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Dissociation and Natural Mothers
By Marcy Walker

This being outside of ourselves is the hallmark of PTSD. It's called dissociation, and can happen in varying degrees from momentary feelings of distance, to complete memory loss. In trauma, people often speak of watching themselves in the situation from a distance. It is one of the ways our mind protects us from things which are too much to handle. The trauma remains "compartmentalized" or "dissociated" from the rest of our consciousness. Unfortunately, the walled off trauma continues to affect us in sometimes seemingly unrelated ways, and how it affects us is pretty much out of our control. How we heal from this is tough because we have to integrate the dissociated trauma into our consciousness, and how we do this is by reliving the trauma, carefully, with someone qualified to help us do this so we don't become overwhelmed and actually re-traumatize ourselves.

For natural mothers, the trauma of being forced to give up one's baby is profound. What adds to the trauma is the fact that we had to remain silent. We were not allowed to talk about our babies, not allowed to grieve openly. My own personal trauma began with the rape, and continued into where most of us began to be physically dissociated from the rest of society by being put into homes or into hiding while we carried our babies inside of us. In the delivery room, it was the first time the majority of us had ever given birth and the majority of us did it alone and terrified, with no one by our side to tell us that we were ok and to coach us through it. I remember screaming from pain, alone in the labor room. Then follows the whole trauma of having our baby taken away from us, and the trauma of returning into our former lives in silence. Years of silence follow. Other mothers get together and talk about their labors, in great detail, but those of us who relinquished and did not have other children listen in silence. In this way, the walls surrounding the experience continue to be reinforced. As we grow older, that young girl inside is farther and farther away from us, still suffering in silence.

Is it any wonder then, that when reunion happens, so many of us have feelings that we can't understand? People say to us, as we are falling apart, "I thought you would be so happy!" For many of us, the blocked off memories come flooding back, and since we have never processed them, they are raw and original and completely unhealed. What we thought would heal us, finding our children, does exactly the opposite, it seems.

Then we find other natural mothers and the floodgates open and we begin to heal as we FINALLY are able to begin to process everything that happened. Here, in these groups, we can finally give our trauma its due RESPECT. We begin to understand that the guilt does not lie with us. Just the mere fact of understanding that what happened to me was traumatic has healed me in incredible ways. Finally, we find a place where we can talk about our labors, talk about our pregnancies, talk about our babies, talk about our anguish. Finally.




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