Today is her 3rd birthday. It’s been a wonderful day, we had so much fun.
However now it’s late at night, The Beast has caught me. I’m back there. Trying desperately to leave. The Beast needs to go. I don’t want him anymore.
We hear stories of childbirth all of the time. Whether it be at a family function, at the shops, at work or on the internet. Women and men alike, parents, grandparents, those without children, those who have nieces and nephews, those who work with children, those who like children and those who don’t. Opinions and thoughts shared with reckless abandon. The judgment of the ignorant and the arrogance of the informed. Sometimes positive and sometimes negative. Always delivered with the air of correct indignation. Arm chair obstetricians who studied at the University of Anecdote.
The big thing for me which still pops up, is the subject of how the child is born. For those of you who know my story, you may well remember that I actually don’t consider myself having birthed my daughter. That yes she was born, but I did not birth her. That she arrived. That she was removed.
The language I use is very carefully orchestrated by the trauma I suffered as a result of her birth. My brain creating a pathway around the proverbial roadblock that I created to avoid the ghastly reminder of circumstance.
I hear stories of women who laboured for “hours”. Where they worked and worked through every contraction to eventually reach the goal of motherhood. The baby all squirmy and screamy, appearing from her nether regions in a big push toward the light. Where she then basks in the glow of oxytocin and vernix with cameras flashing from the proud father or significant other who is also overjoyed with the arrival of their little baby. In the weeks, months and years afterward, they re-tell the story of the birth with gusto. The pain was great, epidurals and nitrous oxide. Pethidine and tens machines. Birthing pools and showers. Tearing, grazing, pooping. Stirrups, students and stitching. All of it discussed to the finest detail with no censorship. Then followed with the “but I would do it all over again”. And indeed they do, pregnant again, baby number two, baby number three. Families ‘completed’. The life cycle continues.
As we all well know, these stories are not shared by all. Emergency caesareans, stillbirth, ventouse, forceps, episiotomies, pre-eclampsia, post partum haemorrhages. Scary situations which do not always end with a joyful new family taking selfies in the delivery suite.
Parents cope the best way they know how. “The important thing is, my child is healthy” and other various statements which completely invalidate a mother or other parent who is struggling to cope in the event of a traumatic situation. As a traumatised parent myself, I learned very early on to stay quiet about what happened to me, because it wasn’t normal and I had a healthy baby.
When I did find my voice, I was still invalidated by those around me. The old “healthy baby” line got rolled out, like carefully rehearsed dialogue. I felt isolated and ostracised because I couldn’t relate to the other mothers who did not have the same experience and then the same understanding. Or I was invalidated by other mothers who said just to “get over it” implying that it had happened to them too, but they got over it like a ‘normal’ person. I was left confused by my experience, why I struggled when they seemed to have it all so well together. However then the truth started to come out.
“No, that didn’t happen to me”
The pivotal statement that brought me undone. The months of pushing the terrible memories to the back of my brain, closing the curtains but not the windows. The validation I was so desperately needing to step forward and say that I wasn’t okay. That my “healthy baby” was not all that mattered.
So I started searching for validation. Other parents who were struggling and suffering. I was met with wall after wall of silence. Nobody speaks about such unpleasantries. The dreams. The distortion of reality, knowing that I wasn’t in the hospital, but unable to stop the endless motion picture running before my eyes. The hyper vigilance of being on guard to protect myself. Reliving the birth over and over. Perpetually labouring the baby. The process never ending. Until now.
I’m not sure why things are different now, but they are and that’s good. I finally feel as though I am no longer enduring the birth. That the process is over. I’m not completely healed, but I am well.
Today I talked about it and I didn’t get a flashback.
Mother’s Day. The painful reminder of what happened. Birth stories happening. Fond memories of tiny newborns smelling so sweet with their scent. Children saying they love their mums. Families showing their affection for the woman at the centre of the family.
Meanwhile I’m over here anxious and sad. Wishing the memories would go away or change magically to something else. Make her first day the wonderful memory it should be, instead of the terrifying mess it was.
