Last year we had a baby girl. She’s doing well and I’m doing well and most of me thinks that that’s the end of the story.
But, there’s another part of me that’s still struggling to get past her birth. We’d hoped to have a home birth, but we ended up being rushed to hospital in an ambulance, taken into an operating theatre and having a forceps delivery. I know plenty of people who have had far more terrifying birth experiences, but my experience scared me.
A couple of weeks after the birth, Middly accompanied me to a midwife appointment and he heard the midwife mention that I’d had a ‘traumatic birth’.
In the car, on the way home, Middly said, “the midwife said you had a traumatic birth. Do you have PTSD now?”
We talk about trauma in our family. The boys have been through some tricky stuff, so talking about trauma wasn’t new for them. Talking about trauma from an outsider’s perspective was different, though.
They asked me if I ever had flashbacks. Eldest advised me to breathe through flashbacks, and to keep my eyes open so I could see what was really there.
They assured me that it would get easier. When I got embarrassed and talked about how many women had it worse, Middly reminded me that’s not the point. There will always be people with sadder stories, it doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to be sad too.
I have found it hard to recover from my experience. But, I have been enormously helped by the empathy shown by my boys.
The whole thing had given me an extra insight into how they see the world. I felt so vulnerable and out of control during the birth that I desperately wanted control afterwards. The first few days after my baby was born, I had a strong urge to control everything, almost as if that could cancel out the memory of losing control and being afraid. I recognised that desire. I have lived with people who are experiencing it. It was interesting to feel it for myself.
And, I think that it’s helped them too. They’ve been able to use their experiences to support someone else (though, they have both claimed that they got all their knowledge from the TV, and I should probably let them watch it more). It’s given them confidence in themselves. It’s allowed them the priceless experience of coming alongside someone else and helping them through a difficult time.
I am not quite ready to be glad things happened the way they did. But, I can see that there have been more than a few upsides.
Most of all, I am proud of the boys and of their ability to turn difficult experiences into a strength.