13 years ago, you were born. And I was born, too. Born as a mother, something I had never been before but will now always be. Born as your number one supporter, your biggest cheerleader in your life. Born as your food source and your source of comfort. Born as Ma, then Mommy, and now Mom. And born as an advocate for birth trauma and normalizing that scary experiences should be scary, though I didn’t know that one yet, and I wouldn’t for years.
When you were born, I was so many things. I was so happy you were here, happy it was over, and so tired and hungry from days without sleep or food. I was overwhelmed and shaking – from exertion, from exhaustion, from excitement, and from fear. I was all of those feelings – excited and scared and eventually, over time, angry. Angry that your birth wasn’t happy for me, but instead terrifying. Angry that I felt ignored, like my body did not belong to me, and angry for you that you were so little, so obviously not ready to be born.
I remember hours after you were born and lying in your plastic bassinet (while your father snored beside me on the couch), just staring at you in awe. How were you here already? This was too soon, you were so little. What would that mean for your future? Would that hurt you? Would you always be small (little did I know:nope)? Would you be behind (actually, yes, you would be, both in crawling and speaking)? Did the decision I made that I really felt no choice in actually harm you?
There have been days since, especially after your sisters were born, that I worry I didn’t connect with you as a newborn as much as I connected with your sisters. That is a scary, shameful thought that I’ve never admitted out loud to anyone but your father (and now, the entire internet). Oh I loved you, of course I did. I never doubted my love for you. I fought hard for our nursing relationship, one that lasted nearly two years. I stood up to doctors who wanted to make your smallness a problem, when you were just a variation of normal. I held you when others were afraid to because you were so small, and that broke my heart, because babies deserve to be held.
You were every piece of our lives for 23 months until your sister was born, and I cried when I realized you would be too little to ever remember that time before her, to remember being our everything. But did my trauma make me pull away from you? Was I not as patient? Could I have loved you more? Could I have held you closer? Logically, I know the answers to those questions, but guilt and shame are loud, pesky things. They creep in at the fact that your sister’s births were so much better for me, and maybe better for them. That I look back on their births with excitement and joy and yours, at least in part, with loss and grief. That is not my fault, but I hold the guilt anyway. I need to learn how to let more of it go.
When your cousin was born almost two years ago, following a birth so similar to yours it was a little re-traumatizing for me, I knew that part of the reason you were born this way was to help my sister, to give me the words for her that no one had for me. To try to mitigate a little of her trauma, and if I couldn’t, to give her permission to grieve what she lost. I often think maybe you were born this way to help others too. Does everything happen for a reason? Maybe so, maybe not. All I know is without your birth, without my trauma, I could not help others the way I do now. It’s weird to say I’m grateful for something that hurt me for so long, but there it is. Grief is weird that way.
You make me so proud, Maddie. You are such a good friend, and have such a kind heart. You are smart and witty and amazing. In case you ever read this, I think it’s important to say that my trauma over your birth is not yours to hold. It does not belong to you and it really doesn’t belong to me either. In time, I have let it go a little at a time. Not all of it yet, but that’ll come. You hold no parts of it; it is mine and mine alone to process.
I love you with my whole heart; you still get everything I have to give.
Mom (formally mommy…#thisis13)
Rebirth is a birth trauma e-course led by Erin Newton, LCPC, PMH-C
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After several years of planning, I am so excited to be releasing my birth trauma e-course, “rebirth.” It is fitting that I am releasing this course on the anniversary of the most traumatic thing to ever happen to me.
My daughter’s birthday is a joyous day – for her and for me! – but it’s also a hard day, a sad day…and it’s ok for it to be both. I am grateful that after 13 years I can take my trauma and pain and mold it into love, mold into something that will help another mother just like I was.
It is my hope that throughout this course you are able to gain a better understanding of what happened to you and feel validation and acceptance for all of your feelings, even the really hard, yucky ones that you haven’t admitted to anyone yet. Even feelings about not connecting to your baby or feeling guilt that doesn’t really belong to you. I want you to develop a more thorough understanding of how you did not fail but were instead failed by multiple societal systems and a lack of proper support and information. And most of all, I want you to realize that your mental health and wellbeing matter so much and affect your ability to be a present mother, and more than that (because we are so much more than mothers), a present and content person.
I want you to learn that your trauma is no longer yours to hold, that you can let it go a little at a time, so it’s not so heavy. That peace is possible and so deserved. Peace when you hold your baby, peace when you look at your partner, peace when you remember your birth story. Peace and love and acceptance.
I am honored and blessed to take this journey with you,
Birth Trauma Survivor
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