4 articles Tag birth trauma

9.17pm – iVillage Post

My newest post is up over at iVllage. Go HERE if you want to have a read.

We’re Fine.

Through my work with Maternity Matters and involvement with the Birth Trauma Association, I read a lot of stuff by women who’ve suffered similar trauma and disappointment to what my family went through when Sausage was born. I read about people who are let down by a lack of care, poor facilities and a health service which treats them like a number. I talk to people who feel alone, like no-one understands their feelings and thoughts and I do my best to let them know that I know exactly how they feel. I know Susanne won’t mind me saying that she does the same and I’ve seen her counselling others through their heartache on many an occassion.

It’s Sausage’s 3rd birthday in just under three weeks and I have something that I wanted to share with anyone who may read this. It’s really important that I get this out there and I genuinely hope that people read this and are comforted by my words.The thing I need to say is this:

We’re okay.

Three years ago, I thought my heart would never stop hurting. I thought I’d be consumed by my rage, feeling at times that I fully understood spontaneous combustion, convinced that it happened to people who spent their waking hours burning with white-hot rage. I thought that every time I looked at my daughter I’d see the tubes and wires that covered her the first time I laid eyes on her. I thought I’d never be the same again.

But we’re okay.

Yes, I’m still angry, I still have huge chunks of my memory missing, I probably won’t ever be the same again in many ways. But I don’t want to be. I wouldn’t wipe my memory of all of the bad things that happened because I’d be doing my daughter a huge disservice if I did. I need to remember. But all of that doesn’t detract from the fact that we’re fine. That doesn’t give credence to the insensitive morons who say that we should just be grateful that our children have turned out okay. I just hope I can give some of you some hope, when it feels as though the black cloud will never clear.You need to know that it’s OKAY to feel this way.

One of the things that I was adamant about in my birth plan was that I wanted to have skin-to-skin contact with my daughter when she was born. Because I was unconscious and she was so poorly, this wasn’t even vaguely an option, but what I need you to know is that it hasn’t affected our relationship one iota. We’re as close and two human beings could possibly be, despite the fact that I couldn’t hold her until her 7th day of life, so anyone who worries that a lack of contact early on will have a detrimental effect on your relationship needs to try to remember this.

I’m not trying to preach and I’m certainly not trying to demean or belittle the feeling of anyone who is suffering the effects of a traumatic experience. I’m just hoping that my experience can help others and let you know that you will be okay. It may never go away completely, but it won’t always be as fresh and painful as it is now.

It may be a cliché, but time really is a great healer.

The Safe Inside My Head.

Something must have changed in me lately, as I feel much more able to think and write about Sausage’s birth and I’m hoping that’s a positive step. But I must admit, there is something which scares me about the whole process and that’s remembering things which have been firmly buried inside my head. I think that’s a huge part of my reluctance to go to a counsellor, I know there is so much I don’t remember which means that if it were to be unlocked, I might be traumatised all over again.

Something I only touched on minimally when I wrote my birth story was the fact that there is a huge chunk of my labour that I don’t remember. I have small flashes of moments during that time, but so much is still missing. Around three hours, in total. Once my waters broke, I think at around 6pm as my dinner had just been put in front of me, I remember my contractions starting and being very painful. I remember a flash of me pressing myself against a wall as I got it into my head that this would relieve the pain. The next thing I remember is huffing the gas and air and wondering why it wasn’t working. Now I’m having an epidural and laying on my side. Next, I’m laying on my back and they’re doing an examination of the tops of Sausage’s head. Then, I’m in theatre with someone spraying something cold on my stomach and I’m screaming for a general anaesthetic. Then, I’m coming round to the sound of thunder, totally unaware of what’s going on or where my baby is. And I’m not even sure how accurate the parts I do remember are, as Husband has told things a bit differently, and he was a lot more aware of what was going on at the time.

Sausage was born at 9.17pm, so out of a three-hour labour, I remember snapshots which amount to about ten minutes. And the rest of it is all locked inside my head, in a little compartment. And I must admit, I’m terrified that one day the locks on those compartments will simultaneously fail and a whole world of shit will fall out onto me. It’s a very difficult feeling, on the one hand I am genuinely scared of what I might remember one day, on the other I really resent my brain for keeping it all from me, like there are secrets being kept. But I wouldn’t even know where to start with trying to remember, don’t know if I would even want to and even if I did, I couldn’t guarantee that it would all trickle out at a nice slow pace, giving me time to process it all. As I said, world of shit falling on me.

