Birth Trauma Survivor and Maternal Health Advocate

Happy Birthday Miss J! And Happy Birthday to You Too.

Today is Miss J’s 3rd birthday.

People often say that time flies when you have kids. For me, there have been many moments that dragged on and on with no end in sight. Sleepless nights. Cleaning and sterilizing bottles. Teething. Sleep training. There were other moments that seemed to happen overnight like when Miss J sat up on her own, crawled and walked for the first time.

Miss J has transformed from my cute little sweet baby into a beautiful little girl with a bold and bright spirit. She now has opinions and preferences on everything from the color suit that Bobby is wearing to work to what we should eat for dinner. She zips around our town on her scooter like a seasoned pro, giving me several heart attacks along the way. She insists on getting her own mini cart at the grocery store to carry her groceries. She throws her groceries onto the conveyor belt at the market and then instructs me to reach into my purse to give her money or my debit card so that she can pay the bill. Somehow, she has even managed to memorize my pin number! She no longer wants help putting on her shoes and socks. No matter how long it takes or how late we are running to start our day, she insists on doing everything herself. “I do it! Don’t touch!” is a common phrase around our house these days. She has declared herself the Queen of our kingdom, and we are her doting and loyal subjects.

Every birthday is a trip down memory lane. I often think about  those first few days back at home after she was born, which I will tell you about in more detail soon. I had a very rough time in the beginning. Everything was difficult. I could barely walk and my entire body was in pain for several weeks. The days and nights were long, and even longer when Bobby had to return to work. I couldn’t wait until he would come home from work so that I could take a long, hot shower. I always turn on the water super hot, barely tolerable. I’ve always liked it that way. I would undress and stare at my post baby body in the mirror until the bathroom would get so steamy that I couldn’t see my reflection anymore. I would perch myself on our toilet seat like I was at a luxury spa enjoying the sauna. After a few minutes I would get into the shower and bawl my eyes out.  Everything was overwhelming back then. Surviving the surgery. Being diagnosed with PTSD. Becoming a mother. I would stand there as the water rushed against my body and think, “What the hell have I done? This is crazy. Am I ever going to sleep again?” I would stare at my stomach, which looked like it had a football stuck in it and become disgusted. I would stare at the floor of the tub as blood still flowed from my body and watch the pinkish red water go down the drain. Eventually, my shower would have to come to an end and I had to return to the reality of my new life. Sleepless nights, breastfeeding, pumping and changing diapers. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I wondered when and if I was ever going to really enjoy motherhood, not jut feel like I was on autopilot and in survival mode all the time.

As time went on, I developed a routine and the days got easier to manage. I got out of the house more. I made lots of mommy friends, all of us on different courses yet navigating the sea of new motherhood together.

I enrolled Miss J and myself in several music classes per week starting when she was eight weeks old. I needed to get out of the house and it was an easy way to socialize with other people. It seemed so silly at first because Miss J didn’t do very much except roll from side to side or wave a small instrument in her hand lightly. Sometimes her eyes would be very alert and I could tell she was stimulated by all the sounds and colors in the room as the music played and the teachers sang because she would coo and hum along. Other times she would just fall asleep in my lap, leaving me alone to sit through forty-five minutes of singing baby music. As the weeks and months went on I was constantly amazed at her development and love for the music classes. She went from a slow-moving blob that I would place on a blanket during class, to sitting up and waving bells, shaking eggs and trying to catch bubbles. In what seemed like lightening speed, she turned into one of the rambunctious toddlers I used to be afraid would trample her during music class when she was a baby. Now I have a pre-schooler who has her favorite songs memorized, runs around in circles, jumps all over the place and dances wildly whenever and wherever she hears music playing.

What was more amazing was my own transformation from pretending to enjoy endless rounds of singing classics like “Old MacDonald” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, to fully engaging in all of those silly moments and having fun with Miss J. I let all my walls down. Miss wouldn’t have it any other way. I rolled around on the floor. I made silly sounds and faces. I stopped caring if my hair and makeup got messy. Sort of. Things like having crusty imprints of dried breast milk on my shirts and being vomited and pooped eventually stopped annoying me. I accepted them as rites of passage and badges of honor.

Miss J’s birthday week has been tainted by some very horrific and heart wrenching events. The Boston Marathon bombing, during which three people were killed and 180 were seriously injured, some requiring amputations. An explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas, which left several fatalities and people injured, homes and businesses destroyed. And just a few months ago there were the Newtown shootings, followed by several other shootings of innocent children in various parts of the country.

For many people, especially those of us with PTSD these traumatic events can heighten our feelings of anxiety, fear and depression. If you don’t have PTSD, you still may find yourself disturbed, frightened, angered and depressed by these recent events. You might wonder if it is possible to enjoy anything anymore without fearing for your life or the lives of those you love.

I refuse to live paralyzed with fear and so I put on a brave face but the truth for me is that everyday, in the back of my mind, I fear the worst. I don’t talk about it often but it is the truth. I am nervous when I drop Miss J off at school. I am afraid to fly. I am afraid to drive. You would never think as I am bopping my head away to music on my earphones that I am sometimes suffering a full-blown panic attack as I ride the bus or subway, thankful to have the music as a distraction.

In order to combat the anxiety and fear I often feel, I decided long ago to celebrate each day as a birthday. I consider myself reborn every day and thankful for the chance to be a better person than I was the day before. Every day is chance to give and receive one more hug and kiss. Every day we get one more chance to live, laugh and love.

Of course not every day is all hearts and flowers but every day is a gift. For every day that my family returns home safe to me, I am grateful and relieved. The demands of parenting, working and married life can sometimes clutter our thoughts and we get too busy to take time and just be thankful for the simplest of things.

I. Lived. Another. Day.

I’m taking Miss J to get her first manicure today. She’s been asking me for a while if she can get her nails painted. I told her that she could get a manicure when she turned three years old, and so the day is finally here. This weekend, she is going to have a Cowgirl themed birthday party (per her request) with lots and lots of her friends. Sometimes I feel silly planning parties for her because she is so young, but tomorrow is never a guarantee. I want to make the most of everyday I am blessed to spend with her.

The pictures that we take, and the memories that we make, are what we are left with.

Happy 3rd birthday Miss J. I love you.

And Happy Birthday to you too.





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