It’s been ages since I did a Music I want my children to listen to post. There are so many bands and artists I want to write about but for now I want to dedicate a post to some really special songs. These are songs to soothe. Music to mend the soul. I’ve been speaking to a few lovely ladies from the Birth Trauma Association’s Facebook group. They’ve very kindly agreed to help me with a project I’ve been -slowly- working on and this post has been inspired by a discussion we started a few weeks ago. We were commenting on the power of music and how certain songs can take us back to situations or events in our lives. Music like this can be an assault on the senses.
The one thing we- these ladies and I- have in common is the one thing we have spent significant amounts of time and effort hiding from. None of us wanted to be taken to the brink in this way and yet all of us are beginning to feel our journey there has made us stronger. We didn’t want to witness horror, pain and fear but now that we have, our eyes see so much more. We are so much more. So this the music that provided comfort. This is the music that reduces us to tears. This is the music that forces us to relive and reminds us that we are here. I amvery grateful that the ladies in question have agreed to allow me to write about the music that mends their soul, but for now I will tell you about mine.
When I was pregnant with my son, my daughter and I were introduced to Connor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band. The song we loved the most was called I don’t want to die in the hospital. It was this song’s lyrics that ran through my mind on the day he was born and even as they did, I knew it was ridiculous. If I could’ve laughed at myself I would have. It’s not a song about a scared woman being ignored. It’s not about the birth of a mother or the mistakes of a birth. But these are the lyrics I found myself reciting:
Help me get my boots on, help me get my boots on, help me get my boots back on…
Can you get this tube out of my arm?
Morphine in my blood like a slow sad song…
Since my head has cleared and my mind has processed what happened to my son and I, another song has become the music to mend my soul. It doesn’t really sum up the way I felt about his birth- there are SO many songs that do that. It’s more about Ghostwriterdaddy and I. It reminds me of all that we have been through together and how we are both still standing today. There is little more I can ask of you, except that you listen. This is one of the most beautifully written songs I know and today the words mean so much to me. I’ll leave you with Death cab for Cutie’s I will follow you into the Dark.
Last week I attended the second Manchester meeting for the Birth Trauma Association and I haven’t really been able to blog since. It’s not that I haven’t had the inspiration, or even the time (there is always ten minutes here and there, even with three kids and an extended bank holiday).It’s more a case of not being able to bring the words to life right now.
I feel deeply priviledged to have sat with these women and listened to their stories. I feel honoured that they have listened to me, too. But I feel something else, once the meeting is over and I am rocking back and forth on the train that takes me home. I feel sadness.
There was a time when I felt alone. I believed that nobody could possibly ever feel the way that I do about what happened to me. It was isolating and terrifying and dark. It was an abyss, a screaming, desolate hole I’d fallen into and I was scrabbling around in my search for a way out. And it felt so lonely to be alone and to be the only person who had been through what I had been through.Then I met others who had been through what I had been through. I heard them say
That’s how I felt too
I thought it was just me…
And in comes the sadness. That it wasn’t just me. This happened to others.
Last week’s meeting introduced some new concepts to me. A new member told me of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy she had been having since the birth of her son. She talked of ‘reclaiming me’. She told me how she tried to make time to do things that she enjoyed, in order to reclaim a small part of herself. She also told me of her worry box, where she delivered notes full of the things that were on her mind;the box was only allowed to be opened for half an hour a day. I admired her coping strategies and it got me thinking.
Is this blog my way of reclaiming me? I used to think so. Since the meeting I have not blogged and yet I feel I have reclaimed a little of me anyway.
I have played with my children. I have watched them laugh in the sunshine and sleep amidst a mountain of teddies. I have read books, eaten burnt sausages with friends and toasted birthdays and jubilees. I have sipped a glass of wine and I have breathed in the smell of clean nappies drying on the line outside. I have listened to the rain against my window and soft sigh of my baby sleeping. But I haven’t written a word.
