To the mom struggling with birth trauma: I see you

Not all births are traumatic. Not all births are perfect. This post is to the mom who is struggling.

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I want you to know your feelings are valid. Your birth experience doesn’t have to be a bloody emergency for it to be traumatic (to those moms I give you all the hugs). It is absolutely OK to accept that your delivery was traumatic, even if it’s on a scale. If you feel traumatized, it was traumatic.

My delivery was traumatic. Not a crazy you’re-going-to-die- blood-everywhere kind of traumatic but it’s on the scale. I struggled to bond with my baby. When I was pregnant, so many parents told me that the moment you hold your baby you’ll experience instant love. While logically I knew it was ok and that not everyone had that- it still hurt that I didn’t get that. This lack of instant bond squeezed my heart to death.

Here I am almost 18 months out and crying as I write this article. I’m doing it because it’s personal and I think its important to me and others. That’s why I want to put this out there.

To the most part- in the early days I did not think much about it. I was too present in parenthood and tired to remember. But there were moments. Those quiet moments when I was in the shower and I would touch my c section scar and my eyes would well up with tears. There were moments when I would scroll through Facebook and happen across a video of dads holding their baby’s for the first time and I would feel that crushing guilt wash over me. Or those moments when I would look down at this sweet, smiling baby -who I now have that immense love for- and break down.

Why wasn’t my love instant? Where did I go wrong? Am I not enough? She deserves a better mom. Why couldn’t I stop shaking? Why couldn’t I hold her? I am such a bad mom. Why can’t I breastfeed? Is pumping enough? I HATE THIS PUMP. UGH. Why do I NEED Zoloft?

It wasn’t just the guilt of bonding that crushed me – it was the entire thing. my last trimester was very borderline problematic. We rode that roller coaster for weeks; going between “everything is great,” to “let’s send you to the local children’s hospital.” We were induced 4 weeks early. We had little time to prepare for that. We spent 50 hours of various techniques trying to convince our baby to come out… she was not convinced. It was 50 hours of walking, squats, pills, balls, pitocin, Foley Bulbs, shaking and vomiting, and being constantly monitored for blood pressure (I was never high, but again – borderline). Just before midnight we had the surgery. I threw up in the OR. I didn’t stop shaking for 2 hours post surgery.

I still feel pangs of guilt. I think about how I didn’t get to hold my baby, how I was shaking too much to control my arms. I was so drugged up and tired to weeks. breastfeeding was a failure at first (we eventually got it around 3 months). I struggled a lot with anxiety and depression, and anger for months. My scar hurt – which to me was a cruel reminder of my guilt.

As I found the time, I embraced meditation. As baby fell into her sleeping routine I picked up relaxing baths with face masks. I took time to take care of myself and forgive myself. Sometimes I’m still surprised to feel those tears well up every now and then. It’s getting better. Our love grows every day. I have that love – it wasn’t instant, but it’s there.

Mama, I want you to know that if you are struggling with the trauma and guilt that you are valid. Those tears that well up? Let them. Our experiences may not be the same or may vary on any scale, but damn this is hard. It can be hard to reconcile your emotional state with your logical thoughts. And that is ok.

If you’re looking for advice, I don’t have much to offer. Time can help. It won’t heal it completely, but as you fill your heart with memories those dark ones will lessen. Take care of yourself. Figure out what you need. Let yourself cry and then dry your tears and kick some booty.

The first time I held my baby. I was still shaking, numb, and swollen.

Got a story to share? Tell me all about it mama.

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