted that types of professionals that could be helpful are “trauma trained,” including but not limited to: psychologists, yoga instructors, pilates instructors, somatic experiencing practitioners, and EMDR therapists. The “right” type of person differs with each individual. To find which might be right for you, educate yourself and look into these different practices and see what makes the most sense to you. Mindfulness can also be really helpful to allow your body to adjust to being still. An easy way to start doing that is to start by noticing the basics, like thirst and hunger.
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Intro Outro: Intro Outro 2 by Mattias Lahoud under CC-BY 3.0 License (www.freesound.org)
Theme Song: 90s rock style by monkeyman535 under CC-BY 3.0 License (www.freesound.org)
Self Care Song: Green and Orange No Water by Duncan Alex under CC-BY 3.0 License (www.freesound.org)
Hosted by: Jessica Temple and Lewis Temple
Disclaimer: Our show is not designed to provide listeners with specific or personal legal, medical, or professional services or advice. Parents of children with health issues should always consult their health care provider for medical advice, medication, or treatment.
Copyright 2020 Jessica and Lewis Temple