I very strongly credit my success in surviving the 18 years of abuse I experienced from my BPD mother in large part to the fact that my mother was healthy and happy being pregnant with me.  (Our big troubles began with my mother’s difficult labor with breech-me.)

I just found this article – it’s a great one!  This information concerns the front end of what experts refer to as the critically important first 33 months of our life – conception to age two!

The Role of Stress in Brain Development – The Gestational Environment’s Long-Term Effects on the Brain

By Claudia Buss, Ph.D.Sonja Entringer, Ph.D.James M. Swanson, Ph.D., and Pathik D. Wadhwa, M.D., Ph.D.
April 25, 2012

Interestingly, a mother’s biological response to stress is dampened during gestation. Several investigators, including some in our group, have shown that pregnant compared to nonpregnant women experience a lower increase in heart rate in response to the same stressor, and cortisol increase in response to awakening is lower in pregnant women than in nonpregnant women.22-24 The degree of reduction in biological stress responses over the course of pregnancy varies from one woman to another, and adverse birth outcomes are more likely in children of women showing a lack of dampening (and thus greater biological stress responses) during pregnancy.38 Also, a generalized reduction of maternal immune responsiveness occurs during pregnancy, presumably to tolerate the fetus, a foreign body, and not to the extent to suppress maternal immune responses that would increase maternal or fetal susceptibility to infection.25

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  1. Hi alchemynow. I was just wondering after reading the information on how mothers are less easily stressed during pregnancy – do you think you had relative
    Respite from your mother’s worst rages when she was pregnant with your siblings? Xx

    • Wow – that is such a good question! Not sure that I know the answer – will think about this! xo

    • Guilt and forgiveness tempered with understanding based on learning new information — toward all of us working together to improve the world.

      None of us knew! This is NEW information God (I believe) is giving to the human race to use for increasing benefit to all – as time goes on. I also had 3 babies before I understood depression – one turning 26, one 36, one is 41. They ALSO take responsibility for their own lives – life not being perfect for anyone.

      But they were NOT abused. They started their life out being so much further ahead than I was. Now the middle one is pregnant with her 2nd (first is two) – and SHE understands so much more than you or I did!

      When I first began to understand how depression is such a risk factor for babies post-birth with a depressed mother – I also learned so much more about myself, and about others (most with traumatic early lives) with depression

      Depressed people really truly really TRULY do not SEE happy expressions in other people’s faces!

      That’s intriguing, really. I have no idea how this fact contributes to evolution – except once we again know that depression, like so many other trauma-created physiological changes in people — serves as a ‘reproductive fitness indicator’ not about the person who ‘has’ the depression — but about the quality and condition of the environment that MADE that person that way!

      We are such individualists we lose sight of the fact that we live within a much bigger world, a much bigger picture. It is the condition of the environment that we all SHARE that depression and any other such change exists within. It is the message about the environment that matters — and I, and you — have done a great job in improving life for our children because we improved the environment we and they live in!

      Not being able to detect (this is real and physiological based) happiness in another person’s face when we are depressed does not reinforce the happiness in our little person — or in anyone else. Mothers from traumatic pasts need to know this – everyone does – so we can CONSCIOUSLY notice what our biology does not let us notice instinctively.

      We CAN pay close attention – especially to babies – and respond with all the safe and secure attachment MIRRORING and RESONATING of ALL expressions of self an infant communicates.

      Knowledge IS power!! Power both for forgiveness and for positive change.

      If a mother recognizes her depression, she can also make sure there are lots of OTHER healthy people surrounding her and the baby. Everything is a dance of protective factors along with risk factors – where protective factors like having lots of healthy people as a family-tribe circle of caring – around mother and infant helps everyone.

      One of the huge problems is that we have continued to isolate mothers and infants! That is a society-based flaw that needs to change!!

      Guilt, to me, is pretty dang useless. Whatever ‘tool’ it is supposed to be, whatever it is supposed to communicate – well, I can’t figure it out. No doubt this is in part ’cause I was buried alive under Mother’s guilt. NOW? In the moment. That’s the only place I am willing to let guilt reside. In the moment if I feel what I might call guilt I look around immediately to see if there’s something I need to make amends for and to fix – and to ask God to forgive if need be.

      Kind of like (I live in the desert) finding myself WAY to close to a rattlesnake. Guilt? Not useful. Taking the best safety measures in the moment that I can IS helpful. Guilt for making the mistake of being too close to the rattler is not helpful.