It’s a terrible analogy, but I really do get that part in Inception with the safe that they’re trying to crack, inside the blokes head.

So where do I go from here? I’m at something of a stalemate. People have suggested that I ask to go over my labour notes, but I just don’t know how much good that would do me. I suspect it could be more damaging than healing, and not to sound like a dick, but due to a lifetime of health anxiety I have a slightly more in-depth view of what certain medical terms mean than a lot of layman, so while they might think they’re baffling me with terminology, I could be horrifying aware of things I didn’t know before. I don’t know, I think I’m trying to talk myself out of it. Not to mention the fact that if they allowed Dr. Shithead into the room, the eminent consultant who almost ruined my life, I couldn’t trust myself to not beat her to a bloody pulp with the nearest bottle of oxygen or fire extinguisher. Anger, much?

I’m stuck, basically. Not wanting to remember, but hating my brain for not letting me remember.

And not having a clue where that leaves me…

Not All Wounds Are Visible.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that the last almost-three years of my life has been very much shaped by the traumatic birth of Sausage, and how angry I am about the circumstances surrounding it all. But, although I’ve written my birth story, both on here and for Maternity Matters, I’m not sure I’ve ever really gone into detail about how it’s really affected me.

I mentioned in a blog post recently that I used to be an outdoorsy, summery type person, but how I now like it when it rains as it takes the pressure off of me, in terms of leaving the house. No one expects you to take a small person out of the house for a non-essential trip when it’s pissing down outside, do they? This means that we can stay in the house, within our little cocoon, where it’s safe and familiar. About a year and a half ago, when I thought I was doing better with the PTSD, I was on the bus home from town with Sausage when I had a weird vision that a car was going to drive into the side of the bus. It sounds so crap to say vision, but I can’t think of any other way  to put it. Think ‘Final Destination’; it was that realistic, I saw the car driving into the side of the bus, the section that Sausage and I were sitting in, and in that split second I calculated all of the ways that I could dive in front of the pushchair and protect her. I’m certain this was all down to the residual feelings of guilt and resentment about not being able to protect her during her birth, but nevertheless, I go so worked up that I got off of the bus about 6 stops early and walked the rest of the way because I was SO convinced that a car would crash into the bus. God knows what my poor Husband thought when I burst through the door, 20 minutes later, sobbing, unable to properly breathe and talking about a bus crash.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve had many moments like this and have become accustomed to the fear and anxiety that I feel on an almost daily basis. Every decision that Husband and I make regarding Sausage is doubly analysed and picked over, we know we’re what some people might consider to be over-protective, but it’s the only way we know how to function. Most parents are happy for their kids to go to playschool. I feel like someone is sitting on my chest when I think about sending her to playschool.

Along with the constant fear and anxiety, I also have regular injections of guilt, when I feel like I’m holding her back because of my anxiety. But I comfort myself with the fact that she’s loving, bright and very forward. At our last Health Visitor appointment, Sausage was described as ‘exceptional’ and completed tests deigned for a five-year-old. She’s good with other kids too, we took her to our local soft play centre  recently and she and another little girl latched onto one another and ran around holding hands, laughing and playing the entire time. But I still feel guilty. I think I always will.

Things that are normal to other people will never be normal to me. We live in a bungalow, a fairly small one, and despite the fact that the bedrooms and the living room are all off of one very small hallway, when Sausage falls asleep at night she stays in the lounge, asleep on the sofa, until Husband and I go to bed. If we do put her in bed, which we’ve been doing a lot more recently, we sit in Husbands office for the evening, because it’s closer to the bedroom. And when I say bedroom, I mean OUR bedroom. Sausage has her toddler bed in our room and I’m just not ready to even conceive of the idea of putting her in her own room. I honestly don’t think I’d get a wink of sleep if she were two doors away.

It’s never easy to talk about mental health, or the effect that it has on us, but it can be even harder to put those issues into actual real-life terms. Yes, we have the flashbacks, the anger and the sadness, but it’s how we translate all of this into our daily lives to make them work that’s important. No, I don’t like to take Sausage on trains, which means I don’t take her on visits and people are missing out on seeing her growing up. I feel bad about this, I really do. But I need people to know why I am the way I am. And trust me, it’s not easy. Not doing things is by no means the easiest decision. I can only hope that one day, I’ll get better. But until then, I just have to get by.