Early Child Medical Trauma: It’s More Common Than You Think

crying-kid06When my daughter was an infant, my husband I learned that she’d been born with a medical condition that required us to take her to specialists. Over a period of years, various doctors performed invasive procedures on our baby over and over again.

At times, I was enlisted as an assistant and forced to hold my tiny child down on the exam table as medical professionals performed procedures that I can only describe as horrific.

On more than one occasion, I asked the doctor why my child wasn’t processing the experiences that were happening to her as sexual abuse. After all, from where I stood as an observing parent, the procedures looked like sexual abuse. And my child didn’t have the verbal skills to define them in a “medical” category, as opposed to a “sexual assault” category. My baby only knew what she felt–pure and unadulterated terror–an instinctual trauma response.

So why wouldn’t my child–who was traumatized over and over again in a medical setting without having the verbal skills to define her experience–not develop PTSD in the same way a soldier or abuse survivor would?

The truth of the matter is, she did because she had no way to compensate for the “locked in” memories, once the left side of her tiny brain shut down and trapped the experience in the right side of her brain.

The American Psychological Association describes trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster.” Preverbal and early childhood medical trauma are as real as is adult medical trauma. Someone you know is suffering, and they probably don’t know why.

On June 1st, my new book, cowritten with friend and colleague Wanda Sanchez, Love Letters from the Edge released. This book provides a voice for the tens of thousands of women who suffer–many in isolation and silence–with symptoms produced by trauma. That trauma may stem from medical procedures or treatment like breast cancer. It may be rooted in abuse. It may be related to the heartbreak of long-term caregiving. It may come from the wounds of abandonment. It may have been caused by the whims of natural disaster.

As coauthors, our message to the hurting is simple: You are not alone. Your symptoms make sense. Hope and help are available. And you are relentlessly loved by a merciful and compassionate God.

Who do you know who needs a love letter from God?

Photo Credit: Minnieland.wordpress.com

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