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Written by: Julie Forman
In March 2016, at only 32 weeks, my husband and I were woken in the middle of the night to my water breaking. We rushed to the ER where we discovered our baby had Hydrops, a condition that was causing fluid to accumulate in her abdomen. 2 days and 1 very traumatic forcep delivery later, my daughter Lillian was born. Due to the size of her abdomen, she became stuck in the birthing canal and sustained a spinal cord injury leaving her paralyzed from the neck down.
Her first birthday is only 3 weeks away and for most first time parents this is a joyous and monumental milestone in their baby’s life. You survived the first year! And trust me, we are like most parents in that aspect. However, as we approach our baby girl’s first birthday, we also approach the anniversary of her birth trauma.
The first year post injury has been a year of healing for not only Lillian, but for my husband and myself as well. We have gone through every emotion imaginable, from running around the house in a furry of hypervegilence, to sitting on the couch in the same PJs for 3 days straight.
Throughout the ups and downs, we have learned a few tips that have helped us not only heal, but have helped others to support us in our journey.
Grieving is a very important step in the process of healing.We need to allow ourselves time to mourn over the loss of the life we envisioned for our child. When we suppress these feelings our bodies internalize the trauma and it manifests in other ways, such as pain, illness and disease. And no matter how far we think we suppress the feelings, one way or another they will always make their way back up to the surface. Expressing yourself is what is most important no matter how you feel whether it be anger, sadness or regret.
2. DONT COMPARE
In the weeks following my birth trauma, I went searching the internet for other women who have experienced birth trauma. Article after article I would read about women who felt they were wrongly intervened on during an emergency c-section, and for a majority of the women this is absolutely true.
However, I couldn’t help but feel a bitter taste in my mouth. If only I HAD been given an emergency c-section, my birth trauma would have never happened. But I realized that it wasn’t a competition. Birth trauma, no matter the experience, are all uniquely painful.
3. INVEST IN SOMETHING POSITIVE
It is easy to give into the overwhelming sadness. Laying in bed seems like a pretty good idea when the world is falling apart around you. Dig deep inside yourself and find the inner strength to get out of bed, put on some clothes, and do something positive that makes you feel good. Go for a walk, experiment with art therapy, go to the gym.. whatever you find joy in doing, invest your time and energy into. Even if you have to fake it at first, by taking the time to participate in these actives, you find yourself feeling better in the end.
4. CONFRONT TRIGGERS
We all know them. Those certain words or experiences that trigger a flooding of images and feeling into your mind. It’s ok to talk about them, the more that you do the easier it will be to deal with. Help yourself now by desensitize yourself from future triggering events.
It’s going to be uncomfortable, and it’s not going to be fun, but facing the problem head on will prove to be beneficial in the long run.
5. THERE IS NO TIMELINE
There is no set of rules on “How To Heal”. Everyone heals differently. Some people may spend years grieving before they are able to move on, while others go back and forth between grieving and acceptance. It has almost been a year since my birth trauma and there are some days where I feel like it has only been a few weeks. Where has the time gone? Why have I not moved on? But I found out that there is no timeline on healing. Everyone progresses at their own pace.