Last Friday, my evening turned upside down in a matter of seconds. An anxiety attack triggered a flashback which triggered a panic attack, which left me completely undone the rest of the night….and it all started with a scream….
Piercing. Shrieking. Shrill. Excruciating.
My 16mo is screaming. At the top of his lungs. Standing in the middle of the floor in the living room, tears streaming down his face, mouth wide open, lips trembling from the force of the energy it takes to. just. SCREAM.
His screams are sharp, slicing through me, and the reserves of patience and calmness meds, self-care and God have helped me store the past week or so.
Scream. Slice. Scream. Slice. Scream…..this one cuts me to my core, its razor sharp edges cutting a clean, precise gash through which all the anxiety stored up within me could just bleed out….and it did. So much so that it crippled me. Crippled me because I had a flashback and with that flashback came all the emotions & physical sensations associated with it…..
No, please no….not this….not now….I’m hiding in the bathroom, on the floor, soaked in sweat, my heart is pounding, he’s still screaming, and I’m triggered. All I can feel is despair sweeping over me, fatigue overwhelming me…and panic. Frightful panic. Before I know it, in my mind I’m back there, revisiting the day I first heard him cry…and felt like this.
It was the evening of April 8, 2010. The day Alex, my 16mo was born. After nearly nine months of a physically & mentally rough (ie depressing) pregnancy, FIVE days of ACTIVE labor, numerous hospital & doctor visits, finally being admitted & getting an epidural, and 5 pushes, he finally made his grand appearance. When he was placed in my arms I remember looking at him, being glad he was finally here, but I remember feeling hollow. The previous 6 hours and his quick delivery had been a blur, a frantic rush, and then there was…..nothing. Of course my son was here, but somehow the experience felt so anti-climatic. Even though in my mind I knew he was mine, I felt….he felt (Oh I know this sounds so bad, but it’s the truth) foreign to me, like I knew he was a part of me, had come from me, but he didn’t feel like he had. I don’t know how else to articulate it. I just attributed it to my being overwhelmed & tired from giving birth and brushed it off.
That evening instead of sending him to the nursery I kept him with me all night. It was a long night. At first I was fine, he was fine. And then he started crying. That’s when I felt it deep down in my gut: the panic. My face grew hot, my hands were shaking as I pulled him out of his “crib” and into the bed with me. I fumbled trying to get him to latch-he screamed louder. After a few minutes he was happily eating and I was holding him tightly in an attempt to calm my nerves. Again, I just thought it was just nerves. “I’m just a little rusty,” I told myself, “I can do this, I’ve done this. I’m a mother. This is my second child. It’s cool, just have to get used to things again. Babies cry. It’s no big deal.” But it was. I had barely fallen asleep when he woke up crying again an hour later.
That cry. There was something about that cry that pierced right through me, and left me feeling like I was being ripped apart. His cry. It triggered a physical response in me-one that was normal & motherly & one that felt very violently NOT normal. It scared me. Jarred my senses. His cry. It grated on me and I didn’t understand why.
On the outside I appeared perfectly calm as I tried to soothe him. The inside was a different story. On the inside I WAS FREAKING OUT. His cry evoked a heart pounding, pulse racing, nauseating fear in me that I don’t remember experiencing with my oldest. It made me nervous. What made it worse was my inability to soothe him. He didn’t want to eat, he was dry, I couldn’t tell if he wanted me to hold him or put him down, no position seemed to settle him….all he did was cry. Each one he vocalized felt like needles on my skin, each one seemed to scream “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!” “EVERYTHING YOU’RE DOING IS WRONG!!!!!”
I finally laid him on my chest and after a few minutes his crying stopped. A few minutes later he was sleeping. Me? I was crying. Silently. i looked for the nurses button, to have them take him to the nursery, but the remote was out of my reach and I was too scared moving would mean he’d wake up and cry again. I couldn’t take that-not yet. I looked at the clock. It was 2:03am…….
my experience Friday night left me feeling like I did my first night alone in the hospital with Alex. I was a wreck then and I was a wreck Friday night. The screaming stopped, but my response to it didn’t for the rest of the weekend. As bad as Friday night was, I’m glad it happened, because it made me realize that I need to accept & acknowledge what I felt & experienced those first days so I can understand how it has shaped & impacted the last 16mos of my life. So this is me, telling my story. OWNING IT. hoping it heals me and help someone who needs to know it.
part two coming soon…..