Something only soldiers get. Something we don’t talk about. Something that belongs to the ‘worried well’.
Something women get too. Something we MUST talk about. Something that belongs to me.
It’s taken seven years but the diagnosis of PTSD following birth trauma finally arrived, and with it a storm of emotions and challenges. I knew that CBT would be hard going. I knew that it all needed to be dealt with. I knew that I had to seek this help and it had to be now, or never. But the reality is that I still don’t know what to do with this PTSD tag hanging around my neck.
I’m not a soldier. I’m lucky enough to have never seen a war with my own two eyes. I’ve never been in conflict of any kind really. But I do have PTSD. And I have been in danger. I have suffered.
PTSD can occur when a person suffers a point of trauma, usually when they believe that they or someone else is dying or dead. My point of trauma arrived on a dull Sunday afternoon in December, when the monitors that had been tracking my son’s heart beat fell silent and the alarms began to shriek into the cold, sterile air. When the bars were raised on my bed and faceless feet pounded the corridors towards the theatre. When a mask was clamped onto my face and darkness descended.
By the time they put knife to skin, my baby was dead. Of course, he wasn’t really. They resuscitated him and his skin turned from blue to pink just like that. They cleaned him up, wrapped him in a blanket and gave him a name. They did all of this while I slept. And when I awoke, they passed me a baby and told me to feed him. But not my baby, surely? I’d lost hope on my baby. I’d seen his heart beat die, and I had no further recollections of him being alive after that.
That was my point of trauma, and that is when the PTSD symptoms set in. Through CBT it’s become clear that I experienced a second point of trauma three years later, but the links between what happened then and what had already happened were never obvious to me. It isn’t my story to tell, so I won’t relay it here. But the important thing is that I have experienced trauma, and I am living with the effects of that.
Living with PTSD isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. Seven years on and I think I have got off lightly compared to some. I am working hard to make sure this does not guide my path for much longer. Wellbeing, happiness and peace are vital to me now. But there are some days that are so much harder than others, and its on these days that I really want you to understand what it’s like. The nightmares, the flashbacks, the anger and the grief. The overwhelming, crippling fear. The feelings of loss, terror and lethargy. The injustice, the unfairness of it all.
The Short Years Project would like to raise awareness of PTSD after birth trauma because we believe that there are too many women suffering in silence and solitude. If you’d like to help, please get in touch.