Our Birth Story. Part Two.
Our birth story began at 9.22 am on January 23, 2011, with the birth of our son, Alex. Most people’s stories end there; the baby is out, pictures are taken, nervous assembled family members hug in an adjoining room, the circle of life. Like everything else about us the birth was different. Our true birth story began when Alex made his arrival.
Our birth story is not pretty. It had no feel good moment. It was 66 hours of pure, unadulterated hell, followed by two more days stuck in hospital, incredibly lonely, and in pain, and hurt. My soul was crushed, there was no way around it, and if it weren’t for the mammoth strength of my husband, Monkey, I would not be here today.
Life in the weeks after baby Alex was difficult, but so rewarding. His life gave my life purpose. He smiled (and it was a smile, not gas!) gave me strength I never knew I had. Slowly, the physical wounds healed. But the mental wounds, reliving the terror when I closed my eyes, feeling ghost hands and instruments inside me when I knew I was sitting on the couch, nursing my son, safe and sound, they stayed with me. Always, always in the corner of my eye, they sat just out of the line of sight.
Alex was probably nine months or so, and Monkey had to travel for family business for a week. I was fine, I said. I got this. Lexi and I had found our groove. Baby massage on Mondays, chilling with the yummy mummies on Wednesday mornings, going for walks, we had this. But Alex got sick, an awful lurgy headcold, and I caught it within a day, and those 10 days without Monkey was a day in, day out marathon of runny noses and no sleep and screaming and pain and finally…I snapped. I was pushing baby in his pram (because of course his sinuses hurt so badly he couldn’t sleep on his back in his crib), and he was just screaming and screaming and screaming and I –
- I shook him.
He thought it was funny, to have mommy grab his pram, wheel him around, and jiggle the pram hard making the funny yelling faces, and he laughed. I recoiled in horror, walked away, went to the computer, looked up the crisis hotline, and dialed the phone. I didn’t get off the phone till I had spoken to someone, and had the soonest doctor appointment to deal with it.
The first appointment was an assessment, that took about 1.5 hours, although it seemed twice as long. I cried, and cried, and cried. I was broken. But anyone who is a parent, and especially the primary caretaker, knows that being broken isn’t an option. You have to push the demons behind your line of sight, as you have priorities. Child comes first, second, and third. And fourth. And…you get the point. But the demons weren’t going anywhere, and they were now interfering with my child. So they called me back a few weeks later; they found a therapist who specialized in birth trauma, and there was a creche in house, so Alex could play while I worked. A few weeks after that, we began.
I was diagnosed with PTSD from the birth, and our therapy followed the protocol for the disorder – me telling the birth story, in the present tense (and now I am on the table, and now I am pushing, etc), over and over till I became accustomed to it. For several months we worked intensively, me telling the story over and over, talking about ‘hotspots’ in the story (parts where I would break down), working through especially difficult moments, her pushing me to relive detail after detail until….until I became bored. I was bored of telling the story, bored of the power it once held over me.
I had finally finished giving birth.
The story isn’t over, of course. I still have one last piece of the puzzle to get through – obtaining my birth records, and going over them with a general counsellor (making sure I understand what my body went through, so I have no lingering doubts about how everything healed). But just like the birth of the child means the worst is over, so is the worst of Alex’s birth over. I can finally look back on Alex’s birth and find some joy.
The light of my life came into the world on January 23, 2011. Finally, after 15 months, I can see that light fully. No darkness in the corners of my eyes.
Have a good night.