Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

Living with Chronic Disease

At our most recent support group, we discussed living with chronic disease.  Our guest speaker, a mental health professional that focuses on chronic disease, was extremely helpful in guiding our conversation.  I guess it’s difficult for me to think of my condition, of fecal incontinence, as chronic disease.  However, as with most bowel disorders experienced in our support group, the waxing and waning of symptoms throughout my life would define it as such.

Chronic disease and it’s impact on mental health can be severe.  As I have shared before, mental health professionals and therapy were pretty heavy components in my healing journey from both the physical and mental ramifications of the birth trauma.  In dealing with a condition day after day, a condition that is chronic, one needs to supplement their mental fortitude with strength from others as well as within.  It’s not easy for me to know that I will be fecally incontinent for life.  However, the facts remain that my sphincter is damaged, and without medical intervention, like the Interstim, I would be completely incontinent of feces.  The fact remains that to this day I have good days and bad (mostly good), as well as a medical device that contains a battery that will have to be changed throughout my lifetime.  The fact remains that I continue to have diet modifications, as well as, pelvic floor exercise suggestions that I am supposed to follow on a daily basis.  The fact remains, I am living with a chronic disease, that, although manageable, can alter both physical and mental outlook.

So, what do you do when you realize that you are living with a chronic disease?  According to our speaker, the number one realization that you need to make is that your mind and body are connected.  So, even though your mind isn’t “causing” your physical body ailment, your mind can alleviate some of you physical symptoms, or in turn, make them a lot worse.  Emotional distress can be the very thing that contributes to chronic disease symptomology getting physically worse.  By recognizing this fact, often in treatment, one can pay attention to emotional stressors, thereby problem solving and potentially increasing tolerance for the emotional distress so as not to have it manifest itself physically.

Too often, our anxiety about a chronic disease creates a negative feedback loop that, in turn, creates real physical problems, exacerbation on the underlying chronic illness.  It is only in recognizing this phenomenon that we can continue to heal our minds, in an effort to live with minimal disruption of chronic disease.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

This is Me

I am a woman.  I am a daughter.  I am a sister.  I am an educated individual.  I am a wife.  I am a mother.  I am an advocate.  I am me.

I am me.  But, does everyone know the real me?  Sometimes I feel as though I keep a major part of my life locked away, accessible to only those who I know will not judge nor stigmatize.  Since the obstetric trauma, in March 2008, I feel as though I have compartmentalized pieces of myself.  In starting my blog, in August 2011, I became an advocate.  Though largely anonymous, my blog seeks to expose people to the very real ramifications of birth trauma, both emotional and physical.  My journey in blogging led me to becoming a Patient Ambassador for Medtronic Interstim therapy, and a facilitator for our local bowel disorders support group.  These two endeavors allow me to continue my advocacy in a somewhat sheltered and “safe” environment.  Safe from judgement, safe from ridicule, safe from potential embarrassment.

I’m ready for more.  Too often, very real medical issues are glossed over in society because of an “ick” factor, a stigmatization.  I am ready to be a face of birth trauma, of fecal incontinence after childbirth, of PTSD after childbirth. This is me.  I am a real person.  I am a young women.  I suffered obstetric trauma.  I became incontinent of feces.  I suffered PTSD after childbirth.   I got the help I needed.  I attended therapy.  I became an advocate.  I am a woman of triumph. I am ready to share.

I am ready to share with all.  I’m ready to really “expose” myself in the hopes that I may reach people who may never have the courage to seek the help they need without having a very real person to relate to.  I am ready.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

Cringe

Sometimes, I cringe.  I cringe when I hear stories about birth trauma.  I cringe when someone contacts me with yet another story of doctor incompetence resulting in physical and emotional harm. I especially cringe when the doctor that woman tells me about was the doctor who delivered me into my own personal hell.  I wonder if this doctor knows the impact she has on some of her patients.  The impact of her decisions, especially poor ones, on the individual women who she assisted during delivery and cared for postpartum.  The physical and emotional scarring from a doctor who I view as callous and without empathy.  I wonder, how many women have left her practice due to her incompetence, and then, I wonder, how many still remain?  I cringe.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

Forceps

This weekend, a story came to my attention that left me emotionally devastated.  You can read the story in its entirety here.  The story highlights the birth of baby Olivia, who, following a rather tumultuous attempt at a vaginal delivery, was delivered via forceps.  Because of forceps’ placement and doctor’s skill, or lack thereof, Baby Olivia’s skull and spine were broken, leaving her on life support for 5 days before she passed away.  Reading this story, I can only imagine the horror and anguish that this family feels.  I can only imagine that the mother, whose body must be broken and battered from a botched forceps delivery, and whose daughter is lost to her, now has to cope with both physical and undeniable emotional pain.  I can only imagine how the father, who witnessed the botched delivery, and lost his little one, will live with that emotional anguish.

