I survived a suicide bombers’ attack in Afghanistan in 2010. There were six of them and seven of us. The attack lasted six full hours. Six hours of explosions, gunshots, fire, smoke, our own blood and sweat before the US forces rescued us. Out of seven, five of us survived and out of us five, four was injured. I was shot in my right upper arm only a moment after my friend and colleague was killed on the spot two stairs in front of me. I was head of the office for a US based company and he was part of our close protection team along with three more men. Two of them gave their lives to save mine and those of my other two team members. Another two that survived were badly injured and will suffer physical and mental consequences for the rest of their lives. One of them was seriously injured when he heard one of countless RPGs approaching and covered me with his body to protect me, earning himself several shrapnels in his skull. He was the last to join my team, less than 48 hours prior to the attack. He is now my husband.
The 7,62 calibre that hit my arm ripped lower part of my brachialis muscle off and left a rather big concave right above my elbow. For almost a year, I was covering the scar until the following summer when I wore my sleeveless wedding dress. My daughter asked about my scar for the first time when she was about two. She saw it and put her gentle little hand over it – it matched in size and it warmed up my elbow. She asked what was that and I told her that it was called a scar.
– I want one, mama, she said. I explained that some bad people hurt mama and that it is very good that she does not have one.
– It hurts?
– Only sometimes.
A couple of years later, when her little brother was about the same age and asked me the same question, she explained that ‘bad guys hurt mama but that it hurts only sometimes’. My son hugged me tight as if to take the pain away.
Immediately after the attack, I decided not to have kids because I did not want to bring them into this world full of evil and suffering. I was determined about the decision and I even said that at the beginning of our relationship to the man who saved my life. My husband is ex-military with 10 years of experience and several tours under his belt, so he had different mechanisms of coping and dealing with what happened. He lost his best friend in the attack and as much as he struggled himself, he managed to put things in the perspective for me and helped me with the survivor’s guilt for the first time. The guilt was tearing me apart. I was the head of the office and every person in that office was a member of my team and I felt responsible for what had happened, for the lives lost and injuries sustained… I still struggle with the feeling of guilt, although I now know that it was not my fault and that there was nothing I could have done to prevent the attack. Or was there?
My husband’s patience, support, encouragement, and love made me change my mind about having children. It all happened quite quick; we married exactly one year after we met when I was already pregnant and we had our daughter six months later.
I struggled with the baby at first, then slowly managed to organise myself and be mentally prepared for different baby-situations as they happen – crying, vomiting, falls, colds, etc. Then, just when I thought I had everything under control, we had our son and I was almost back to square one with mental unpreparedness – I wasn’t stable enough and I had difficulties dealing with some of the fears – I wrote about it briefly in one of my previous posts.
I learned to enjoy the time spent with my kids – to play, laugh and explore the world with them. Although I am overly protective and I have to have my eyes on them at all times when we are outside, especially in crowded places and I struggle with small talk or with spending time with other moms at birthday parties or school events – I am doing these things because I love my children more than anything in the world and I don’t want them to miss out on their childhood and friendships because I have issues to cope with normal daily mom activities. Then again, what is normal…
My children and my husband are my chief healers and I wouldn’t be here today without them. They thought me that being a parent and a partner is a role in which days are tackled one by one and every struggle is rewarded with a gift of love – a kiss, a hug, a flower or a nickname – this week I’m Wander-woman, but I am not showing off because only last week I was a Rainbow elephant. As many people do, I too question myself as a parent, but I like to believe that taking one day at a time, is a good rhythm for a parenting-with-PTSD dance.