By Rachel Bardill, Mother, Everyday Goddess
My ego was well and truly transformed when my son was born. I wish it were because of the glow of meeting my sun but it wasn’t; I didn’t know if he was dead or alive for four hours. The years I had spent building my identity, my power and what I believed to be important were smashed to pieces in four brutal hours. I very much don’t recommend that route of transformation; it has taken me years to re build a new ego and a new sense of what is important. It is brutal, sharp and cruel to anyone in and around that kind of trauma. I was a high achieving, perfectionist, controlled woman and I lost all control of the most important situation a mother can ever be in. I realised in the space of four hours that nothing, and I mean nothing matters and everything is fragile. So here is the story of the ever-changed person that I am learning more about every day.
My first contractions started at 3am. I was petrified but excited to get this baby out of me. I mean it was my second child so I knew exactly what to do, or so I thought. The jokes I made about leaving the curry menu out for that evening as we left the house still haunt me, because that didn’t happen. I had a lovely water birth and everything was going well until, well, he came out blue. Not moving. No noise. And that was it. The horror started there really. After he was swept away there was a chilling void in the room only filled by sounds of horror from my equally traumatised husband, nurses explaining away their actions, cleaners cleaning away the blood and my repeated requests to know if my baby was alive. I came as close as anyone can in those four hours to my primal self, my skin peeled back exposing every tender part of my being. Each of my nerves sending pulses of pure pain through my body in a fit of grief and confusion.
Fast-forward four hours and my baby boy was stable, very low on oxygen and undergoing a very new hypothermic treatment. Fast forward two weeks in special care and the treatment was over and they found no overt brain damage but only time would tell as to the long-term damage. In that two weeks I was sat by my baby’s side, doing anything that would warrant me a mother to this little cold person. I remember, however, the moment my mind, body, soul and ego froze when I was told to ‘pray for miracles’. In that moment I had a realisation that in the near perfect life I had created I needed a miracle to overcome the worst thing that could happen to anyone. I immediately slid off the edge of my former self into an abyss of emerging PTSD, anxiety and depression.
My baby was home and he was the most perfect little squidgy person and I got him every bit of help I could find. My incredible six year old daughter loved being a big sister, and I worked hard with my husband to adjust to a family of four. I threw myself into my children obsessively but I wasn’t able to keep up with them. The brain is a funny thing; it had trapped all of that raw emotional trauma somewhere and it was slowly sending my brain into some kind of black treacle infested fog.
It took me three years before I admitted I needed help. I was failing at work, I was detached from my family and I was loosing friends in a haze of fear and anxiety. I had worked so hard all my life to build something and I was unable to maintain it any more. I had to find a new life and a new me. I sought help in the form of counselling and it was there I uncovered that I had PTSD and embarked on a long series of talking therapy. Amazingly the talking helped the trauma to move from the treacle infested corner of my brain into where all memories are processed in a healthy way. Talking about every detail of that day from the colour of the walls to what I was wearing meant the event became more real with every detail. It was a very hard process to go through. I still cry now at the thought of some moments of that day but it was essential to make sense of it all.
The other thing that has helped me is mindset training, affirmations and gratitude’s. I can’t urge anyone enough to look into that as a way of addressing mental health issues. It helps me anyway, and I still practice it every day. So what have I become? Well, I am still working on that but I am ever changed and feeling well. My son is a very amazing, gorgeous, tall and funny seven year old who has additional learning needs (that journey will take a whole new blog to explain). My family is my biggest gift and I treasure them every moment. I am grateful and humbled by so much that I have in my life. I wouldn’t have understood the importance of that frame of mind seven years ago, but now I treasure it.