I can only imagine, and reflect, on my own experience with forceps delivery.  Like the mother in this sad story, c-section was pushed to the back burner.  Olivia’s mother, in fact, asked for a c-section, prior to admittance to the hospital, and was told that “she’d be left with a scar.”  After 3 hours of pushing, I too was told that a c-section would leave me with more physical baggage then a forceps delivery.  I think, too often, that people underestimate the very real dangers of forceps delivery…in part because we are not warned of the horrors of such a delivery.  I have yet to read a story of, “my wonderful forceps delivery.”  I have yet to meet a woman, who delivered via forceps, with a glowing review to such a delivery.

Like Olivia’s parents, I maintain that forceps deliveries should be banned.  My thoughts are, if you get to the point in a vaginal delivery where your body is just not ready/responding, then go for the c-section.  In fact, my thoughts are, if you need any sort of intervention, including induction, you may as well go for the c-section.  Although my thoughts may be unpopular, they are rooted in my own experiences, and in the experiences that I hear about from others who struggle on a daily basis with birth trauma.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

Click

Click. Click. Click.  The noise of two pieces of metal coming together.  The sound of a fork scraping a plate at dinner, keys jangling, money jingling.  The sound that could instantly put me in a tailspin, a panic, a mind shattering experience when my PTSD was in full force.  The sound of forceps.  The sound of trauma.

The sound of metal.  The sight of forceps-like things…salad tongs, cooking utensils.  The sight and the sounds, in combination, left me in the fetal position on the kitchen floor, holding my ears in a booth at a fancy restaurant, in tears at a guest’s house for dinner.

These reactions were not pretty.  PTSD is not manageable without treatment.  My treatment for PTSD, although long and arduous, was successful.  But, I still cannot believe what I did this week.  What I COULD do, and what I DID do.  I did a Google search on “forceps deliveries.”  I clicked on videos.  And I watched.  With the volume up, and the picture large, I watched a forceps delivery.  And I almost puked.  NOT because of any remnants of the PTSD, but simply because of the barbaric nature of this form of delivery.  I watched as the forceps were placed, placing an instrument that is much too big for the vagina, and will more than likely tear the vagina, in the vagina.  I watched the doctor use some other medical device to further expand the vaginal opening by slicing the flesh around the vagina. I watched the doctor apply an extreme amount of traction to pull a baby from a mother’s unwilling body.  I heard the mother moaning and screaming.  I heard the click.

And, I think to myself.  My cesarean section was a piece of cake compared to the butchery of a forceps delivery. The elective cesarean section, the “major surgery” that I had ,was controlled, defined, and calm.  Each “click” was accounted for, each slice meaningful, each stitch done with the precision of a skilled doctor in a controlled environment.  It will always baffle me WHY forceps are used in a non-emergency vaginal delivery.  Although it baffles me, it apparently does not baffle the birthing community.  It seems many women still view a forceps assisted “natural” vaginal birth as a better option than a cesarean delivery.  The idea of women being stigmatized when considering their options between forceps and cesarean at the moment their delivery may deem necessary sickens me.  I feel that women should always have an informed choice and it is my mission to advocate for that choice.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

The first step to Wellness

Navigation of treatment is one of the many obstacles that an individual faces when dealing with trauma.  In both physical and emotional trauma, the simple confession, if you will, to oneself of one’s situation needs to be the very first step.  Admitting to yourself the need for help is one thing, but sharing your problem with another is often extremely difficult.  Unfortunately, when dealing with stigmatized trauma, such as mental illness and incontinence, the essential step of sharing one’s difficulty is often never mastered.  It may not be achieved for years.  However, once you are able to discuss your physical and emotional traumas with another human being, you have made a great leap into treatment.  Talking about your worries is crucial to treatment.  My treatment model followed the following path over the course of 3 + years:

1. Admit to myself that something was not “right” with my incontinence. Talk with my husband, Talk with my mother. See my OBGYN.-Unsatisfied with results. See a new OBGYN-Unsatisfied with results.  See another new OBGYN. Diagnosed with fecal incontinence. See a Gastroenterologist. Begin Physical Therapy.  See a Rectal Surgeon.  Have extensive testing on the sphincter.  Discover exact defect.  Enter specialized Physical Therapy.  Admit to myself that something was not “right” with my brain.  Talk with my husband.  See my OBGYN.  Get prescribed medication.  See Cognitive Behavior Psychologist.-Unsatisfied with results.  See EMDR specialist. Diagnosed with PTSD with related anxiety disorder.  See a Psychiatrist for medicine management in conjunction with EMDR psychotherapy.  Leave work due to PTSD, anxiety and incontinence. Rectal Surgeon prescribes new treatment for fecal incontinence.  Have Interstim therapy implanted. Discharged from Physical Therapy.  Discharged from Psychotherapy. Titrate off of medication.  Cleared to go back to work.

