I talk a lot about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how it is very real for families after going through trauma with their child. The first 2 months of Casey’s life were spent in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and we were told day after day that she would not survive.
When we got home, we had no support. My husband and I tag teamed keeping her alive. We did nothing else. We just kept her airway clear and went from day to day.
People would ask me about her birth, and each time I told the story it was as if I was reliving it. I could smell the juices the nurses would bring me in the pump room. I could hear all of the alarms going off. Every time, I relived it. And every time I would break down in tears before getting even halfway through the story. It wasn’t until year 2 that I discovered I was dealing with PTSD.
When I finally knew what was happening to me, I was able to work through it. I can tell Casey’s birth story now as well as all of the good and bad stories that filled the following 10 years. I have learned to allow myself to be emotional from time to time. But also to recognize when I am in too fragile a state to go there.
On those fragile days, I have learned to step outside myself and tell the story. But it’s as if I am telling someone else’s story - not my own. I separate my own emotions and just get through it on those days. For the most part though, I have dealt with the demons and I am able to feel sorrow without getting stuck in the darkness all over again.
It’s been over 3 years since Casey passed, and over 13 since she was born. And today, I was smacked right in the face with a wave of PTSD I never saw coming. I am in nursing school and just finished my Obstetrics rotation. I had to go to the hospital for my rotation evaluations and walked across a carport I have crossed multiple times over the previous weeks.
Something was very different when I crossed it today. There was a mom sitting in a wheelchair with her baby in the car seat/stroller next to her waiting for family to pull up and take them home. This is usually seen as a really happy moment. But for me it’s anything but happy.
I was instantly taken back to the day I was sent home without Casey. How I sat in the wheelchair, just like that mom, waiting for my husband to pull up the car. As I sat, I watched one happy mom and baby after another load up their cars and drive away.
I felt as if I was kicked in the stomach today when I was taken back there so abruptly. All of the pain I felt as I left the hospital while my baby was still in the NICU. All of the jealousy I had toward the other moms who got to take their healthy babies home.
All of the fear I felt not knowing if my baby was going to be okay for the next hour before I could get back to her side. It all came rushing back. I had to get past the carport as quickly as I could so that I didn’t break down right then and there. Once inside the building, I had to take a minute to pull myself back together.
How the heck did this blindside me 13 years later? I never see it coming, which makes it that much worse. Luckily, these attacks don’t happen nearly as often as they used to. But it doesn’t make them any easier to get through.