“I don’t know babe, I sometimes feel like I’m traumatized from Myka’s birth.”
PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder. “A disorder in which a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.”
I was about three weeks postpartum when my life had calmed down enough for me to think about anything besides surviving life with a newborn. I had finally started to pull myself up from the quicksand of almost constant feedings, diaper changes (for both my daughter and myself) and juggling two kids. And as I was pulling myself up inch by inch I started to experience an onslaught of memories and emotions.
Around this time is when, at night, I would begin to have the worst panic attacks. The best way to describe them is that one by one a tab would open in my brain of the most random thoughts and feelings concerning motherhood, my labor, To-do lists, etc until my brain would be overloaded and CRASH!
At the top of the list of debilitating thoughts and feelings were flashbacks to my labor and delivery. What started as a dream labor quickly turned into a nightmare. I got to the hospital already 6 centimeters dilated. Two hours later I was told that I was 9 1/2 centimeters dilated and ready to push! Nurses, doctors and students were called into the room. It was GO time! Only… it wasn’t. After being out on display for all to see, given a false hope that the excruciating pain of labor would soon end and alerting our family that our baby girl was almost here, the doctor simply said….”She’s not ready yet.” The bright lights were dimmed once again and the party of onlookers were ushered out the room along with my confidence in being able to have a completely natural labor.
Back labor gripped at my body until all I could do was cry in my husband’s arms and beg for an epidural. Being so far along , the nurses advised against it but staying in as much pain as I was with no end in sight was not an option. I was finally given the epidural and while relief from my contractions eventually flooded my body so did an overwhelming sense of defeat and disappointment. I wanted so much for my labor to go as smoothly as it had with my first. Already dealing with the loss of my mother and knowing she wouldn’t be there to comfort me during my labor or postpartum as she did with my son, I only wanted to create positive memories around my daughter’s delivery. But all I felt was embarrassed and weak.
Four hours passed between waiting for that last bit of dilation and pushing my daughter out. My tear was worse than with my first and not being able to immediately get up and walk like I did with my son because of the epidural gave me the worst anxiety. Not to mention there was a choking scare with my daughter during my second day in the hospital. Thinking back on my labor experience this time around, the only thing that went right was the beautiful baby girl that I got out of the whole ordeal. And that’s obviously the most important thing.
But in seeking solidarity in my situation, I found that so many women I knew personally and those I did not, had experienced traumatic events surrounding motherhood as well. Whether it be experiences during labor and delivery, postpartum or during pregnancy. Motherhood can sometimes be a traumatic experience that we don’t often get to express because we’re just expected to be grateful. And while you’d be hard pressed to find a mother who wouldn’t push through the most terrifying experiences over and over again just to hold her sweet baby to her chest…our feelings are valid.
No one wants to talk about the scary experiences of motherhood that start from the double line on that pregnancy test and extend well into your child’s adult life. Motherhood is not only Instagram ready family photos and “Mommy and Me” outfits. Motherhood is gritty and ugly and rough at times. And sometimes we have experiences that shake us to our core so much that they keep us up at night. Let’s not glorify just one side and feel wrong for giving validity to the other. Mama Trauma is real. So please…let’s start talking about it.
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