Thursday, 7 February 2013

Birth Day

It's been three years, and it still rattles the outlines of my being.

I thought by now, this day would pass without sharp memory or ruffling emotion.

But the end of January still drags a well trodden carpet of interference and fear.


It's Little A's birthday party...

...She's running around waving a sausage balloon, dancing among wandering bubbles, tearing in and out of pint-sized friends. I wish I could jump into her moment of joy, abandon myself in the thrills of the three year old before me.

But my awareness is pulled by the rough edges of anxiety. I worry about the noise of the bouncy castle. I fret over the timings of the entertainment, the arrival of the sandwiches. Has the cake been plated? Are the party bags ready? But my uneasiness doesn't belong to the detail of this playful gathering but to the images, like battle hungry soldiers, taking position in my mind.

The party-goers stand in a circle. Every little hand holds onto the thin nylon sheet. They lift it above their heads, and with gentle wafting, send delicate ripples through the red parachute.

Waves of intense pain, breaking forcefully on vertebrae, prove too much. The consultant makes her final decision - a c-section must be performed without delay.

An entertainer performs a magic trick. A stream of silliness fired. In soft hair. On accepting finger tips.

The trolley hurtles through double doors. She's going to die. She's going to die. She's going to die. The room is white, sterile. A green curtain divides my limp body into two zones; the operated half, the terrified half.

Little A waits in anticipation. Candles are lit and a large, rectangular cake is placed before a beaming face. Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear....

On the table, a knife cuts through the soft sponge of vanilla flesh, sending a deep voltage of shock through every cell.

For she's a jolly good fellow, for she's a jolly good fellow, for she's a jolly good fell-ell-ow. And so say all of us...

The magic is performed to an unwanted lyrical backdrop of the Fugees, Killing Me Softly - a blue floppy baby, conjured from a fissured belly.  

There's a pile of presents wrapped in pinks and yellows and greens; 'Mummy, mummy can I open them now?' 'Wait till we get home sweat heart.' It's been a jubilant celebration. A grand success.    

I leave with a party bag of shallow breath. Of anger. Of shame. Of intrusive visions where rats carry my baby away or she burns in a pit of fire. Of an alien scar etched on once familiar skin. Of a removal van that relocates me far from the visceral urges of the body into the cerebral detachment of the mind. Of fear. Of anxiety. Of sadness.     

But it's not so bad now, the trauma, I understand that the visual intruders were birthed from one stark thought, she's going to die. And of course, she didn't. And I didn't. But it's taking time to rediscover the physical, to play in my body again.

Happy birthday Little A.

The cut, the shock, and the wounding, were all worth the privilege of having you in our lives.

A lovely person(s) has voted Older Mum in a Muddle for Blog of the Year and Best Writer in the MADS Awards. Thank you very, very much. It's wonderful to feel appreciated. And if you are feeling in a generous mood today, please vote for me in the The Best Writer category or Blog of The Year if you feel my musings qualify. 

50 comments:

  1. a perfect party.....utterly fabulous .....mines in his 20s and I still remember the shout for a C section and the response: too late......but we made it in the end!!

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  2. That takes me back. My eldest was born by emergency section and the visions haunted me for a very long time.

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    1. Thank you for this - good to know I'm not the only one. I'm fully expecting them to carry on for a few years yet.

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  3. Gosh. That was a beautiful but hard-hitting piece of writing. I knew that you'd suffered around Little A's birth but I had no idea it had been such a traumatic experience. It must be hard going carrying around the residual thoughts from that experience, even though you see the wonderful from it every day.

    This is a fabulous blog and you are a wonderful writer. Many congratulations on your nominations and best of luck! I'm rooting for you to go all the way :0) x

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    1. Thank you MP :o). Yes, it has been traumatic - but I soldier on :o). It's an unusual experience, adoring and loving Little A and then having to contend with the intrusive thoughts. And thank you, your support is so appreciated lovely lady! :o) X.

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  4. wow, what great writing. Felt traumatised just reading this, can't imagine what you must be feeling. Hope everyone enjoyed the birthday party.

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    1. Thank you very much - hope you are over your trauma now :o) ... I'm getting past mine, slowly.