I used to think writing was me. That would be how I would reclaim myself. But I don’t think it works that way anymore. I don’t know that I want to reclaim myself; I’m not sure I’m ready to take ownership on this person yet.
Some time after the toddler was born, I made a promise to him- and to myself- that I would do everything I could with the time I had left to make it all up to him. I needed to let him know that I was deeply, deeply sorry for letting him down when he needed me most. I needed him to know that I was sorry for not being strong enough, for missing that first hour of his life, and for failing to be the mum he needed when he needed it most. He was just a baby. He was barely four months old. He didn’t understand what I was saying and in a way, neither did I. I don’t think I had even begun to accept what had happened during his birth by that point. I certainly wasn’t feeling like a mother to him; I just knew that I was supposed to be feeling it.
Making that promise seemed like the best thing to do and I admit that even today, it weighs heavily on my mind. If I’m tired, or he’s having a tantrum and my face won’t form a smile… guilt hits me like a bullet then. What about the promise?
When I made that promise I was grieving. Not for a person, but for something… something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.Perhaps I was grieving for that amazing birth I was supposed to have, especially after the first one had gone so wrong? Perhaps I was grieving for that little boy in the delivery room, who’s heart beat fell silent and died in my dreams? Perhaps I was grieving for… for me?
I am not the same person I was before my son was born. In many ways I am a better person. It’s taken me two long years to realise that. In many ways I know so much more about life and love and motherhood. In many ways I can now be that mother I thought I was before he was born. Perhaps I can now stop grieving for that person I was back then and embrace the new me?
These are all things I have been thinking since I left the meeting yesterday. It was the first Manchester Birth Trauma Association meeting and despite being involved in its set-up, I hadn’t actually thought much about how it might affect me. I’d bought a box of tissues, knowing that it could be emotional to talk to people who understand, or even just to talk to people. Caroline bought individual packets of tissues so that we could go home and cry too.
I didn’t cry. But I did think about that promise. I think I’m keeping it. I think I can keep it.
Last night I had a real ‘is that really who I am?’ moment. Today I’ve apologised for being that mum. I never wanted to be that mum. I never knew I was that mum. I hope I’m not that mum again.
Sometimes we look in the mirror and the reflection can shock us; mostly we look in the mirror and see what we want to see instead.
I suppose this is all as clear as mud to you all. I’m not sure I can explain to be honest. I’m not sure I even want to either. I never said I wanted to admit to who that mum really is. I think I’ll try though.
Yesterday I saw something which I found deeply, deeply upsetting. It was a photo of a lady’s precious baby who had passed away following a traumatic birth. I hadn’t expected to see this photo, it was in the ‘wrong place’. I hadn’t wanted to see this photo- it was enough to know that this horrific tragedy had happened. It was enough to offer my thoughts and my condolences. But was it really enough?
Do I really have any right to be so upset? Why did I make this all about me? Why, instead of this poor baby’s face, did I see my own son? Why, when he was upstairs, asleep, breathing, dreaming, living? Why did I feel so surprised to realise I was fighting back the urge to be sick and tears were rolling down my cheeks? Why did I look down at my sleeping newborn, wrapped closely to my chest… why did I think thank goodness that isn’t my baby?
I’m ashamed of myself. I didn’t want to see that picture. I wasn’t prepared to see that picture. That picture is all one mum has left of her son. Is that really who I am? A mum who can’t bear to think of another mum’ s sadness? When I started this blog and met so many other mums who had been through horrific circumstances, I felt that maybe I could offer friendship and support to other women. Tomorrow, I am meeting with a terrific lady to help set up and run a support group in our area, on behalf of the Birth Trauma Association. I really hope that I can indeed offer that friendship and support after all.
Am I really that mum? Maybe. Maybe I’m just like you; maybe it hurts to witness such deep suffering in another human being. Maybe I’m just human.