It’s been over a year now since my son was born and yet I still don’t think I’ve healed enough emotionally.
They say it gets easier, and most days that’s true.
I never really cried (I must have done enough of that before he was born).
For the first month of his life I had all but convinced myself that my birth wasn’t really that traumatic, that I could be happy with how it unfolded. After all, I had what I wanted, didn’t I? I got a completely natural birth without any cuts or needles or medical interference.
I should be happy. I should be okay.
But I’m not. I am still too far away from being okay with any of it.
And I tell myself that I’ll heal when it’s time to have a second baby; that I’ll get my do-over.
But then I keep changing the number of years away that I’d like to start trying for that baby. First it was 2. Then 3. Now my son should be closer to 4…and really, I’m not thinking about when the time will be right for our family or when we have the time to care for that second baby. I’m just obsessed with the birth. Absolutely and completely obsessed.
At first I just wanted a do-over of my home birth, but the deeper I get into my preoccupation the more radical my ideas become. Like thinking about just going it alone and calling everyone, including Tyler, after I’ve already given birth. Just to avoid any chance of someone ruining this second chance.
I know it’s crazy. I know it is a stupid and dangerous thing to want to do. But I’m just too scared to chance another failure; another trauma.
When I hear a friend or family member is pregnant I should be happy for them, but in my head all I can think about is how their births could go horribly wrong if they aren’t INFORMED that doctors and even midwives can lie. It has nothing at all to do with me, but I still get anxious whenever I hear the words “my doctor won’t let me” or “I’m okay with having the baby in the hospital” because I just can’t trust that they’ll have a good birth. It’s a horrible thought, I know, but there you go.
So I am more than aware that my birth trauma has affected me deeply. Hell, that’s why I signed up to be a coordinator for Improving Birth and now run a Facebook page with a good friend and fellow trauma survivor. Her birth was more traumatic than mine and affected her more deeply, but neither one of us judges the other or tells the other they should “be grateful”. We both know that a healthy baby isn’t ALL that matters. We both know that birth trauma is a real thing, and it can be life-altering.
For months after my son’s birth I couldn’t enjoy sex at all. I was physically healed and there should have been NO reason for me to tense up every single time, but I did. I had to try to remind myself to relax every time and it took almost a whole year for me to get back on the horse, so to speak. Sex no longer feels like a chore, is what I’m saying. And yes, I know it’s ironic that the woman who used to write smutty romance fanfiction wasn’t REALLY in the mood for full-on-sex for a whole year. It wasn’t even the intimacy that was the problem, and fooling around was fine. It was the penetrative act itself that was the issue. I thought it was due to breastfeeding, but I’m still nursing so I know that wasn’t it. It was the trauma. It was my body tensing up out of fear, just like when I couldn’t relax at all when I had my pap test done at my 6 week appointment (just so I wouldn’t have to do it again in the fall). So looking back now, physically I WAS affected.
Then there’s the fact that certain parts of his birth, things I didn’t think of before, start coming back to me now. Things I didn’t think bothered me at all now feel like fresh wounds and while there are parts of the birth that I can be thankful for (like how my midwife did all she could to lessen my trauma) there are too many other parts that I wish desperately had been different.
Last night I had a fitful sleep. I kept thinking about my birth and all the things that were wrong with it. I thought of Heather and her scaremongering and I thought of the pain (something I believed to not be that big a deal a year ago) when my son was pulled from me so quickly after that one big push. I thought of the pain of the exam after I tore, and I thought of all the parts of my life that have been affected by this trauma. I don’t think I slept much at all. I kept waking up, and my son and my husband were sleeping peacefully on either side of me, but I couldn’t sleep. When morning came I was actually happy to get up, just so I didn’t have to lie in bed anymore and keep thinking about it.
This is the first time since the week after he was born that these events have played in a loop in my head like that. Shortly after birth I had a nightmare that I was pushing again. A few days after the music I’d had playing in labor was still echoing in my head. A month after that I was on Improving Birth constantly reading everything I could and through that site I found my voice. I recognized so much of what I was feeling through the stories of the other mothers and my fight began.
I have read that healing takes time, and perhaps it will take me a lot longer than just a year. Perhaps it might be best to wait until my son’s closer to his 4th birthday to have that second child. After all, every time I think of a second pregnancy I picture myself trying to control EVERYTHING. I know I am going to be a real pain in the ass to work with and I don’t envy my future midwives at all. And with the amount of time I spend trying to find ways to avoid EVERY possible complication that could arise and require a hospital birth or a c-section, I just don’t think I’m in a good place mentally. I’m pretty sure my Self-Assessment that I downloaded from the IB Birth Trauma Kit has proved that.
So I’m going to try to live in the present. I’ll have my healing home birth, but I won’t be putting a timeline on it. Obviously before I’m 35, but other than that, it will happen when the stars align and the universe deems me “ready” to handle it. After all, there’s no sense trying to rush into healing when that fear and anxiety is still very much a part of my every thought.
In the meantime I have my page, a cause worth fighting for, and a good friend to talk to who understands exactly what I’m going through. I may not have healed yet, but this is a pretty good start.