Mothering and Life in General
Memories That Haunt – PTSD
This is my endless struggle to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. All caused from an early induction and our child’s NICU stay. It really gets me when I read or hear ‘Suck it up’ or ‘look at your baby, she’s so healthy’ or even ‘birth trauma is not real, these women just want attention’. A part of me is appreciative that others can say this, because it tells me that they are ignorant. In ignorance, they don’t have the experience to relate or sympathize with that particular situation. So as much and it bothers me to hear these things. Deep down, I am hopeful, because that person will never, ever, ever, feel like I have felt for the past 3.5 years and counting.
For this, I am grateful.
Before having children, I was questioning the reason my mother always said “You forget all about it (pain), once the baby is in your arms”. I wondered because isn’t having a child, especially your first (after many times of trying), something to remember? The pain, the moment, the feeling? Wouldn’t you want to remember that? Wouldn’t it be burned under your eyelids into your soul. A thought, like a book you can pick up and open to show all its finest detail?
I wondered, until I had K2.
One day I sat watching an ER episode. I don’t get to watch much television, well I do, but not my shows. So I was interested on what was going on. Even though most of my shows went beyond understanding, I still wanted to see what can happen in a season. I was watching ER. It was the episode where the character Abby Lockhart was still a nurse and she was in the NICU. I should have turned it then. But I thought I could pull through, it’s just a show, right?
This tiny baby was having some difficulty, I can’t remember now why, and they mentioned a spinal tap. The waves of emotion and thoughts fell into my mind. I instantly cried, and thought “Oh my God, how could I have forgotten”?
I am standing outside her glass room as they prepare her for the needle. I stand outside her glass room, wanting to jump through it, to protect my baby from the fire she is about to feel. I close my eyes, just in enough time to hear her scream.
I open my eyes again, I am in my living room shaking, trembling, trying to figure out how I could have forgotten. What kind of mother forgets these things? Could I have been so selfish to want to forget?
The night is quiet, everyone is asleep. I am still up at the computer, typing, playing a game, blogging, anything other than sleep. I know, even though she’s night weaned, unless she is sick, I will not get much sleep.
She is at my breast at last. It seems so long, my breasts are engorged, nursing her is the only way I can touch her, to let her know that even though everyone else is doing motherly things. I am the real one that hopefully gets to take her home. I look down at my nursing baby, small, but perfect. Alarms go off and nurses come. They rip her from my arms, from my breast, and bring her back to life.
It’s her 3rd birthday, I am taking her birthday cake home. I walk through the mall in conflicting thoughts, but determined to stay positive. We both made it another year. My mind wonders on how big she’s grown, and all the funny things she does. I walk with a smile, holding her cake proudly. Just one thought – 3 years ago today.
I am sitting alone in my room, breasts engorged. Everyone is happy with the birth of the baby, yet, I am still alone. I place my hand on my Jello of a belly. Where she once was. I look at the empty cot beside my bed and think this is wrong. I get up to walk to my baby, it’s hard, my legs still feel tingly and swollen and I still feel like I can’t pee. I finally made it, I made it next to her. Only to find that I can’t nurse her, because she’s had a spell.
The birds are chirping, the sun is coming up. I slept, yet I am far away from being rested. My breath has slowed down, but my heart still races on. I have my hand on her chest, tears fill my eyes when I see it move again and again. I am afraid to close my eyes. I am afraid.
“Is there any way you and the father could be related?”, “Are you sure you did not do anything illegal while pregnant?”, “She has to have some sort of infection, she jitters too much.”, “You should just dry up your milk because she might not make it for very long.” As pictures of scenes flash, of her in her cot, of her in the incubator, the nurse who told me she will be in my room in a few hours – yet again, the nurse who waved off the ‘spell’ definition when I asked what it was and why I was not called.
The most irritating thing in the world was having to explain my breastfeeding, and how important it is to me. How I will give up friends and family if they are not with me on it. How my breastfeeding nearly done my relationship in. The In-laws and the ‘nurse’ family friend plugging DH with all sorts of wrongful information. To the point it led to refusal to support our nursing relationship. I fought on, but with every single stupid piece of ‘information’ about milk turning to water after 6 months, smoking during breastfeeding is not healthy for the baby and I should switch to formula and the famous “You’re starving her!”. They never knew what they were triggering. When they tell me my breast milk is not good enough.
It’s late at night, I wake up in my dark room, my sheets are wet, I look on my cell phone to notice it’s been 4 hours since last feed. Why not have I been woken up, why have I not been called? I get up, put my slippers on and waddle my swollen ankles to the NICU. I buzz in, I wash my dry and cracked hands, open the other door to her nursery, walk up the aisle of preemies, to find a nurse in the nurses station feeding my baby a bottle! I look at her cot, the sticker, “BREASTFED ONLY” is still there. Betrayal. Useless, You’re not needed, She does not need you anymore, You couldn’t even carry her, Guilt.
After moving into another apartment in the same building, I wondered why things seem so different here. Why am I so relaxed. Why do things seem to fit. I ponder this, not because I am a negative person, but because I am analytical, and thinking prevents the negative thoughts to sneak in.
As I sit outside enjoying the children laughing in the park and the birds chirping in the trees. I question what is so different, how can I keep things like this. It’s so peaceful now. It’s so… Quiet. I don’t hear the traffic, I don’t hear the horns. I don’t hear the… Construction trucks at the mall across the street… I don’t hear them beeping, I don’t hear the reminders of the monitors, I don’t hear them. Finally she is released. Take a deep breath, we are home.
It’s not everyday that I get a faint reminder, but when I get one it’s emotional. It hits hard into my chest, it knocks the wind out of me. I am not ready for it. I could be having a really good day. I feel as I did in the NICU, powerless, vulnerable, naïve, trusting, STUPID. I feel angry, confused. I want to get away, I want it to stop. Why can’t I just be normal?
Get a grip, you are going to lose your mind. You hate being fragile, you were always the strong one. Look at you now. Disgraceful. Your child is watching you fall apart, you know how that feels, to see your mother fall apart. You’re going to make her into a fixer, you don’t need another fixer. Get a grip, you have everything you’ve wanted and more. Deep breath, close your eyes, swallow the tears. She does not need to see you cry. Now you know why mothers forget the pain at birth, because they would be like you. Now open your eyes and look at her, she is what you wanted, don’t go back there. What is, just is. It’s the present that needs you and not the past.
I think now as I write this, it’s not my lack of being a mother, although I am never perfect, that made me forget or me wanting to forget. It’s that, to be some sort of mother I had to forget. In order to fulfill my duties properly, I had to forget, and that in time, I will remember. Just hopefully when I remember the clips, I will be strong enough to cope, and put our lives back together.