      Anyone raised in a malevolent abusive traumatic early environment really (my opinion) has too much misinformation and mis-cues about guilt to really understand how it is supposed to operate. Same with shame – which is very much a physiological nervous system reaction to a ‘rupture’ in a social environment (even within self) that needs to be ‘repaired’.

      Guilt, to me, is on that spectrum. Guilt in itself is like a warning shot. Something needs our attention so we can move forward in a new and better way!

      LOVE – !!!!

    • Reply #2! Something else that comes to mind – maybe even a bit oddly – in response to your comment.

      Last September as I worked on what I hoped (hope!) was the final rough draft of a book about my childhood of abuse I had a rather fantastical experience that seems to fit here.

      I had written about a memory I have at 22 months old of being at Mother’s mother’s house while Mother had her 3rd baby. I was sick. Grandma had put me in diapers again ’cause of my diarrhea. Grandma wanted to keep me ’til I got well. Mother accused Grandma of interfering, of wanting to own me, etc.

      I remember lying in the middle of Grandma’s monstrous bed (to me) as I witnessed the terrible fight between these two women – my ‘attachment’ people.

      After I wrote this whole memory immediately another memory came of when I was 34 – my father came to visit me for the first time in my life – supposedly to ‘make amends’ for anything he had done (he NEVER protected me from Mother’s continual abuse for 18 years) that had contributed to the mess I had made of my life.

      The next morning after writing these two memories – connecting what Father had said on his visit when I tried to discuss the abuse and he responded with, “Your mother was always right. You wanted to be an only child.” — that the origin of this information came on that day when I was 22 months old — I had a full blown body memory return to me as I tried to go feed my chickens this ‘next morning’.

      I was dizzy. I staggered across my yard to the coop – swerving and stumbling – it was a terrifying experience. I sat down and telephoned my daughter who told me to go to ER immediately. Yet as I spoke with her I became aware that this was a body memory from what happened after Mother got me home from her mother’s that day when I was 22 months old.

      She had beaten me mercilessly!!! Father watched. At the end of her beating Mother had tossed me away from her and sent me crashing across the floor as she screamed, “I hate you! I hate you! I can’t stand the sight of you! Go to your room! Get out of my sight!”

      The body memory I had of the staggering came from how I felt as I tried to get up off of the floor as that tiny little person to obey her!!

      I probably had a concussion. What did I know about trying to walk under those conditions?

      But I DID IT! I got up like a tilted windmill on tiny legs and feet and stumbled forward — away from that beating-Mother — and on into my future.

      That’s what we survivors have ALWAYS DONE! We move FORWARD – NOT BACKWARDS!

      We will always have to continue to do that – no matter what new information we might come across. Guilt belongs to the PAST! It is – to me – never something to pick up and carry with us into our future!!!!

      This is the most important lesson I learned from this body memory coming back to me as I connected my age 22 months and my age 34 memory inside my body at my current age of 59.

      I have ALWAYS been strong enough to move forward — no matter WHAT!!

      • Good God, I got only regular closed fists to the face, but only when mom was drunk off her ass & had no idea what she was doing. I can’t believe you didn’t run away! Never had a “body memory”, just recent dissociations.
        I work with a writer’s consortium in Boston & all of this blogging has me thinking how it might be to get a bunch of bloggers – working with similar material – each contributed a story. The online mental health community is thriving in so many ways – I would think we would all be thrilled (well, in a supportive way, not in a ‘gee, everyone else is traumatized too!’ kind of way) to have a volume like that…something to ponder. I’ll have to look into it next time I spend time there.

        Only other thing re your last response – I actually do recognize happiness in others even when I’m sitting in the garage with a noose dangling closeby. It just makes me feel left out. Which makes me not want to leave my bed.

        And yeah, guilt is entirely useless, but that doesn’t stop it. For me. Maybe its an arc. I’m 38. Room to grow.


        • My first book (hopefully) ends right before my 11th birthday, only time I did run away – how well did that go? ha!

          Your ideas = very interesting!


          • Keep me posted on that & I’ll let you know when I am able to talk with someone at the Consortium – probably I will need to provide my own contribution & then whoever I consult can determine whether we have contacts with a publisher who might be interested in that and similar but disparate accounts. Hugs.

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