For many years since my son was born I have known that something hasn’t been right. The labels that various professionals have attempted to apply have never really stuck well. At first they’ve seemed a perfect fit, but eventually they start to peel and fall away, much like the old and drying leaves on the streets below my feet. Those leaves are quickly forgotten, trodden under foot without a second thought, swept into the gutters of life and disregarded with the arrogance of knowing they’ll be back soon. And, just like the leaves, the labels always return. Attempt to stick again. But post natal depression has never sat well with me. I
always assumed it was because I didn’t want to accept that I was depressed. That my own preconceptions of a depressed person were all wrong and that maybe I was truly depressed because I couldn’t even see it myself. And, after all, who was I to argue with Mother Nature? This was me. The way I was made. A chemical imbalance and that was that. The leaves were always there, little buds ready to grow, and all that I needed to do was provide the sunshine and water.
Just, no. I am finally able to stand up to the professionals who misdiagnosed me. And it’s not their fault. Earlier this month I shared my story at the second annual Birth Trauma Study day, and I learned there that GPs just aren’t given any training on how to deal with birth trauma, and the common after effects of PTSD. Because that’s what I have. What I’ve been experiencing all these years. Not post natal depression. I’m not depressed. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It sounds so scary. Those four letters have kept me awake at night over the last few weeks, and when I say them to myself my heart actually skips a beat. But those four little letters have done something amazing for me. They have validated the last seven years. They have shown me why things have been the way they are. Why I have reacted in the ways that I have. They have shown me that I am not abnormal after all. In fact, hearing at the birth trauma study day that PTSD is a normal reaction to a traumatic event is like a load being lifted from my shoulders in one swift swoop! Knowing that the reasons why I found my son’s birth traumatic are valid is amazing. Being told ‘I had a c-section and I wasn’t traumatised’ finally shows me now that there is nothing wrong with ME. But there is a lot wrong with the misconceptions in our society! Dr Susan Ayres told us that point of trauma usually comes when the mother believes that she and/ or her baby is going to die.
That was my point of trauma. It’s been so hard to describe just how frightening the sound of silence is for me. Silence came for just a brief moment, in that space between my son’s heartbeat fading and dying, and the alarms beginning to sound. That snippet of silence was the moment where I gave up. I believed he was gone, and it’s been so hard coming back from that. So hard.
I truly wish that I could have stayed for the rest of the study day but I had been invited to the House of Commons event, raising awareness of the importance of addressing maternal mental health in every pregnancy and beyond. And since that day it is almost as though things are clicking into place more and more for me. The wonderful Dr Alain Gregoire’s talk moved me to the point of anger. We ARE failing women. We ARE failing to address the issues that are causing so many families pain and anguish. We ARE failing to help when help is really needed. I am proof of that.
The lovely Leigh shared this article the other day and the words have leapt out at me (thank you Kathy Parker). Please read it. Because this is what it’s like for me. I have been feeling so odd lately. Detached. Unemotional. I got through my son’s birthday with a sense of numbness, confused as to why the tears were missing, why I was missing. I don’t remember how I felt when I woke on the day that had changed my life seven years previously. The pain, fear and horror was missing. Just, missing.
But this is PTSD. This is, I realise, how it’s been for the last seven years. I have lost SEVEN years of my life. Checking in, checking out. Self protection maybe. I’m not sure. But this is PTSD. What it’s like to live with it. Sometimes knowing the enemy puts us in a better position to fight even harder, and that’s what I intend to do.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Becca for allowing me to share my story and for organising the wonderful birth trauma study day. It was amazing to be able to stand up and speak about what happened and the experience has given me true hope for recovery. I am also thankful for all that she does to raise awareness of birth trauma, and all that she does to help HCPs to improve their practise for women. I’d also like to say thank you to the amazing Dr Raja for organising the House of Commons event and inviting me to attend. Thank you Raja for all that you do to support Emma and I with #birthTraumaChat. Lastly, thank you to Emma. She is my guardian angel and I am so excited to be working with her on the Birth Trauma Trust. Please watch this space for details of all that we have planed for 2017!