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CPTSD, PTSD and Intergenerational Trauma: Breaking the Trauma Cycle Before Becoming a Parent 

woman with a clock and a helm
Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

I’ve been feeling the clock tick. At 39, I find myself shedding tears of hope and joy when I hear a toddler’s voice or a baby’s cry. It happens as if from nowhere. Once about eight months ago (pre-pandemic if you can remember what that was like), my husband and I sat in a small diner in Santa Monica next to a couple with two toddlers. We were enjoying our breakfast, and then one of the toddlers started speaking, and then the tears came. That little voice. Those curious little words. My husband looked up from his omelet puzzled, “Are you crying,” he asked lovingly. “I told you, this is what happens,” I said, tears streaming down my face. Another time, I was in Target. A kid was whaling, and I welled up and thought, I want one, surprising even myself. The same thing happened in my backyard the other night — I heard a little voice, I cried. Part of me realizes it’s probably my body’s inner cry. My maternal clock ticking. Letting me know it’s almost time. 

But as much as I’ve wanted a child over the last few years, I haven’t felt ready. Not in the way people say you’ll never be ready. But in the way trauma survivors need to feel ready. Collected. Grounded. Unwavering. And I’m getting there. But I’ve had to deal with my trauma first. Birth that child. The demon child. 

It took decades for me to even begin to recover from my trauma. To receive proper diagnoses. To find doctors and therapists who listened to me. And then it took me years to navigate medications and therapies and treatment plans. It’s taken the almost 10 years my husband and I have been a couple to learn about our collective trauma, to get help, and to learn how to communicate safely. Lovingly. With an understanding of where our pain stems from. Something that doesn’t seem to be the norm. 

Almost seven years into our marriage, we are rarely asked about if we’re having children. When we were first married in our early 30s, it was a popular question. Now, we’re entering into our 40s. We must just not be having kids. That ship has sailed for spectators. Time has run out. Along with their hopes and dreams of us doing what is expected of couples a few years into their marriage. 

Some don’t bring it up I’m sure for fear of the truth — that we’re struggling — but not trying and struggling, just struggling. I’ve told people for years we had to get our mental health in order first. Being candid about something people typically try to hide. Something that seems to back most people off of the topic instead of meeting it with curiosity and understanding. 

Mental health still seems to be a topic few address. Trauma seems to be addressed even less. But they are topics that need to be addressed. That need to be openly discussed. Because the truth is, if we would have rushed, felt our time was running out, we wouldn’t have made the breakthroughs that needed to be made for us to be prepared to even try to become parents. 

Experiences that have pushed us to learn about ourselves and our trauma. To share our trauma and our fears with each other. To stare them in the face and to summon the strength to move past them. To not let them define us. Defeat us. To choose to see the beauty in the world. To stop promoting the lies and the anger — the illusions. To stop covering up the pain. To forgive. To love. 

To do it together. In a partnership. One where we help pick each other up when we stumble and fall. Breaking trauma cycles that have been in our families for generations. Possibly forever. Clearing out space. So our child is brought into a home of acceptance and love. Not of pain and fear. 

So as I sit back and think about possibly trying to get pregnant, I realize that the training I’ve had to endure to recover from my trauma has made me a pretty aware human. And it’s opened me up for love. So even though I will have to make adjustments that other new moms may not have to make. Even though my self-care will be a priority, not an indulgence. Even though my husband and I will have to work to communicate even harder than we’re learning to now. To put our past aside. To not let it take us over. To step back into our own power and to run our own lives. I’m learning I might be more prepared than I’d ever considered myself to be. 

To all you parents who have endured trauma and have broken the cycle for your babies, my love goes out to you. Please share your stories so we can learn from your wisdom and your strength. 

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CPTSD, PTSD and Intergenerational Trauma: Breaking the Trauma Cycle Before Becoming a Parent 

Jenna Grace

Jenna Grace is a writer and educator with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sensory processing disorder (SPD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder (SAD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) diagnoses. She writes and speaks about topics including healing from trauma, coping with neurological disorder and practicing mindfulness in order to help others and to explore new meaning. Visit her website for more of her stories.

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APA Reference
Grace, J. (2020). CPTSD, PTSD and Intergenerational Trauma: Breaking the Trauma Cycle Before Becoming a Parent . Psych Central. Retrieved on September 24, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 Aug 2020
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