The Journey Back to Me, Embracing My PTSD

I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in 2014 shortly after the birth of my son. His existence is nothing short of a miracle in the truest sense.   I still feel the sting in my heart and the tears welling up every time I remember the events of that day. It was the best and scariest day of my life.

It’s Time!

It was Memorial Day 2014 at 6:30 am when my fiancé (at the time) informed me that the mild discomfort I was feeling was indeed labor pains.  My mom was sleeping in the guest room in preparation for my due date, so I woke her up and told her it was time. We were all insanely excited that we were finally going to meet this mini-person growing inside of me.  

I was worried that, it being Memorial Day, traffic would be awful during the forty-minute commute to the hospital, but we managed to get there with no delays.  I was checked-in and getting transported to the birthing room by 7:30 am. I was already getting close to full dilation so there was no time for an epidural, which was fine by me since I seemed to be handling the pain easier than I had expected (though that threshold was quickly surpassed and soon I was yelling like every woman does when giving birth- I am not Wonder Woman).  

It was 8 am and the nurse had just told me that we were about ready to push when the alarms started going off on, what seemed like, every machine I was connected to. After that, everything went so fast and seemed like slow motion at the same time.  The doctor came into the room followed by three more nurses and they all worked together to detach machines and whatever else.

The bed began moving out the door and I asked (in a very loud voice), “What is happening? Where are you taking me? What’s going on?”. A nurse was walking next to my bed on the way to the OR attempting to put an IV in my arm while the other nurses spoke medical jargon back and forth.  I just kept repeating, “What is happening? Is my son ok?”. No one answered me for what seemed like an eternity.

We entered the operating room and the doctor looked straight into my eyes and said, “We are knocking you out now. The cord is wrapped around your baby’s neck and he needs to come out.”  After that, they must have knocked me out because my memory is blank.

Lucky to Be Alive?

When I woke up, my fiancé and mother were sitting to my left and the doctor was standing on my right. I felt so confused and everything looked so blurry. The doctor asked me how I felt, and I had no answer… my mouth just wouldn’t open, for some reason.  The doctor said, “Your son is alive in the NICU. As soon as he is stable, a nurse will bring him in. You are both very lucky to be alive.” Those words both relieved me and sunk into my chest like a stone.

He continued to explain that my son was born blue and it took a while to resuscitate him.  He said that, when I am ready, we can talk about the probable issues that my son will face due to the lack of oxygen to his brain for such a long period of time.  

He told me that there were two parts to my own near-morbidity: 1) I had grown a 3lb fibroid along with my son resulting in a twin-like birth and 2) I had suffered a placental adhesion (my placenta attached to my uterine wall and, when it birthed, it ripped the connective tissues).  The combination caused me to lose too much blood resulting in several blood transfusions. I stopped listening after that…the rest is a blur.

When my son was two and a half days old, I saw him for the first time.  He was still on machines, but I was not so the nurse walked me to the nursery to breastfeed him (I was very insistent). I remember the nurse brought me to his crib and he had tubes everywhere. I was afraid to hold him even though the nurse told me I could.

“I’m Not Enough” Sets In

I had heard that a mother feels an instant connection to her child when she breastfeeds for the first time… I did not feel it.  I couldn’t even breastfeed successfully… the nurse had to match my nipple with a tube to give him formula so that he would eat. I wasn’t enough to nourish my baby… I wasn’t enough to give him what he needed. I attributed my disconnection to the two and a half days that had passed before meeting him outside of my womb.

Two hours later, I went back to the nursery to try to feed him again.  I had read that a mother will recognize her baby in a room full of babies and I wished that would be me this time… that the connection would be stronger this time.  When I went to the wrong crib and picked up someone else’s child (the nurse stopped me the moment I picked the wrong baby up), I broke down and felt like a failure immediately… just two and a half days into motherhood.  

The guilt of not having given him a gentle birth and not knowing my only child even after housing him within my body for nine months was overwhelming. All I could think was that not only had my body almost failed me, but it attempted to kill my unborn child and now it feels no connection to him and it won’t let me breastfeed successfully. I hated my body in a fierce way. I hated myself.

The Diagnosis

We finally left the hospital on day five. The next three months were a mixture of intense fears, overwhelming emotions, dramatic reactions, severe nightmares, panic attacks and random, physical pain at extremely inconvenient times. I struggled to breastfeed, and I worried that my son was not gaining weight, so I was at the doctor often.  I was so sure that my child would die from SIDS or some other, unforeseen ailment that I needed to hold him every second to be able to build as many memories of him as possible.

I literally either had him attached to me using the baby pouch or I carried him. I was terrified to let him out of my sight. The one time I let his father stay with him while I went to the grocery store, I broke down crying while getting a grocery cart and I had to return home immediately to pick my son up and bring him with me.  I knew something was off the night I was suffering from the stomach flu and was holding him while vomiting. I was diagnosed three days later.

The Journey Out of Darkness

It has taken years for me to move through my symptoms of PTSD.  It has not been an easy journey and there have been times when my terror has incapacitated me.  It wasn’t until I learned simple tools like “the power of the pause” and “if that, then this” that Ella so insightfully spells out in her Plant-Empowered Coaching Program that I really got hold of my anxiety and irrational fears. I realized that, for my son to live a happy and care-free childhood, I get to channel that energy into positive experiences for both of us.  I am finally able to feel the freedom that comes with being able to rationalize my fears.

I remind myself (often) that I am grateful for my body.  Instead of resenting it for the challenges I faced, I embrace that it held onto my son and prepared him to be the strong boy that he is today.  My body is my ally in every way, always pushing me to overcome adversity. My body allows me to hug and kiss my son and to protect him and that is a gift. Every moment is a precious gift that could have been lost on that beautiful and awful day in May 2014.

Ready to Soar!

My son is now a happy and healthy 4-year-old.  He is within normal range for height and weight and he consistently scores above-average in every physical, emotional and logical test he enters. We try things together that I would never have thought possible… like standing at the seashore enjoying the water on our feet and taking a walk in the woods together.

I have learned that I am enough because I believe in my ability to care for him in every way and to teach him to live boldly. I am a proud mamma and my mini-me is thriving.  We will have adventures together, travel together, laugh together and remind each other how very amazing we truly are, together and apart. I will let him soar when his wings are ready because I know we will both be just fine.

*If you haven’t read Jamie’s first powerful blog post, Mindfully Ever After, check it out HERE!

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Jamie Rottura

Jamie Rottura

As a professor of Environmental Science and an Energy-Efficiency Educator, Jamie teaches her students the environmental impacts of food and the global benefits of plant-based eating. Having struggled with disordered eating for most of her life, she is no stranger to feelings to inadequacy and self-hatred. Completing Ella's Plant-Empowered Coaching Program and adopting a vegan lifestyle has given her freedom from guilt, anger, anxiety and depression and allows her to enjoy living in complete alignment with her beliefs.
Jamie Rottura

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