Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Trauma

For me, there's the grief, there's the uncertainty of the future, and there's the trauma.

PTSD is not just for war veterans.

It's also for mothers who think their babies are coming home in 5 short weeks, and instead hear silence on the Doppler.

I think many bereaved mothers would tell you that silence is the worst noise in the world.

I've been reliving that moment - that moment that nightmares are made of - for almost six months now.  To say it haunts me is an understatement.

I don't have control over when the image pops up.  I don't have the option to turn it off.

Several weeks ago, I started EMDR with my therapist.  EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.  My therapist explained that we have two sides of our brain.  One side files memories away and we can retrieve those memories when we look for them.  The other side?  We don't get to control when those memories resurface.  She wanted to move this horrific memory into a file.

I figured it couldn't hurt to try.

The first week, we walked through about 36 hours, from driving to my doctor's appointment to leaving the hospital without Lydia.  I closed my eyes, pictured each scene, described it and my reactions and my emotions while holding buzzers in my hands.

There were the obvious moments to me, like the startling realization that I hadn't felt her move much and telling myself I was just being paranoid and babies settle in at the end (a fallacy, by the way).  Having to call my husband and tell him our daughter's heart had stopped beating and could he please come meet me?  Going home to this quiet house and the baby swing and staring at Justin and staring out the window and not knowing what the fuck to do.  There were a few surprises too, some things I have pushed down deeper, that choked me up to say out loud, like being startled by my phone suddenly ringing and feeling terrified to see it was Ben's school and being absolutely convinced that they were going to tell me that my son was dead too (turns out that he was constipated and they wanted to know if he could have juice).  How Justin hit a curb turning into the hospital parking lot and for a moment, I closed my eyes and hoped it would be a fatal accident.  Sitting at the front desk at the hospital to complete paperwork and seeing a bassinet sitting there.

I probably don't have to tell you that I was a mess.

The next week, we concentrated just on my most haunting moment: the silent Doppler.  For an hour, I sat with my eyes closed, picturing that scene, while my therapist tapped my knees.  It's like I was looking down on myself on the exam table.  We'd take a break where she'd ask me what emotions arose and how I was reacting.  I felt like there were two of me, the one frozen on the exam table, knowing deep down in my soul that the worst thing in the world has happened, but not yet able to comprehend it.  And then there's another of me, who leaps off the exam table, throws herself to the ground, and lets out the loudest wail.

My immediate gut reaction to the silent Doppler?  "You are so stupid."

The one my therapist is trying to replace that thought with?  "You did the best you could."

In this session, my thoughts were: "You are so stupid.  How could you let her die inside you?"  By the end of the appointment, my thoughts were starting to shift to: "You did the best you could.  You love your kids.  You are a good mom."

Later, my mom asked me if I wanted to talk about my EMDR experiences.  I responded, "Do I want to talk about how I spent hours reliving the worst moments of my life?  No, not particularly."  And then I started crying just thinking about it again.

It occurred to me that most people probably can't tell you what the worst moment of their lives are.  Ask them the best moments, and they'll spout off saying their vows, or hearing their babies' first cries.  But the worst moments?  That will probably give them pause.   But not me.  But my worst moment is forever engrained inside my head.  It follows me everywhere.  I live it everyday.  I live it again and again and again.


  1. So I did EMDR for a brief stint after Anna. And again, without all the bells and whistles of the buzzer but with the knee tapping thing a couple of times while pregnant with Cate. With the buzzers I thought there may have been a slight shift, but didn't stick with it long enough to find out. Because we got a baby girl through adoption and didn't have time for that anymore, and then 3 weeks later she got taken back and I was too devastated - again - to try for any effing self-improvement crap.
    However, it has been recommended to me by the one person I probably trust most in the world that I need to do EMDR (or "some process work") again because I cannot bring myself to give Cate the MMR shot. Everytime I schedule it I panic the night before and cancel. Terrified I'll regret it. That I didn't listen to my gut and we'll all forever pay the price.
    It's trauma. I know it it's trauma. Not even just Anna, I don't think. "Just Anna". As if.
    Anyway…all this to say that I'm really, very, very interested to hear how you feel this did or didn't help - in the immediate, in the next few months, a year from now. Because I've started craniosacral therapy once a week, and it's doing some stuff, but I wonder if I should be going back to EMDR as well.
    The rest…oh Heather. My heart still stops and adrenaline floods when I see Cate's daycare number on my phone. Same thing. And the fantasizing that we'll die too, somehow. For me it was hoping our plane would go down. Wouldn't my fault, wouldn't have to take on the guilt for other's pain in our deaths. Easy peasy.

    Tears, a stiff drink or ten, a lasting hard hug. xoxo

  2. Almost five years on and I still have memories that jump out randomly and sometimes catch me off guard and hurt and other times just make me pause and reflect, but also memories I intentionally re live and go through again just to ensure I don't forget any detail. I don't re live my other kid's births as often as I do Cale's. There's were wonderful, sure,but not traumatic and that trauma has a way of staying with you


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