Also weighing on my mind is International Midwives Day. I’m irrationally so angry that any of them are celebrating when I was treated so badly. The posters on the wall at work showing smiling mums holding their fresh babies alongside their midwives make me want to vomit. I was left to languish in my room with a screaming baby. Lectured that I was breastfeeding wrong. Not to use baby wipes to clean the spew off her face. My hand smacked away when I went to put some corn flour powder on her bottom to prevent nappy rash. Terrible bloody experience.
PTSD is an arsehole.
PTSD is defining my life and I don’t want it to.
PTSD is ruining what should be the best day of my life.
Why can’t I change my thoughts? I try so hard, but instead I feel like I’m taking three steps backward with every two steps forward.
I’ve been having a brief but interesting chat with one of my twitter mates tonight about chronic/severe illness (cancer) and it eventually led to a chat about the person with the illness keeping the real severity to themselves to try to remove the burden from loved ones.
I’ve never had cancer but I can in a way, relate with my PTSD. I also have a friend who died from cancer last year. We knew she was sick, but her severity was very much kept to herself. When she died, the shock and grief were so raw. She was a young woman leaving behind young children. However that was her, she was the stitching that kept the fabric of her family together.
We live in a world where people lose interest if the storyline isn’t kept fresh. Where we have an acronym for internet speak, TL:DR (Too Long: Don’t Read) for when messages are longer than a Tweet. Where we are often so busy we can’t stop to look out of the window let alone go outside to stand in the fresh air. As it is, it’s nearly 11pm and I’m still trying to finish cleaning the kitchen because tomorrow is the start of another working week.
I shamefully don’t have time to listen to the needs of others. I’m so flat stick keeping up with myself and my family. Worrying about my friends was at times making me unwell. Care fatigue. Burn out. Frustration. I have had to make decisions to benefit me over the needs of the people around me.
Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny, and, and, and you put the load right on me
Is this the society that I want to live in? Absolutely not. I want to coexist in a world with my fellow humans that feel comfortable enough to talk. To take the load off by sharing their troubles. To know that we all have a safety net to rely upon when we fall and can’t get up.
Interestingly I don’t tell people how I really feel anymore. Mostly for all of the reasons I’ve written about here.
Beauty awakens the soul to act.
That photo, was taken either by myself or my husband, I can’t remember, on a beach in Hokitika on New Zealand’s South Island on April 13, 2008. The last night of our honeymoon. We had been married just shy of two weeks and were preparing to drive across the island to Christchurch the following day to go home.
It’s been a mixed bag the last few weeks. Lowlights and highlights, all mixed together in one frantic month where I have been so busy I didn’t even know where to begin some days. That awful dream I had the other week is still playing on my mind and I’m still to a degree, fearful of sleeping.
Life plays on my mind. The anxiety of the unknown future. The memory of the known past. The failure of the Stop! technique on most occasions. Being so busy I had to cancel my most recent psychologists appointment. Yes health is meant to be a priority, but realistically how can it be when I’m meant to be in a few places at once?
Last year I felt a mix of sadness while listening to the music, as I paused to reflect on the year that was. This year I was jubilant.
He sang songs off his new album and also crowd favourites. I sat back and allowed myself to get lost in the music. Closing my eyes, I heard the lyrics with my soul, not just my ears. It felt good to just live. Putting my recent relapse of PTSD on ice for a couple of hours.
There’s a line in the movie Almost Famous and it fairly much sums up Neil’s music for me.
Instead of feeling like I had been missing out on the best things life had to offer, I felt as though I was grabbing life by the horns and loving every moment. I allowed myself to enjoy it, instead of feeling so sad as I have in the past, when given the opportunity to let my hair down. The guilt I experienced at last years concert was absolutely non-existent this year.
Afterward, my dear friend and I strolled along the Harbour at Circular Quay. I took the obligatory black and white photos of the Bridge, Opera House and skyline. We walked along George St back to our hotel, soaking it all in. Drunken people partying. Homeless people sleeping. Hospitality people working. City of Sydney workers keeping the streets clean and safe. Police cars with sirens on screaming as they try to manouver their way through traffic jams of hotted up cars and taxis. People alive with life. The atmosphere electric.
If this is what it means to find beauty in life, then I will keep doing it whenever I can.
I hope you’re having a great week.