We too often focus on the health of a newborn baby and overlook the health of the parents. Over 40% of mothers in the USA have to undergo c-section, and such dramatic changes can leave mothers feeling powerless and traumatized. Today’s guest, Pauline Dillard, shares her 30+ years experience of counseling couples suffering from PTSD or postpartum depression. She’s on a wider mission to break the taboo of postnatal trauma by teaching churches and pastors how to best support couples, as well as counseling couples at her practice The Dumas Center.
“We have a problem in our culture: we expect women to do it all, to do it well and to do it all alone”
Pauline has worked with lots of women, and she’s learnt that there are high social pressures for women to be “strong” enough to handle things on their own. Pregnancy and childbirth is a very vulnerable state for women and if they feel traumatized through these experiences, it can affect their mental health, and relationship with the baby and partner. Having a strong support network helps the mother cope and feel safe. We need to empower women to seek support when needed. Pauline stresses that the same goes for fathers – they can be just as affected.
A Connected Marriage
A bad pregnancy experience is heightened in a relationship that doesn’t address it; Pauline describes how the ‘Silence Mode’ stimulates an isolating experience for the partner. A connected, loving marriage helps share the burden, and spot the signs of depression or psychosis. Learning to engage with God for the family is also part of the process.
“Why is it so surgical today when we have babies?”
Giving birth in a surgical environment is common for many women today. For such a natural event, it can make the parents feel powerless and out of control. Pauline explains how birth is a sexual experience, and for mothers giving birth and having to undergo emergency c-section, or other sudden treatments, the risk of trauma is essentially a sexual assault.
To reduce such trauma or negative experiences, it helps to question and understand the procedures in your hospital. Pauline has seen how this simple approach of questioning during tours and consultations helps couples. There are handbooks on her site free to download that help further educate people.
Breaking the Church taboo
Many of us today live in new places, far from family and friends, and the church needs to step in to support these families. Pauline finds postpartum depression and PTSD is still a taboo for many churches, so she’s educating churches and pastors to do their part.
Pregnancy and Birth is a profoundly personal and natural experience, which can leave people feeling vulnerable, isolated or powerless. It’s important we feel comfortable to share our experiences, and live in a community that doesn’t judge or overlook such overwhelming experiences. Through knowledge, a strong relationship with the partner and God, and a supportive church, we help break the taboo of trauma at birth.