**Note: This post contains thoughts and feelings about birth trauma. As always, no protected patient information will be shared and this writing is comprised solely of my own reflections**
Everything was fine until it wasn’t. Those are the words that everyone keeps telling me. Insisting to me. The nurses. Other midwives. My consulting physicians. My own voice.
We all know that the weight of the work we do can crop up at any minute and the joy and ease with which I help many newborns into the world can be erased in an instant. But knowing that intellectually is not the same as experiencing this feeling. Not the same as the bottom dropping out of your stomach and the mind-numbing fear; crippling your ability to breathe and put words into sentences.
“You must be ready. This is life. If you cannot be ready, go into dermatology.” Harsh, but true words from one of my back-up physicians that ring in my ears as I try to fall asleep each night. You must be ready.
I don’t know what to say. I am having a hard time relating to those outside of the birth world and have shrouded myself into a self-protective cocoon. I don’t know how to be ready for this to happen again someday. I looked up the statistics. It’s rare. I’m hoping the stats hold true, and that 10 years of busy practice goes by before I see another case like it.
It feels unfair. I have been doing this for such a short amount of time. I wasn’t ready to have my soul crushed. Doubt, fear, and sadness enmeshed into who I am as a midwife so early. To fear the shadows creeping into every birthing room.
I have spoken to the midwife elders. Poured out my heart like a river running over its banks and in return have been ushered into a seemingly secret club. Me too. This is what I saw. This is what I felt. It’s like miscarriage in that way. It seems rare and shaming; bringing you unstuck in place and time, until you meet others like you.
Each birth I have attended since this day lacks the same joy, ease, laughter that I had brought with me before. I am hypervigilant. My heart pounds in my chest as I pull on my sterile gloves. I ask for the fetal heart rate monitor to be turned up. And up. And up. I put on the mask, but I do not feel the same way inside. Like with grief, each progressive day holds slightly more light. Two steps forward, one step backwards, but I am constantly glancing over my shoulder, waiting for the darkness to follow.
Like with grief, I know it will not always be like this. I know I will survive because I have to. I know that I will thrive because I must. I know that one day I will stop glancing over my shoulder, paralyzed with fear. But I cannot un-know the darkness that lives there.