When we are stressed, we have an elaborate biochemical response that allows us to have the energy to Fight Back or Run Away. If we are met with challenges and stressful or painful situations, but we cannot fight back or run away, it is registered in the body as a Trauma. This is why Babies and Children that are not physically and emotionally capable of getting away to safety are more likely to experience trauma from stressful and painful events. The cost of this quick burst of energy is that it shuts down the immune system and the digestion. If the stressful situation is handled quickly, then everything can go back to normal. But unresolved stress can continue to impact the long-term health of these systems.
Infancy and Childhood is a very important time developmentally. Stress and Trauma during pregnancy, birth and infancy changes the way that the child’s brain and biochemistry pathways are set up, and can have implications for their long-term health. This is much different than a single incidence of a traumatic event (like a car accident) in an adult who has developed the resiliency to handle it.
Childhood trauma is more complex than we think. Sometimes there are traumas from the experiences of our grandparents that can still impact the health of our children.
Talking about infant and childhood trauma is not to make us parents feel even more guilt, but to raise awareness of why our kids may be struggling with physical or behavioral/emotional challenges, so that we can help them to start to feel better. Infant and Childhood Trauma is more common than is acknowledged. And most often it is due to things that are outside of our control as parents, and are often just a fact of our culture and our environment. But there are things that we can do to reduce their exposure and minimize the effects. If we pay attention to the cues that our babies are giving us, then we can help them to heal quickly.
Common stressful events for babies can be from totally normal things like:
- The pregnancy is just naturally stressful because we are facing daily physical, emotional and financial/life challenges.
- The Birth can be stressful because of physical positions where the baby feels stuck, the mom is experiencing pain, fatigue or panic, and/or there are medical interventions that may cause changes in the biochemistry, pain, and may lead to separation of the mom and baby.
- The Postpartum period is a huge transition for both mom and baby as well as families and partners and needs a period of adjustment. If the mom is recovering from a difficult birth and/or surgery this can be an even more challenging time.
The best thing that you can do to prepare for each of these challenges is to find a compassionate, available and responsive team of care providers for prenatal, birth and postpartum support.
Some of the physical and behavioral signs to look for in your infant include:
- Glossed over eyes/avoidance of eye contact
- Trouble with feeding
- Easily startled/difficulty being soothed
- Jerky movements/arching of the back
Some of the physical and behavioral signs to look for in your children include:
- Attention Disorders/Trouble with transitions/Hypervigilance
- Nightmares and other sleep troubles/ disturbances
- Bedwetting/Toilet training challenges
- Gastrointestinal complaints
- Claustrophobia/Sensory/Touch Issues
- Greater Susceptibility to Colds/Flu
If left unhealed, this may lead to long-term health effects in adulthood. Sometimes it seems like there is just random, undiagnosed illness and pain. In my own story, I kept getting nowhere with medications that would numb the pain, but never heal what was causing it. I was so thankful when I finally found techniques that got to the underlying cause and released that stored trauma so that my body could finally heal and then create new patterns of health.
Common outcomes of unresolved stress and trauma include: Autoimmune Diseases, Chronic Pain, Gastrointestinal complaints, Joint Pain, Increased blood pressure and cholesterol, fat around the waist, and Addictions/numbing/escaping.
The good news is that if you are reading this, then you now know that you can heal from the effects of trauma, and that if you pay attention, you can help your kids now so that they don’t have to continue to struggle. It is so much easier to heal when the trauma is more recent.
If you are noticing some of the physical or behavioral signs in your child, contact me and we can work together to discover the root cause of the stress so that the trauma can be released and the body can heal.
I offer an Unpacking from the Journey class for Moms to process and release any trauma from the pregnancy, birth or postpartum period (no matter how long it has been since your pregnancy/birth), and I offer Postpartum Healing Home Visits for moms looking for support and healing in the weeks/months after the birth. I am also available for private healing sessions over the phone.
References: Scared Sick, Robin Karr-Morse http://www.amazon.com/Scared-Sick-Childhood-Trauma-Disease/dp/0465013546
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website or provided through our programs and/or services is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice from your physician, midwife, or other health care or mental health professional.