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  5. Hi Sarah - I wonder if you got the mail I sent you via your first blog, about birth stories? Glad you are feeling so much better now. Great post.

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    1. Hey Polly - no I didn't :o( could you re-send it? Thank you so much!

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  6. Gosh this takes me right back. I had a section too but they had to put me under so I didn't end up seeing the bit where they finally pulled him out. I think it does fade over time although some of it doesn't ever go away. Happy Birthday to your lovely A!!

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    1. I was very nearly put under, but fortunately, Little A's heartbeat rose sufficiently - I agree; it does fade but there will always be echoes!

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  7. you really do write from your heart and pain. thankyou for sharing from the 2 parallels of joy and pain - I hope that the years of joy continue with many glorious birthdays to come. Time is no healer. x

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    1. Thank you very much! I am guessing this is something that will take time, maybe years, to heal. But hope the whole thing fades with each birthday. X.

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  8. What a tremendous account of such a traumatic birth. While mine was nowhere near as traumatic I have never blogged about it or referred to it. Ever. It must be so cathartic to do so?

    Huge birthday hugs to your gorgeous Little A and to you too for your well deserved blog award nomination. Your writing is fabulous :-)

    xx Jazzy

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    1. Thank you very much Jazzy! It is quite cathartic, and does help me to gain perspective. And thank you for your support :o) X.

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  9. I LOVE how you've written this, clever thing.

    I hallucinated during my first birth...still haunts me too. Xx

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    1. Thank you Sarah! Hallucinating during birth? That must have been a terrifying ordeal. X.

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  10. My overwhelming memory of my emergency section was the fear, thinking she was going die and afterwards lying in recovery when shock set it and my body was still numb but jerking with cold. They wrapped me in the big foil blanket and put that strange hairdryer heater underneath it to try and stop me shivering. 2nd time around I think I just held my breath from start to finish. It is a huge shock to your system and one that I suspect you'll never forget x.

    Happy 3rd birthday to your beautiful daughter. They grow up so quickly x

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    1. Thank you Nichola for your really thoughtful comment - I remember the numbness and shivering from cold and shock too. And you are right, it is something the body does not forget very quickly. X.

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  11. OMG you had me in tears - walking to the ferry. I'm choking up now responding, the fear of our babies dying is overwhelming. I once had a scare but not in birth. I still reel when I think of it. I had a Caesar but it was planned. Thank god for modern medicine. Gotcha down at the MAD awards - good luck hon xx

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    1. The fear that your baby is going to/could die is just horrendous - it's very hard to stand back from, it's so all-encompassing. A planned Caesar is a good way to go - if I had another one, that's what I would do to prevent any risk of trauma happening again. And thank you for your generous support lovely lady. X.

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  12. Goodness that gave me goosebumps. I can't imagine the trauma that still ignites. My labour and births were text book normal but still make me shake when reminded of them. Happy Birthday to Little A and to you. At least by processing this - allowing it to come up again- one day, hopefully, these other memories will win. Beautfully written btw and many congrats on your nominations XX

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    1. Thank you Anya. The trauma just gets under your skin when you least expect it. So glad your births were textbook - I always like knowing about happy stories. And thank you for all your support. X.

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  13. You've written this so beautifully!

    Until you have a child it is hard to understand that birthdays are as much about the parents as they are the children. Though I had the joy of a ventouse delivery rather than an emergency C, MP was pretty much in the same state - or condition as the medics like to call it - as Little A. That painful memory never goes away. For me the pain of not having that first cuddle or first photo of me cuddling my much longed for daughter until she was several days old will never leave either. I feel cheated. But then I feel so grateful, in the same way you do about Little A, that MP is here and in very fine condition (!!) now.

    Right, off to get a tissue to wipe up my tears. Funnily enough, I think I needed a good cry today, so thank you! xx

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    1. Thank you so much! I related to your very thoughtful comment - I was very upset at not having the first cuddle and not even seeing my placenta, which was just wrenched out and tossed away. So glad I was able to help you shed some releasing tears. X.

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  14. Happy Birthday Little A and happy birth-day to you too OM, will be voting for you, you deserve an award for your writing (and getting to 3 years old!) xxx

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    1. Thank you so much for your support MLM - really appreciated. X.