As you can see, for me, admitting WAS the first step on a journey that would take over three years to travel to wellness.  However, I continue on my wellness journey daily and to date it looks like this:

Start a blog, continue blogging, become a patient ambassador for Medtronic Interstim, become pregnant with second child, turn off Interstim implant, experience setbacks with incontinence and pelvic floor weakness, attend Physical Therapy, have second child, experience wellness with incontinence once Interstim turned back on, facilitate a local support group for bowel disorders, get a part time job.….be engaged daily with a life that seemed unimaginable in the immediate aftermath of trauma….

You can do it too.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

 

 

The Loss of a Birth Plan

Trauma.  That word evokes feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, injury, shock, disbelief, anger, sadness, despair.  Trauma does not equally impact individuals. One person’s trauma may not be another person’s trauma.  Our perception of a trauma is very important.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is  about not only the trauma itself, but the individual’s perception of the trauma.

In terms of birth and birth trauma, it is very important to note that every birthing mother is is different.  Quite recently, I have been completely involved with individuals who are very close to me with birth stories that are wildly different from mine.  With every birth story I hear, I remember that I must withhold judgement about individual birth choices, as well as remember that violations of those individual choices can result in emotional and physical trauma.

In our society, women are often held to the “ideal” standard of an uncomplicated, unmedicated, vaginal birth with no postpartum complications.  Women base their entire birth plans on this way of bringing their child into the world.   Other women focus on delivery by way of cesarean section, basing their entire birth plans of this way of bringing their child into the world.

Unfortunately, having the type of birth you want is not always possible-be it by way of the vagina or via cesarean section.  Sometimes medical professional’s personalities as well as very real medical circumstances cause an individual’s birth experience to be somewhat or completely out of  her control. The reality of birth is that circumstances can change in an instant, causing birth plans to shatter, and idealization of what we, as mothers, thought was going to happen, to go out the window.  Unfortunately, this is a hard reality to hit up against in what can really be a women’s most vulnerable time.  In the instant of birth, you are often the most exposed, most exhausted, most emotional being that you ever will be.  It is no wonder that when your beliefs are challenged at this time, when the plans are rapidly changed, when your control over what is happening to your own body is taken from you through circumstances you have no control over, that women DO feel violated, alone, and often helpless.  It is important to note that it does not matter what choice women made for their birth plan, or whether that would be your choice or not, it is still HER choice, and still HER violation when it changes.  And you know what, it does not matter if it HAS to change, that feeling is still there….that feeling of loss, helplessness, and despair.

When all is said and done, women often can look back objectively and realize medically WHY things happened the way they did…but that often does not erase that feeling of loss that whatever birth was envisioned did not occur.  It may take medical intervention, both physically and mentally to process the experience and heal from any physical and mental wounds that may have occurred.  Any experience IS traumatic to individuals when they perceive it be, and it is not up to society to decide what kind of birth a person should have as well as decide how a mother should perceive the deconstruction of the birth plan during birth.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

Getting the run around….

In reading about other individual’s experiences with elective cesarean, I have counted myself lucky that the opposition from medical professionals that many mothers face in obtaining the right to choose this type of delivery is something I have only READ about.  Until now.  This past weekend, my OBGYN doctor called me with a heads up that “we may have a little problem with your planned c-section.”  My doctor, (who is a huge advocate for my planned elective cesarean that is supposed to take place in 3 days), has received an e-mail from the hospital I am set to deliver at asking him “why is she (meaning me) choosing this mode of delivery electively at 38 + weeks gestation?”  Furthermore, the hospital is claiming that the amniocentesis appointment that has been set for months for the day before the scheduled c-section is not set up. (even though I have paperwork confirming the appointment). The claim is that there is no appointment, therefore, no ability to process to lung development, therefore, no elective c-section.  In addition to these claims from the hospital, my OBGYN has informed me that many mothers going in for an elective c-section recently at this hospital have been faced with “inconclusive” findings during the amniocentesis, therefore, the elective c-sections for these mothers have been cancelled, resulting in a later rescheduling or more likely, the need for the mother to go into labor prior to having a c-section.

