Trauma and Resiliency

The changes in the DSM 5 criteria for trauma will lead us to believe how traumatic events are experienced by people differently and how can sometimes lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. There have been multiple studies about that trauma from a difficult birth has a major influence on psychological well-being.

I have not met anyone who has grown up with the stories of childbirth, as I’ve had.  Whether told by my mother, grandmother, or family doctor; the story is the same, that I stayed in my mom’s womb two months longer than normal. Depending on who is telling the story, if it is my mom, that I almost killed her; if it is my grandmother, that she thought I was dead; and if it is my doctor, just happy to have met me that day. My mother forgot to mention in her stories that her first childbirth was not easy either, she was in a 48 hour long excruciatingly painful labor with my oldest brother.

It was not until the other day, that my own daughter and I talked about my unusual gestation; as she brought up the idea of inherited trauma. There were a lot of physical problems that came with my birth. I have scoliosis, my left eye tends to wander and at times creates double visions, and I’ve had heart murmurs as a young child. I’ve had a lot of allergies to include milk, baby powder, and the sun.  I get second-degree burns instead of a tan from normal sun exposure. Nicely, my daughter does not have any of this problem. We began talking about the anxiety that my mother could have had to be pregnant with me and having the bad labor pain experience with my brother. I could only imagine the amount of cortisol flowing through her body when she was pregnant with me and can’t help but think about how I, as a fetus inside her could have been affected by that. Again, as my daughter an I reviewed those issues, other than some anxiety, she has not experienced issues that required medication. The discussion brought us to the other side of trauma, resiliency. I may have scoliosis, but I don’t take pain medication for it. I may have had a lazy left eye and double vision, from time to time; but I have been able to control my eyes and have a good 20/25 vision. I even grew out of the heart murmurs. Is it possible that instead of trauma, I have passed on to her, my resiliency? Does she have inherited resilience?

As I look back, I think about the strength that my mother had to have had to stop her labor pain from coming when she was pregnant with me. 

Melinda Drake, LCSW (CA, NY, & HI), LISW CP & AP (SC)

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