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  15. I'm sorry that your memories of her traumatic birth are still at the forefront of your mind every one of her birthdays. I ordered my notes a few days ago to try and come to terms with what happened when I had my little man. I can completely understand how hard your journey is. Thank you for blowing your blog horn so I could find your lovely blog xx

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    1. Thank you so much Damson Lane - I wish I had ordered my notes to really understand what had happened - it can be helpful to see the whole process in written word. I think they only keep them for up to a year after the birth. And thank you for finding me - I am already signed up to you. X.

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  16. What a beautifully written post!
    Happy Birthday Little A and may those memories fade and be replaced with happy skipping and birthday cake noshing ones :-)

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    1. Thank you! Yes, here's hoping the memories fade over time - here's to cakes! :o).

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  17. Love, and relate to this. Darkly beautiful X

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  18. Beautifully, beautifully written. Happy Birthday to Little A. Every year the accumulating happy memories will continue to push the dark memories further and further out of your consciousness and muscle memory. (Off to vote for you in the MADs now!)

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    1. Thank you so much! That's what I am hoping too - one day it will be a distant memory. And thank you so much for your support in the MADs! :o).

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  19. Just want to give you a big hug reading this...
    Happy birthday to little A, the photo is lovely. xx

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    1. Thank you very much FW - I am sure it will get better in time! X.

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  20. Wow. I stand no chance...
    And rightly so with writing like this :)

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    1. That's so kind, but honestly, I don't have that many people following me :o).

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  21. That's lovely. Good luck with the awards!!

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  22. It's dreadful that it's stayed with you for so long but good that you can slowly start to let go. I had a pretty awful experience with CK but it was only a year or so afterwards that I kind of realised exactly how awful. Make me shudder.

    Hope Little A had a great birthday xx

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    1. It hasn't been pretty! And for me, the symptoms really, really kicked in between the 6 mnth/year mark. Really glad you had a much better second birth - must have made a big difference. She had a lovely birthday - thank you. X.

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  23. GOLLY GOSH!!! brace yourself it gets worse , i have four grown kids and am just getting my sanity back .Ps;goodluck it will get better,the first 30years are the hardest ......

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    1. Thank you for your very sobering comment - made me smile!!!!! Motherhood tests all bounds of sanity! Thank you for commenting :o).

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  24. i actually had to come back and search and comment because i remember reading it, probably on my phone or something and wanted to comment and then you know..life...and i didnt and hearing you read this out last weekend just made me think..AGH i didnt comment and i so wanted to.

    So here i am now...

    I see lots of births like your little A. Lots of deliveries of term babies who mum came in thinking all would be well and then there are the crazy frantic moments when the medics take over and things move quick and the bewildered parents are left wondering what has hit them. So many times i have smiled a smile at the dad, or mum, trying to send 'its okay' vibes through my face!

    I have had conversations with parents immediately after and some time after when they are lamenting the tragedy of the birth and how it didnt go to plan, no birthing pool, no music...not how they wanted.

    I always say 'but your baby is here, he is well, you are both safe, you made it through!' thats worth celebrating. Don't worry about how you got here, LOOK what you got!!

    Im glad to see you feel that way too, even though the scars are still with you a little.

    Im hoping they fade some...

    Totally loved meeting you this weekend.

    sarah xx

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    1. What a lovely, lovely thoughtful comment - thank you so much. I must not have looked properly on the details of your blog, are you midwife? It wasn't so much the way the birth went in the end, it was the trauma and depression I ended up with afterwards, and I think the NHS needs to start paying more attention to the way birth is handled and the way mother's are treated (some of the midwives were so rude to me afterwards ), as so many women end up with psychological trauma symptoms (mild forms of PTSD) - it just isn't enough to say, 'well at least your baby was delivered safely'... and yes, you have this wonderful baby but it's all marred by awful anxiety, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, depression - it's horrible.

      And it was lovely to meet you too!

      XXX

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  25. It made me swallow so hard this post. Firstly because it's so brilliantly written and secondly because I can (kind of) imagine how you felt. We've just got one toddler who I had at the age of 40 who means the absolute world to us *oh crap you made me cry* beautiful post :)

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    1. Glad you liked this post. Here's a tissue and a hug. Your daughter, Pod, is just gorgeous. X.

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