This Posthumous Child

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001 I watched the news in horror with most of the world but I was paying attention to the pregnant women. I was saddened to know what these children and parents were going to go through. I was curious to see how the children who were born after would be as they grew up. After 10 years the research started to come out and that is now where I turn for a lot of my information. But soon after 9/11, thinking about all these children and what resources their parents would have I started my search for information. I started with who are we? What is our label? What are we called – children born after the death of a parent? I was shocked by how long it took me to find the answer. There were no books. No magazine articles. I found the term, “posthumous child” in legal documents.

I am a posthumous child.

Finding those words was life changing. When I saw how little there was out there about this club I belong to I decided to change it. That is when I knew I had to write a book and get the conversation going. Let people know that we are here and we have a very unique perspective on the world. And to be sure that a child looking for answers will be able to find out what they are called the book will be called, “This Posthumous Child.” It may change slightly or be added to but that is the base.

In the course of writing my book I need to do interviews, lots of interviews. I have been quite nervous to approach people about doing the interviews. Okay, scared. I admit it. I have fought with the notion that the story of my family is not mine to tell. That people will think I’m crazy or negative for bringing up the past. The thing is, for me it isn’t the past. It hasn’t happened yet because I don’t have all the pieces. I’m fully aware that other people don’t need all the pieces. Most of the time I wish I could be one of those people. But I’m not. I need the pieces. I’m looking into why I have the need for the pieces. I haven’t got it all figured out yet but how it appears at this time is connected to the fact that I was in the womb during a massive trauma.

My Mom had PTSD and I have the markers of PTSD. The weird part is that the parts of me associated with PTSD feel like a layer on top of my own personality. I don’t feel entwined in it. It doesn’t own me most of the time. Most days I can separate myself from the triggers and the feelings. I can see it coming like a cloud and sometimes I can avoid the worst of it. As I have acknowledged its existence and begun to accept it I have been able to work with and learn to take control of it. I do know that there were aspects of my childhood that added to the PTSD symptoms, including lack of infant bonding and care, but based on my reactions and triggers I can identify that its origin is from the womb. It is all very overwhelming and even doing the research is difficult some days.

I am continually looking into how trauma affects the unborn child and if anyone has information on that subject or knows of a research project I can get involved in please let me know. What I do know at this point is that not only is it food and nourishment and emotions that goes through the umbilical cord it is also possible to pass PTSD through DNA by epigenetic mechanisms. Being born after the murder of my Dad did more damage than if I had been born even a day before. The fact that my Mom didn’t breastfeed me probably prevented more damage being done. The reason she didn’t breastfeed was because of the medication she was being given at the time.

I have always struggled with this part of my identity and have wanted no part of it. Denial has been my friend in this area of my life. I have always had problems around the anniversary of his death and associated it with my Mom. After she passed away I really hoped that it would go away. It didn’t. That is when I knew that I had to acknowledge the struggle as my own and investigate further and figure out why and how I could be so deeply impacted by events that happened before I was born. We’ve known for years that Mom’s emotions are passed on to a certain extent but to acknowledge that PTSD can be passed through DNA, especially in the 3rd trimester is somewhat new research.

What this means for me, as far as I know now, is that I was left with an imprint of what she went through. I didn’t live through it in the physical sense. I lived it through the emotions and hormones of my Mom. For 13 days I felt what she felt. I was left with these feelings and emotions that have no physical memory. I have no idea where or how to place them. There is no sequence or explanation. My mind is constantly searching for the source of the emotions. Some days it is quite difficult to concentrate or focus if my mind has been triggered by something. What made it worse is that I wasn’t given an explanation when I was a child so the emotions continued to not have a place or path to follow so they could be resolved. This plays out in other areas of my life. Being detail oriented, searching for and finding patterns, always needing to know all of the steps of whatever I am reading, watching or working on, loving mysteries, whether reading or watching them and using every kind of puzzle or mystery as a way to make sense of things.

As I continue in my search and discovery I am finding myself less ashamed and more intrigued by my uniqueness.

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