I find this completely unacceptable for the hospital to pull this little stunt 3 days prior to my planned c-section.  Not only do I believe that elective cesarean IS the better choice for delivery, I have medical indications that support my right to demand an elective cesarean section without trial of labor.  These indications include:

1.  Previous BOTCHED vaginal delivery in which I was in labor for over 30 hours, pushed for over 3, and delivered a sunny side up 8 pound 14 ounce baby girl with forceps.

2.  A third degree tear, dislocated hip, and severe postpartum hemorrhage immediately following delivery.

3.  Resulting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with related Anxiety Disorder directly related to trial of labor and vaginal delivery.

4.  Resulting permanent damage to rectal sphincter and fecal incontinence directly related to trial of labor and vaginal delivery.

5.  The medtronic Interstim for fecal incontinence device that I have placed on my sacral nerve does not support the trials of labor and delivery, a c-section is indicated as a better mode for delivery.

6.  The current SPD, symphysis pubic dysfunction, that I am dealing with will only get worse with a trial of labor and delivery, a c-section is indicated as a better mode for delivery.

Because of all the above indicators, my anxiety level is through the roof just thinking about a trial of labor, that could possibly result in a vaginal delivery.  Also, the closer I get to my due date, the more likely my elective planned c-section will become a c-section that results after I go into labor, which is not an ideal situation for me, emotionally or physically.  I know with certainty that my OBGYN is on my side with this, and he is currently trying to sort the whole thing out with the hospital.  Later today, I have an appointment with my OBGYN doctor and I hope it brings good news.  It’s just a shame that I need to spend these next couple of days worrying over a choice that I should have the right to make without the hassle instead of mentally preparing myself for the joy of meeting my son via the certainty of a planned elective cesarean delivery.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

Comparing Pregnancies

It is amazing to me how much pregnancies can vary.  With exactly 5 years between the pregnancy of my daughter and my current pregnancy, I have found that although I have hit the trimester milestones in the same months, my pregnancies couldn’t be more different.  With my daughter, pregnancy was pretty much a breeze.  Sure, a little morning sickness, some aches and pains, extreme cravings….basically- the hallmarks of a “normal” pregnancy.  With my son, extreme morning sickness, symphysis pubic dysfunction, inability to move without the aid of a wheelchair/cane, sickness leading to hospitalization, are just some of the maladies I’ve experienced throughout the duration of this pregnancy.

In truth, part of me (all of me really) hopes that the “suffering” with this current pregnancy is over the minute this little boy is delivered.  If that is the case, it would be in sharp contrast to the delivery of my daughter, where the “suffering” really began upon delivery and leached into a LONG physically and emotionally painful postpartum period.  Knowing that I’ve done all I can to be proactive for this upcoming delivery, and knowing what I know now about what “ideal” postpartum care should look like, I feel that I have done my part in the process for a successful delivery and postpartum period.  I feel prepared and educated and therefore, happy to know that I am in control of the direction of my postpartum recovery.

I know it is not reality to think that the logic “easy pregnancy=tough postpartum”  equates to “tough pregnancy=easy postpartum” but hey, it’s OK to imagine that might be the case, right?

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

Celebrating my 100th post!

This is my 100th post.

I thought I should probably make it somewhat meaningful, possibly a celebration of how far I have come, or a glance at what I have become.

Or both.

Well, I have come from a place of despair, of darkness, of hopelessness, of fear.

I have become a fighter, a survivor,….. an advocate.
In March 2008, I gave birth to one of the most precious blessings in my life.  4 1/2 years ago I experienced both the best and worst day of my life.  At the same time this beautiful light entered my life, my own light went out.  I suffered both physical and emotional consequences I could not have even imagined.  My world stopped making sense.

Through my struggles my family remained by my side, supporting me in my therapies, medical testing, and surgeries.

Slowly, with time, support, and extensive therapy, I began to emerge, a stronger, better, LOUDER, advocating individual.  I fight for women’s choice in birthing options, access to timely and correct prenatal and postpartum care, and recognition of the very real devastating effects of physical and emotional birth trauma.

I am happy to announce that I have been able to take the next step in my life journey.  I am expecting.  A thought, a dream, that I could not entertain for months, years, because of the physical and emotional ramifications of my first delivery.  I am so very happy to be able to share this with you, my readers, with the very real hope that I am offering YOU hope.  Things can and will get better.  It is possible.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren (and baby bump)

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