Here’s the story that women are supposed to tell:
On this day __ years ago, this perfect little bundle came into my life. And the moment I saw his/her face, I knew that all the pain and sacrifice was completely worth it, and the joy of seeing my baby washed away all the trauma I experienced bringing him/her into existence.
Here’s the story I’m telling you today:
It’s my son’s 7th birthday today. Yesterday I couldn’t pin down why I was feeling so sad and anxious all day long. Last night I went to sleep running my fingers over my C-section scar. This morning I woke up after yet another anxiety dream, and my body felt like it was pinned to the bed. Just like that horrific day seven years ago when I discovered that I would be strapped down to a cross and cut open, and then left alone for hours with my mind and body still reeling from the horrors that had just happened. From all the echoes of past trauma that had been both physically and mentally re-opened.
For mothers who experienced traumatic births, these birthdays are the cruelest of celebrations. We are supposed to smile and shower love on our children, and never admit that on these days we would really love to curl up in a ball and sob. We are not supposed to say that having our children took too high a toll on our physical and mental health. We are not supposed to mention just how badly our medical and social systems failed to support us when we needed it the most.
There is no space for this grief. It is lumped into a big pile with all the other unacceptable griefs in our culture and buried in a mass grave far away so we won’t have to look at how women’s bodies are routinely traumatized in the name of health care. Or how our culture simultaneously holds up motherhood on a pedestal while actively despising mothers. Or how childbirth re-activates old sexual assault trauma. All these topics are strictly off-limits.
Well I am done pretending that this day is not traumatic for me. I have seen friends who decades after the anniversary of a loved one’s passing still make room for grief on the anniversary of the death. And I think that mothers (and parents of all genders who experienced birth trauma) need to be allowed to take room for themselves on this day. Maybe we can have some kind of group ritual, much like people bring flowers to grave sites. Something to honour that pain and sacrifice. Something to sooth our grieving bodies, who very much still remember.
I think I’ll find a park bench today and sit there with a bunch of flowers and make space for tears to flow. I’ll remind myself that I am in good company, that many others feel this way. I’ll honour my body and the sacrifice it made by treating it kindly today, offering it sweets to taste and fresh air to breathe. I’ll light a candle for all those who are sitting with any form of grief today that they have to harbor in secret. And I’ll send out these wishes for all of us.
May we be filled with loving kindness.
May we make space to honour our grief.
May we be loved, supported and seen in our sorrow and our strength.
P.S. If you are struggling with birth trauma right now, I want you to know that you are not alone. If you need support, Pacific Post Partum offers phone and text support at 604-255-7999 Monday to Friday from 10am to 3pm PST.