Birth Trauma Survivor and Maternal Health Advocate

“You've probably read in People that I'm a nice guy – but when the doctor first told me I had Parkinson's, I wanted to kill him.” Michael J. Fox

Often, doctors have to give people extremely bad news.

“You’re in bad shape, kid. Here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna try to stop the bleeding. I gotta do an embolization to stop the bleeding. If that doesn’t work, you have to get a hysterectomy. You have to realize that if you get a hysterectomy, you won’t be able to have any more children, okay? But, I have to tell you this: if the bleeding continues, you will die tonight. ”

Now it was more than a week later and Dr. B had given me more bad news.

“I think you might have PTSD.”

I spent the two days before my appointment with Dr. Chinn googling phrases like “PTSD”, “PTSD and childbirth”, and “PTSD and new mothers”. I didn’t find anything that was relevant to me, a new mom. Every search turned up the same few results: war veterans, victims of accidents and people who had been sexually abused. I was confused. I was embarrassed. I felt alone. I felt afraid and somewhat unworthy to acknowledge that I now fit into this category. To me, these people were real victims of trauma and those who survived were heroes.

Every website I read had the same definition:

PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event.

I hadn’t been formally diagnosed yet. It was still just a possibility. I did not want to have a mental health condition. I reread the symptoms several times until I memorized them.

  • Trouble sleeping

I hadn’t slept more than an hour each day since I gave birth.

  • Flashbacks

I could still hear the machines beeping and see the reflection of the blood in the television.

  • Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event

When I was able to sleep for brief periods, I often awoke startled and sweaty.

  • Reliving the traumatic event for several minutes, maybe even days at a time

My hair was shoulder length at the time. I started to wear it in a ponytail, not only to keep it out of my face but also because when it touched my shoulders, I could feel the wet vomit on my neck and face all over again.

  • Being easily startled of frightened

This was a symptom that developed once I started to venture out of the house with Miss J. 

  • Overwhelming guilt or shame

During the surgery, I concentrated on trying to stay alive. Feelings of guilt came like waves over me from time to time several weeks and months after the surgery, just thinking about the possibility of Bobby and Miss J losing me.

  • Irritability or anger

I was irritable and angry about all of the above.

  • Avoiding activities you once enjoyed

Well, I was a new mom at the time. I was avoiding all activities I previously enjoyed.

  • Feeling emotionally numb

The only thing I did not feel numb to was being a mother. Nursing. Pumping. Sterilizing. Sanitizing. Changing diapers. Swaddling. Cuddling. Being a mother was very real. Miss J kept me going. 

I discovered other symptoms that are not listed above, but scared me deeply. I hadn’t experienced any of the following and I dreaded the possibility that I could be headed in this direction:

  • Self destructive behavior, such as drinking too much alcohol

If you know me, you know I like my drinks- but at the time, the thought of drinking made me sick to my stomach. I didn’t want to do anything that would cause me,Miss J or Bobby to experience any more trauma than we had already been through. I became overly cautious about everything.

  • Hearing or seeing things that are not there

During the chaos of the hemorrhage, feeling my body weaken and losing life, every time I closed my eyes all I saw was black. Maybe I watch too much television, but I never saw a white light or a loved one ready to welcome me to the other side. A part of me wished I had seen something or someone, it would have been somewhat of a comfort at the time, a sign that no matter what happened, I was going to be okay.

  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships

This was a symptom that would develop for me over time. It started with me not wanting to see or talk to Dr. B. From that point on, I made all of my post partum follow-up appointments with Dr.Chinn, a female ob/gyn at the practice. Eventually these feelings carried over into my relationship with Bobby. It was hard for me to let him hug me or kiss me. Forget about sex. I felt so violated by Dr. B., Dr. Richmond and everyone who was a witness to what happened to me that night. Every time Bobby touched me, I saw myself back on the hospital bed, bleeding and vomiting. I saw his face, deeply concerned, yet there was nothing he could do to help me. I was cold and naked with strangers hands inside of my private parts.

  • Memory problems

            I wish.

 

 

Resource cited for definition of PTSD and Symptoms: Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Definition.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 08 Apr. 2011. Web. 09 Nov. 2013. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/DS00246/DSECTION=symptoms>.

 

 

 

 

 

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