Recently I overheard an extremely harassed mother complain that her son was doing a particular task ‘like a girl’ and of course I had to see what he was doing so brilliantly. I mean, as we all know, girls are so amazing and wonderful that whatever he was doing was bound to be of such great talent, strength and skill that it surely warranted a nosey. Right? Wrong. The poor lad was trying unsuccessfully to work the costume dryer machine in the changing rooms after his swimming lesson. He wasn’t pressing down on the lid hard enough so it wasn’t kicking in. And this was making his mother furious. Not just because a queue was building up behind him and this was clearly upsetting him. Not just because she was in a rush, and hot and needed to get home to make dinner. Not just because a wet costume in a gym bag is really annoying and likely to make everything else wet too. Oh no. Because he was doing it ‘like a girl’. With no strength. No ability. No common sense. Like a girl?!
I have there girls, and crucially I also have a son who I would like to grow up with respect for girls. It starts at home. Whatever he can do, they can do too. However strong he is, they are equally so. Whatever chores they have, he has them too. In our house, ‘like a girl’ is in no way an insult. It’s praise. It’s observation of a job well done. It’s… something we never say. But if we did, it would be a compliment. So I have to wonder when exactly did it become such an insult? (more…)
You’re sitting in a room, all alone. You’re seated on the edge of the bed and your body feels heavy as it sags towards the floor. You’re breathing hard. Shallow. You close your eyes because when you do that, the reel inside your head begins to slow and the flickering images start to make a little more sense. But they’re still there and you know that no matter what you do, those images are staying. Imprinted on your soul forever. Because you’re changed forever.
Someone beside you reaches for your hand. They know you’re broken. You’re scared. You’re screaming for help. You don’t know what they’re thinking. You don’t know what they’re feeling. You don’t know if they understand. But you need them. And as they take your hand in theirs you fall into them.
“At least your baby is here, healthy and happy! That’s all that matters.”
And the world comes tumbling down.
I have heard this so. Many. Times. I have learned not to react. Not to shut down and wallow. Not to question myself and my own reactions to what happened. I’ve learned that not everyone understands. They can’t. They won’t. I’ve learned to appreciate that birth trauma is still so misunderstood.
I get comments and emails and messages that question my motives for writing about birth trauma. What happened to me is nothing compared to what happened to them. They went through what I did and they aren’t traumatised, so why am I? They’ve been through much worse, what gives me the right to complain? They don’t have a baby, happy and healthy, at all. So how dare I feel cheated, or mournful or angry?
I won’t dismiss your feelings. But I won’t accept that it’s ok for you to tell me a healthy baby is all that matters. I matter too. My birth experience matters. My emotional wellbeing. My state of mind. I matter as much as you do.
I took a baby home from the hospital and I will always ALWAYS be grateful that I did. I will always know how lucky I am. I will always appreciate the work that was done to save my son’s life. But I will also always remember the horror that was his birth. I only wish I could forget.
A healthy baby is important. But it is NOT all that matters.
Before I became a mother, I knew very little about pregnancy and the extent of my birth plan was to have a water birth, with no pain relief. In reality, my firstborn arrived thanks to a relatively calm ’emergency’ c-section, following induction and a whole load of pain relief medication. I remember visitors later remarking that I was handling the pain really well, and this I took to be a compliment. Pain after a c-section was supposed to be intense, right? I mean, they sliced open my belly and rummaged amongst my organs a little bit. That’s going to hurt, isn’t it? And yes, it did. But I was handling it well, so all was good. Until the next time.
The pain you get after a c-section is unique to you. Your pain threshold, your body, the way you heal- it all plays a part. Whether you keep up with your pain relief meds, whether you rest enough when you get home, and whether you take the time to be kind to yourself- they are also important factors. How many c-sections you’ve had, how fit and well you were before you gave birth, how well you were during pregnancy- more variable factors to consider. So when people ask me what the recovery is going to be like, there is just no way I can tell them. I am me. You are you. And that’s the best way to be. (more…)
We’d been there for hours and the room was crowded and I could feel the strength of my resolve slipping through my fingers. I could see the people around me but their outlines were blurred and they moved so fast . It was impossible to keep up. To take it all in. I couldn’t do it. Too tired. Too scared. And then they were pushing up the bars with a BANG and rubber soles were hitting the floor with squeaks. And blurry faces were covered with masks and words were being thrown over my head and everything started to slip away. And that was the longest silence I ever heard.
As the beep beep beeps of my son’s little heart began to die away.
And only silence followed.
In the time where his heart should have filled the room, there was only silence.
And in the space where my heart should have been there was only silence. A black hole. A void. Gone. He was gone, I was sure. (more…)