These days I’m wearing a Badge of Honor… or two!
I’ve stolen the term ‘Badge of Honor’ from my mum, who has mentioned that her trainer (also my boxing trainer and yoga pal!) uses it to refer to the pain you feel after working hard in a training session.
I like the idea of wearing Badges of Honor for lots of experiences and memories in our own lives. I’ll explain…
When I woke up on Sunday, I tried to roll out of bed only to realize I could hardly lift my legs up to perform the ‘roll out’. I lay back down only to remember the punishing work out I did on Saturday morning… It was the good kind of punishing! Sit ups! Oh lord… I don’t know how many we did, but they were enough to make me feel like I had abs of steel (and I know the reality is not quite steel… more like flubber!!) However, I worked hard and could certainly feel it. It was hard to put my shoes on that morning, but as I tried, I found myself grinning knowing that I’d bloody well earned that pain! I earned that Badge of Honor.
My beautiful cousin has overcome her fair share of challenges in life and she recently completed the Tough Mudder course. I admire her in so many ways (another post all to itself!) She said she could hardly walk for the week following. She has some of the best Badges of Honor going round!
Sometimes these Badges of Honor may not be for positive things. There may be experiences in our lives that are horrible, negative and destructive. But they still happened. For me, it was the trauma I suffered after the birth of my son. I’ll share a bit with you.
I had a beautiful pregnancy, kept very calm and relaxed the entire time and had formed a wonderful new kind of relationship with my unborn child. Close to my due date I started to suffer from severe heartburn that just wouldn’t go away. This, in retrospect, was my liver shutting down. Caused by HELLP syndrome, a severe type of pre-eclampsia. This continued to worsen, with the onset of continuous vomiting. Oh the joys hey! We knew something wasn’t right, but, we trusted our practitioners and kept on waiting. We shouldn’t have left it for so long, but we were told it was a ‘normal part of pregnancy’. Well, it wasn’t really! As we ignored it, my unborn child knew there was something wrong with me, and he decided it was time to go. Out that is! My waters broke and we rushed into hospital. Things weren’t looking good, but we didn’t know the extent of what was happening, purely because it was all happening so fast. Within 45 mins of being poked, prodded and pulled in all directions, I was being wheeled into theater for an emergency c-section. My words to the midwife as I was being wheeled in “This is not the water birth I had planned!!’
It was too dangerous to do an epidural, so I had to be knocked out totally and when I woke, many hours later, in an intense drug induced ‘whoopsie’ I met my son Archer. He was just perfect in every way. A gentle soul who knew something was wrong with his mum and acted accordingly. He knew he had to just wait quietly for a few days, being hugged and loved by everyone around him while his Mum got better. It took a few days, almost a week, but I started to come good. Enough to develop a wonderful breastfeeding relationship with him, enough to hold him, enough to carry him out of that damn hospital and home to our house. Where the pain had only just started to creep in. (note – this is the ‘family friendly’ version of events. I don’t think there’s any need for the really in depth, detailed ones!!)
Realising I nearly lost my life and the life of my son was incomprehensible. And still is. Knowing my own body had just packed up and shut down was the strangest feeling. But I didn’t have time to acknowledge or even understand these as I was thrust into motherhood. I felt like I’d been given my son. Like he was not ‘birthed’ in a sense, but that he was more ‘removed and given’ to me. Horrible thoughts for a first time mum who had no idea any of this stuff could happen. Granted, motherhood for anyone is tough. It is the most challenging yet rewarding role we will ever do as women. Yet we are the ones who put the most pressure on ourselves to do it perfectly. I don’t want a bar of ‘perfect motherhood’, I don’t want to read books or internet sites on how to do it better, I just want to be here, in every moment with my wonderful son.
There were times at the beginning of his life where I felt that I had not connected with him, because we had not gone through the ‘birth’ process together. I could not bare to be apart from him, not just in the same room, I always had to hold him or be touching him. My baby sling got a huge work out as he would just be tucked in that sling with me for most of the day. People would frown upon me always having him near by. They just didn’t understand the feelings I was having. That I felt a huge sense to connect with him. That I felt like I was robbed of the experience of birthing him. That I nearly lost it all and never wanted to let him go again.
These intense feelings were all part of my PTSD, which I left untouched. I didn’t deal with them. I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t want to acknowledge it because I thought ‘mums aren’t meant to feel this way’. But I should’ve talked about it. I should’ve owned up and worn this Badge earlier than I did, because by leaving it, I delved into a depression. A dark place I don’t want to return to ever.
Without going into too much further detail, I can look back on that experience and only remember certain things. Only connect with certain feelings. My body and mind had worked together to block out as much of the hard stuff as possible. But there are parts that stick in my mind forever. Pain that I’d never felt before and that I am quite happy never to experience again. The roller coaster of emotions that were felt at that stage in my life would put the Giant Drop to shame!
I could talk a lot about my PTSD. I could talk a lot about my Birth story. But, I choose to acknowledge them as my Badges of Honor, and move forward. By doing this, I’m saying ‘Hey, this happened, it was pretty shitful, but I want to move forward with this’. I’m not running away from it. I’m owning it as my experience. In a way, these Badges, or experiences have made me a better person. I am a lot different to the girl who was wheeled into that theatre. A friend of mine explains it as the 2.0 version of yourself. So, this is Lindsay 2.0 – who had a rough start into motherhood but who is on top of it all now and marching forward with her shiny new badges!
We all have Badges. Some amazing, some not so wonderful. But we all have them. We should all wear them. Some may be worn on our chest for all the world to see. Other Badges may be tucked away in a pocket close to our hearts. But, we’re still wearing them. And we are the only ones who know about our Badges. We are the only ones that determine what our Badges are. It is not up to others to determine how severe or how supreme your Badges are. If you’ve been through it, it’s yours to own and yours to wear. You can let your Badges become too heavy to wear, and then they are never seen, even by you. Or, you can be proud of your badges, stand tall with your badges and keep marching forward.
The dog days are over for me. Those days are long gone. But I will always have my shiny little Badge of Honor that I proudly wear right next to my heart. It’s message is for me alone, not one I’m going to share, but I always know that it’s there.
These days are my days and if you see me having trouble walking, or bending over, it’s probably because I’ve got muscles that are sore from Yoga or I’ve been punished with squats or sit ups in boxing… but you’ll know, I’m wearing a grin to match these Badges of Honor!
For a bit of info on PTSD after childbirth and HELLP syndrome there are two links i’ve found helpful.
And well, who doesn’t love a Florence in the Machine song…
“The Dog Days are Over” (they sure are – thanks Flo!)