Last night Maternity Matters and Unfold Your Wings hosted the second #BirthTraumaChat and our topic was signs and symptoms of birth trauma and PTSD. Please check the hashtag for the full conversation.
During the chat, a tweet from Emma stopped me in my tracks. A cold ball of something started to form in my chest as I recognised myself in her words.
We were taking about subsequent pregnancies and births after birth trauma. Emma said that she felt guilty for her second, positive birth experience. And not many could understand that.
The same way that nobody can understand why birthdays are so hard for me.
Yes, of course luka’s birthday is hard. That is easier to understand. But why the others? Why did I spend the entire day in tears when the big one turned 6? Or when Elsie’s due date rolled around? Or when the preschooler celebrated her first birthday?
That the joy I felt when the girls were born was not there when my son was plucked from my body. Such agonising, soul shredding guilt that my son’s birth was so horrific. That I didn’t believe he was even mine. That when I left the hospital days later I actually wanted to leave empty handed.
That his sisters had a calm and peaceful first day in this world. No tubes snaking down their throats in the hope that they might take a breath. That his mother’s arms were cold and numb.
That Elsie’s birth was nothing like his, yet I feel the same cold dread as her big day approaches. And no matter how I try, I know I am going to crumble. For a moment. Only a moment.
Knowing how traumatic his birth was makes all the birthdays that follow so incredibly painful. So raw. So unfair. It’s often the run up to the day that I find the hardest, but there’s really no way of knowing.
Last year just before Christmas the school boy turned six. With a newborn baby and a vigilant health visitor I was able to finally tell someone what was happening. The panic attack on the drive home from his party. The raw, keening pain of nightmares and flashbacks. The re-living of the whole day over. And over. And over again.
And no it’s not postnatal depression. It’s just not. And not knowing where to send me, what to say or how to help does not make it go away. We had a repeat visit just before Christmas and I told her I was fine. It’s easier that way.
But when are we going to have clear guidelines in place to help women with PTSD after birth trauma? When will we open doors instead of hesitating, then closing? When will we reach out and find solutions, answers and strategies that work?
Because this isn’t going away. The things that happened to me are still there, bubbling under the surface (often silently) waiting for the chance to reignite. I know the signs, I know when it’s happening. I just don’t know how to get help.
Please do join us next week for #BirthTraumaChat at 8pm on Twitter. But please do be mindful of triggers; dip in and out as you like and take care.