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You are the most amazing moms in the entire world.
Your heart, your fire, your compassion, your wicked strength, your wisdom, your drive to not let anyone else suffer alone is mind-boggling.
This week, one of ours struggled publicly. You didn’t run away. You ran toward her. You held her. You listened. You reached out. For her. For yourselves.
So many of you dove into her maelstrom right along with her. You were there for her when it mattered most.
At the closing of every chat, I always say that help is only a tweet away. To use the hashtag and an army will be at your disposal.
You proved it beyond any reasonable expectation.
This week, you were an army. This week you bonded together, rallied around one of our own. This week you brought tears to my eyes. To the eyes of everyone involved. (HUGE thanks to the BAND for giving our mama a safe place to vent)
But now, now that she’s safe, in the hands of professionals and hopefully receiving the care she so desperately needs, we need to focus on ourselves. Turn the army toward ourselves.
When we support others, we often push aside our own fears. We push aside the scary, the hard, the sad, the bad. We suck it up because we don’t want the one to whom we’re reaching to think we are anything but strong.
It’s okay to exhale.
It’s okay to cry.
It’s okay not to be okay right now.
It’s okay to collapse.
It’s okay to say “Hey, #PPDChat? That was hella hard and I need support.”
We will be there.
It’s what we do.
It’s who we are.
It’s how we run things.
We’re strong, each and every one of us.
We’re beautiful, each and every one of us.
But we’re fragile too.
As an army?
We are unstoppable.
We are here.
You, just like her, are not alone.
If you feel triggered by this past week, USE the hashtag.
I promise, an ARMY will be at your side instantly.
Because that’s how we do it.
I love each and every one of you so much it hurts.
You all ROCK.
Some time ago, I blogged about how brushing my hair triggered my PTSD from the birth of my second daughter. Not too long after her birth, I chopped all my hair off. It’s long again and I am finally okay with brushing my hair but still mindful of how long I brush. I make every effort to brush only as long as necessary, forcing myself to put the brush down and walk away.
Today, for the first time in over five years, I am listening to Linkin Park’s Reanimation.
Why is this significant?
This is the album I listened to the day my five year old daughter had surgery for her jaw at just 9 days old. I took the MP3 player into the sleep room at the Children’s Hospital right outside the NICU, curled up, cranked it up as loud as it would go, sinking blissfully down into the rhythm of the pulsating beats and the angst of their screaming voices. Thing is, I sank so far down I did not want to come back. I yearned to stay there, hidden, safe, with their angst. Lost in the darkness. Because there, there I did not have an imperfect newborn. There, I was just a soul moving to the rhythm. Nothing was wrong. I was not angry. I was not sad. I was NUMB. I wanted to be lost forever in the solitude of peace which existed amidst the digital beats, the persistent piano tones and haunting echoes behind the remixed rhythms. My womb, my saviour, my peace. I clung to the MP3 player until my knuckles were stiff, refusing to let go, closing my eyes to sink deep beneath the surface of reality.
But today, I sit here, each song echoing into my ears, my soul, my heart, and I am shaking as I type. Breathing deep through pursed lips and wiping away tears. This is music. This is just beats. Just rhythm. Just voices. This is NOT my daughter’s surgery. This is NOT the pain I felt five years ago. It’s not. Today I am letting all of this wash over me and turning it into the music it’s meant to be, not the hell it used to be for me. Today I am not numb. Today I am feeling. Today I am listening. Today, I’m singing with the words. I’m dancing to the beats. I’m reclaiming the music for joy instead of pain.
Today, I win.
Today, I refuse to let this music trigger me any longer.
It’s taken me five years but I’m finally strong enough to refuse to let this beast control me anymore.
Not easy, but necessary. A step toward the new me. Toward the healed me.
Why am I sharing this with you? To let you know that yes, healing takes time. It’s a process with each step presenting itself as you are ready. If you falter, don’t despair. The step will come. You’ll overpower the step with strength from an unknown place when the time is right. It won’t be easy. But it will be powerful. And once you’ve done it, you’ll look back and see just how far your journey has brought you… and how much strength it has added to your life.
Own it instead of letting it own you.
If you asked me how I met Kristine, I’d have to say I don’t know. I think it was on Twitter. Or maybe Facebook. No, I think it was Twitter. When did our paths cross? Not sure about that one either. It’s been a couple of months at least. We seemed to hit it off from the start and I’ve been wanting to share her story here for quite some time. Kristine is a Mom. She’s Cora’s mom. Cora isn’t here with us anymore but that doesn’t make Kristine any less of a mother. She’s championed on, fighting for Congenital Heart Disease awareness, opening up about her very own experience with infant loss. Cora left us at just five days old but those five days have made a huge difference in Kristine’s life.
