Pregnancy is a time when our body and minds go through changes. Most of this changes are out of our control-meaning our stomach and breasts are growing, our hormonal levels are changing and our body will push the baby out whether we like it or not. Body memory can be awaken when a woman’s body starts to change during pregnancy. Transformation to parenthood can evoke feelings and memories that we weren’t ready to deal with in the past or even memories that we didn’t realize that we have. Especially early memories are not clear, but they are talking to us through our body and emotions. In early childhood we didn’t have words to express ourselves, instead we were showing things with our body and sounds.
Feelings about your upbringing
During this time it is not uncommon that good or bad memories are awoken in us. In this article I will focus on traumatic events but at the same time I want to point out that positive memories are also awaken during this time which connect us to our parents even more.
I would like to separate conscious memory from the one that is unconscious. The first one is not in our minds all the time but it comes to live when we are becoming a parent. For example: “Seeing how my husband interacts with our child reminds me of the relationship that I never had with my dad.” Looking at their interaction she was remembering the void that she felt as a child.
On the other hand unconscious memory can come to us through our body memory and feelings that can be felt also on physical level-as a tension, stomach irritation etc.
“All of the sudden I experienced a fear that I will be jealous of my daughter. I secretly wanted a boy because I was so scared that this may happen. I was going through my mother’s jealousy of me and fear that despite all the knowledge and experiences I will feel the same way towards my daughter. The memory came to me through my body. I clearly felt my mother’s jealousy and her burden of raising me. Although the fear of continuing the pattern troubled me, I felt relieve that it was not all in my head but it was actually what was really going on in my childhood.”
Becoming a parent can awaken feelings and memories that you felt as a child about your own relationship with your family. Any developmental stage of your child can evoke memories in you. Some people doubt the accuracy of this memories. It is true that memories are not objective representation of what really happened but I believe there is a lot to it. It is your reality. You can grab the opportunity and work on long forgotten memories and feelings that have awakened in you. When my client made a sense of her fear of being jealous of her daughter it brought relieve to her. In her own mind she got a confirmation that her suspicious of her mother’s jealous was real. Maybe she would never get that confirmation from her mother. Probably also the mother didn’t realize it either.
Sometimes there is a thin line between conscious and unconscious memory. Once that unconscious (body) memory is triggered it can feel very familiar to us. It feels like it was always there in the beck of our minds. On the other hand during the pregnancy and parenthood unconscious memories that we didn’t know that were there can be awoken.
Traumatic memories-sexual abuse
Pregnancy draws attention to a woman’s body, particularly to sections of her body that she has kept private-her genitals, stomach and breasts. She is subjected to pelvis exams, a loss of body privacy, and finds herself the center of attention from strangers and (male) medical professionals. This can often trigger memories of sexual abuse or awoken feelings and memories of sexual abuse that we didn’t realize we experienced.
It is very important to take sexual abuse in consideration and to prepare as much as possible to potential complications. For example, researchers have found out that sexually abused woman:
- has more health problems during pregnancy,
- is more frequently in conflict with her partner,
- experiences higher levels of anxiety and fear,
- has more trust issues with the personnel during birth,
- is also more prone to a caesarean section and other complications,
- has statistically significantly higher number of complications,
- experiences depression in the prenatal and the postnatal period much more often in comparison to others.
The following unpleasant feelings can also occur:
- feelings of body betrayal,
- feelings of physical intrusion and invasion,
- flashbacks to the original abuse,
- depression, anxiety or panic,
- abuse memories resurfacing for the first time,
- hostile feelings toward the fetus,
- projecting feelings about the abuser onto the fetus,
- feelings of guilt associated with her feelings,
- feelings of shame associated with body changes,
- survivor with PTSD can fear the intensity of her feelings,
- fear that the child will be born deformed like her,
- fear that the child will be born dead as a punishment or prophesy,
- fear of being an incompetent parent,
- fear of being an abusive parent.
In case the future mom is aware of abuse or starting to get flashbacks of abuse, it is very important to seek help. And if possible let other medical personnel know what is going on. The same can occur in future dads. Little research is available on the impact of sexual abuse on a man and his perception of fatherhood. But that doesn’t means that man can’t go through the same emotional crises as women.
In this article I wrote about memory that can occur when becoming a parent. Some of them are pleasant, some not so much. Some memories are very painful and we would rather avoid them and forget them once again. While pain and unpleasant emotions are very hard to hold and work through they are also a possible way to personal freedom.
A trigger is a stimulus that triggers feelings of trauma. What triggers us is completely individual. Trigger can come from outside through one or more senses- sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. For example music can trigger an old memory. But we can also be triggered by internal processes such as stress.
A flashback is a vivid, often negative but can be also positive memory that may appear without warning. It is usually pretty strong, meaning that you can lose track of your surroundings.
Body memory is a hypothesis that the body itself is capable of storing memories, as opposed to only the brain. Body memories are involuntary. Memories of incest or sexual abuse can be retained and recovered through physical sensations. Sometimes, the body memory is not always conscious because you may have been too young to remember or you have blocked the traumatic memory out.