Monday, 29 August 2016

To the Mom (and Dad) Who Endured a Traumatic Birth - I Feel You

I am so excited that Melanie is back on Mombies Unite! You may remember her hilarious and spot-on essay, Oh Perfect Mother, Where Art Thou? If not, you should go check that out right now. 

Today Mel's broaching the intensely personal subject of birth trauma and I know that her honesty and bravery in sharing her family's experience will touch many women who have experienced the struggle and aftermath of a traumatic birth.

Meet Melanie. Finding her way through a never-ending daunting pile of crumbs, laundry and oh-so-tired eyes, Melanie is the proud owner of two messy, but lovable munchkins.  She would like to thank her husband, coffee and Roomba for helping her make it through the day.  

Mel's the kind of gal that is both intimidating and engaging. She's confident and she's always got it together between the way she balances ongoing higher education and teaching while remodeling an entire house, her dancer physique and her rocking trademark style. I don't know about you, but I love her even more after reading her vulnerable and candid recounting of her son's birth. 

A note from Mel: I am an emotionally private person. When Abbie graciously asked me to contribute a piece on her wildly entertaining and highly relatable blog, my husband suggested I stray from my normally sarcastic and guarded tone and dig deeper…um what? No way. I sat back and decided to actually take his advice (I guess it is possible spouses can have valuable ideas – who would’ve thought). 
This post was difficult for me to start, to continue to write and work through, and eventually realize other eyes would be reading my deeply guarded experiences and thoughts.  I have realized, however, that writing this has been tremendously therapeutic for me and something I could have desperately used to connect with at the time I was severely struggling had someone else shared their experience.

To the Mom (and Dad) Who Endured a Traumatic Birth - I Feel You

We experienced a traumatic birth with our second child. We. My husband and me. While I may have physically gone through the birthing process, it is important to recognize that my husband was there, in the room with me.

Felt the uncertainty.   
Felt the fear.   
Felt the panic.   
Felt the love.   
While we may have viewed the events that transpired from different perspectives, we were both there.  It would be entirely selfish of me to not acknowledge his entitlement to the feelings.  My post is not going to go into detail about the events that transpired during my labor and delivery, as it is not what I want to focus on. What happened was traumatic.  What happened to you, the neighbour, or your sister’s best friend’s cousin’s sister-in-law may have been traumatic for them.  The trauma experienced could have occurred at any given point during your (or their) childbirth and was likely intense, individual, and isolating.

I get tired of moms comparing each other’s labor and deliveries, always trying to “one up” each other on whose was more easy or difficult, who managed a pain-free vs drug aided delivery, whose was natural and who had a C-section.  Can we all just not acknowledge we birthed a child?  A precious gift. An undeniable moment of pride and love.  We all brought a human being into this world.  We are all connected and equal.  We are moms.

The emotional trauma I felt the days, weeks and months following my labor and delivery stayed with me.  I doubt there were hours where it did not cross my mind, consume my thoughts and monopolize my feelings.  Anytime I was alone I was flooded with raw emotion.  My kid-free car rides to run errands often became my recluse for tears automatically finding their place on my face and ending in my lap. 

I grappled with feeling my trauma and yet feeling overwhelming gratitude.  Grateful that despite our distressing delivery we were fortunate to eventually bring our healthy and happy son into this world.  Yet every time I felt grateful, I had to remind myself of the reason why I was thankful, thus reliving the trauma. A perpetual cyclical hamster wheel that I could not get out of. Two polar opposite intense feelings that I was trying to meld into one happy medium.

My education and career has provided me with tools and strategies to help my students deal with trauma and any other emotionally challenging events that occur in their lives.  I knew the tools.  I had the strategies.  Yet I could not find a way to make them work for me.  
It reached a point where my husband and I both felt it would be beneficial for me to pursue outside counselling.  While the harsh societal stigma still exists about seeking outside support, I admit I felt guilty asking for help and acknowledging I did not have the ability to help me move forward.   
My session was immensely helpful.  It reminded me the events that transpired during my childbirth were not what I had asked for.  I was reminded that when an intense memory consumed my mind that it was my body’s way of healing; to acknowledge the thoughts and feelings and to emotionally let go in order to heal.  To expel the dark energy and let the bright, yellow vibes enter in.  It helped.  It helped me move forward in so many ways.  I felt renewed.  I felt acknowledged.  I felt power.  I started to feel like me.

While I began to heal emotionally, I struggled reconnecting with my body.  It felt alien.  Not mine.  Something I felt I would never truly be able to acknowledge as what used to be me.   
It took time.  
It took patience.   
It took acceptance.   
Slowly but surely I reached a recognition of me. The new me.  The me who gave life to a precious gift that fills my heart, fuels my soul, and lights my life.  That is what pushed me forward.

I am thankful every day for my husband continuously being there for me.  Constantly listening, helping, cushioning my feelings while simultaneously pushing aside his own and putting mine at the forefront.  He accepted what I felt and allowed me to expose my vivid feelings. Never judging.  Never not acknowledging.  Never challenging. 

While I still doubt a day passes by that I do not relive our traumatic birth, I am okay with that.  It is part of me.  It is what makes me human.   
So why did I write this? 
I wrote this for the mom that felt their childbirth did not go as planned.   
I wrote this for the mom that experienced or felt any piece of trauma before or after giving birth.  
I wrote this to let you know you are not alone. Your feelings are genuine – valid, real, raw and yours. Do not let anybody take that away from you.  
But you can move forward, inch by inch and piece by piece, slowly and surely.  Acknowledge what you feel and choose to press forth into a place of light, happiness, love and giggles.

Can you relate to Mel's experience? You are not alone, Mama.
Give Mel's courageous words a share and why not leave her some love in the comments below? You never know who else in your world needs to hear them today.

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