Birth Trauma Survivor and Maternal Health Advocate

“The great motherhood friendships are the ones in which two women can admit [how difficult mothering is] quietly to each other, over cups of tea, at a table sticky with spilled apple juice and littered with markers without tops.” Anna Quindlen

Making mom friends is similar to making friends when you’re the new kid in school. There were some moms I bonded with immediately and have remained friends with over the past four years. There are some who, although we didn’t become best friends, I enjoy seeing around town or catching up with at the playground. Then, there are others who are an obnoxious bunch and I could care less if I saw again.

I found most of my mom friends through a new mother’s support group that met every Tuesday at Hoboken Medical Center. The first time I attended, Miss J was eight weeks old.  I wheeled my stroller around a long maze-like corridor until I found the room. I was the first one to arrive. I walked around the empty room. There was a table with light refreshments and another table with several different types of pamphlets. I read a few. Lactation support, PPD therapy, nanny referrals. Nothing for PTSD.

It wasn’t long before several moms came strolling in with babies just a few days old to four months old.  The chairs in the room were set up in giant circle, leaving ample room for strollers. The group was led by a nurse, who is also a certified lactation consultant.  Once all the seats were filled, she introduced herself and explained that every class would begin with us stating what was the best moment of the week and what was our worst. The women began to share their stories.  One woman cried about not getting enough sleep. We all could relate to that. Others debated hiring nannies, skin problems and lack of breast milk production. I decided that my story might be too much for the group to handle, so I kept it to myself.

Postpartum hemorrhaging and re-occurring nightmares, anyone? Anyone? No? Okay.

In addition to becoming a regular attendee of the weekly new mothers group, I enrolled Miss J and I in a music class called “Musicology” for babies and their caregivers. At first, I felt ridiculous sitting in a circle on the floor, clapping my hands, shaking bells and singing classics such as “Wheels on the Bus” and “Row Row, Row Your Boat”. The teacher, Miss Dana, was fun, energetic and very entertaining. And although Miss J was only eight weeks old, she seemed to really enjoy herself. She smiled and would stretch out her skinny fingers to grasp instruments. Seeing Miss J’s reaction to everything happening around her filled me with joy. We had both needed to get out of the house. I decided that no matter how I was feeling, it was important to stay active. I was still replaying the hemorrhaging every day and not getting very much sleep, in these brief moments of time I found myself forgetting about the trauma.

It wasn’t very long before I made a few good friends and we scheduled weekly meet-ups.  The weather was perfect for gathering at a local park on the waterfront. We would all spread out picnic blankets and bond over our experience as first time moms. Week after week we grew closer and formed an unexpected sisterhood. Eventually I shared my birth story and others did too. A couple of the women had been through several rounds of IVF before they were able to conceive. One had been hit by a car when she was four months pregnant. Some had C-sections. One had been diagnosed with PPD (postpartum depression). But here we were, we had all made it.

I had weekly appointments with Dr. Chinn to monitor my post surgery recovery. Anxiety filled me as I removed my clothes and prepared to have my vagina examined. I was usually already in tears by the time she walked into the examination room and every appointment ended with her holding me in her arms while I cried. I avoided Dr. B. The very sight of him was just a constant reminder of the hemorrhaging. I was trying to dig myself out of a hole and I had to rid myself of everything that reminded me of the trauma. Sadly, Dr. B was a part of it. It wasn’t long before I ended my sessions with my psychiatrist, Dr. Jones. She just seemed to aggravate my PTSD symptoms.  I didn’t need her and I didn’t need her Xanax.

I needed to be a mom and bond with Miss J. I needed to feel connected to people and to the world around me.  Connecting to my new friends became a lifeline for me, a reminder that although I often felt it, I was not alone.

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