By Dr. Kumari Valentine
October is Pregnancy Awareness Month and loss of a baby. This month is significant to me because I lost my daughter on her due date . I am a clinical psychologist, and my mission is to draw attention to the loss related to pregnancy and find a language to articulate the losses that otherwise could not be recognized.
I met a young man. Let’s call him Ben *, a handsome man with expressive eyes and sadness in her voice. Ben, like so many people I meet, professionally and personally, had been diagnosed with depression. As we talked, part of his story involved the loss of a child during pregnancy your partner. Ben had tears in his eyes and talked about how much he had wanted this child. I know few people know of the loss or continuous sadness Ben Ben. There are so many men (and women) as Ben out there.
I wonder what it was for Ben to go to work and listen to their colleagues speak of their children and for couples with children around. I wonder how they handled the question “Do you have children?” I ask him about how he feels about the loss of fatherhood and whether this affected the view of this Ben himself like a man. It is normal that people consider their legacy and children carry this. I wonder what Ben thinks about this. Ben was diagnosed with depression, a diagnosis that is when people show sadness (or irritability) for two weeks, consistently, and other symptoms that include changes in appetite, loss of pleasure, guilt, poor concentration, difficulty sleeping, is working physically or slowed, and sometimes, thoughts that one has to end one’s life. Depression is diagnosed when these symptoms affect daily life and make work difficult.
Our simplest explanation of why people become depressed is that there is a vulnerability (for example, a genetic vulnerability), which, along with significant stress, results in depression. There are many treatments for depression. While depression was evident on the surface, no one had ever considered that Ben might be experiencing trauma .
consider a response to trauma when something significantly stressful happened as an act of violence, death and the person experiences intrusive thoughts (as nightmares or flashbacks), ie on alert and on guard, has a sense of change who they are, and avoid the people, places and things associated with the trauma.
Here’s the thing – I go to a different treatment if my focus was depression, rather than trauma. I suspect many people would think about their experiences differently if they learned of trauma, rather than depression. Of course, depression and trauma can be intertwined, but my point is that people can still cling to trauma and not even know it.
Why is it so important to recognize and articulate this loss? Among other reasons, suppression or emotions away is hard work physically and emotionally. Research shows that those who suppress their emotions are worse and even visit more health professionals. Suppression or avoidance or emotion can also stop processing the brain and make sense of events. Flashbacks and intrusive memories can be the result of this lack of processing. Living with pain is tiring. Having to put a mask for the world is exhausting. Feeling invalidated and alone is exhausting.
Here’s my challenge – to recognize that pregnancy does not always go the way we want or we see depicted in the movies. Men and women are affected by the loss, and its loss can take different forms, including a feeling traumatized. When you ask “Do you have children?” Be prepared to hear that some of these children are not in this world and to offer an ear of support or silence of support.
* Ben is not her real name and I have omitted details that could identify a specific person.
Dr. Kumari Valentine holds a doctorate and is a registered clinical psychologist who is passionate about the use of psychological theory to help people change their lives for the better. Their personal experiences with complicated pregnancies and pain related to pregnancy support their work in the care and thought excessive. Visit its website for more and check out your Facebook page .
Dr. Kumari has recently released a free album “ Meditations for Pregnancy Loss related” .