Thursday, December 8, 2011

My story isn’t on the list of birth stories on this site. Even though my baby is almost 9 months old, I cannot write it out. Every time I try, it reads “The day you were born was supposed to be the happiest day of my life. Instead it was the scariest…but in the end it brought us the most precious tiny baby in the world.” At that point I usually break down crying and have to stop.

Even so, I relive the day she was born in my mind several times a week. The scenes from her birth, the early days in the NICU, and the intense love and fear I felt for my baby seem to play on a constant loop in the back of my mind. I am a preemie mom with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Post-partum anxiety (PTSD and PPA). And there are many others like me.

My PTSD and PPA didn’t show up right away. In fact, my daughter was almost 5 months old before I realized I was dealing with more than I could handle on my own. While we were in the NICU, I was so focused on Cora that I couldn’t begin to process my own emotions. I couldn’t even tell you what it was like to recover from my c-section and that was major surgery. I didn’t pay attention to anything going on with me. The first couple months we had her at home, it was all I could do to manage her therapies, appointments, feedings, etc. But once things began to settle, the emotions and the stress of the previous five months came crashing down on me all at once. Unrelenting. And it turned me into a person I didn’t like.

I found that on the days I was supposed to be working, I spent all my time researching preemie issues. Even preemie issues that Cora didn’t have, just so I would know what to look for in case someone missed something. I felt (and sometimes still feel) like all the responsibility for taking care of her, ensuring that she had every need met, and diligently watching for any signs of problems fell squarely and soley on my shoulders. As a result, I couldn’t think about anything else.

I was edgy. Oversensitive. Unable to sleep well even on the rare nights that Cora slept for long stretches. I couldn’t get past the fear that something else was going to happen to her. That I might miss something. That she wouldn’t get everything she needed. And it would be my fault.

I felt like I had already failed her by not being able to maintain the pregnancy. After her birth I was diagnosed with cervical incompetency. Because knowing that my body failed my baby wasn’t enough….it also came with the label “incompetent.” While rationally I know there was nothing I could do, nothing anyone could have done in my case to maintain the pregnancy any longer, I still struggle with that guilt. And the pressure to not ever let my baby down again.

My friendships suffered. My relationships with family suffered. My marriage suffered. My ability to be the kind of mom I want to be suffered too.

So I talked to my OB. I met him the day he delivered my daughter and he has been amazing ever since. He gave me the names of several therapists and I went searching for the right fit.

First I tried a group setting through the hospital I delivered at. That was a bust. The topics were more about PPD (post partum depression) and everyone there had term babies. It was a great group for those women. But not for me. There wasn’t much I could relate to. So I moved on.

Several attempts later, I found the right counselor. I now see her every week and it is helping a lot. She is helping me learn to manage my anxiety and to clear my mind of thoughts that aren’t helpful to me or to Cora. She reminds me that I am a good mom, that I have a healthy baby, and that I will get past this. It is slowly making a difference.

Its important to know that my preemie story isn’t one of the scariest. Cora was a remarkable 27-weeker. She needed limited O2 support, faced few complications, and impressed the doctors at every turn. Compared to many people in our situation, we had an easy ride. That didn’t make it any easier for my emotions. I still don’t have it all figured out. There are good days and bad days. I find that when I get more sleep, get to exercise, and eat well things go better. Of course there are many days when those things aren’t possible.

But when I feel myself sinking into a pattern of anxiety or reliving the events of Cora’s birth, I remind myself “This is not helping my baby. This is not helping me. There are more important things to focus on. Look at that healthy, beautiful, strong little miracle and focus on her instead of reliving the trauma of the past.” Sometimes it works.


Michelle Rose said...

I'm glad you posted this...I went through the same exact thing. I just didn't seek the help for it like I should have, now I'm dealing with a lot of suppressed feelings but doing better. Thank you.

Its Schnoodle Time! said...

Thanks for sharing! I feel like I have a touch of PTSD. I could not start my son's baby book until well after his first birthday just because it is an incredibly emotional experience reliving his first few months of life. Still to this day I get teary seeing him do new things and am so grateful he is here and healthy.

Precious and priceless so lovable too, the world’s sweetest littlest miracle is, a baby like you.

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