Surviving Trauma

Dear readers, I am surviving trauma and I fully believe that God did not allow me to experience the following heart breaking experience for nothing.  I trust that by telling my story, that I can be a friend, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on for those who have also experienced something similar.  Please feel free to contact me.  If you know of someone who may benefit from hearing my story, you can send them my way too.

With much love and care,

LaDonna

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Looking back on my life people would say that I have experienced a number of traumatic experiences in my life.  I’ve been in numerous car accidents, several of which I can remember the momentum of the vehicle and the feeling of the van spinning in circles and hitting the snow bank over and over again.  The disruptions in my life have been many with moves to different schools in the middle of the year, torn away from family and friends to move far, far away.  I got married mid-year my 4th year of college; this could be considered a trauma – it’s was a great disruption (though it be a pleasant one) to my life!  I’m not sure that many people would call these things really traumatic.  There’s no rape or murder or abuse, just pretty normal stuff that you think happens to everyone.

Defining Trauma

trau·ma  

  1. A serious injury or shock to the body, as from violence or an accident.
  2. An emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person, often leading to neurosis.
  3. An event or situation that causes great distress and disruption.

My Trauma Story

The real trauma in my life first happened in 2004.  I was pregnant with our third child in as many years.  The baby due early March was a full week late when labor started slowly but regularly on a Saturday morning.  I got the plans in motion for baby’s delivery; my aunt would come to make supper and care for our 2 girls through the labor and delivery.  My midwife stopped by on her way home from a meeting to check on me.  I was progressing quickly enough that she decided to stick around, figuring she’d be home shortly after supper.

After about 18 hours of labor, we made the decision to break my water because things were not progressing.  That seemed to work and by the early morning hours I was starting to push.  Once baby’s head crowned and came through is when we saw things go bad.  Our baby was stuck – half in and half out.  It’s called shoulder dystocia.  There is no just pushing harder.  My midwife had to go in and maneuver baby and I had to change my position.  My midwife had to pull my baby out of me as he changed from sickly color to a more sickening color.

My baby was born dead.  The cord was so tight around his neck that it was white in color.  There was no blood and no oxygen getting to him.  He had no heartbeat, where there had been a heartbeat only minutes before.  There was no breathing.  He did not make a noise; there were no tears and no tender snuggles.  My husband and my midwife went to work on him right away and within moments he had a heartbeat.  My aunt called and spoke with 911, having them send an ambulance for my baby.

As soon as I was able (within minutes of them leaving), Jason and I went with my midwife in her private vehicle, following them to the hospital.  And just to make a terrible situation even worse, the car stopped running and we were stuck on the highway.  A good and kind man stopped and picked us all up.  He took us to the hospital.  I never got his name and I don’t remember what he looked like.  I have no way to thank him for his kindness and it bothers me to this day.

At the Hospital

While we were both being examined, I insisted that they call our baby by his name.  We’d already decided that if our baby was a boy, his name would be Harvey Richard.  The attendants kept calling him “Baby Boy Harris” and it was driving me insane.  I finally called out through the curtain, “His name is Harvey!”  After our son was taken by STARS air ambulance the hospital gave us a room, so I could rest before making a decision as to what we were going to do.  Harvey was taken to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta.

Surviving Trauma | ladonnaharris.com | #neonatal #infantloss #traumaThe next 10 days really were and still are a blur.  I remember bits and pieces – pumping milk for him, going to my aunt’s home where our two girls were living while we traveled back and forth to the hospital.  I remember the elevators.  I remember eating in the cafeteria there.  I remember a nurse telling Jason that he wasn’t allowed to touch Harvey “like that” and how angry we were.  I remember my midwife bringing us lunch from Subway on her birthday!  I remember an awkward visit from our pastor and friend who was as young as we were and had no clue what to say or do.

On the morning of the 9th day we finally clued in to what the doctors and other staff were trying to tell us all along.  He was not improving.  The actions he needed to do to show them improvement was not happening.  They did not expect him to live without life sustaining machines.  We finally got it.  Our son couldn’t swallow and would always need a feeding tube.  Our son couldn’t sustain his own oxygen levels and that would probably never improve.  Our son’s blood pressure was always causing the machines to beep and carry on.  Our son never made a sound, never cried or whimpered.  So, it was time to move to palliative care and make the rest of his life as comfortable as possible.

Taking Our Family Home

For us “as comfortable as possible” meant taking him home to be with his sisters, without machines or any medical involvement.  So the next morning we took the girls with us to the hospital so they could see their brother for possibly the last time.  We spent the day in a family room with our three babies and our midwife.  We just held them and played quietly with the girls.  Nurses came in a couple of times just to check his vitals and such but for the most part they left us alone.  It was getting to the end of the day and we wanted to go home; we wanted to take our baby with us.

The team of physicians and nurses and administration at the hospital went above and beyond for my little family.  It was a Friday and late enough in the day that most times would have prevented the paperwork to be completed forcing us to stay at the hospital and not go home to our little community two hours away.  But they did it!  I remember leaving the hospital with my two little girls and my dying son in his car seat.  I remember the looks and comments, “how sweet, he gets to go home” but the complete strangers didn’t know we were taking our son home to die.

Surviving Through the Storm

The next two days were the longest days of our lives; watching our son die, slowly suffocating on his own saliva, not feeding him because that would speed up his death, being repulsed by the smell of death on him yet wanting to hold him close and love on him as I’d loved and cuddled our girls in their earliest days.  We couldn’t sleep until we were absolutely and completely exhausted.  

Very very early in the morning in late March, shortly after we’d taken our family to bed, I checked on my son and I knew that he wasn’t breathing.  I didn’t turn on the lights, I didn’t hold him again.  I gently woke my husband, careful not to disturb the girls sleeping in our bed.  He carried the car seat holding our infant’s body to the room where that baby had been born not even two weeks before.  He was gone for quite some time and I don’t know all he did while he was gone, but I trust that he said his goodbyes before returning to our bed.  The next time I saw Harvey’s body was after he was already in the casket.

Surviving The Trauma

We called the people we were supposed to call when we woke the next morning.  From that point forward there was a steady, and needed, stream of people coming and going from our home.  Our community, our friends and strangers, our fire department and our church cared for us, loved us, held us and helped us to heal.  I don’t think you ever completely heal from trauma; the scars are always there.  Time and distance from the event and love from friends and family help make the scar and the grief a little easier to bear, but in writing this for you, I realized I still hurt, a lot, just not as often or as intensely.

Today (and always) I remember.

Comments

  1. That was really traumatic LaDonna… And also a miracle! Praise God! Very inspiring…Thanks for sharing! 🙂

Trackbacks

  1. […]    Preparing for Passover » Looking Back on the Month of March Do you have a month of the year that’s harder for you than others?  Maybe it’s the month where your pet died, or you lost your job.  Maybe it’s the anniversary of some major devastation in your life.  For us, March is a tough month.  This year, 2013, marked the ninth year anniversary of the birth and death of our third born child.  I blogged about my experience – sharing the story from a survivor’s point of view. […]

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