Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Emotional State of Shock

Recently a friend asked me if I felt losing Andrew caused me to feel like I lost part of my womanhood. Or at least feel robbed of it. My answer, "absolutely."

Even if we made the decision to live without children, I still feel it is my right as a woman to make that choice. We were made for this. At least, all women were supposed to be. We all know that doesn't always work out for those who are infertile or cases like stillbirth, our bodies denying us that complete right.

When I heard those six terrible words from the doctor that day, my body went into a state of emotional shock. To my knowledge, I'd never experienced this feeling before. It's an unpleasant, euphoric wave that carries you through something life-altering. Though I was given impossible news, I still had a job to do. My body knew that I was laboring and realized that although my emotional pain was completely destructive, I still had to act physically to birth my baby.

That brings me to the next FAQ (maybe this should belong to a FAQ post, Q&A sesh about stillbirth?). I've been asked many times (by mostly those who don't read the blog) if I still had to give birth since Andrew wasn't alive. Well, of course. I couldn't just wish that my 7lb.6oz. child vanished from my womb and walk untouched from the hospital. The same contractions, labor, pain, pushing, and recovery were all experienced. The breastmilk came in with a vengeance. The only thing that was different in our case was the heart monitoring (we needed no fetal heart monitor as there was no heartbeat) and the end result. All of that was different, obviously. No pain was spared because of our unfortunate and devastating circumstance.

I knew I was in shock. I also knew when I was hyperventilating. I remember once he was delivered just shaking uncontrollably. My entire body was rocking. My teeth chattered and my limbs were impossible to hold down. I was unable to cry or really mourn at this time-- I was dazed and although not entirely confused, I was disjointed from the reality of the situation. I remember being wheeled from the triage room to the delivery room immediately upon learning of Andrew's demise with the world zooming around me a millions shades of color and at millions of miles an hour-- except I was stationary. It's that state of disbelief and paralysis that numbed my emotions enough to get the job done. I am not sure when the state of shock ended, but I do know the moment that shock started. I think the shock continued on for at least a few days because I remember vividly joking and laughing with friends as they came to visit our dreary room the next day. I told them we were going to be fragile, sad, emotional, unpredictable. I knew all of these things by text but did not understand the severity or intensity they'd hit. It was almost like I was talking about someone else and how they should proceed with caution. But I was talking about us.

Doctors call the emotional state of shock Acute Stress Reaction and the symptoms include: numbing, detachment, derealization, depersonalization or disassociative amnesia, continued re-experiencing of the event by ways of flashback, thoughts, dreams; avoidance of any stimulation that reminds (me) of the event, anxiety, and/or impairment of at least one essential area of functioning. Symptoms last for a minimum of 2 days and a maximum of 4 weeks, anytime within 4 weeks of the traumatic event.

I'd say I experienced all of these symptoms and still experience some of them daily. While I wouldn't consider it shock now, I'd associate it entirely with the trauma of that day. Perhaps it's the same thing that soldiers experience upon returning home-- though fully comprehending the severity of the situation, they experience PTSD. Perhaps, on some levels, that's what I am experiencing in small doses.

No expected take away here, just a post I've been thinking about for some time related to bodily defense in the midst of tragedy. Maybe I educated someone or provided more insight to understand. Or maybe it just felt good to write about.


Keleen said... [Reply to comment]

Robbed indeed!

Darcey said... [Reply to comment]

This is a great post. I never thought about that in those terms. I was absolutely 100% numb in the 2 weeks that followed. I was able to make funeral arrangements because my husband couldn't stop crying long enough to talk to anyone. I talked to friends and family who were crying uncontrollably as I told them my story and I remained strangely calm...of course the weeks that followed weren't pretty.
I also have moments where 5 1/2 months later it still doesn't seem real. Then I follow that up with other moments when I am face down on my bed choking on my tears.
I am so sorry you (we) have to go through this. Hoping you get to experience your rainbow very soon!

Kelly said... [Reply to comment]

Great post. I was in panic mode the first day, coming in and out of panic attacks and wanting to puke, crying, anger, thought vomit. The second day, I was numb. I couldn't even feel. I was in business mode, making phone calls, arrangements, and decisions. I remember telling my sister over the phone, very matter-of-factly, he's gonna die. She was falling apart and I said it like I was asking her what she wanted for dinner. So strange this trauma is. Strange and devastating and completely unfair. (((hugs)))

Shell said... [Reply to comment]

Know just what you are talking about. I remember the uncontrollable shaking. For the first two weeks I think I was in a fog...not really wanting to believe what had happened to us.

CHH said... [Reply to comment]


I sent you an e-mail.


Coastal Blue Ocean

Olaina.PhotosAndArt said... [Reply to comment]

"Maybe I educated someone or provided more insight to understand. Or maybe it just felt good to write about." Probably both. take care...

Becky said... [Reply to comment]

I remember the shock alright. Thankfully my husband was strong enough(if that's the word to use) to call family and friends. They were all expecting to know how surgery went and he had to tell them that Liam didn't make it:( Me on the other hand didn't want to speak to anybody. Just lay there, numb, not speaking, in complete silence. I almost liked the shock, once it wore it off all I did is cry uncontrollably for at least a week+ straight.
Thanks for sharing

Gillian said... [Reply to comment]

Oh my! This breaks my heart!

If it's any consolation (which I know it's not), I lost a brother and sister in similar situations. They were both stillbirths.

Grant it, I was only a sibling, not their mother. So, my perspective is way different than yours. I couldn't imagine?!

It must feel good to get it out, and put it in words. Your strength, to me, is inspirational! Newly following via GFC!

Gillian from Baby Talk without the Babble

Hope's Mama said... [Reply to comment]

People absolutely cannot imagine the horror that yes - we still have to push these babies out. These perfect, still babies. They are STILL born.
All my love to you.