Trauma…anger…understanding…acceptance

I am grateful. Grateful for the many gifts life has given me- health, family, work, financial stability, friends, freedom. It’s how I get through my days.  But every now and then I need to process some uglier feelings. I think it’s important to show that grief has many faces- that the instagram and pinterest-worthy grateful griever is an unrealistic ideal.  Yes- I am grateful, but I am also sad and angry and jealous and frustrated. I hate that I feel the need to preface this post- but I want people to know I”m not angry all the time…it’s just one of my feelings, perhaps the most difficult of them all.

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PTSD is common after perinatal loss. I haven’t been diagnosed with PTSD but my therapist and I talk a lot a bout how the trauma of my pregnancy with Mabel and losing her after birth still affects my daily life.  I’ve struggled with framing my daughter’s death as a trauma- I feel this immense pressure (self imposed) that since I had so much notice- months- to prepare for my baby’s likely death, I should have handled and still be handling it all better.

But the tentacles of trauma reach long and far, in ways that surprise and frustrate me. I still cannot react to pregnancy news in the way I once was able, in the way that I wish I could.  I recently learned that many of my close friends were pregnant- life events that are wonderful.  But instead of being able to share in their joy, I retreated because I found the only feelings I could express were jealousy and even anger- reactions my friends did not deserve at all.  Even though I’ve sat with these pregnancy announcements for months I still feel angry. It’s a misplaced emotion, I know.  Of course I’m not angry at my friends for being pregnant. I’m angry that my daughter died and all that came with her death. I’m still angry.

  • I’m angry that I had such a traumatic pregnancy- one emotional blow after another
  • I’m angry that I lost the blissful ignorance right away, never allowed to think “oh everything will be fine” with her pregnancy or my subsequent pregnancy- and watching others with their well deserved bliss brings up that anger.
  • I’m angry that my daughter didn’t get a baby shower. I’m angry that I cancelled the shower. I’m angry that I didn’t celebrate her more. I’m angry that I didn’t know how to, because there is no handbook on how to do what I did. Baby showers are still hard- a reminder of what I lost.  Sometimes I go, sometimes I don’t.
  • I’m angry that making mom friends is hard because bringing up my dead daughter always makes the get-to-know-you small talk awkward.
  • I’m angry that others don’t have to struggle with these issues, making me feel even more alone.

And as I grapple with this anger, I struggle with the need to rely on my friends to help me process it all and dealing with their misunderstanding.  No one has said to me straight up “waiting for and then watching your daughter die is not a traumatic event.” However people have said to me “Really? You still feel that way? Even three years later? Even after Felix?” When I hear those sentiments, I am reminded that those who have not lost a child will never understand- how could they? I’m slowly realizing I can’t expect others to understand my trauma, my reactions, my anger and my grief, as foreign and weird as they may seem. But I hope that they can accept it, as part of who I am.

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Are you angry? How do you cope?

 

 

 

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The hospital

The hospital. Saying the words, envisioning the building puts my stomach in knots.

 

My practice has a Monday morning meeting at the hospital. It used to be every week, but in the past few months it’s morphed into a once a month affair. We gather as a group of docs and midwives and talk about protocols and patients, ensuring we are all on the same page. Aside from the 7am start time, I have traditionally enjoyed the meetings. I like having clinical conversations with my colleagues- we sometimes debate and I almost always learn something. I also think it’s good care for our patients- getting fresh eyes on complicated cases, allows everyone to give suggestions on how best to care for our patients. And on top of it all, I enjoy the company. My practice has four offices in different towns and the hospital on top of them, and we are spread among each location- so I am lucky if I interact with one of my colleagues on a daily basis. Even when we are in the same office, our schedules are quite crammed so there is not much time for catch up or small talk. So Monday morning meeting is a chance for us to see each other and catch up for a minute.

The meeting takes place on one of the maternity floors in the hospital, in a spare conference room. It’s the floor on which I spent two weeks while pregnant with Mabel. During my hospitalization I was allowed about an hour off the monitor a day and one Monday I decided to use that hour to go to Monday morning meeting. I popped in wearing my “nicer” hospital clothes (yoga pants instead of pjs) and sat as my colleagues discussed work. It was good to see them- I had seen many of them while I was there- if they were working they would often stop by my room for a quick snack and a chat, but it was comforting to see them altogether.

The meeting holds new meaning for me. It takes place in the building where my daughter died. It’s on the floor where I spent the last good moments of pregnancy and where I returned to my room empty handed. After Mabel died.

We had a Monday morning meeting this week. I went once before- in September. I felt I needed to, as we had just hired a new doc and midwife. But I skipped October- I didn’t want to go. The thought of the place causes a painful physical response and frankly, I was not up to the task. But this week, I needed to go- there was a clinical issue I needed to discuss (how to care for pregnant patients on methadone). So I skipped my usual Monday morning exercise class and headed in. I parked on the street because my usual hospital parking is in accessible- my ID doesn’t work for the parking garage and I haven’t gotten around to fixing it. As I walked closer to the door, my heartrate sped up and I felt that familiar pain in my chest and stomach. I regulated my breathing and made sure to look at the funny rabbit and carrot decoration that sits in the revolving door to the children’s hospital. The carrot gave me some comfort. But when I hit the doors to the maternity floor, I could feel the tears coming. Before heading into the conference room for the meeting, I had to hide in the bathroom for a few minutes to have a good cry.

I wouldn’t call it a panic attack- I know enough about them to know that’s not it. I simply identified my response as grief, simple grief. This place is so sad for me now. It also represents mountain I need to climb. The hospital represents birth- normal birth for most people, a usual happy occasion, and if I ever want to be a full scope midwife I will eventually nee to climb that mountain and welcome normal birth again. I am far far from that place.

My doctor called my response- a reaction to trauma. The term didn’t quite sit well with me at first. People have trauma when they go through sudden, unexpected events- emergency c-sections, stillbirth, prematurity. My daughter’s death was in some way expected. I should have been prepared. I often feel I don’t have the same right to claim trauma like those who were totally caught off guard do. My doctor encouraged me to accept her definition of trauma- that it doesn’t have to be sudden; it can be long and drawn out. Death, a life-changing event, whether expected or not can be traumatic. So I’m working on accepting that- apparently it’s necessary to do in order to move forward in my grief.

 

How do you view the hospital/doctor’s office? Are they traumatic for you at all?