I was recently asked by a newly traumatized mother "Does it get better?"
Of course, my first instinct was to say "Yes, it does".
And it is true that the first wave of constant hyper alertness, nightmares, intense fear for yourself and the baby, grief and panic does pass. But does it get better, or just different, was the question I found myself pondering.
The nightmares are less. The obsession about the birth is less. I can get past more of the fear. But the bigger ripples are starting to show up in my life.
I find myself doing somewhat "crazy" things. In fact the last time I was alone with my toddle in the house overnight, we ended up barricaded in his bedroom. Three large switch blades, (I DO live on the side of a mountain so I own these as protection against cougars and bears), a big can of bear spray, and the phone were not enough to make me feel secure. I ended up having to slide the huge heavy dresser across the door in order to sleep at all. I spent much of the night imagining a crazed person breaking in to my house and trying to get in to our room. Should I stand my ground and try to stab him? Use the fire ladder to escape out the window? Spray his face with pepper spray? This was not a great way to spend any night. Never in my life before my little ones eventful birth have I had this type of overwhelming fear. Fear that prompts actions that I don't want to teach my child.
Also my anxiety has caused issues for the health of other members of my family, most notably, my older son. I ended up calling an ambulance for him thinking he was having an asthma attack, and he was, sort of. He had good oxygen levels, but was quite distressed and scared and breathing strangely. After being interviewed by the paramedics, nurses and then doctors it came together that I had freaked out so much over what was most likely a pre teen hormonal moment(acting funny, not responding to what I was saying) that he had been convinced that he was having a major attack and started to feel terrible. Basically I had caused the attack, -not so awesome.
I also have to really fight to stay positive, and not constantly think about the demise and my loved ones, or myself. A bout 10 years ago a good friend, who had had early childhood trauma, told me that when she says goodbye to anyone she cares about she always believes it will be the last time she will see them, Because of this she feels sorrow and fear at all partings. I was shocked, how could she be living with so much sadness? Now, I too have this burden.
So does it get better? Well for me it gets less acute. I have fun now, I enjoy my children, there are many moments when p.t.s.d. is not affecting me. But it has settled deep, and two and a half years later the journey to healing is certainly not over.
The upside of this: I am sure that this journey was one that was given to me with purpose. I am moving in circles with women who I know were meant to be a part of my life. We are working together to help prevent birth trauma and that is a powerful thing.
I am part of a new birth trauma peer support group. Which has a user friendly, yet highly informative website that I would whole heartedly recommend.
Here's to healing and helping. And really I think it's fair to say that Yes, It Does Get Better.