I remember my doctors’ warning me it could happen.
“It’s like you’ve been to war,” my obstetrician told me.
She was warning me that post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms could pop up in my life. At the time I didn’t think I felt any. I felt like I was inside a snow globe and someone had violently shook my entire world. I couldn’t make sense of anything.
One moment I’d been nursing my infant daughter Cora and the next I looked down and she wasn’t breathing. She was dead. I’d had a completely normal pregnancy and delivery. She’d passed all of the hospital tests. I had no clue what happened to her.
I walked around completely dazed for the next two days, her blood still on my mouth from when I tried to give her CPR. The coroner called with a preliminary cause, congenital heart defects.
Despite all those warnings that I might experience PTSD from my health care providers, I still thought it was something that happened to people who had gone through war.
Then the nightmares started, and they haven’t stopped. I relive that night in detail, or experience another loved one dying in a dream.
I find that I don’t want to leave the house much anymore. I avoid talking to people on the phone as well.
Sometimes it’s better and then sometimes it’s almost unbearable.
I’ve since met other mothers that lost their children that also have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. I’ve found their understanding and support to be a crucial means of coping.
I didn’t go to war, but my baby died in my arms, suddenly and unexpectedly. It was a trauma like none other, and one that I will always carry with me.
Kristine Brite McCormick is mom to Cora. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband and two dogs. She’s an advocate for congenital heart disease and grieving mothers. She blogs at http://www.corasstory.org.