I’ve asked Kristine to share her story here because it’s important to remember that Mothers with Angel Babies are still mommies too. They hurt just like we do. And while those of us who have never lost a baby will never truly understand their pain and grief, it’s just as important for us to hold them close as well, to check in on them to see how they are holding up. Mothers with Angel Babies don’t deserve to be hidden in a corner simply because we’re not sure of what to say. You can help by simply asking “How ARE you today?” and then listening without judging. It’s okay to admit you don’t know what to say. Chances are they don’t know either. But we can learn together.
Thank you, Kristine, for sharing so openly here. Your words and experience are truly invaluable. You’ve already helped so many and I know there are many more waiting to be touched by Cora’s Story. You’re both making a huge difference in this world!
And now, in Kristine’s own words, her postpartum voice, is her story and advice to those in the PPD Community:
The no-baby blues? Post-partum depression in the baby loss community
For over ten months, my body was taxed and tolled and hormones and body chemistry changed. Then I labored, which sometimes is traumatic, sometimes goes beautifully, but always means work. I gave birth to a beautiful daughter after laboring for a day. For days, I wasn’t allowed more than an hour of two or sleep, and finding time to was a feat.
After going through all that and then adjusting to life with a new baby, depression seems so a given.
But, what if there is no baby? What if there are no late night feedings? What if your body goes through all the pain and change of child birth and then the baby dies?
I still gave birth, so I am post-partum, and my daughter, Cora, died in my arms early one morning while breastfeeding, so I certainly feel depressed.
When diagnosing me, professionals and laypeople usually call my depression Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, certainly applicable because I watched my daughter die, or simply manic depression.
I’ve started a quest to learn more about post-partum depression, because after all, my days aren’t that much different than mothers with babies here.
I’m kept up late with insomnia. My eating habits are terrible. I get pressure from family and friends to act a certain way. I feel alone and isolated because grieving mothers sometimes get treated like they suffer from a contagious disease. All conditions new mothers find themselves in for the first few months after giving birth.
Only, I have trouble relating. Other grieving mothers get it, most of the time, but I find it difficult to not feel badly for them. And, them for me, too. So we’re a tightknit group, but with so much pressure on ourselves, we’re not always the best support for the times we’re hidden away taking care of ourselves.
Mothers suffering from post-partum depression seem apprehensive to say anything. They fear us being offended that they’d dare relate their depression to ours. And, no doubt, some grieving moms would be offended, but in the end, we’re all in the same bout.
Grieving mothers need the support of the PPD community. PPD might only be one of the many daily mental struggles for a grieving mom, but I think it’s the forgotten factor. My doctors haven’t really wanted to label what I’m going through at this point, but, sometimes I wish they would, just to acknowledge that I might suffer from more than one disorder at a time.
I don’t want to speak for every grieving mother, but I’m glad I’ve found an online PPD community and find value in joining more than one community, communities for grieving mothers, communities for new moms, communities for children that suffer the same condition that killed my daughter, congenital heart disease because in doing so I can relate to everything I face a bit better.
I hope more grieving mothers realize they too have a multi-headed dragon to slay and begin reaching out. Depression after giving birth, whether you have a baby on Earth or somewhere else, only gets better with help.
Kristine Brite McCormick writes about her daughter Cora (almost) daily on her blog, Cora’s Story , where she often opens up about grief and depression.
I wanted to share these with you. I am participating in both and if you or someone you know would be willing to share with these researchers, please take the opportunity to do so. Thank you!
Subsequent Childbirth after Previous Birth Trauma
In order to help clinicians provide better care to mothers who are having a subsequent childbirth after suffering through a previous traumatic birth, Cheryl Beck (Professor at the University of Connecticut) and Sue Watson (chairperson of TABS) are now conducting a research study on this topic. Women who have had another child after having experienced birth trauma are invited to participate in this research study. Just like Professor Beck’s previous studies on birth trauma and PTSD after childbirth, this study will be conducted over the Internet. Mothers will be asked to describe their experiences during pregnancy, and labor and delivery after having suffered a previous traumatic childbirth. If you are interested in participating in this research or wish to find out more about this study, please contact Professor Cheryl Beck directly at the University of Connecticut.
Investigating women’s memories of childbirth
Have you given birth recently, or suffered from a traumatic childbirth experience? If so, can you spare a few minutes to help with the following on-line questionnaire: Rachel Harris is undertaking the research study at Sussex University with the help of Dr Susan Ayers who has undertaken a great deal of the leading research into PTSD in the UK. The current study is investigating women’s memories of childbirth, to try to better understand what makes some birth experiences traumatic. These research studies are contributing enormously to our understanding of birth trauma so your help is really appreciated.