“Can I imagine a time in the future when these scars and these experiences will dissolve, drop away, so that I will finally be free? This is not actually a condition of freedom. I’m free right now. Because I can acknowledge that the scars are there. Because I no longer wish for them to be any different from what they are. Don’t get me wrong. I spent a long time wishing that the scars of my life would just go away. But the more I wished for this, the crazier I felt. Because the reality is that my scars are part of me, like my own hand. I needed to learn to acknowledge them and to live with them in peace and harmony.” –At Hell’s Gate: A Soldier’s Journey from War to Peace, by Claude Anshin Thomas. Boston: Shambala Press (2004).
In general, when I remember events in my life I remember them from my own perspective. I remember them as they occurred as I saw them from my own eyes. I remember the horizon line, the distance, and the views as they were witnessed from my own fabulous green eyes. Me standing still, looking out, observing events around me.
For many years, it has disturbed me that my memory of my daughter’s physical birth is not of me looking out of my own eyes but of me, looking at me. Imagine if you will the common visual associated with an out of body experiences. Imagine when someone dies for a short period of time and they see themselves dead on a table.
That is the primary view I have of my daughters birth. There are sporadic, minor, images from the correct angle. I can see at times, my legs up in stirrups. I can see Dr. Simmons between my legs. I can see them pushing away the mirror to prevent me from seeing my daughters physical birth. I feel myself angry that they pushed away the mirror but I don’t have a voice to object.
Other than those few images, most of my visual memory is outside of myself. I am watching me. I am floating above myself. I am not connected to my physical body. I see my headcase worker behind me. I see her facial expression. There is no way I could have seen this yet in my memory I do. I see sea foam green tile walls. I see my fully pregnant body on the table yet I have no face.
I have a head, bad 80s hair matted from the sweat of labor but there are no eyes, no nose, no mouth. My face is gone. It is the head of a mannequin. A dummy. A faceless person. A person no one sees.
Additionally, I don’t see my baby being born. As I look at myself, I don’t see her being pulled from my womb. I don’t hear her.
I am completely dissociated. I am there but I am not. I am watching myself give birth but I am not feeling it entirely. I am outside myself. Or so my memory has always been.
Is this an accurate memory? Why has this been my memory? Why do I see the events from the wrong angle? Why am there but not there?
Did my mind have to do this to save itself? Was this my way to prepare for the upcoming three days that would lead to me surrendering my first born child? My baby girl? Had five months sequestered in a “home’ for unwed mothers forced me into some sort of fugue state? Was this a residual affect of the drugs they gave me that caused me to hallucinate during labor?
The memory of that splitting of self came to me full force last night as I watched a very disturbing movie “Boys Don’t Cry”. The scene in which the lead, played by Hillary Swank, is being assaulted in the bathroom by men who want to know if she is male or female. They strip her of her clothing, beat her, and conduct a vicious attack on her mind and body. At one point, the character sees herself, outside herself, watching the attack happen.
At this point in the movie, I collapsed on my living room floor.
That very scene was an enormous trigger to the delivery of my child. I tremble as I recall the events of last night.
I am glad I was home alone yet at the same time I wish I hadn’t been. I couldn’t breathe. I felt anxious, dizzy, I was wandering the house looking for something. I wanted to escape. I had to go somewhere, get something, get out of my head, away from the scene in front of me and inside of me. I couldn’t stop crying. I was pulling my hair.
The feeling, it all came back. The vision of me watching me. I started to choke. Tremble. I sat on the floor in my home office, knees pulled to chest and I rocked. I looked for the time. It was late. I wanted to phone a friend. A friend I knew would understand but I didn’t. Said friend also had a traumatic day. I did not want to disturb him.
I wrote to my support group email list. One mother friend called me back almost immediately but I was not strong enough to get off the floor and answer the phone.
I wrote another friend.
And I kept rocking and crying.
After some period of time I was able to get up. I felt sick. I started to cough uncontrollably. Something was stuck in my throat. I was choking. I was worried I would choke to death and no one would know.
I climbed the stairs to my main bathroom and my stomach emptied itself. I vomited all over the floor. I felt better after I did. It was as if some age old memory had just left my body via emesis. Some long dormant demon woke in my bowels last night and angrily worked his way to the surface.
Is he gone? Or will he be back?