PTBS… Post Traumatic Birth Story

I’ve been doing a bit of heavy lifting on the emotional front while on my long (and slow) runs lately. Most of this past month, I’ve devoted my toddler-free-brain while running to the speech I’m to give at W&L in a week. Once it was written, however, it was like the channel was changed very suddenly. I started to think about what it would feel like to be pregnant again. I guess that’s what was stored up for me as if my brain has a Netflix queue.

Most people with a toddler rounding two-years-old begins this process with excitement… a sibling! Yay! I, instead, pause for a long period, and have no clue if I want another. I go immediately to the place of… it would be best for Landon I believe…. so we should seriously do it. But, on this run, I believe I discovered the WHY that underlines my trepidation.

Most, my husband included, assume my anxiety-riddled hesitation is because of the possibility of another child with Treacher Collins. Those that know Landon are quick to say “why not, she’s amazing” and call it a day. That is possibly 40% of my thinking these days.  And I am quick to remind these dear friends and family members that Landon’s TCS is the MOST mild version I or anyone that’s familiar has EVER seen. If another child born to us had it… you just never know. Most children with TCS have had close to 20 or 30 surgeries by age 10. Their emotional battles far exceed what we will ever face. I admire and respect these families and parents so greatly. But I know… very clearly… I’m capable of parenting Landon. I do not truly believe I could parent two children with TCS.  That is my honest to God truth and I’m not scared to admit this.

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So, what makes up the other 60% of my fear then? As a major fan of self diagnosing (and making up diagnoses), I believe that I have PTBS.  Post Traumatic Birth Story.  I’ve written about her birth story before… it’s in the “Start Here” section of this blog. It has most of the details and is somewhat poetic (if I’ll allow myself) in it’s descriptions of how I felt.  I do not, however, think that I went THERE enough though. The gritty rawness of the 6 days I was in that hospital is actually impossible to put into words.

First, the emergency surgery scared the living daylights out of me. I was calm on the outside as tears streamed down my face while I prayed. Please God, just save the baby.  If we don’t do surgery, the baby will die.  How could my body fail me in these last moments? I have been asked countless times in countless doctors’ offices.. I had the most normal pregnancy ever. I ran until I was 6 months along, then worked out most days lightly. Did yoga. Walked the dog. I felt amazing… until I was huge.  But, if I  had not been at a hospital for her birth ( I do know some hella brave women that delivered at home) she and/or I would have died most likely. The fear that something like this would happen again… has sunk in.

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Secondly, what happened after I awoke… is the most disturbing part of the story. The cold, sterile way I found out what was happening to my baby. The intense, sharp pain I felt when they told me she would have no bones in her face, that she’d have surgeries, that she’d have trouble eating and breathing. That she did not have ears. First, they got a lot wrong but had no problem telling me the probabilities and possibilities. No ears, no hearing. Residents and surgical interns spouted terms like I was familiar. Bone anchored hearing aids. Softband. Therapy. Surgery. Implantation. Maybe cleft palette. Not sure. More tests from her incubator. She was alone. I was alone. There were three and then five of them. A swarm of white coats from departments I knew nothing about. Genetics? Why? Ohhhh…

The fact that she was in the NICU was jarring. The fact that I couldn’t physically move to go down and feed her was jolting. The physical pain I had from surgery was heightened by the pain in my heart. The way she looked back then scared me. My initial reaction to hide it… scares me. No one said… she will fill out. No one said, I do believe she has all her cheekbones. No one said anything positive.  I have a lump in my throat now just remembering the hallways that I would wheel down with my mother, who did everything she could to hold it together.  Landon’s start to her life featured a shell of a mother. And I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever processed all that happened. As someone who needs to do that in order to move on, I think it’s about time.

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I like to believe that I am the farthest from that person now. That I’ve risen to the challenges and I’m every bit of the mother I dreamed of becoming. This girl is my light. I watch this angel flourish and think… surely I should be able to do that again. But I do not believe I can until I am done processing what happened that week. Write about it, run in honor of it, give those uncomfortable thoughts and memories the breath and time to heal. To become just a small thread in this tapestry.

So… there it is. My made-up diagnosis that I actually think fits a few other dear friends that I have. Let’s remember to process those darker things with time and love.

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xoxo,

eloise

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