Life With Post-Traumatic Stress

Source: Democratic Underground

Four years ago, my wife and I brought home our beautiful baby boy from the hospital. That night, our first as new parents, I watched my wife breastfeeding our son who was just bawling up a storm.

And then, instantly, he stopped crying. His arms went limp. His skin turned blue and then purple. I took him from my wife and started giving CPR. After a few breaths, my son gasped, started crying again and began moving. All in all, the entire episode, from beginning to end, lasted 30 seconds at most.

I handed my son back to my wife and called 911. Within 5 minutes, two ambulances, a police cruiser and a fire engine were at my house. The next few hours were a blur of ambulances, hospitals, my mother showing up, and holding my wife.

I sent my wife home with my mother and stayed at the hospital with my son. After a week, the doctor told me he was fine. Newborns are still figuring out how to work outside the womb and his system simply crashed; my CPR had rebooted him. I nodded, said thanks and broke down — for six months.

I would see my son and just start crying horrible jags. I would sometimes cry for no reason at all. I was physically unable to talk about what happened. I lost 25 pounds from sheer stress. I didn’t sleep. I could barely function.

At work, I took unscheduled days off. I would have to excuse myself from meetings to avoid losing it in front of coworkers; I took long bathroom breaks when I fell apart. The day after my boss asked how my son was doing, she let me go. I found a better job and my son blossomed. I healed, as did my wife. But my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) never fully went away.

My son is now a healthy four-year-old with no lingering problems, and I am a fully active 39-year-old. But I am unable to read any news story about small children suffering or dying or even just being sick. Even positive stories — like Robert Downey Jr. inviting a boy with cystic fibrosis to a movie premiere — will put me into a bathroom stall for five or ten minutes. I immediately shut down conversations that veer toward those subjects. And occasionally, I think about my son and I flash back to that horrible night.

So why am I writing this? Because I need to in order to finish healing. I need to be able to talk about what happened and what it did to me. I am thankful for every day I have with my family now — I know how lucky we are. But very few people would suspect anything was lurking beyond the surface. If you think you’re suffering PTSD, you’re not alone: Ask for help and understand it will take a long time to feel right again.

If you are friends or related to someone who has gone through something traumatic, make sure you are there if they need you, be sensitive on what you talk about and, really, just be there. You never know when they’re going to need a helping hand.

And take a baby first aid class before your child is born. It is the only reason why my son is still here.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder PDF
New Jersey PTSD Specialists
Other New Jersey PTSD Resources

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