Its a funny old thing, PTSD. Not ‘funny, haha’; believe me, in that respect it’s about as funny as a bad case of genital warts. No, its more funny in a sardonic, “well, isn’t that a mother-fucker?” kind of way. The thing with PTSD is that you can think you’re well and truly rid of it, you can think that you’ve managed to unwrap yourself from its icy, black grip, and then one day, you find yourself surrounded by dozens of unpaired socks, in a darkened room, thinking about all the things you need to do before you die.
After I had Sausage and it all went wrong, that was the first time the PTSD hit me. Everything that was written in stone, AKA: The Birth Plan, had gone completely and utterly tits up, leaving me (the perennial control freak) feeling utterly out of control. I had premonitions of death and destruction and it took me a long time to consider myself ‘back to normal’.
Who am I kidding? I don’t think you can ever be normal again after contemplating the mortality of your newborn child. Sausage’s birth changed both Husband and I indelibly.
However, I thought I’d got to a stage where I’d managed to get my head around everything, deal with it all, sort it into neat little piles and tidy it away into the sorting system inside my brain. Getting pregnant again, or being able to even contemplate having another child, was in no small part down to feeling like I’d finally shaken off the last of the trauma. But here I was, frantically pairing socks.
The house has been in dire need of a spring clean for ages and despite Husband offering on more than one occasion to pitch in and help, I’ve stubbornly refused to loosen my grip on the domestic side of our lives. Today, I plunged in and finally made some progress with the sorting and tidying, but while I was doing it, I felt those familiar thoughts creeping back in, hence the pile of socks. It occurred to me that if something were to happen – if the worst were to happen – while I’m having the baby, Husband might not be able to find a pair of socks for Sausage if they weren’t paired up properly.
Once those thoughts start creeping in, its very hard to stem the flow and before I knew it I was in full-on panic mode. My train of thought was something like this:
“Sausage likes having her hair in a French plait…I must teach Husband to do a French plait…I wonder if I can find a YouTube tutorial teaching him how to do it?…I need to write letters for Sausage to open on her 18th birthday and her wedding day…where did I put the manual for the new washing machine? Husband’s going to need that…what’s a living will? I wonder if I need to write one?…” And so on and so forth.
Last time, I spent the whole pregnancy convinced that the birth was going to go badly wrong, and ultimately it did. This time, I’ve been so consumed by all of the other things that have been going on that I’ve managed to keep it all at bay, but now I feel like I’m losing the battle against my own brain. I’ve got 5 weeks of this pregnancy left and I need to do my best to remain calm, not just for me but for the sake of the baby, and Husband and Sausage, but its not as simple as just knowing that I need to.
The shock of feeling that way again has almost doubled the effect. When you think you’ve got a handle on something like this, catching yourself having the same thoughts all over again is like being punched in the gut. That fucking pile of socks was my Everest and I needed to get it sorted, otherwise everything would go wrong. Its hard to explain how anxious a pile of odd socks can make you feel, but it was just a small part of all the things that I wouldn’t be here to do if my worst fears were confirmed.
The logical part of my brain knows that this birth will be totally different to the last. A planned c-section is a world away from the drama of an emergency procedure where mother and baby are in distress; so why can’t I get the logical part of my brain filter that information down to the bit that is convinced I’ll never make it out of that operating theatre?
I should have known this was creeping up on me – I’ve been an emotional wreck for the last few days and I’ve just put it down to hormones, but maybe its a bit more than that. I’d love to think that my new obsession with Sausage’s socks is just nesting, but it feels far more bleak than that. All I know is, I CANNOT allow myself to slide back to the place where I had to get off the bus 5 stops early because I was so convinced that it was going to crash.
I need to rebuild my outer shell and not let the blackness wrap itself around me again.